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Middlebury Trailrunner: A midsummer evening on Mount Moosalamoo

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Posted on July 31, 2012 | Blog Category:
By Jeff Byers



Over the last few summers, I have blogged quite a few running routes through the Moosalamoo region, but somehow never managed to work in a run over the region’s eponymous peak, Mt. Moosalamoo itself. So why the sudden urge to actually ascend this rather gentle peak? First of all, I love the way the name rolls off your tongue – is it possible to say the word “Moosalamoo” without smiling? I didn’t think so! Secondly, looking at the Forest Service map of the area, I realized that I could…so why not? In the course of my hiking, I had climbed Moosalamoo from the Lake Dunmore (west) side – the summit can be easily reached by hiking another mile or two past the popular Rattlesnake Cliffs lookouts. This route takes a different approach, from the East side on the Goshen – Ripton Road.

Looking to try a point-to-point run, I had my daughter deposit me at Moosalamoo Campground Road, where it meets the Goshen-Ripton Road at about 5 in the afternoon on a sunny, but not too hot afternoon. After a short time on this dirt road, I took the Mount Moosalamoo Trail heading off to the right immediately before entering the campground area. You will know you are on the right trail, as it is pretty well labeled! This trail zigzags behind the campground for a few minutes, before reaching an old dirt road. At this point, take a right turn for about 50-100 yards before the well marked left turn descending down to a wooden footbridge over a small stream. At this point, the serious climbing begins! The Moosalamoo Trail angles along the northeast flank of Moosalamoo before reaching the Oak Ridge Trail, an easy half mile or so from the summit. Taking this left turn brought me to the “true summit” of Moosalamoo, which has only limited views through the trees. I knew from previous hikes that the slightly lower, southern summit, has some decent cleared overlooks, but since I had a pretty long run planned in the opposite direction I chose to forego this diversion and save my legs for a lot more miles planned in the opposite direction. It is easy to find the true summit however, as like everything else in this run, it is well labelled!

The Well Labelled Moosalamoo Summit

Retracing my steps back to the trail junction, I set off on a very wild stretch of trail, the rarely traveled connection between Moosalamoo and Rt. 125 on the Oak Ridge Trail. The good news – this trail is well marked (What in the blue blazes! They are everywhere!) and almost entirely downhill. This did make for a very challenging trail however – it is very narrow, and in many places pretty rough going since not many footpads of hikers, let alone trail runners have beaten down this trail. So, while the terrain itself was not particularly severe, the true single track nature of the trail made this slower going than one (that one being me) might expect. I really felt that I was out there, by myself on this one. Passing by a few high altitude puddles which looked like ideal moose wallows, and even noticing some fresh bear poop got me so nervous that every Hyperactive squirrel in the woods made my heart beat faster! Nonetheless, this was a gorgeous stretch of forest. Most of the run was through mature hardwood forest, with the relatively little ground cover. In quite a few sections I felt that there would be excellent views to the north in the fall. I will have to come back and report on this.

With the slower than expected pace, and the late start, the forest started to get pretty dark, even though sunset was still some time away. The sun got to be too low in the sky to permeate the forest, leading me to run cautiously, especially at the lower elevations, rather than attempt to shave a few minutes off my time.

Somewhat suddenly, after what seemed like an eternity of downhill running, the trail broke out into the diminishing sun, as the narrow single track trail joined the Old Town Road. This “Road” is only used by motorized vehicles for logging operations at present, and has never borne vehicular traffic in my 25 years in Addison County, but its level of development and the fact that the power lines leading up to Ripton following this route seem to indicate that it was once a real road. Does anybody know anything about the past use of this road? Did it always run parallel to Rt 125, or did Rt 125 supplant it at some point? Finally, reaching this broad easy former road did allow me to stretch my legs out a little and really run, however, without worrying about tripping over stumps and rocks, and it brought me after about a mile and a half of easy descending to Rt 125, where I caught the now setting sun, before descending into East Middlebury, ending the run at the playground parking lot on Schoolhouse Hill Road.

Roadside Sunset

This long and challenging run ended up at about 11 miles in length, with 1000 feet of climbing, and 2000 feet of descent, most of it at a slow jogging pace.

Google Earth of the run

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 website.

This entry was originally posted on July 31, 2012.

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