Monday, June 29, 2009

Biking - Glenville, Charlton

Today was another bike ride with the same group of local friends I've connected with and biked with through the Taconic Hiking Club. Instead of starting from Clifton Park, as we have been, today we started in Glenville. Although it was not supposed to rain, the morning was dark and gloomy with occasional spits of something even less than drizzle. We went anyway, and the skies cleared as the day went on. We did an easy clockwise 29-mile loop on familiar roads north of Charlton and north even of NY67, an area I'd never biked in before. On the way back, we stopped at Marcella's for ice cream before calling it a day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Biking - SWC Thursday Night Ride

Today was one of the first hot sticky days of the season, aside from a few a couple of months ago, and as luck would have it, there was a ride on for tonight. We started at a member's house on NY50, in Glenville, and rode a clockwise loop to Charlton and back.

The climb up Snake Hill and Closson Roads was a bit miserable, but after that, it turned into a downhill hammerfest. I don't know why that always happens on these SWC rides, but it does seem to follow that pattern. I averaged over 15mph for the ride, including the climb, and there were times when I was going all out on the big ring. As someone told me on the Tuesday night ride, my Trek 520 isn't a "performance bike" (DUH! It's my touring truck!), but I do wonder what I could do on something that's 15 pounds lighter. Not to worry - ain't gonna happen. It's just not my normal style.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Biking - Longer River Loop

After last night's ride, I was only 28 miles short of 1,000 miles so far for the season, and since today was another rare nice (read: dry) day, I decided to go for it. Starting at Schenectady Community College, I headed west on the Mohawk River Bikeway until I reached NY5S, and then continued west to Amsterdam. Picking up another section of the bike path, I continued to NY30, and crossed the river on the bridge into Amsterdam. From there, it was a straight, and fairly boring, shot back to Schenectady on NY5.

It's warm and humid today, and I wasn't interested in any hills, so this was a perfect ride of 32 miles. It looks like I'm on about the same mileage pace as last year's 2,300+.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Biking - MHCC Tuesday Night Casual Ride

Tonight was another Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club (MHCC) casual ride from relatively near home, so I decided to go. We started at the Lynwood School in nearby Guilderland, and biked a 22-mile loop to Indian Ladder Farms and back. Casual rides are listed as 10-12mph, but everyone was a little faster than that, and a few of us kept getting ahead whenever there was a climb of any size. The profile looks daunting, but the elevation differences were small, and the total climbing for the ride was only a little over 500 feet.

After the ride, several of us retired to an Italian restaurant nearby for dinner. The portions were so huge that most of us couldn't finish them, and will have leftovers for the week to come.

Canoeing - Ballston Lake

This afternoon, Holly and I went for a short paddle on Ballston Lake, only a few miles from her house in Burnt Hills.

It's a long narrow lake, about 3 miles long, oriented north-south, and the only public access is at the northern end. There were only a few motorboats out today, and it was interesting to see all of the private camps and residences along the shoreline. With an imperceptible northerly tailwind, we had an easy paddle heading south, and reached the widest part of the lake in about 20 minutes. Then we turned around, and yikes! It took us almost twice that to get back to the put-in, with a northerly wind that was now all but imperceptible. Note to self - do this again only on a calm day.

Meeting - ECOS Ski Tips XC Ski Guide Update

The Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady (ECOS) publishes a guide to cross-country ski areas in the local area and surrounding counties. "Ski Tips" was last updated in 2001, and is currently up for revision and republication. I volunteered to serve on the committee doing the update, and today we had our first meeting. Each of us has been assigned various maps to check and contacts to contact, and we hope to have a draft ready for field-checking this winter. Since it was only about 4 miles away, I biked to the meeting and back.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Golf - Whispering Pines GC

I didn't get out for any golf at all last week, and with the US Open on TV this weekend, I really got the itch to play. I like Whispering Pines, because it's close by, it's 18 holes, and I can get in lots of short-game practice. Today, I tied my best round there (66 - par is 55), and if the putter had been even lukewarm, it would have been an outstanding round.


  • 12 of 18 greens in regulation
  • One birdie
  • Eight pars
  • Four 3-putts, and 39 total putts
  • One triple bogey
  • One double bogey

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Biking - Rexford Ramble

Several years ago, the Town of Clifton Park hosted a historical bike tour of the Rexford and Vischer Ferry sections of the town. They called it the Rexford Ramble, and it was about a 14-15 mile ride, with stops at several historical sites or locations. I couldn't go then, for some reason, but I downloaded the route and historical narratives, in case Holly and I ever wanted to do it ourselves. Today was the day, despite the very iffy forecast.

