Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hiking - Taconic Crest Trail

It was a cool windy day, with possible afternoon showers, so instead of biking, I went for a short hike on the Taconic Crest Trail north of Petersburg Pass. There are several named summits that the actual trail skirts to one side or the other, and I decided to bushwhack these and see what I would find.

First came White Rocks. It's a steep summit to the east of the trail as the trail descends sharply and then reclimbs to the ridge. There were no views, and very little reason to ever return here. But there was this nice open view to the west before I left the trail for the bushwhack.

Returning to the trail, I continued on toward Smith Hill. The woods were very lush, with ferns and Canada mayflowers everywhere.

Leaving the trail again, I headed for the summit of Smith Hill, once known as Jim Smith Hill on earlier maps. In the open meadows of the summit, laurel was in bloom, along with another low shrub with white flowers. And of course, the blooms of blueberries to come.

I left the summit without using the compass, thinking I knew where I was going, and eventually found myself descending the Birch Brook Trail down the Massachusetts side of the ridge, not what I wanted to do. As I climbed back to the ridge, a coyote darted across the trail not 50 yards ahead of me. These guys are reclusive, and I felt lucky to have seen one.

Finally back on the main TCT on the ridge, the setting was almost park-like, in stark contrast to the brutal winter conditions of my previous visit.

Finally, I headed for the summit known erroneously to the USGS as "Snow Hole". It's the 697-meter bump on the ridge shown on the map above. Locally, everyone knows that the "Snow Hole" is actually a deep fissure in the rock that has snow at the bottom even in the middle of summer. Its actual location is also shown on the map above. The mislabeled summit had no view whatsoever.

Having been to the real Snow Hole numerous times, and with time getting short, I now headed back to the car along the trail. It had been a nicer day than expected, and I had also largely avoided the hordes of people out enjoying the main trail.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Biking - Kings/Lydius Loop

Starting today, we're expecting several less than excellent days weatherwise. It rained most of today, but then unexpectedly cleared partially toward evening. With spits of drizzle expected at any time, I seized a sunny moment and squeezed in a quick 13+ miles. The skies got darker as I headed toward Albany, and I also had a pretty strong headwind. Heading home, I could see brighter skies ahead, and cranked along in the big ring at 15-20 mph with what was now a tailwind.

Tomorrow evening's SWC ride looks doubtful, so I'm looking ahead to Saturday for a potentially more substantial ride.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Golf - Hillcrest GC

One bad shot = one bad hole. Oh sure, there were lots of mediocre shots, but only one truly bad one. And it cost me three. I was hitting everything solidly, staying out of trouble, and putting well. Then came #8...


  • 3 pars, 4 bogeys
  • 15 putts, and no 3-putts
  • Best Hillcrest round ever (47)
  • Under-tree recovery shot on #8 mis-hit, out of bounds. Definite mental error - I should have taken the safe shot directly back to the fairway.
If not for #8 and that one stupid shot, I would have shot 44, only 7 over par. It was a very good day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Biking, Yard Work, and Mini-Golf

Holly needed some help with some yard work, so we decided to get that out of the way first, and then bike to Slice's Ice Cream Parlor and Mini-Golf, about 4 miles from her house. We do this a couple of times every year, and it was a beautiful day for it. I handicapped myself, or so I thought, by riding my old mountain bike, but it didn't seem to matter. It wasn't even that bad to ride, despite being essentially a 6-speed at this point, with a bent bottom bracket spindle that makes front shifting an adventure.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Biking - Lydius/Old State/Kings Loop

After a couple of days devoted to yard work and various "deferred maintenance" items around the house, I needed to get out for a ride. The threat of storms this afternoon blew over, and I had a few hours available, so I did another of my "bread-and-butter" rides, a 16-mile loop from my front door.

Despite the appearance of the profile, the elevation changes are minimal, aside from one hill in the middle of the ride. I rode the loop counter-clockwise this time, the opposite of my normal routine, so that hill was bigger than usual. A couple miles from the end, I stopped for ice cream at the newly reopened Highbridge Twist, a benefit of doing the route in this direction. All told, it was a little over 16 miles, and at a pretty good 15.4 mph average clip, despite the winds.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Biking - SWC Weekly Thursday Night Ride

Tonight was the usual SWC Thursday night ride, this time in the Glenville hills northwest of Schenectady.

