Sunday, March 28, 2010

Biking - Too long out of the saddle

Wow - a whole week of nothing! The weather's been kinda lousy for any outdoor fun this week, with cold temps, rain, and even a dusting of snow. I did get the yard raked, put in a few hours of paid consulting time, and did some more trip planning, but nothing in the way of exercise. I kept rejecting day after day as just not the kind of day I'd want to be out biking. But today, I decided I needed to JFDI, despite the weather.

Temps were only in the 40s, and the wind was howling out of the southeast at 20-25mph, so the southeast-bound leg down Kings Road was something akin to hell. Coming back west along Old State was much better, and I made up for lost time sailing with the tailwind. It wasn't a pretty day, but I was out and that was what mattered.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Biking - Another Easy 20

After Friday's hike left me with no legs on Saturday, I took a day off and watched golf (and the insides of my eyelids) on the sofa, despite another sunny 70ish afternoon. Since today's showers never materialized, I got out for an easy 20 miles after watching Syracuse demolish Gonzaga on the basketball court. Today wasn't as warm, only about 60, but it was mostly sunny and pleasant and I just took it easy, following the same route I rode once last week. The bike feels really good with its new chain and gearing, and once the warm weather returns, I'll start climbing some hills in earnest. The next few days promise to be wet, and then much cooler, so getting out today was a necessity.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hiking/Snowshoeing - Taconic Crest Trail

Today I led a hike for the Schenectady Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club on a section of the Taconic Crest Trail, which closely follows the NY/MA state line along the top of the Taconic Mountain ridge. With no snow in the valley and temps expected in the mid-60s, it seemed a little incongruous to be thinking of snowshoes. But we knew from others who had recently visited other sections of the trail that the snow was still deep on the 2,400 foot ridge. And by the time we had reached 2,000 feet on the access trail up to the Taconic Crest, we donned our snowshoes for the rest of the 8.5-mile slog, with over 2,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain.

We wove back and forth across the NY/MA state line all day, and found several state line markers, the stone one from 1916, and the older painted iron one from 1898.

Temperatures were in the 50s and low 60s, and we were snowshoeing in our shirtsleeves. It was a very clear sunny day, and the birches were brilliant against the cobalt-blue sky.

Snow conditions varied quite a bit depending on the direction of the slope and the sun exposure. The snow itself was mostly soft and wet, and got more like mashed potatoes as the day progressed. We never knew how deep our next step would take us. Here, we climbed up a south-facing slope with about a foot of snow in general, but many bare spots.

At another place on the ridge, the snow had blown and drifted deeply across the trail. Between the two ski poles shown here is another ski pole, about 4' long, inserted upside-down into the snow. There was at least 3 feet of snow in many of these drifts.

As we continued north along the ridge, we enjoyed semi-open views of Mount Greylock, the high point of Massachusetts, to our east.

At the end of the day, I had completed my last section of the Taconic Crest Trail in winter, qualifying me for a handsome patch from the Taconic Hiking Club. It took 3 winters and help from many friends, some of whom I expect to be breaking trail for next year as they continue their quest for this patch.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Biking - Same Old River Loop

I was hoping to get out for about 30 miles today, but with a tough hike coming up on Friday, I thought better of it and decided on an easier ride - the usual westbound up the Mohawk River to Lock 9, cross the river, and return on NY5. With a brisk westerly wind gusting to 25mph, the westbound leg was a lot like a steady 7-mile uphill climb, with an occasional steeper "pitch" (gust) thrown in unexpectedly every now and then. I was glad I wasn't doing the 30 I had planned.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Biking - A More Challenging 20

It's another sunny day near 60 degrees, so I rode today in shorts for the first time this year. So far, I've been sticking to the flats, but now it's time to start working on the climbing legs. One of my favorite rides from home involves climbing Grant Hill and Wormer Roads. It's a relatively short climb of only a few hundred feet in 1.5 miles, with some breaks, but there's one brief pitch that goes over 12%, so it's a good test. I learned that the climbing legs still have a ways to go, but there's plenty of time, and there are plenty of hills.

This ride also has some scenic value. In addition to views of the Helderbergs from Ostrander Road at the top of the climb, the return trip passes through French's Hollow, over a bridge across the Normanskill that's only open to bikes and pedestrians. The southern approach was icy near the bottom and I had to walk. But once I got there, the view was very nice. The Normanskill was running high today - normally there's only a trickle coming over the outlet dam of Watervliet Reservoir.

