Monday, May 31, 2010

Yard work, biking, mini-golf, and ice cream

Today was a semi-rest-day after a week of biking or hiking every day. But not really. Holly needed some help around her yard, so we spent about an hour tidying things up, and then biked to a nearby mini-golf and ice cream place for a little recreation. It was only a little over 8 miles round trip, but I rode an old mountain bike and pushed a higher gear than necessary up the minor hills, so got a little bit of a workout.

Big rains predicted tomorrow, and again later in the week, so biking will be catch-as-catch-can for a few days.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Biking - Hudson River loop

Biking buddy Ted was in town for the weekend, and had a brand new bike he wanted to try out. So we picked a relatively level loop from Schuylerville to Fort Edward and back, using lightly traveled roads on either side of the Hudson River. It's a very scenic ride that I probably do at least once every year, and with light traffic, there's plenty of opportunity for conversation riding two abreast. We covered the 28.8 miles at a leisurely pace, and finished before the big winds forecast for this afternoon. Ted and I probably get together about once to twice a year, and it was nice to catch up with each other.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hiking - A gorge and two summits

Holly and I joined an ADK hike to Deer Brook Gorge, Snow Mountain, and Rooster Comb today, in the Adirondack High Peaks. Deer Brook crosses NY73 just south of the hamlet of Keene Valley, and the trail seems to be only lightly used. It was a very pretty hike between towering rock walls, with the brook forming endless cascades it it tumbled down from the slopes above.

This was a fairly rugged trail, and it took us nearly an hour, and half a dozen brook crossings, to emerge from the top of the gorge trail to an adjacent old road that offered easier walking.

Just below Deer Brook Falls, the trail crossed a bridge over the brook, which cascaded over the rocks below it.

Deer Brook Falls was a short side trip off the main trail.

Continuing on, we reached a short steep scramble to the summit of Snow Mountain, our lunch spot as the noon whistle sounded from the town below. Prominent from the summit were Giant Mountain to the east, and Noonmark to the south, with Dial and Nippletop to its west and the Dix Range behind. It was a very hazy and humid day.

Descending Snow Mountain, we had a great view of our next destination, Rooster Comb, in the distance, about a mile and a half away. We would be ascending via the gentler slopes to the right of the summit. Porter and Blueberry Mountains were also visible in the distance.

On the way up Rooster Comb, there was a side trail that provided a very nice view to the north, the first we'd had. The hamlet of Keene Valley was at our feet, and Hurricane Mountain with its fire tower was visible in the distance.

After that view, we came across a patch of pink lady slippers right next to the trail, another place to stop for a different kind of pictures.

From Rooster Comb's summit, the double summits of Lower Wolf Jaw were the dominant view, with Basin and Marcy poking up in the distance.

Looking back to the south, Giant Mountain towered above little Snow Mountain which we had climbed earlier.

Now it was time to start down and return the way we had come. We skipped the gorge this time, and headed down the road that paralleled the trail. This option took an unbelievable 17 minutes, compared to the hour we had spent ascending through the gorge!

Ice cream in Chestertown capped off a great day, after about 7 miles and 2,000' of climbing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Biking - Slow easy rest day

After a pretty intensive week on the bike, I took it easy today, and joined Holly for a "Glenville Silver Cyclists" ride in nearby Charlton. This area has very nice country roads with light traffic, and the hills are minimal. I took the old 10-speed as a handicapping factor, and also to test the new brake pads I recently installed. We covered about 16 miles, with many rest/regroup stops, at a very relaxed pace on a beautiful cool sunny morning.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Biking - SWC Thursday Night Beer and Pizza Ride

Tonight's SWC ride started from Colonie Town Park, headed north across the Crescent Bridge, and did a couple of loops before heading back south to the starting point. The hills were minor compared to what I've been doing, and I mostly just muscled up them. Back to Terry and Geoff's house for beer, pizza, and conversation, and early to bed.

Biking - Uphill and down - Third in a series

Today, I moved to the south side of the Mohawk River, and essentially repeated a ride that I did fully loaded a few weeks ago. The difference today was that I started out from the parking area by climbing Gordon Road, a much steeper route than the previous ride, with one pitch maxing out at almost 13%, and another at over 11%. I hadn't done this climb since several years ago on my old 10-speed, and it's been on my list to try again for a while.