It was a slow steady climb to the high point, and then a screaming descent back to the finish. It was actually only screaming because I was hammering most of the way back. I never do that when I'm out riding alone, but there's something about these evening group rides that seems to make me do it. I always pull away from the group going uphill, whether I'm trying to or not, and by the time I hit the top, I'm so pumped that I just crank it up. It was only 15 miles, but I was pretty spent when I finished.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Biking - Ride of Silence

Tonight was the annual Ride of Silence, an international event where cyclists gather and ride in memory of cyclists whose lives have been lost as a result of bicyclist/motorist traffic accidents. The local event was in Albany, and though the numbers seemed to fluctuate, about 50-75 riders showed up for the event. We rode as a group, escorted by police on bicycles, and passed three local ghost bikes, memorializing the fallen cyclists. Local media was there, and I'll update these links if anything more becomes available.

Albany Times-Union
WXXA TV Video - Sorry about the lead-in crap...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Biking - Schenectady to Schoharie Crossing

We're expecting a sunny dry week ahead, and today was the first of many nice days to come. I realized that after the Lake George ride last week, I had made some repairs to the rear shifting on the old 10-speed, but had never taken it for a test ride after I was done. Since I want to use it for tomorrow evening's Ride of Silence in Albany, it seemed like a good idea to be sure all was now well with it.

I wanted a long-ish ride, but flat and with some kind of destination. Riding the bike path from Schenectady to Schoharie Crossing, and having lunch at Karen's Produce and Ice Cream, would give me a little over 44 mostly flat miles r/t, and would be a good test of the bike.

As it turned out, the rear shifting worked flawlessly now. I threw the chain once on a front upshift, but s**t happens, so no big deal. I still can't get the seat tight enough to prevent the tilt changing when I hit bumps, but this is my spare bike, it's old, and it will have to do.

It was a pleasant casual ride and a good lunch on a beautiful day. More miles to come...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Golf - Whispering Pines GC

It's a cool and cloudy day, and I still haven't quite recovered from all of last week's activities, so golf seemed like a good idea for the day. Hillcrest was closed when I arrived, so I headed for Whispering Pines and its 18 par 3s. Things started out pretty ugly, but then I settled down and wound up with a decent score.


  • 3 birdies, the first of the year
  • 5 pars
  • Short game was much improved, as was putting (in general)
  • 3 triple and 3 double bogeys
  • 4 3-putts
Despite the problems, it was the 3rd best round relative to par and course difficulty since I restarted the game last year. Consistency, as always, was the issue of the day...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Trail Maintenance - Northville/Lake Placid Trail

Since 1994, Holly and I have adopted a section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail, under the Adirondack Mountain Club's (ADK) Trail Steward program. That means we walk through the 6-mile section every spring and fall, removing blowdown, cutting back brush, clearing drainages, and reporting any major issues to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. We try to get others to join us by leading this as a Schenectady Chapter ADK trip. Today, we had a great crew of 7, which is substantially more than usual.

We got a lot of work done on a cool showery day, spending about 5 hours in the woods in prime Adirondack blackfly season. On the plus side, painted trillium were everywhere, and the timing of the rain worked out much better than it could have.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Biking - Mariaville/Esperance/Duanesburg Loop

The regular SWC Thursday night ride was rained out last night, and today was sunny and calm, with temps expected in the low 70s. I pulled out one of my favorite rides, climbing to Mariaville, continuing to Esperance, and returning to Duanesburg via US20. From there, it's a screamer of a downhill down NY7 back to Rotterdam. All told, it's 43.7 miles and 2300+ feet of climbing, with the corresponding downhills providing nice breaks.

I stopped in Mariaville after the big climb and had a danish at the store there before continuing on. The Stewart's Shop in Esperance was the lunch stop, and from there I just continued on home. I found out I don't quite have my climbing legs yet, but it was a good ride which I'll probably do again this year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Biking - Fort Edward to Lake George

Today was a Taconic Hiking Club bike ride along the original Champlain Canal, the Glens Falls Feeder Canal Trail, and the Warren County Bikeway, a total of 32 miles R/T from Fort Edward to Lake George. A map of the entire route is available here. Most of the route is on off-street bike paths, and it makes a pleasant day's outing.

As we left the old Champlain Canal heading up to the Feeder Canal, we came upon the remains of the Five Combines, a series of 5 locks on the old canal that lifted/lowered boats a total of 55 feet.

Continuing on to the Feeder Canal, we entered a park-like setting that also included views into private backyards and passage through several industrial areas.

