Saturday, October 31, 2009

Walk - Long Path to High Point Cliff

Today, we were expecting a warm, windy, and wet Halloween Day. What we got was 70 and windy, but the rain got postponed until later in the afternoon. After some household chores and fall yard work, I headed off to John Boyd Thacher State Park for a short walk before the deluge. As I got closer to the park, atop the Helderberg Escarpment, I noticed a trailhead I'd never seen before, listing the Long Path to High Point Cliff, about 1.1 miles. This looked about right, so off I went. It turns out that the Open Space Institute just recently acquired another 188 acres here to be added to the park, and that's where I was now walking.

I kept watching the sky to the west, and maintained a fairly brisk pace, not wanting to get wet in the next hour or so. By the time I got to the overlook, the sky had mostly clouded over, but the views were still spectacular. The escarpment in the main part of the park was visible to the southeast.

Fourteen miles to the ESE was the Empire State Plaza in downtown Albany.

And just below me to the north was the tiny village of Altamont, at the base of the escarpment.

The sky was getting noticeably darker now, so I didn't tarry long here, walking quickly back to the car. It had not rained by the time I drove home, but it still looks like it will be a wet evening for trick-or-treating ;-)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Biking - Clifton Park and Lunch

A group of friends got together today for a 30-mile backroads ride around the Towns of Clifton Park and Round Lake. It was a cool and cloudy morning, though clearing was expected later with highs in the 60s. Unfortunately, we finished before any of that happened, and also had to contend with some unexpected winds. It wasn't the most pleasant day to be out, but at least it was dry, and lunch at Lakeside Farms is always a good destination.

Today also marked 2,500 miles for the year, on 95 rides. This has definitely been my best biking year ever.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Golf - Whispering Pines GC

Today dawned gloomy and cool, but not rainy, so I headed for Whispering Pines and its 18-hole par-3 layout. The first hole gave me a taste of what was to come. I dropped my tee shot nicely on the green, and then promptly 3-putted, the first of many. These fast rolling greens continue to confound me. A few good (great!) holes saved me from an otherwise high-scoring round, despite feeling like I was hitting everything very well.


  • 2 birdies, one on a 35-foot putt, and another on a 28-footer
  • 7 of 18 greens in regulation
  • 3 pars and only one double bogey
  • Five 3-putts
  • Several tee shots hit fat and short
Overall, the score was in my top ten for the year, and it felt like I was playing well. I just need to figure out how to putt consistently at this place.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hiking - Rusk Mountain (Catskills)

After our last off-trail hike to Moose Mountain a few weeks ago, Holly wanted to learn more about map and compass navigation. Normally, I do the route planning, give her a compass bearing to follow, and she gets us to the destination through the woods very well. But she wanted to understand better how that compass bearing was arrived at. She suggested a trailless Catskill summit, since deer season hadn't yet opened to our south, and I chose Rusk as a simple and relatively short learning exercise. It's about 3/4 mile on a trail, and then about another 1.25 miles on a straight line to the summit. It's quite steep, and there are no views, but it would serve our purpose well.

Arriving at the trailhead, I helped her understand the map and the route and she came up with a bearing she wanted to follow. And off we went. It was a beautiful day to be out, with temps in the 50s, no wind, and an extremely blue sky as a backdrop to the yellow beech leaves still remaining on the trees.

After struggling upward through the beeches (and a few especially nasty sons of beeches), she nailed the summit dead on. We knew this because on the trailless Catskill summits, the Catskill 3500 Club maintains canisters where hikers register a successful ascent. This then qualifies them, after completing all of the 3500-foot summits, for membership in the Club. We're both already members, but the canister was still a welcome sight.

The summit is otherwise very nondescript, with no views whatsoever of the surrounding territory. We ate our lunches, signed the register, and then headed back down.

On the way down, I made a small mental error, following a bearing that caused us to intersect a stream a little farther up its bed than I would have liked. It wasn't a big deal, just a little rocky and sloppy for a ways as we followed it down, but then we were back on the trail and reached the car in good time. Ice cream at the Prattsville Diner completed a great day in the woods.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Biking - The Bridges of Washington County

My Long Island friend Ted was in town for the weekend and wanted to get out for a ride. He had previously done a 33-mile ride in rural Washington County, a loop including Greenwich, Salem, and Cambridge, which he described as "having some killer hills". So we decided to give it a try on a cool windy Sunday.