Downstream, the rocks at the top of the next cascade are usually covered with local sunbathers or fishermen, but not so today.

Lots of other bikers out today, and it (almost) feels like spring is really here to stay. We'll have to see what next week brings...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Biking - Mohawk River Loop

This whole week is promising sunny days in the 50s, so it's time to put away the skis (temporarily?) and start getting in some bike miles. Today was the first day this season that I got out the good bike that I'll be riding cross-country later this year. I had done the usual winter disassembly/overhaul/reassembly routine, and needed to get it out for a test ride. In case any tweaks were needed, I figured the side of the bike path would be better than the side of a busy road, so I went with this old standby that I tend to ride way too often.

The only minor problem I noted was a squealy front brake pad, but that's one of those fussy things that no amount of tweaking may solve. The rear brake was much better adjusted than last year, and dead quiet, so no big deal. Overall, the bike was smooth, silent, and a real pleasure to ride. Here's a screen capture of the route from

Thursday, March 11, 2010

XC Skiing - Murphy Lake

With heavy rain coming in this weekend, and snow generally melting rapidly everywhere, Holly and some friends and I set off for the Adirondacks today for one more backcountry ski outing. We were planning to ski to Murphy Lake, the northernmost of 3 lakes on the Murphy/Middle/Bennett Lakes trail, just south of Wells. The round-trip mileage to the lake would be either 5.9, 6.2, 6.4, or 8.0, depending on the information source, but was most likely between 6 and 7 miles.

Arriving at the trailhead on Pumpkin Hollow Road, it was clear that this would be spring conditions. A light shower was passing by, but we hoped it would soon leave us behind. This trail is a marked snowmobile trail, and was pretty hard-packed, while off to either side, there was at least 12-18" of heavy wet corn snow, but not much room to make use of it. The trail was fast and full of icy spots, bare spots, rocks, and downed tree debris, but we unbelievably persevered and actually got to the lake. Some hills required walking rather than skiing, both up and down, and at least one stream crossing also required us to remove our skis.

It was a generally uphill climb to the lake, gaining in the neighborhood of 300-400 feet. We had lunch there on a mostly bare hillside overlooking the lake, as more light showers splattered in the open water near the outlet.

Murphy Lake from beaver dam at its outlet

Our lunch spot on the bare hillside east of the outlet

The return trip was much quicker, but also somewhat of a survival test on the speedy bumpy rock-strewn downhills. This trip was definitely an adventure with these conditions, but would be a very nice ski trip with softer and deeper mid-winter snow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Biking - An Easy 20

What a weird time of year - skiing one day and biking the next! With more skiing planned tomorrow, I got on the bike this afternoon to enjoy the 50-degree temperatures while they last. I rode the old 10-speed again, partly because of salty snowmelt puddles, but probably more just because I can't quite believe that spring is really here yet. It's also a good strength builder to ride this bike around without the gearing that the good bike would have. I knocked off just short of 20 miles at an average of 14.5 mph, almost like a mid-season ride. Aerobically, I'm in great shape from skiing, but the biking muscles (and butt) need some work to be able to stay in the saddle for the longer distances I'll be doing this year.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

XC Skiing - Charleston State Forest

Today's ECOS Tuesday morning ski trip was a return trip to Charleston State Forest, up 1,200 feet in nearby Montgomery County. A group of friends, Holly, and I went there last week, and found very deep snow remaining from a storm a few weeks ago. Today, we'd be skiing a different section, and this time with about 20 people. So we split into two groups. Our group skied these two loops counterclockwise from the southern parking area, taking about 2 hours to get all the way around, at a leisurely pace and with a short stop for lunch included.

With temps in the 40s, the snow was mushy in the strong March sun and crunchy in the shade. Overall, it was much firmer than what we found last week, and we were skiing on top of the snow rather than sinking in deeply as on that last trip.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Walk - Mohawk River Bike Path

The March wind doth blow..... Or, I might have been out on the bike again today. It was another sunny day near 50 degrees, but the wind was cool and gusty, and I just didn't feel like fighting it. Holly and I went for a short walk on the bike path in Rotterdam, and were actually passed by a couple on bikes. There's still some snow, but usually one clear dry bikeable rut up the middle - good to know.