Between the Feeder Canal Trail and the Warren County Bikeway, the route briefly winds through city streets, mostly residential and quiet, before picking up the paved bike trail again. There are numerous street crossings in this initial section of the Bikeway, but we were all amazed at the courtesy of drivers of all sorts of vehicles. When we stopped at OUR stop sign, drivers inevitably stopped and let us cross the street, which we acknowledged with waves and thanks. Having experienced less courtesy in other similar situations, this was most refreshing.

After one short on-road section, we began the long gradual descent to Lake George. We found some sunny benches adjacent to the "Million-Dollar Beach", so named because you couldn't pay me enough to come anywhere near this tourist mecca in the summer. It was a clear sunny day, the waterfront was quiet, and the views of the lake were, as usual, spectacular.

After lunch by the lake came the long gradual climb back out of Lake George, but it wasn't difficult. Back in Glens Falls, we stopped at Coopers Cave for ice cream. This place is very convenient, being directly alongside the trail, and it gets a lot of business from trail users.

From there we wound our way back to the Feeder Canal and back to the cars after a very pleasant ride.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Walk - Wolf Creek Falls Preserve

After biking yesterday, and biking again tomorrow, I didn't really feel like riding today as well. So I headed back to Wolf Creek Falls Preserve, in Knox. It's one of several local preserves of the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy. I had been there once before when it first opened, but had trouble finding the more interesting trails on the side of the road opposite the parking area. Today, the trails were well marked, and actually corresponded pretty well with the map at the first link above.

I walked for about 45 minutes, basically around the outside of the northern half of the property. I really expected to see a lot of wildflowers in bloom, but there were almost none.

This would be an interesting place to cross-country ski in the winter, with lots of rolling twisting trails, and enough of them to keep a skier busy for an hour or so at least.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Biking - Mohawk River Bikeway / Erie Canalway Trail

Today dawned sunny with temps expected in the 60s with light winds, so I decided I needed some serious saddle time. The Erie Canalway Trail, of which the Mohawk River Bikeway is a part, runs from Albany to Buffalo, just like the song. Today, I rode one continuous section from east of Amsterdam to Canajoharie, 25 miles each way. Of that 50 miles, 30 were on an unpaved stone-dust surface, and of that 30, 15 also had a headwind. It was a good workout for both legs and rear end.

The route is pretty much dead flat, aside from the one 10% grade I climbed to capture this view of the Mohawk Valley below. That's NY5S in the foreground, and trucks are visible beyond it on the NYS Thruway, I-90.

The route follows the Mohawk River Valley, as did the Erie Canal in its day. The river is now used as the NYS Barge Canal, and has dams and locks along most of its length. At one point, it passes between Big Nose and Little Nose, steep promontories on either side of the river, seen here in the distance. Through this gap in the terrain pass all modes of transportation - the NYS Thruway, NY5, NY5S, railroads, the Barge Canal, and now the Canalway Trail.

Building the Erie Canal created some interesting engineering problems. The canal followed alongside the river, but rivers also have tributaries, and some of them are substantial. This was the case with Schoharie Creek, near Fort Hunter. Now a state historic site, Schoharie Crossing tells the story of how the canal crossed the creek, and how it survived the massive spring floods that as recently as 1987 caused the collapse of the I-90 Thruway overpass. In the 1800s, an aqueduct was built to carry the waters of the canal over the creek. The remains of that aqueduct are still visible today. A similar but much smaller aqueduct in central New York is currently being restored, and will once again carry the waters of the canal over the local creek.

The problem with a purely flat route is that continuous pedaling is required. There are no coasting breaks as downhills are encountered. Add to that the fact that a stone-dust surface creates much more rolling resistance, and this felt like more than a 50-mile ride. But some friends and I are planning a similar trip for later this year. We'll be riding the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail trail from Pittsburgh, PA, to Cumberland, MD, and then continuing on to Washington, DC, on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O) Canal Trail. Today's outing was a good test of bike and butt on a similarly flat but bumpy ride. More details on that one as the planning continues.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Golf - Hillcrest GC

Since my earlier round this week was free, I had no qualms about the price of going out again. The morning was supposed to be sunny with possible storms later, so golf seemed like a good choice.

The first two holes had me thinking I should have stayed home. Nothing was going straight. #1 ended with only a double bogey, but #2 was a disastrous 7 on a par 3, including an out-of-bounds. After that, I settled down quite a bit, and finished with a par and 6 bogeys, and a 49. That's only one worse than my best at this course, so overall, it was a good round. I know I have a full nine holes of good golf in me somewhere - I just need to find a way to let it out.

