Monday, June 8, 2015

West River Trail Run

Always seeking opportunities to explore new places in our general region, and being fans of mid-distance trail races, Jen and I came across the West River Trail Run in south-central Vermont. Now in its third year, the 11-mile point-to-point race starts in South Londonderry and heads southeast, mostly following a flat, dirt rail trail, but also incorporating a few miles of rugged singletrack path and short sections of road. It's very scenic, with short but steep hills, a few nearly-hidden waterfalls, sweeping views from atop a high dam, thrilling switchback descent on the east side of the dam, good shade for most of the way, net downhill, and a nice spot to cool off in the river below the finish.

Starting at the old railroad depot along the West River in South Londonderry, you run east on pavement for about fifty feet, after which the road turns to dirt. There are a few small rolling hills here as you pass houses and driveways on the right (keeping the river on your left). About half a mile along, the road ends and becomes the West River Rail Trail. Then it's flat and forested doubletrack trail for the next few miles. Runners began to spread out and find their places along this stretch. I found myself keeping pace with a fellow 413 runner from western Mass who happened to have just moved to South Londonderry. She mentioned to me that she had noticed me stepping on a number of little red newts as we sped over the damp ground, and I resolved to watch my step a bit better after that.

After a few miles we came out into the open at a campground where the route briefly followed a road again and there was a water stop. Then it was back into the woods. By that point I had slowed my pace a bit and was running alone. It was quiet and almost monotonous along the straight rail trail beside the river. Then suddenly the trail veered hard right and took off steeply up the hillside on a much narrower track. It soon leveled off, but the terrain was much more rolling and rugged now. After a fun descent, the trail passed just below a cascading waterfall along a tributary stream.

The singletrack path ended at the access road for a big dam. We passed a water station just below the dam, then headed diagonally up the west face of the dam on the access road. At the top (and northern end) of the dam, the trail crosses over and then begins descending the east face via a series of tight switchbacks and it feels very much like a steep canyon trail out west somewhere, like Zion or Bryce or Yosemite. Below the switchbacks, the trail soon levels out after a brief rugged stretch, crosses Cobb Brook on a pedestrian bridge, and then turns to dirt doubletrack again for the remaining few miles down to the finish at Jamaica State Park. I passed one or two runners along this section, which I have to admit felt pretty nice.

Jen (in purple) heads up Ball Mountain Dam

Overall I have to heap praise on this low-key but very fun race. It's well-organized, has a great vibe, and gets you out into some surprisingly wild terrain for this neck of the woods. We're already looking forward to going back again next year.

me at the finish

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