First, we rode along the old Erie Canal towpath, from Vischer Ferry to the Lock 7 hydroelectric project. It was muddy in spots, but not a bad ride. Heading west toward Rexford, we got spritzed briefly, but the ride was mostly dry. Reaching Rexford, we turned around and headed back west, noticing VERY dark clouds to the northeast, and heading our way, albeit from an unusual direction. We reached the cars just as the skies opened up, and for a few minutes, it really poured. By the time I got home again, the sun was out. Very weird day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Biking - Saratoga Spa State Park

A local seniors group that Holly rides with regularly was having a short ride and their annual picnic today in Saratoga Spa State Park, so I tagged along. Though the weather was pretty ugly, it wasn't raining, and 18 people turned out. We rode casually around the park for about 45 minutes, mostly on bike paths, then retired to the shelter of a pavilion, just in case, for a potluck lunch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hiking - Alander Mountain, MA

Today was going to be the last nice day until early next week, so Holly and I decided to go hiking. We wanted something relatively close by, not too strenuous, and with a view, so we settled on Alander Mountain, in the South Taconics, near the MA/CT/NY corner. It's only about a 6-mile round trip hike, and with less than 800' of total climbing.

It was a cool breezy day, and perfect for hiking. We crossed several streams that were running pretty well, and the trail was wet in spots after a lot of recent rain, but it was generally very easy walking. After the last steep climb to the ridge, we had several options for views. First, we headed north on the South Taconic Trail and found this view to the east and northeast.

Knowing that the best views were off the west side of the ridge, we turned around here and headed back south until we found them. The Catskills are off in the distance to the west.

Looking more to the south, we saw Ashley, Frissell, and Brace, from left to right. Ashley Hill (left) is in MA and Brace Mountain (right) is in NY. Mount Frissell (center) has its summit in Massachusetts, but its southern shoulder is the highest point in Connecticut.

The laurel was beginning to bloom up here on the ridge, and in a week or two, this whole area will be ablaze in various shades of pink.

Near the summit, we met a large group of Oriental hikers who were cooking a very fancy lunch. The smell of Chinese take-out was wafting across the summit on the wind, and we knew something was up, but were surprised to find them having such a feast.

We headed a little further south to the true summit, and found the view there somewhat obscured by vegetation, and not as good as the others we had seen. From there, the trip back to the car was uneventful, but we found the usual hoped-for ice cream stop closed for the day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Biking - Clifton Park to Saratoga Springs

A group of friends was planning a ride to Saratoga Springs today,but by a different route than we'd used for this same ride in the past. This would be a 45-mile loop, with lunch in Saratoga Spa State Park. A few of us were still sore from Sunday's hike, especially our quads, but a relaxed bike ride seemed like a good idea to get everything loosened up again.

The morning dawned cloudy and cool, with a slight threat of afternoon showers, but they never materialized. By lunchtime, the sun was shining brightly, and it stayed with us the rest of the day. The route home took us past Lakeside Farms, so an ice cream stop was a necessity. Overall, we were probably out for nearly 6 hours, but never pushed hard and just enjoyed the conversation and the day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hiking - Round and Noonmark Mountains

Today I joined a Schenectady ADK trip to Round and Noonmark Mountains, near Keene Valley, NY. It was a beautiful sunny morning with temps around 60F, but very humid from the overnight rains. We first went up the S. Burns Weston Trail to Round, about 1800' above the parking area. It was a steep climb of 2.3 miles, with excellent views along the way. This shot is of Giant Mountain and its slides, just to the east.

By the time we reached the summit, we were all dripping wet from the humidity, so we lingered a while to dry out. The views from Round are almost 360 degrees, and we took many pictures before continuing on. That's Noonmark, our next destination, in the immediate foreground.

As we left Round and continued on to Noonmark, we dropped steeply about 900' to the col between them. Along the way, we saw many pink ladyslippers in bloom.

Reaching the junction with the Dix trail, we started up to Noonmark, climbing steeply about 1200' in the next mile. We started noticing the first blackflies of the day, around noon as the day warmed up. We paused for lunch on the buggy summit, and took many more pictures. The entire Great Range was laid out before us, and Dix was especially prominent with its slides.

Far below us was the Ausable Club and golf course. In our younger years, Holly and I had twice backpacked up here, spent the night, and watched their 4th of July fireworks from above.

There was now rain falling visibly in the distance, heading south down the valley toward us from the Whiteface area to the north, so we started down. The first sections were very steep, and there were many more views from the open rocks, but we hurried to get off of this steep section before the rains came. Just as we reached the woods came the first of several sharp thunderclaps, followed by rain. It was mostly showery and wet after the first deluge passed, and we had a wet slippery descent. The rain stopped as we reached the Ausable Club Road, after 6.7 miles and 3100+ feet of climbing. It was a tough day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hiking - North/South Lake - Catskills

Holly wanted to get out for a short hike today, and having heard that the season's blackflies had pretty much gone from the northern Catskills, we headed for the North-South Lake State Campsite, which has many hiking trails along the Catskill Escarpment. The trails look out over not only the Hudson River Valley to the east, but to the lakes and the campsite below.

