The snow has melted away at lower elevations (except for in my yard, but that is another story), the sun is shining, and the weather is warm. Is Spring here? No way – this is all Vermonters’ favorite time of the year, Mud Season, and chances are good that true “Spring” is a few weeks to a month away! Nonetheless, Friday’s 70 degree weather inspired me to go for one my favorite short hill climbs, Snake Mountain. I briefly contemplated breaking out my new running shoes to begin their break-in process, but at the last minute, decided against it. This ended up being a very good call.
I am not going to go into my usual details about this running route, as I covered it pretty well last summer in my post entitled “Snake Mountain” (http://blogs.middlebury.edu/trailrunner/2009/08/30/snake-mountain). Since central Vermont is remarkably free of major tectonic activity, I think it is pretty safe to assume that there was not much change in the location of the trail, making my past post a still-relevant description.
Mud season trailrunning has its benefits and drawbacks. There are none of the late spring mosquitoes or black flies to offer torment, and views into and beyond the adjacent forest are not obscured by the foliage which emerges in a few weeks. The greatest benefit, of course, is that it increases one’s fitness level, making longer midsummer runs both possible and pleasant. The drawback, of course, is mud. Lots of mud. But what did I expect? All that melting snow had to go somewhere. The first quarter mile or so of the Snake Mountain trail had some of the deepest shoe-sucking mud on the entire trail. After a few yards of trying to tiptoe around the wallows, I recognized the futility of this approach, and charged right up the middle of the trail and hoped that I didn’t lose my running shoes in the deeper mud. This section of the trail was not without its pleasures, however. A few small patches of wildflowers forcing their way through the wet leaves on the forest floor provided the first living evidence of the emergence of spring. Since this was a late afternoon run, I also had the pleasure of hearing the peepers for the first time this year.
Kicking back at my arrival at the overlook point on Snake Mt., I gave my running shoes the opportunity to enjoy the view. These sneaks were white about an hour earlier…..My legs most definitely told me that this was one of my first significant hill runs of the season, as well, but the stiffness resulting from this relatively short run will make the next few months’ runs all the easier. The descent back to my car was slow due to caution so that I didn’t take a fall in one of the frequent mud wallows along the way.
Jeff Byers is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Middlebury College. He also writes the Middlebury Trailrunner blog. We'll be periodically highlighting posts from his blog, but for more recommendations for trailrunning and cross country skiing in the county, head to his Web site.
This entry was originally posted on April 2, 2010.