Tomorrow, I start my part-time consulting career in earnest, and the rest of the week, though promising more nice weather, is a little up in the air until some routines get established and some questions get answered.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Geocaching - Shenentaha Creek Park

Today was another beautiful sunny day in the 40s, so after our respective mornings of other stuff to get done, Holly and I went geocaching at Shenentaha Creek Park, near Ballston Lake. There were 3 easy caches here, and all were close to the bike trail, which was bare and almost bikeable. We found all three with no problems and got in a nice walk on a spring-ish afternoon. It's a little scary that March is coming in like a lamb - doesn't bode well for the end of the month if the old saying can be believed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Biking - First ride of the season!

Though there's still a fair amount of snow on the ground, it's now brown and ugly and no good for much of anything. Meanwhile, the roads are mostly dry, temps are consistently in the 40s, and spring fever has arrived. My good bike is all cleaned up and overhauled and waiting in the basement for drier conditions, so I saddled up the old reliable 10-speed and hit the road this afternoon. There were still quite a few snowmelt puddles along the sides of the roads, but traffic was light enough to avoid most of them. I did an easy 13.4 miles, as shown by the screen capture below from my new favorite route mapping site,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

XC Skiing - Charleston State Forest

Charleston State Forest lies at about 1,200-1,300', and during the storms of the past week, got prodigious amounts of snowfall. There are about 20 miles of ski trails in this forest, maintained by volunteers, and we've only begun to explore them. I'm responsible for verifying the map for this area for an upcoming revision of the "Ski Tips" booklet published by ECOS, a publication that identifies numerous local free cross-country skiing locations, so needed to get out here and see how the existing map matched reality on the ground.

This afternoon, 5 of us made the short 35-40-minute drive to the northern section of the forest where none of us had ever skied before. We found the parking area on Hughes Road to be unplowed and blocked by large snowbanks, so parked in the road and got ready to go.

There are two loops in this section, connected by a crossover trail between them, and we were starting from the north end, hoping to do the longer loop.

We found snowshoe tracks for the first quarter mile past a couple of ponds, but there the tracks ended, and we were on our own. The snow was close to 2 feet deep, and very heavy and wet, and we were breaking trail, never knowing just how far the next step forward was going to sink. It was tough going, to say the least. It was complicated by the scarcity of trail markers headed in our counter-clockwise direction, and by the number of downed or leaning trees and branches. We had to stop often to find a marker and look at the map to be sure we were headed in the right direction.

Picture by Judy

When we reached the junction with the crossover trail, we all decided that the shorter loop back to the car would be the better idea, given the conditions, our rate of progress, and the time remaining until dark. We looked forward to a downhill run shown on the map just after we ended the crossover and rejoined the main loop trail. Unfortunately, it was short, gentle, and very slow, and we continued the tough slog back toward the car. When we finally finished, we were pretty beat. Two GPSs both showed we'd covered only about 3.67 miles in over two hours time, a pretty dismal pace on skis, though there was also 1,158 feet of climbing involved.

CORRECTION, 10 March: I misread that graphic that appears below. 1,158 was our starting elevation. At the bottom right, it shows we only gained 231 feet. Even more dismal...

Back in the car, we drove a little south to another trailhead to pick up a map or two from the kiosk there. The snowbanks here were even higher, and the kiosk was on the other side.

Picture by Judy

Back home, GPS tracks showed that the existing map was accurate for the portion of the trails we had covered. We just wished that the downhill was a little more exciting after all that hard work.

From Judy's GPS

Thanks to Judy for the pictures and GPS track.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Snowshoeing - Indian Kill Preserve

With nearby skiing kind of a mess, Holly and I got out for a short snowshoe walk today in the Indian Kill Preserve in Glenville. Temps were in the upper 30s and the snow was like wet cement, except on the trails where numerous others had passed before us. Snowshoes were hardly necessary, but the crampons underfoot provided some welcome traction at times. Last week's heavy wet snowfall is rapidly melting and it almost feels like spring. Unfortunately, winter in these parts is never over until it's over, and we've had some monster March storms over the years. I'm starting to look forward to biking again, but for now, the trainer will have to do.