Thursday, December 31, 2009

XC Skiing - Woodford State Park, VT

Still no useful snow locally, and we really wanted to get out skiing this week. Fortunately, Woodford State Park, east of, and high above, Bennington, VT, is only a little more than an hour away, and got over a foot of new snow earlier in the week. We ski there several times every year when we can't find good snow nearer to home, and it's always a good time.

As we got ready to leave home this morning, light snow was falling, but the roads were a mess and traffic was slow. A trip that usually takes a little over an hour took almost twice that at 30mph all the way. We almost gave up at one point, but continued on, and were glad we did. As we started skiing, the snow let up, skies partially cleared to let in some sun, and the forest was beautiful. The hiking trail around Adams Reservoir had been broken by snowshoers, so it was easy skiing. But because we were always skiing in a trench, the various dipsy-doodles, twists, and turns required some quick footwork at times, especially on a few small downhills. A very occasional exposed rock or root made it even more interesting

We chose not to turn onto the hiking trail near the tent sites at the end of the lake, but instead skied back along the unplowed campground roads to the park entrance. The snow on the picnic tables gave a really good indication of what had fallen here.

After about 1.5 hours of skiing, the drive home was much better, taking only the usual amount of time on clearer roads. This weekend, another nor'easter will be passing us by, so we'll still be looking elsewhere for some skiing next week.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Walk, Geocaching - Indian Meadows Park

With shopping and wrapping all done, we went for a short Christmas Eve walk this afternoon in Indian Meadows Park, in Glenville. There were 3 geocaches we planned to look for in the wooded southern end of the park. Walking was crunchy and even icy at times, but we came to the general area of the first cache with little trouble. It was then that we noticed the notation "not available in winter" on the cache's description, so didn't try very hard to find this tiny first part of a summer-only multi-cache. Moving on to the next, we found it in short order, so headed for #3. It turned out that we'd need to cross a stream, with water flowing under the ice, without using a bridge that had dislocated itself from the banks and turned sideways in the channel. Not gonna happen, so we headed back to the car after about an hour of walking. More icy crap on tap for the weekend, so indoor pursuits will have to do for a while.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Walk - Five Rivers Environmental Education Center

Holly had an errand to run in Delmar today, so we decided to combine it with a trip to the nearby Five Rivers Environmental Education Center and a walk in the winter woods. It was a brisk and breezy afternoon, but in the shelter of the forest, it was quite comfortable. The trails had all been skied and trampled while the snow was soft and before it froze, so it was now icy and crunchy underfoot, but we took our time and enjoyed the nice weather. I almost never visit this place without seeing at least one deer, and today was no exception. They seemed to be everywhere, including these two in an old orchard as we were just leaving the parking area.

We walked for about 45 minutes and saw at least a half-dozen more deer before heading back to the visitor center. Outside on the front sidewalk of the center was a large female turkey peering in the window at the goings on inside. She had apparently been doing this for some period of days or weeks, and was living on bird seed from the nearby feeder area. It was a strange sight.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walk - Featherstonehaugh State Forest

Whew - 8 days since I've done anything outside! Between Christmas preparations and the frigid weather of the past few days, I've had to rely on biking on the indoor trainer. Today, I needed to change that.

I drove up to Featherstonehaugh State Forest to check on the status of logging operations and to get out for a walk along the designated XC ski trails there.

It looked like logging had not yet resumed for the winter yet on the larger eastern section of the forest. But there were a couple of hunters, or possibly target shooters, hovering around the place I wanted to start, so I decided on the smaller western section where no logging was scheduled. I parked on Hardin Road and walked a figure-8 loop there in bare boots, since the snow was icy and hard-packed.

The trails were anything but skiable. The snow had been trampled while soft, and then froze into a concrete-like consistency. Along with that, there were lots of bare spots where the snow had melted from underneath before the freeze, and a lot of light brush that hadn't yet been flattened out by the heavier snows to come. With no tools, I cleared what obstructions I could, but a trip through here with a pair of loppers and a grass whip could accomplish a lot.

The biggest problem remains a large tree down across the trail near the southern end of the figure-8, obstructing what would otherwise be a nice downhill run.

I came here once last winter with a small saw and cut back the crown of this tree around the right-hand side, and provided at least some passage around it. Today, I snapped off some dead overhanging limbs down hill from the tree, and there's now a more or less straight shot down the rest of the hill once past the crown.

We're missing a big storm to our south as I write this, and there's no other local snow in the foreseeable future. With no XC skiing to come, it's time to get back on the bike trainer...

Friday, December 11, 2009

XC Skiing - Sort of...

After the first skiable snowfall of the year, Holly and I decided to get out and give it a try. The snow had fallen with temps above freezing, with a short period of freezing rain afterwards, and then the temperature dropped. All of this meant that we had to go someplace that had been groomed, or we'd be skiing on crusty icy crap and breaking through into the powder below.

We decided to try Camp Saratoga, part of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, north of Saratoga Springs. It's groomed regularly, and was reportedly groomed yesterday. Great idea, but there were at least two problems here. First, the grooming was done while the snow was warm and soft, and then the temperature dropped. So instead of icy crust, we found icy tracks and crunchy everything in between. Second, as the temperature dropped, the winds howled behind that cold front, dropping pine cones everywhere, but especially in the icy tracks. Lots of abrupt unexpected speed changes, especially on the normally very tame downhills. After only about a mile of this, we decided to give up and try somewhere else that hadn't been groomed, thinking it couldn't be any worse.

