We are getting into one of the more challenging times of the year for high quality trail time. On trails where the snow has subsided, mud has taken over. While mud on the hiking boots (or running shoes) is not something that bothers a lot of trail enthusiasts, we should refrain from hiking until Memorial Day, in order to limit trail erosion. Cross country skiing? That brings up other challenges, as the snow where it hasn’t been groomed is just plain crusty and nasty. However, there is a window of opportunity for trail running with microspikes, at least on trails which have been “well tromped” to make for better footing, at least as long as one dons their Microspikes on their running shoes. I was conversing with a friend yesterday, who was looking for good places to go hiking at this time of the year, and I suggested some of the forest service roads crossing the Ripton-Goshen Road, knowing of several that get steady winter use, either from hikers and skiers or snowmobilers. I also figured that the snow would be pretty hard early in the morning before being softened by the sun, making for easier traveling.
After this conversation, I decided it would be fun to get a taste of my own medicine, and try to do a trail run on one of these, and decided to try the road heading into the Moosalamoo Campground and Voter Brook Overlook. I also figured that Saturday morning would be a good time to run this, as the Ripton-Goshen Road can turn into a quagmire as the day warms up. By late morning, however, it was in pretty good shape. The dirt road heading to the Voter Brook Overlook is not terribly long (under 2 miles) and I often incorporate parts of it on longer loops in the Moosalamoo region. Arriving at the end of the road, gated for the winter, it was obvious that there was plenty of snow still on the road, although I could tell just by looking at it, that the footing would be less than idea for running.
After slipping on my microspikes, it soon became apparent to me that my concerns were well founded. While the snow was firm, it was badly pocked, making for awkward footing, even with good friction from my footwear. It was obvious that I was going to have to take it easy if I didn’t want to finish my run with twisted ankles and knees, turning this day’s activities into more of a run/walk. What was causing the bad footing? I didn’t see much indication of hikers “postholing” (crashing through crust making deep holes), but there were the remnants of people tracks (skis, ski poles, boots, and snowshoes), deer tracks, moose tracks, and dog tracks that had accumulated since the last snow. Also, it was interesting to note that wherever a leaf or branch had fallen, it made an inprint, often several inches deep, from the sun hitting the dark object, which in turn melted it into a hold. The patterns made in this way by dropped fir tree fragments made for interesting indentations, almost halos, in the surrounding crusty snow.
Bad footing aside, it was a beautiful bluebird day, and despite the awkward footing, necessitating a more leisurely place, it was great to be outside. About halfway up the road, it drops to a stream crossing and makes a sharp turn, before climbing back up to the higher ground. The last time I had been here, in Oct 2018, the low point in the road was badly washed out, making summertime vehicular traffic impossible. I was glad to see that the road had been repaired at some time in the not too distant past.
At about 1.7 miles, I reached the end of the road, with the expected payout – the view from the Voter Brook Overlook. Very few people in Addison County know of this lovely little vista, even though it is fully accessible by car in the summer months, on slow, but 2WD roads. The lookout is even more dramatic in the winter, when there are no leaves on nearby trees to obscure views. On a typical summer weekend day, countless hikers make the trek up to the Rattlesnake Cliffs, just to the right of the frame of the view in the picture below, while this overlook only gets a trickle of attention despite far easier access.
After pausing for a few minutes to enjoy the view on this perfect early Spring day, I retraced my route back to my car. The footing was starting to get even more challenging as the sun started softening the snow more, making for an even slower pace, much of it barely discernible as running. I also added in a short extra loop through the Moosalamoo Campground. This lovely little gem is very much off the beaten path, and I have never seen more than a handful of groups camping here at any point in time. It doesn’t have the obvious draw of a lake or river to swim in, but is surrounded by many trails, including the moderate ascent up adjacent Mr Moosalamoo. It always struck me as a place to go to just to hang out and relax in a quiet place. Amenities? Hah! It has a few outhouses, and drinking water. I also discovered an addition to the sites that I didn’t remember from previous visits – bear boxes to put food in! Does this count as my first bear sighting of the year?
The entire run/walk was only slightly less than 4 miles, and had no climbing of any significance, but I think that this time of the year is when it is at its prettiest. Since it was over a dirt road, rather than a true trail, it would make for a nice place to have a long walk (or short hike – I am not sure when one ends and the other one begins) during mud season.