Along the way on the Escarpment Trail, I heard a small shriek and Holly skipped ahead. I looked at my feet and saw this snake, which then slithered off into the brush. Holly kept going, and I snapped a picture for future identification purposes.

When I got home, my first inclination after spending some time online was that this was a Northern Copperhead, one of New York's few venomous snakes. They are known in this area of the Catskills, and it mostly seemed right. The pattern of the brown splotches didn't quite fit, though, so I dug a little deeper, and discovered it was an Eastern Milk Snake, a harmless snake even often kept as a pet. They're often mistaken for copperheads, and the patterns were a perfect match.

After that excitement, we continued on to Artist's Rock, Lookout Rock, and Sunset Rock. The first two provided fine views of the Hudson Valley below.

Sunset Rock faced toward the southwest, with a nice view of the lakes, as well as of Kaaterskill High Peak and its neighbor Round Top.

Finally, we headed back down the Mary's Glen Trail, with a stop at Ashley Falls.

Reaching the campground road, we headed back to the car, and drove down to Haines Falls and had some ice cream before driving home.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Biking - SWC Thursday Night Ride

It's Thursday, and that meant another SWC Thursday night bike ride. The weather was iffy, but the radar looked like we had a couple of dry hours ahead, so we gave it a go. Normally, when we start at Rotterdam Kiwanis Park, the ride involves going up into the hills near Pattersonville and then screaming down NY160 back to the river. Tonight, with the strange weather, a few of us decided to forego the pleasure of all that climbing and stay closer to the river, where more bailout options would be available if the rains came early. It was a good decision, since we had light off-and-on showers throughout the ride, and a steadier rain toward the end. We got in 14+ mostly dry miles and got back well in time for the usual beer and pizza.

Biking - Testing New Tires

In preparation for October's tour of the Great Allegheny Passage and C & O Canal from Pittsburgh to Washington, I had bought some new tires, 700x35 Schwalbe Marathon Pluses. These are wider, have some tread, and ride 25 pounds softer than my 32mm slicks.

Yesterday, I got them on the bike, and today I needed to be sure they were going to be usable. The only real issue was whether there would be sufficient clearance to be used with my existing fenders. They spin freely, but the clearance in the front is especially tight. Today, I headed to Schoharie Crossing to give them a workout on several different riding surfaces.

First, I rode some single track on the old Erie Canal Towpath. No problems here, though I noticed these tires pick up a lot more pebbles than the slicks, and then fling them against the inside of the fenders. Lots of noise, but no real issue. The paved but bumpy bike trail was no problem, nor was the stone dust surface further west, aside from that same pebbling noise. On the road, all was quiet. I'm not sure if the rolling resistance was really greater, though it seems like it should be. Maybe I was just expecting it, and thus feeling it...

The whole ride was under 9 miles, but it answered all of my questions. These tires should be fine on this bike for all-around use, even with fenders. And they're also supposed to be virtually puncture-proof. Time will tell...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Biking - The Usual River Loop - Backwards

Makes it kinda hard to pedal and see where you're going...

Actually, I just did it in reverse. I couldn't think of a ride I really wanted to do, and the day was getting away from me. So I decided to park at SCCC, pedal west from Scotia, cross the river at Lock 9, and then return via the bike path, avoiding late afternoon traffic and providing a little variety to this much used route.

When I rolled the bike out to the car, I noticed the rear tire was very soft, but not flat. Figuring it was a slow enough leak to allow a couple hours' ride, I reinflated it and was on my way. By the time I reached the bike path after about 15 miles of road riding, it was very soft again. Damn. The tire itself looked perfectly fine - no evidence of any external problem. So I pumped it up part way and continued on gingerly toward the car. I had to stop one more time before I got there, but made it home without incident. It appears to be a somewhat defective tube, now patched and in the bag as a spare until I can pick up a couple of new ones.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Golf - Whispering Pines GC

Today looked like the best day for what has become my weekly round of golf. I started driving toward Hillcrest, but passed by Whispering Pines on the way, and the parking lot was virtually empty. I figured some irons practice couldn't hurt, so stopped there instead to play 18 par 3s. Overall, I was hitting it pretty well, with the usual few exceptions. Putting, on the other hand, was miserable. The greens here are slick and very rolling, and today, I didn't play them well at all.


