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Middlebury Trailrunner: To Silver Lake on the Pipeline

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Posted on May 20, 2010 | Blog Category:
By Jeff Byers



Authoring this blog has had the benefit of keeping me from getting in ruts (figuratively, not literally) on my runs – I can’t keep writing up the same routes, so I am constantly on the lookout for new places to run, or potentially interesting variations on old favorites. Today’s run is an example of the latter. My first run description early last summer described a route which skirted the north end of Silver Lake, a popular local outdoor destination and one of my favorite places for summertime runs. I couldn’t help but notice numerous side trails which looked runable without pondering what their destination would be. In particular, I have always wondered how to get to the curious structure visible part way up the ridge. This smokestack structure, which looks like the remnants of a postindustrial redoubt on the hillside when viewed from the beach on Branbury State Park, had always seemed somewhat mysterious and elusive, but I reckoned that some of these trails must lead in its direction.

With this destination in mind, I pulled into the Silver Lake parking lot near Branbury State Park. Descriptions how to find this parking lot can be found in the aforementioned Silver Lake post. After a few minutes of climbing, I passed under the first pipeline crossing, but a quick assessment of the its path indicated that following it this low on the hillside would be more a challenging scramble than a trail run, so I continued up the main trail. After completing most of the switchbacks and most of the climbing, I noticed a major side trail traversing the hillside to the right, so I made this turn rather than continue on the main trail as I had in runs past. After a few easy minutes on this level trail, I reached the destination of my curiosity.

Mystery structure

I am still somewhat mystified as to the role of this tower. I first presumed it was some sort of pumping station to bring the water from Silver Lake to the precipice required for power generation, but there were no sounds emanating from the structure indicating that is was actively doing anything, and I certainly was going to respect the “Keep off” signs on the structure and the small adjacent building rather than explore it further. If any readers know the role of this structure, please post your insights.

A short jog up the grassy knoll behind this structure led to the pipeline itself stretching out into the distance. Looking down at my feet I noticed that a small patch of opportunistic flowers had made themselves at home in the first of the massive fittings holding this pipeline together. Perhaps my colleague at The Middlebury Landscape blog can inform us as to their identity? It is comforting, however, to see nature reclaiming the woods without damaging the functionality of our necessary structures. A little symbiosis is a good thing!

silver lake pipeline 007

The Pipeline

silver lake pipeline 006

Opportunistic Flora

silver lake pipeline 010 I ran along the top of this broad pipeline for a few hundred yards. The footing along the pipeline was generally good, but in the few places where it was dicey, there was ample room alongside. The pipeline eventually crossed the powerline clearcut, and a short run on the obvious path up this hill led to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking Lake Dunmore. While this is not as airy a vista as the better known Rattlesnake Cliffs viewpoint, it does have the advantage of being open to hikers and runners during much of the summer when Rattlesnake Cliffs is closed due to Peregrin Falcon nesting.

Completing the pipeline segment of this run, I came up to the base of Silver Lake Dam, looped around to its crest, and chose to circle the lake on this run. My distant memory of less traveled trail along the west side of the lake was that it was rarely used, and pretty rough. My distant memory proved correct! While the next mile or so would have made for a pleasant hike, the rough rocky trail on a sidehill proved pretty much impossible to call a run, even by trailrunning standards. Very slow going! Nonetheless, persevering over the next mile or so to the south end of the lake provided a wilder view of the lake than most visitors get.

silver lake pipeline 012The trail circumnavigating Silver Lake eventually joined the Leicester Hollow Trail, and a left turn here on a very well beaten path brings one back to the more civilized campsites, and a second left turn will take one back downhill to the parking lot and the end of the run. This run covered a little over 6 miles, but took a lot longer than usual due to more exploring than I usually do, and the very slow going on the far side of Silver Lake.

Google Earth of the Route

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

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 May 19, 2010.

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