Washington County adjoins the state of Vermont, which in many ways it resembles much more than it does the other New York counties surrounding it. The terrain is hilly, farms are plentiful, and the scenery is very rural. There are even several covered bridges in the county, and we crossed one on today's ride.

The Rexleigh Bridge, built in 1874, is on a side road south of Salem, NY. The text reads "25 Dollars Fine for Driving on This Bridge Faster Than a Walk". This bridge was followed immediately by the first big climb shown above, and visible in the background, which continued on for about a mile. In the middle was one short cruel section of approximately 15% grade. After making it up that one, we chose to skip a second covered bridge that would have involved another significant country road up-and-down, and took a valley detour to Cambridge instead.

After a rest and snack stop in Cambridge, we headed northwest, into a stiff headwind, and tackled the second big climb of the day. This one was not as steep, but did seem to continue on for a couple of miles. After that, it was all downhill back to Greenwich and the car.

This area is a great place to ride, and I'll keep this one on my list, maybe with a few modifications.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hiking - Pharaoh Mountain

At 2556 feet, Pharaoh Mountain is the highest summit in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area of the Adirondacks. Today, I joined a Schenectady ADK trip to its summit, approaching from the south via Pharaoh Lake. It was a 13.8-mile round trip, longer than we had realized because a former 1.1-mile road to a more interior trailhead was now unmaintained and impassable to all but high-clearance vehicles.

As we reached the end of the road and the old trailhead, the morning fog was just burning off.

Further along, we came to a very large beaver dam and pond. This shot only shows about a quarter of the total length of this dam.

Our destination, Pharaoh Mountain, towered above the pond behind the dam.

On the summit, clouds were beginning to fill in, and it was cool and windy. We ate lunch and enjoyed the view to the east toward Vermont in the far distance, with part of Pharaoh Lake directly below.

The summit has several views in different directions. Here, we're looking more northwest toward the Adirondack High Peaks on the horizon.

Since the forecast was calling for an increasing chance of rain as the day wore on, we left the summit and made good time back to the outlet of Pharaoh Lake. The sky was getting gloomier by the minute, but we never did get any rain from the ominous clouds reflected in the lake.

The last 3.6 miles back to the cars seemed like an eternity, but the old road provided good walking and we reached the cars about 8 hours after we started.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Walk - Near Wolf Hollow

Today, the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy was leading a walk on some private property near Wolf Hollow, in Glenville. The landowner had entered into an easement with MHLC that prevents most further development on his 37 mostly wooded acres. The property is not technically open to the public, but the owner offered a tour of the property today which interested the many people who attended. The location is significant in Native American history, both for a great inter-tribal battle there in 1669, and as the site of a continual encampment over a period of centuries. Many artifacts have been found there and donated to the NYS Museum. The owner's hope is to preserve the property in its present state for future generations to enjoy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Biking - Lunch at Indian Ladder Farms

Today, a friend and I set off to a destination of lunch at Indian Ladder Farms, a local orchard and farm store. It's about a 30-mile loop from my house, and I do this ride several times every year. They have an interesting menu with some unusual sandwiches and soups, and it's an easy ride that can be made as hilly or as flat as I choose. Today, we cut out some of the busier roads in favor of a few more hilly quiet roads, which also served to warm us up on a cool morning in the 40s.

Biking this time of year is all about enjoying whatever fitness level is left after the season has begun to wind down. We just took it easy and enjoyed the fall colors, especially those on the face of the Helderberg Escarpment, which were some of the most brilliant we've seen anywhere this year. On the way home, a stop at my favorite local farm stand for the last sweet corn of the season completed the day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hiking - Trail Maintenance, Northville-Lake Placid Trail

Today, Holly and I led our semiannual trail maintenance trip for Schenectady ADK on the section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail that we've adopted for the past 16 years. The trail section extends from the Lake Durant Campground near Blue Mountain Lake to the leanto at Stephens Pond, about 3 miles to the south. Our responsibilities include clearing blowdown, cutting back brush, clearing drainages, and reporting any issues we can't handle to NYSDEC and ADK.

