Ok, what’s up with 70 degree weather in March? While the ski season was a bitter disappointment, the lack of snow on the trails translates into an early start on the trialrunning season! My running fitness is certainly not where it was last fall, but the running still feels good, and in many ways, this is an ideal season for running. Many vistas which are well hidden by the leafy canopy for most of the running season open up into glorious vistas prior to the emergence of the foliage. With this in mind, I chose my first true spring run to take advantage of the season. On a few previous posts, I have described a great entry into the Green Mountain National Forest starting behind East Middlebury International Airport, a snowmobile train beginning near the 4-way stop sign on Munson Road and Schoolhouse Hill Road, just to the northeast of the airport. Munson Road is a short road heading directly towards the base of the mountains to the east, and can be found about 2 miles south of the junction of Quarry Road and Rt. 116. There are a few small turnoffs on Munson Road where a car (or perhaps a vigilant police cruiser) can park for those driving out of town to begin this run.
The run began with a short stretch of trail running adjacent to Burnham Drive, a residential street, before turning to the north. The trail crosses a bridge over a small stream, before beginning the challenging climb in earnest. This first hill climb of the season is always difficult, and this was no exception, but my efforts were rewarded by the emerging views to the west. Half way up the day’s climb, I noticed scratch marks on the rocks, similar to what one would find in higher elevations resulting from climbers’ crampons. After a second, I realized the source of these scratches – the snowmobiles which make use of this trail during the winter. They too, like the skiers, probably tried to have a little bit of fun in this snowless winter, and instead of damaging their skis on the rocky terrain, probably tried to drive their snowmobiles on the all-too-brown terrain, leaving their marks behind.
After a little over a mile of climbing, the views were temporarily blocked as the trail entered a stretch of coniferous forest, and made a sharp turn to the right, heading more directly towards Robert Frost Mt. A few hundred yards after the sharp turn, a small rock cairn appeared on the left, marking the turnoff to a wonderful, rarely visited, scenic vista which provides for great views to the west, even during the summer. A few hundred yards on this easy-to follow trail brought me to a small rocky outcrop, the turn-around point for this run. The famous OMYA pit, the world’s largest open-pit marble quarry, is one of the noteworthy sights from this point.
At this point, my early season legs had climbed enough, so I reversed directions and headed down the hillside. I ran into a friend who had chosen to undertake the short walk up to the bridge, and we exchanged pleasantries concern our fortunes, living in such a beautiful locale. At this point, I diverged from the main trail, taking a short uphill trail which ran adjacent to the stream, following in to a modest viewpoint, where I could see the brook cascading down the mountainside.
After this short side trail, I continued on to the point at which the VAST snowmobile trail rejoined the road. While this run was only a little over 3.5 miles round trip, it did include a 900 vertical ft. climb, making for a challenging early season run, undertaken at a leisurely pace.
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 March 18, 2012.