We next found ourselves on NY50, at the Old Gick Farm parcel belonging to the WWP&P. There were only a few footprints here, and no ski tracks. The wind was still howling across the open fields, and breaking trail through the crust was laborious at best, though the snow underneath was very good. We did a short loop here, and called it a day. We need some more snow before we can realistically ski close to home.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hiking, Geocaching - Moreau Lake State Park

Holly and I took a break from Christmas today, and went hiking in the snowy woods of Moreau Lake State Park, south of Glens Falls. The park is closed for the season, and deer season ended in this area this past weekend, so it was a good time to get out. We had to park near the park office at the entrance, since all interior roads were closed. We walked along the lake on our way to the start of the Moreau Overlook Trail, down beyond the beach in this picture.

Leaving the lake, we started a 0.86-mile 800-foot climb to Moreau Overlook, picking off two easy geocaches along the way. The overlook has grown in somewhat since our last visit, and the lake below is barely visible through the trees. It was also a cloudy murky sort of day, so the distant views weren't that great either.

We descended via the Red Oak Ridge Trail, finding one more geocache on our way back down. I've long since stopped logging these in at - the real fun is in the finding. Overall, we covered about 3-4 miles by the time we got back to the car.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland - The Christman Sanctuary

Yesterday's snow only amounted to about 3", but it was a heavy wet snow that clung to everything like a sugar coating. The only melting today seemed to be from the still warmer ground underneath, so I set out to enjoy the early winter scenery while it lasted. The Christman Sanctuary is one of my favorite places for a short walk, and I go there several times every year. It's at its best in the spring or after a big downpour, when the stream is really thundering through the gorge. Today, the stream was more subdued, but still beautiful in the snowy woods.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Walking - A Couple of Local Parks

After setting up Holly's Christmas tree, we decided to get at least a little exercise, so headed to a couple of parks in nearby Malta for some easy walking in the falling snow. We went first to Malta Ecological Park, an unfinished gem with wood-chip-covered trails, lots of tall white pines, and lots of "potential future trails", as we discovered. It only took us 15-20 minutes to cover all of the trails. On the way home, we stopped at Shenantaha Creek Park, on East Line Road, to walk a little more. Despite this park being primarily focused on athletics and picnicking, there are a few wooded trails along a stream valley that were pretty in the new snow. Trails are still soft and soggy everywhere, so we need a good freeze and a lot of snow before XC skiing will be possible locally.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Walk - J. B. Thacher State Park

Today was quite a bit cooler than yesterday, but not as cool as it's about to get. And since the sun was out and not a bad day, I decided to go for a walk, having had enough biking in the past few days. I usually visit John Boyd Thacher State Park a couple of times every year, when I need a quick dose of scenery not far from home. Today, I headed to the northern end of the park. Starting near the park office, I walked north on the Long Path until I reached the end of the park proper, near the northernmost parking area. Then I made a loop by walking back to the car along the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment, with views far and wide.

The views from this northern part of the park are a refreshing change from the usual views seen from the drive-in overlooks. I found these birches clinging to the talus slope below the escarpment cliffs.

After the heavy rains of a few days ago, the trails were soggy and wet, and the streams were running high, including Mine Lot Falls as it plunged over the edge above the Indian Ladder Trail.

All told, I probably walked a little over 2 miles, with many stops on the way back along the cliff top to take pictures and admire the views.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Biking - That Other River Loop

We had heavy rain overnight, lingering into this morning, so an early club ride I'd planned on doing got canceled. The forecast for the afternoon looked basically dry, though very windy with leaden-gray skies, but a 60-degree day in December is not to be wasted. So I took advantage of it.

Instead of riding west from home along the river as I often do, I headed east, down the north side of the Mohawk, and returned via the bike path on the south side. I crossed the river at Rexford, rode east to Crescent, grabbed lunch at Stewart's, then crossed the Crescent Bridge, climbed the hill on US9, and headed back west. There was no rain, and the wind, while gusty, was of the swirling type, so it wasn't always either a headwind or a tailwind. By the time I'd climbed the last two hills to the car, I had definitely had enough, but tacked on another mile so as not to leave myself at 2,699 for the season. It is December, after all, and there may not be many rides left.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Biking - Relaxed Reverse River Ramble

The unseasonable weather continues. After a frosty night, it was near 40 degress by 10am, no wind, and the sun was out. After a day of Christmas shopping yesterday, and rain coming in overnight into tomorrow, I needed to get out. Instead of the same old Mohawk River loop I've been doing lately, I decided to mix things up and do it in reverse for a change. That also involves some different roads in spots, so it was the right idea. It was a beautiful calm morning, and I got in a slow-paced (for me) relaxing 19 miles before lunch.

This afternoon, I'm going with Holly to cut a Christmas tree for her house. Then I may stop at a local nursery and pick up a small live potted evergreen, which I'll bring indoors and decorate, and then plant in the yard after the holidays have passed.