  • 1 birdie
  • 5 pars
  • 8 greens in regulation
  • 3 3-putts
  • 4-putted #9, after pushing the first putt off a veritable cliff just past the hole
  • Out-of-bounds on #2, and a few other "challenging" off-fairway lies after the tee shots went astray

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Biking - Grant Hill Loop

It looks like an unsettled damp week ahead, so I got out for one more ride before the rain arrives. I took a couple of miles off of the usual Grant Hill Road loop, and got in about 21 for the day. Relative to the past few times around this loop, today felt like a very strong ride, using higher gears than usual, and even standing to climb a few rollers rather than downshifting. That's 152 miles in the past 7 days - I need to find a way to keep this going.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Biking - West Glenville Hills

After a pretty easy ride yesterday, and with the weather today in the upper 70s and sunny, I felt like I needed a climb. I dug out my ancient copy of "25 Bike Tours in the Hudson Valley", and decided on a route I had done a couple of times before. But this time, I would go UP the big climb at the beginning, instead of coming down it at the end as I had in the past.

I did this loop clockwise from Schenectady Community College at the bottom of the map, and the big climb is Washout Road, 3 miles and a little over 700 feet. That's only a 5% average grade overall, but there are a few 10-15% pitches thrown in just for fun. Any road that leaves the river perpendicularly will definitely be a climb, and there's no shortage of roads in this area that do exactly that, on both sides of the river.

Once I topped out on Washout, the rest of the ride was mostly a pleasant rolling downhill back to the car on low-traffic country roads.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Biking - Indian Ladder Farms

I really like destination rides, much more so than just some random aimless loop. I like to feel like I'm going somewhere. Indian Ladder Farms, between Voorheesville and Altamont, has a cafe open at lunchtime that offers some pretty good fare. I bike there a couple of times each year, and it's usually in the 25-30-mile range, round trip. Today, I picked a 32-mile route that only involved 800-900 feet of total elevation gain. It was a nice ride, and a good lunch.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Biking - Clifton Park, Round Lake

It was Thursday night, and time for another SWC beer/pizza ride. We started in Clifton Park, headed east toward Mechanicville, and then back around the east and north sides of Round Lake, before heading south again and back to the the start. It was about 18 miles, with good company both during the ride and afterwards.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Biking - MHCC Tuesday Night Casual Ride

The Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club (MHCC) publishes a pretty extensive ride calendar. Unfortunately, for the past several years, most of the rides required a longish drive to get to the start point from my house. Tonight, and throughout June, their Tuesday night rides leave from within biking distance of my house, so I decided to give one a try.

The ride was billed as a "10-12 mph, 19-mile" ride. At the start, the leader explained that, because of the ride pace categorizations used in the calendar, he'd had to list it that way, but really intended to be closer to the "12" end, and maybe even 13 mph. About 15-20 riders showed up, and we did a tour of Rotterdam, Guilderland, Colonie, Niskayuna, and Schenectady, much of it on fairly rough and trafficky roads. I can't say I cared much for the route, but aside from that, it was a good group and a good ride at a comfortable pace.

Biking - Grant Hill Loop

After a full week off the bike, and getting tired of painting windows and other fun stuff, I needed to get out for a ride. I decided on the usual Grant Hill Road loop, with a nice climb in the middle. The winds of the morning had abated somewhat, but were still swirling about to become a headwind whatever my direction of travel. Toward the end of the ride, after-school traffic was getting heavy, and I was stopping for far too many school buses, so I opted to get off the main roads and take a residential route home. Overall, it was a good ride of 23.54 miles, and I need to start doing more of this again.

Golf - Hillcrest GC

It was a cool, windy morning, but rain-free for a change, so I headed for the golf course again. This was not one of my better outings, or at least it didn't feel like it was. I hit countless bad shots, but this being the wide-open fields of Hillcrest, I got away with it time and again. It would have been a horror show on a tighter course. The gusty wind may have been a factor - yeah, that's it....

The final score was only three off last week's better-feeling effort, so I must have done something right somewhere.


  • 2 pars, 4 bogeys
  • chipping saved the day
  • dropped 25-foot putt on #9 for par
  • 1 double, 1 triple, and 1 QUADRUPLE bogey
  • 2 3-putts
  • several fat shots with the pitching wedge

Monday, June 1, 2009

Walk - Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park

The Wilton Preserve is a patchwork of publicly owned land in southern Saratoga County. It's another piece of the inland pine barrens that's so common around here, and very similar to Albany's Pine Bush. Both locations are in the process of reestablishing habitat for the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. Wild blue lupine is critical to the survival of these butterflies, and is being widely planted in both areas.

We had heard that the lupine in Wilton was in full bloom, so we went to check it out, and maybe even see one of the rare butterflies. We didn't see any Karner Blues, but the lupine was indeed in bloom everywhere we looked in the open fields of the preserve. In the wooded areas, we saw pink ladyslippers rather than lupine. It was a pretty day for a walk, with more rain coming in again soon.