It was a cold day, the trail was much wetter than usual, and there were only three of us, but we left the trail in pretty good shape for the winter XC ski season.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Golf - Clifton Knolls Executive Course

The weather unexpectedly improved this afternoon, all the way into the 50s with some sun, so I headed out for a brief golf outing. Clifton Knolls is a 9-hole par-28 course not far from home, and it was all I felt like taking on today, having not played in about 3 weeks. That long layoff definitely showed, though there were some bright spots.


  • Outstanding short game around the greens
  • Five one-putts and only 14 total putts
  • 3 pars and 3 bogeys
  • Lots of hooking, slicing, and mis-hits
  • Hooked into water on #2, and under a tree on #9
  • Three triple bogeys (scoring 6 on a par 3)
Not sure how many more times I'll be getting out this year, but I remember going on a warm November day last year, so I'm probably not quite done yet.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Biking - The Great Pumpkin Ride

It's been a very cold week, nearly 20 degrees below normal every day, with highs only in the 40s. But some friends and I were all game for a bike ride, so we headed out on the Mohawk River Bike Path from Rotterdam Kiwanis Park to Schoharie Crossing in Fort Hunter, about 17 miles to the west. It was only in the 30s as we started, and it took a while to generate some warmth. We reached Karen's Produce and Ice Cream a little before noon, hoping to buy some hot soup and eat our bag lunches in the warmth of the dining area there. Unfortunately, power had been out for about a half hour, and there was no heat. Their soup was still hot, so that was a plus as we enjoyed our lunches indoors.

Back outside, I began eyeing the stack of pumpkins for sale, and wondered if I could manage to get one home by bike. It seemed worth a try, and I was up to the challenge.

The pumpkin stayed put surprisingly well, and survived the sometimes bumpy ride back to Rotterdam without a scratch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hiking - Plotterkill Preserve

As I was putting on my boots for Monday's Moose Mountain hike, I noticed that they were starting to fall apart in several places. Later, at home, I discovered that I had been wearing these same boots for 11 years, and a lot of miles. That's nearly a third of my total hiking career. That fact made it very easy to justify buying a new pair, which I did yesterday.

Today, I thought it might be a good idea to give the new boots a trial run someplace nearby, before committing them to any kind of serious hike. The Plotterkill Preserve has about a 5-6 mile loop trail that's as rugged as anything we have around here, and it would provide a good test.

For the first part of the hike, I was concentrating more on the boots than the scenery - they were a little stiff and I was noticing a couple of potential hot spots. But as time went on, they became more comfortable, and I was able to relax and enjoy the hike. I stopped at one of my favorite cascades near the lower end of the preserve.

Climbing up from the stream to the South Rim, the sunlight was streaming through the trees, bathing everything in a yellow light.

The colors across the gorge were especially bright.

Dropping back down to the stream near the Coplon Road entrance, I decided to bushwhack upstream to the base of the 40-foot Lower Falls, since there was enough water flowing to make it interesting.

From there, I bushwhacked steeply up to the South Rim and the Blue Trail back to the car. The climb had obviously been done by many before me, and was no more steep than many Adirondack or Catskill pitches I'd done over the years. It avoided a long circuitous route back down stream and up to the North Rim and back to the car.

In the end, the boots were pretty comfortable, and are ready for a more serious adventure.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hiking - Cliffs on Moose Mountain

Every year, on Columbus Day Weekend, Holly and I head to the southern Adirondacks and bushwhack about 90 minutes to the cliffs on Moose Mountain. While the more popular areas of the Adirondacks are teeming with leaf-peepers, we've never seen another soul on this hike. There's no trail, and we use GPS, map, and compass to navigate to the cliffs on this isolated summit.

Today, many of the more brightly colored leaves had already fallen victim to last week's high winds, but the yellows and oranges were still brilliant in spots.

This summit is only about an hour from home, and we've hiked it every year since 2001 on this holiday weekend. While this year's colors were pretty subdued, it's always nice to be able to just park the car on the side of the road and set off through the woods completely on our own, and find our way to these unspoiled views. In the next few years, there are plans to build trails here, and we're not looking forward to the day when this becomes a more popular destination.

Retired No More!

Vertigan Consulting, LLC, has its first contract. I'll be subcontracting to a prime contractor that just won a bid for some VA-related software development work. It's only 15 hours per week, Nov 2009- June 2010, but it may put a damper on the level of activity I've been posting here. On the up side, it will help to finance future adventures. Lots of details still to work out, but I have no intention of giving up the "good life" I've found. More to come as this evolves...