Friday, February 29, 2008

Snowshoeing - Christman Sanctuary

Today was a sunny cold day, the calm before the next storm, and I needed to get out. The Christman Sanctuary is a Nature Conservancy preserve about 25 minutes from home, and I go there several times every year.

Today, I was able to get across the stream and do the longer loop trail, which was good, because there was another group of 4 walking around, and we needed to spread out. The longer loop wasn't yet broken, so I spent about 30 minutes breaking trail in 8" of fresh soft powder. When I got back to the stream, I followed some previous tracks up the frozen surface, and eventually came to the main attraction, the waterfall at the head of the valley:

By now, the other group was also here, so I didn't hang around long. Walked to the base of the falls and peered behind the ice, took a few pictures, then meandered out, again breaking trail most of the way. It was a good 90-minute workout.

Another 5-10" of snow is expected tonight, followed by a major thaw next week. So goes March in the northeast.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

XC Skiing - Mohawk River State Park

First local skiable snow in months, so we took advantage. It's only a fifteen-minute drive to the former Schenectady Museum Nature Preserve in Niskayuna. Yesterday's 7" of snow was heavy and wet, and by today, had settled and developed a thin upper crust as temperatures dropped. There was nice powder underneath, but even that was a bit heavy. We stayed off the bigger downhills, because it was hard to make the skis do anything but stay basically straight in this stuff. Snow was clinging to the trees and it was a real winter wonderland. We skied for about an hour, and came down one last downhill to the car. Even that one was more challenging than usual with the lack of control in the heavy firm snow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

XC Skiing - Salmon Hills XC Center

Two-day trip (Mon/Tues) to Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center on the Tug Hill Plateau, where snow abounds.

After being delayed 2 hours yesterday in Utica with car trouble, we arrived at Salmon Hills around 3pm. Since the staff said we could ski later than the usual 4pm closing, and we'd missed lunch, we had a quick bowl of chili before heading out. Skied about 5-6 miles on wide, nicely groomed trails. Temps had been above freezing earlier in the afternoon, and had now dropped, leaving the trails a bit fast. That was OK, since "fast" also usually means almost effortless.

The only restaurant in nearby Redfield was described by another skier as serving mostly "snowmobiler food", so we headed west to Pulaski for dinner, about 30 minutes away. Found a decent Italian place (DiStefano's), had dinner and headed back to Salmon Hills. Not much to do but read for awhile and hit the sack. This place is really in the middle of nowhere.

Breakfast around 9am, with snow falling and a winter storm warning in place. Checkout was 11am, but noon was agreeable, so we went out and skied another 4-5 miles. The new-fallen snow was sticky and slow compared to yesterday, but the woods were very pretty. Back to the cafe around 11:45, checked out, had another bowl of chili, toured a couple of their yurts, and headed home. Roads were snow-covered and slick, but caution prevailed, and we got home by mid-afternoon. Now we're expecting 5-9" locally overnight.

To sum up: A very nice place to ski, with plentiful snow and excellent grooming, but nothing else whatsoever in the immediate area.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

XC Skiing - Rockwood State Forest

No pictures today, just a lot of great skiing. I was the leader for a Schenectady ADK trip back to Rockwood SF, having just skied there myself 2 days ago. About another 3" of fresh snow was on top of the firm base I found on Thursday, creating some of the best skiing so far this year. Three of us were out for well over 2 hours, covering a little over 5 miles, including lots of hills and some off-trail exploring. Looks like more rain and freezing crap coming in early next week to mess up the snow, so I'm really glad we got this one in.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Walk - Mohawk River State Park

Formerly known as "Schenectady Museum Preserve". Snowing moderately since dawn today, with about 2" on the ground by early afternoon. Trails were glare ice underneath that 2" of new snow, making basic walking a little treacherous. Walked for about an hour, but very slowly. Pretty day to be out, with the first local non-mixed precipitation in many weeks.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

XC Skiing - Rockwood State Forest

Since I'm ostensibly leading an ADK ski trip to Rockwood on Saturday, and since we've had some really weird warm wet weather lately, I felt the need today to make a scouting trip to see if it was even still skiable. As it turns out, there's about 8" of hard granular base with about an inch of fresh snow on top, just about enough to give some downhill control. The entire trail system had apparently been rolled smooth during all of that bad weather, and all ruts and bare spots were removed. The surface is fairly smooth, and if the expected 1-3" of new snow falls there tomorrow, conditions on Saturday will approach excellent. As it stands, maybe fair to good, and not beginner-friendly. Got in about an hour of skiing, maybe 4 miles, including some downhills that were much faster than usual.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Moonlight Snowshoeing - Featherstonehaugh State Forest

I'd been hoping for the past month that my moonlight snowshoe trip for this month would fall on a clear night on February 20th, the night of the lunar eclipse. Earlier in the week, and even as late as this morning. the forecast had been for 60% cloudiness until well after midnight, so I had called the one interested party and cancelled. By 5pm, the sky was clear, and I scrambled to try and pull the trip back together. One additional person had expressed interest, and was available on short notice, so off we went.

