Day 2 – Walking the TAM

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…..*

The Trail Around Middlebury.

October 2, 2019

And, I only got lost twice. Only because I was not paying attention well enough as the Trails Around Middlebury (TAM) are well maintained and well maintained. Once again, I am grateful to the folks at Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT ) for providing me with a shuttle ride and some guidance along the way. Caleb picked me and my bike up at 7:15am at the Waybury Inn and shuttled me, first to lock my bike in the racks at the Middlebury Recreation Center, and then to Monument Farms Dairy where I began my the days journey. We picked up Katherine at a roadside trailhead and she joined me for the Weybridge blue trail to the junction of the TAM. From there I was on my own to enjoy the walk along the countryside surrounding the very quaint but prosperous town of Middlebury. This connected trail system is the result of the hard work of many volunteers and specifically the board of directors and staff of MALT.

Katherine with Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT).

Traversing the diverse terrain of Vermont includes fields, forests, wetlands, gorges, gravely soil, clay soil, roots, rocks and ledge. You name it, Vermont has it all, and I encountered all of these conditions today. The circuitous network of trails of the TAM link many wooded natural areas including the Otter Creek Gorge Preserve, Wright Park, Chipman Hill Park, Means Woods, Battell Woods, and the Jeffrey Murdock Nature Preserve. The Otter Creek is Vermont’s longest river and falls down through the middle of town, once providing power to the thriving early American industry. Each natural area has it’s own unique character and natural attributes. Oh, how nice it was to walk amid the oak trees. We do not have much oak in the Green Mountains. Oak is plentiful around Middlebury. Plentiful too, were the acorns littered along the trail, crunching under my feet. Vermont’s forests are a mix of hardwoods and softwoods. There are many interpretive signs along the way that identify them.

Interpretive signs along the way.

Rain was again not an issue today. It was present but not nearly bothersome or enough to soak into my clothing. Overcast skies did not provide much solar warmth or brightening of colors. The diffused light in the forest provide a lonely, melancholy atmosphere that was enhanced by the solo hike. After Katherine parted I did not meet another soul on the trail for the entire day, and that was ok. I often walk alone. Everyone should take time for themselves and walk alone for a long distance. I find that if you walk the entire daylight hours in a day, it is good for the soul. Start with 20 minutes a day.

There are many natural wonders to be found on the TAM. Who can Identify this fungi?
A new sidewalk connection on Seymour Street.

As the slogan for the North Country trail says, “Your Adventure Starts Nearby.” That is especially true with the TAM as it connects the natural areas around Middlebury with the diverse residential areas as well as the prosperous commercial districts. I had a great brunch (and comfort station) at the Maple Fields Shop on Elm Street. After that I stopped in to see Adam, a colleague in planning at the Regional Planning Commission on Seminary Street before heading up into Chipman Hill Park. I congratulated him and his team on completing the sidewalks along Pulp Mill Bridge Road in Weybridge and Seymour Street in Middlebury. This two-town project that has recently been constructed provides a safe pedestrian facility for a very popular walking and running loop for locals and the students at the Middlebury College. It is also one of the many links in the proposed North Country Trail. Walking it today was another prideful moment as I was the consultant who conducted the feasibility study including landowner outreach, presenting at public meetings, and writing a concise and compelling report that was the basis for receiving the funds to build the sidewalk. Yay!

Wright Park, one of the many fine public natural areas around Middlebury.

My two mistakes getting off the trail were due to not following the signs but following the visual cues that define the most traveled way, such as the old carriage roads, or boardwalks that lead one way, while the main signed route turns off. Keep your head up, turn your ball cap around, and concentrate on the signs and you will not fail to find your way around the TAM.

Today, I hiked about 2/3 of the TAM, the route as listed as the proposed route for the NCT connection. I will be back to complete the entire loop in the near future. The busiest highway that I crossed today was no doubt, State Route 7, or Ethan Allen Highway. The average annual daily traffic (AADT) according to the counts at VTrans is around 14,000 vehicles/day traveling through the corridor, leaving scant time for a pedestrian to cross at an uncontrolled intersection or the lack of a crosswalk. This was true south of Middlebury as I waited patiently for a window of opportunity to cross and pick up the TAM on the other side. It eventually happened and I happily crossed the street. Lo and behold, there was the Drop In Brewery, so I dropped in. After a delicious Dude am I ok? IPA, and a nice conversation with Kristine the owner, I continued on my way to the last leg of the hike. Since I was going to be biking, I thought that one was enough, though it tasted like another.

A short road walk on Route 7 has ample shoulder width.
Kristine serving a fine beer a Drop In Brewery.

Concluding the long walk, I arrived at the Middlebury Recreation Center, unlocked and assembled my bike front tire, switched out the headgear, and hit the pedals down Creek Road to head home to the Waybury Inn. I deviated to a short section of the TAM to check out another pedestrian bridge across the every meandering Otter Creek. What a huge effort it must have been to get these bridges permitted, funded and built. Oh, how nice it was to sit down on the seat of my bike after the long day on my feet. Pedaling seemed so easy along the flat road through the Otter Valley. Creek Road and Three Mile Bridge Road, south of Middlebury are very sparsely traveled and make a very fine connection for the TAM.

Crossing Route 7 a third time, I arrived back in the quaint village of East Middlebury, enjoying a leisurely ride on the sidewalk back to the Inn. After I stowed my bike in the car, I grabbed the computer and the can of Dude that I brought back with me from Drop Inn and am enjoying a nice relaxing session on the patio to reflect and write about the wonderful day on the Trails Around Middlebury. What a gem for the NCT.

Tomorrow I will be heading into the wilderness of the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area on the Oak Ridge Trail. It is a 8.5 mile hike up and over Moosalamoo Mountain. Sue from the Moosalamoo Association will be shuttling me to spot my car at the Moosalamoo Campground and bringing me to the trailhead on Route 125 just up the road from the Waybury Inn. Now it is time for a beer in the pub and dinner with John Derik to celebrate and learn more about the trail. I will keep you posted.

*Robert Frost from – The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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