On the wide-open 9th hole, I hit a 3-wood dead straight. I'd been teeing off with the 3-wood all day, so just for kicks, I tried a second ball with the driver, and it also went dead straight. Hmmmm - have I learned some kind of secret? I decided to stop at the driving range on the way home and find out. Unfortunately, what I found out was that the driver shot on #9 was a fluke. I probably have about a 1 in 50 chance of actually putting the driver in the fairway. No real surprise there.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Biking - SWC Thursday Night Ride

Tonight was the first SWC Thursday night bike ride of the season, and Holly was hosting it. That meant I was the pizza gopher and overall assistant. About 20 people showed up on a windy cool evening, and we headed out at 6:30. Most people were doing the 17-mile option, but I needed to get back a little ahead of the rest to go get the pizza, so I bailed early and did a little under 15. As always on these rides, I push harder than I normally would if I were alone, and that mentality continued even after I broke off. Despite the gusty winds, I averaged a bit over 15mph and even extended my original planned ride by a mile or two, still finishing with time to spare.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hiking - Panther Mt. - Catskills

Several friends were hiking Panther today, so I decided to join them. It was raining heavily when I rolled out of bed, but the forecast and radar looked promising, so I hoped for the best. By the time I drove to the meeting point, the rain had mostly stopped, and it looked like the day would be OK. Things got even better as we drove south to the Catskills.

At 3720 feet, Panther is the 18th highest of the Catskill summits. The usual approach from the south first climbs and crosses Giant Ledge, a minor summit with spectacular views from its eastern cliffs. The clouds were mostly just above us, and wisps of cloud were hanging around and over some of the other nearby summits.

In true Catskill fashion, the trail was a series of steps, first a steep rocky climb, then a flat section, followed by another steep rocky climb.

Like Saturday's hike to Balsam Mt., wildflowers were everywhere today. On Balsam, the real stars of the show were the spring beauty and red trillium. Panther had some of each as well.

But far overshadowing the spring beauty, today's star was the trout lily, named for its spotted leaves. They were everywhere, both singly and in clumps or even carpets.

Reaching a viewpoint near the summit that has obviously been both created and improved by illegal cutting, we stopped for lunch.

After lunch, we made a quick trip to the true summit, and then headed back toward Giant Ledge. By now, the clouds were rolling over Giant Ledge, and the views of the morning were all but obscured. We descended down the steep and rocky trail and reached the car after another fine day in the woods.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Golf - Whispering Pines GC

This afternoon looked questionable for rain, so I decided to use my free 18-hole round card at Whispering Pines, an 18-hole par 55 layout in Rotterdam. It was a calm damp morning around 60F, and the course was nearly deserted.


  • Hit 8 of 18 greens from the tee
  • 6 pars and 8 bogeys
  • Irons were overall very good
  • No lost balls or out of bounds
  • Chipping and putting mostly OK
  • Hit provisional balls several times, in case wayward balls were lost
  • 4 double bogeys
  • 4-putted the final green, and 2 other 3-putts
In general, I need to be pretty pleased with this round. It felt good, and aside from the obvious problems above, I felt comfortable over the ball and found a rhythm that's been absent for a while. Final score was 71, not my best here, but it would have been close, if only.....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hiking - Balsam Mountain (Catskills)

At 3600 feet, Balsam Mountain is the 28th highest of New York's Catskill Mountains. Today, I led a hike for Schenectady ADK to enjoy early spring in the Catskills and the profusion of wildflowers we always find there this time of year.

It was a sunny and cool morning as 7 of us headed up the trail. Early spring wildflowers were everywhere as we started up the Rider Hollow and Mine Hollow trails to Balsam's long ridge. In addition to red trillium and Dutchman's breeches (shown below), we also saw trout lily, squirrel corn, spring beauty, blue cohosh, and a few others we couldn't identify.

After a steep climb, we found the nice view that has obviously been "maintained", since it's just over the state land line on private property. This made a nice lunch spot, with the new greens of spring creeping up the slopes from the valley below.

Reluctantly, we descended via the lush Rider Hollow trail and its babbling brook full of green moss-covered rocks. The day had warmed up by now and the flowers were even more profuse on a sunny afternoon.

A stop for ice cream on the way home made the day complete. It was a great group and a great day.