As we started walking, just before 9pm, the first hints of a shadow were beginning to appear, but the woods were exceptionally bright with the full moon and snow. And the stars were incredible out there away from the city lights. We walked for almost an hour, stopping occasionally to look through binoculars and take pictures, and reached a clearing just before 10pm, where we stood and watched totality begin. The 15 minutes back to the car from there were in much darker woods, and we actually needed a light to guide our way. The temperature had also dropped to 10F, so we were glad to reach the car and get the heat blasting. Spectacular night.

When I got home, I dragged out the telescope and tried (and failed) to capture the end of totality. In fact, I got no usable pictures at all from the entire night. The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers got a pretty good shot at their event at the Schenectady Museum.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Snowshoeing - Schenectady County Forest

At my house, all of Tuesday's ice has melted from the trees, but not so 1100' higher up in the hills west of here, near the county high point. It stays quite a bit cooler up there, so it gets more snow/ice than rain, and the frozen stuff hangs around longer.

A short drive took us to the Schenectady County Forest, where we snowshoed for about an hour.The snow was crusty and firm, with only a little fresh snow on top, so this made for very easy walking among the trees glistening in the sun.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Snowshoeing - Nine-Cornered Lake

After yesterday's icy mess, skiing wasn't looking so good, so we decided to go snowshoeing instead. When we arrived at the trailhead for Broomstick Lake, our destination, the parking area was not plowed, and parking on NY10 was just not an option. So we backtracked to the ample and clear parking area for Nine-Cornered Lake instead. We'd been to this lake in the summer, and had carried in an inflatable boat to explore it, but had never been here in winter before. The 0.9 mile walk to the eastern end of the lake was on a well-packed snowmobile trail, and only took about 30 minutes.

So we continued down the south side of the lake, still on the snowmobile trail, but it was only lightly used now. Yesterday's ice and snow was clinging to everything, and really weighing down the evergreens.

Reached a prominent promontory overlooking the lake, and watched the sun play on the snow-covered trees across the way.

Instead of retracing our steps on the snowmobile trail back to the end of the lake, we decided to bushwhack along the shoreline with no trail, and eventually met the snowmobile trail back at the point where we had originally reached the lake earlier. We were out for about 2 hours on a very nice day, much better than yesterday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snowshoeing - Featherstonehaugh State Forest

With another moonlight snowshoe trip coming up sometime this week or next, I wanted to see what was on the ground at Featherstonehaugh. I didn't expect it to be very skiable, so opted for snowshoes instead. Parked on Tidball Road, and walked the entire ski trail loop, much of which had recent ski tracks. There was maybe an inch of recent snow on top of an icy crust. Wet areas were frozen, and breaking through into the air pockets below was common, even on snowshoes. When not breaking through, conditions made for easy walking on top of the snow, and I was back at the car in about an hour. Snow, sleet, ice, and rain expected through tomorrow, so conditions will undoubtedly change.

Friday, February 8, 2008

XC Skiing - Santanoni Preserve

While we got lots of ice and sleet locally over the past few days, the more northern and central parts of the Adirondacks got all snow, up to 18" in spots. So we decided to bite the bullet and drive almost 2 hours to the Santanoni Preserve, near Newcomb. It's an old Adirondack Great Camp, about 5 miles from the highway, on the shores of Newcomb Lake. Conditions did not disappoint.

As backcountry skiing goes, this is pretty tame, a 10-mile round trip along a gently graded forest road. But we still had to carry everything as if on a winter hike, with no warming hut or other amenities, and the usual need to be prepared and self-sufficient. Reached the Camp in something under two hours, and took a brief stop for lunch on the wrap-around porch. The Camp is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is currently in the process of being restored. There were only limited views across the lake to the High Peaks, but I snapped a few shots of the Camp with its mid-winter covering of snow.

In the third picture, those are picnic tables, which shows the depth of the snow.

Skiied out after lunch, about another 2 hours, and the last mile or two to the car just dragged. We were tired, and the skiing itself is not all that interesting, though it was a truly beautiful day to be out.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Geocaching - Niskayuna

Went for a short walk on the Niskayuna bike path, near the Rexford bridge, and attempted to find a geocache in that area. The pavement was snow-covered, as were the woods, and try as we might, we never did find the thing. Reading the online description and comments after I got home, I think I understand where we went wrong, and we'll try again after the snow melts. At the rate things are going, that won't be long. No skiing this week, or for the foreseeable future. Maybe a small hike, if a day turns out dry sometime...