Three friends who love trail running together were given the gift of the ultimate project by the Vermont State Parks Director—to trail run in as many beautiful state parks as we can, write interesting blog entries about our experiences, and take photos of our sparkling smiles while we do it. Yes, life really does get better all the time.https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=z2N3KHkVM-Vo.k-PYWsgj838M
After several intense meetings in the middle of our cubicle maze workspace, we decided to start with Little River State Park in Waterbury.
Little River is a popular park with two camping loops and two beaches on a clear, refreshing, sandy-bottomed Waterbury Reservoir. Thousands of people spend time in their sleeping bags, in front of campfires, and paddling around the reservoir during the summer and fall. Few people dig into the miles and miles of trails full of history and natural beauty on the other side of the park.
Running trails in Little River is a journey through time. The miles of stone walls, cemeteries, cellar holes and orchards give evidence of life one hundred years ago. The pioneers cleared the fields and roads of rocks and stumps without the aid of machinery. The younger generations were not as prone to such laborious work and abandoned their farms, leaving them for the forest to reclaim. This seemed like the perfect spot to explore on our first state park trail running adventure together.
Jay, Steve, and I invited our friend Matt, who is training for the Vermont 100 trail race later this summer—Matt is preparing by running twice a day and running at every hour of the day. Yes, we have really fun and interesting friends. The four of us took off after work and parked at the Dalley Loop trailhead parking lot on the way to campground loop B in Little River.
You can access the whole network of trails from this starting point; we decided to make a loop starting with a section of the Hedgehog Loop Trail. We set out at about 6:00 pm, the skies were getting dark with the threat of raindrops, but none fell on us. The sky was constantly changing during our two-hour adventure, with bright spots of sunlight surprising us by sporadically illuminating the fresh green leaves, and dark purple clouds folding over each other in viewpoints along the way.http://www.youtube.com/embed/JBi5ppidm00
Of course, we had wonderful company in each other, there were lots of great jokes and storytelling, but there is so much to entertain you out there if you go on a solo adventure or if your company is not as lively as ours. There is so much history in the Little River and Cottonwood Brook basin, there are interpretive panels along many of the trails so you can stop for a snack and read about the people who used to live there (we did that) and you can enjoy Vermont natural history at its best. Some of the things we saw and heard included a pink lady slipper flower, Barred Owls making territorial calls, Ruffed Grouse drumming (and we spooked one off its roost), foam flowers, Canada mayflowers, and Veeries singing songs like waterfalls during the last few downhill miles.
You might notice something left out of that list, biting insects. I think we maybe saw one mosquito during the whole run. We even loitered in the parking lot afterward and there were no blackflies. We don’t know how long these conditions will last, but right now it’s definitely a good time to go trail running at Little River if you don’t like bug bites!
From Hedgehog Hill Trail we turned on Cotton Brook Loop Trail. This was a nice climb out of the Stephenson Brook drainage into the Cotton Brook area. The trail has the feel of an old tote road combined with a single-track because there is a narrow path through the bushy mass of several years of growth. It gives you the feeling of being in an area not heavily visited, like a secret stash of running trails.
We were trying to make a loop by turning left at the Bragg homestead to cut over to the Dalley Loop Trail, but we never saw that intersection. We overshot that and ran to a nice solid bridge over Cotton Brook. We admired that rippling stream and then turned around and ran to the Kelty Trail, which also connects to Dalley Loop.
One of the great things about trail running is the adventure, you usually do not know exactly how things will turn out but you always end up having fun and you always end up somewhere really cool. Steve packed a map to make sure we did not get completely turned around, which I recommend. You can pick up a map at the park office.
The Kelty stretch was wetter and not heavily traveled; still, it was easy footing (all the trails we ran had easy footing). Ferns were everywhere around us, everything vibrant, bright green even in the low light. Lots of ghost stories come out of this area because the hillside is dotted with house foundations from people who all moved out with the advent of the Waterbury Reservoir. Being way out in the quiet woods surrounded by signs of people who used to live there, with the skies darkening, I can understand how easy it is to get your imagination going. I am not going to lie to you, I ran very, very close to Steve during the Kelty crossover! It was so quiet and felt very spooky in there, it was very thrilling.
Once we hit the Dalley Loop, we turned right and ran the rest of the loop counter-clockwise. Our run ended with a nice smooth downhill back to the trailhead. After nine miles and two hours, we toasted with cans of Baxter Brewing Company IPA courtesy of Steve. That was a fitting conclusion to a really fun trail run with good friends.