Gordon Road wasn't all that bad, since it has a couple of relatively flat, or even downhill, breaks. Reaching the end, I next started up Mariaville Road, NY159, as far as North Kelly Road, the highest point on the ride. It was all (well, mostly) downhill from there, and where it wasn't, I intentionally pushed a higher gear up the rollers. All told, I covered 15.8 miles and climbed about 1,300 feet. That puts me over 5,000 feet of climbing for the week, and the legs are definitely getting stronger as I continue.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Biking - Uphill and down - Second in a series

Another hot day, so I got an early start from the Exit 26 park and ride. Today's climb would be Washout Road, 3 miles, 752 feet, and averaging only 4.7%. But there's a nasty 11% pitch right at the start, and a couple of 8-9% "oh sh*ts" very close to the top when they're least welcome. From there it's a 0.4 mile downhill coast to the junction with Ridge Road. I added on Closson Road because it has some nice rollers to test what legs I had left, and then a cautious brake-squealing descent down yesterday's steep climb of Rector Road.

Washout is in some ways easier than Rector, since it provides a few breaks along the way. But they lull you to sleep, and then you come around a bend and there's yet another in the series of unending uphills. I made it to the top in just under 25 minutes, and again without ever hitting my lowest gear, and then enjoyed a more relaxing ride back to the car before the heat of the day really hit. 12 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing is a pretty good morning, followed by live coverage of the Giro d'Italia!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Biking - Uphill and down

After yesterday's eye-opening attempt at the Lake Desolation climb, I've decided that although I apparently have plenty of distance in these legs, and can also hammer up short climbs and rollers, I really need to work on climbing longer steeper stuff. With the next several afternoons expected to be HOT HOT HOT, and also potentially committed to working, it seems like a good time to take on some shorter rides in the mornings that involve some climbing. There's plenty of that to be had by heading either north or south up out of the Mohawk River valley, so today was hopefully the first in a series.

Today, I tackled Rector Road from the Exit 26 park-and-ride. The climb itself is 1.6 miles, 485 feet, averaging 5.7% but kicking up to 11% in a couple of spots. Somewhat surprisingly, this went rather well, taking under 15 minutes, and never hitting my lowest gear. I added on a few miles afterwards to make this outing worth it, and felt pretty strong pushing a hard pace back along Vley road to the car. Next on the list: probably Washout Road, a little longer.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Biking - Half-century, and an aborted long climb

Today was forecast to be sunny and low 80s, and since many of my afternoons are now taken up by potential consulting work, Mondays and Fridays are my long riding days. So I decided to ride the Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club's half-century (50-mile) route, but with a twist. This route would put me within only 3.4 miles of Lake Desolation, which sits at the top of a tough climb, gaining 900 feet, average grade about 5%, but maxing out over 14%. To cut the overall mileage, I planned to skip a 4-mile loop a little further along, north of Porter Corners. The map shows what I actually wound up doing, starting from a parking area at the north end of Ballston Lake.

I rode a relaxed comfortable ride all the way up to Middle Grove, where I stopped at a Stewart's Shop for a snack. Soon after that, I found myself at the decision point for Lake Desolation. I still felt fresh, so gave it a go. I didn't quite get there. I managed about 2 miles and 500 feet, most of it at about 7-9%, but I knew the next half-mile was the killer, and I was really gasping for air. So I bailed out. If this climb had actually been on the route and a "must", instead of a whimsical add-on, I expect I would have toughed it out (or walked). But I didn't have to, and I still had 30+ miles to ride, so I didn't.

To make up for that shortage of miles, I included the loop I had planned to skip, and then stopped at the store in Porter Corners for some pizza and fluids. From there, the rest of the ride was a rolling, mostly downhill trip back to the car at Ballston Lake. I made one more stop around 45 miles, with the first hints of possible cramps, but had more sports drink and all was well again. I finished with 54 miles and about 2,500 feet of climbing, so it was a pretty serious day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Trail Maintenance - Northville-Lake Placid Trail

Today, Holly and I started our 17th year of adopting a section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail, a 133-mile hiking trail through the heart of New York's Adirondacks. With a recent reroute, our section has now been reduced to about 3 miles. Each year, we make two trips, one in spring and one in fall, and get the trail in shape for the season that follows, be it hiking or cross-country skiing. We always lead this as a Schenectady Chapter ADK trip, and we take whatever willing help we can get.

Today, we only had one signup, our friend Mary. Holly and Mary took care of cutting back brush, and I did what I could as the only one clearing last fall's leaves out of drainage ditches, allowing excess water to drain out of the many muddy areas on the trail. It's hot, dirty work, but very tame as trail maintenance goes. The infamous Adirondack blackflies were out, but not in extreme numbers, but temperatures were a little warmer than we would have liked. The trail seemed drier than usual, and we found no downed trees whatsoever that needed to be removed, so it was a pretty easy day compared to some we've had. The trail is now in good shape for the summer.

We spent about 4 hours on the trail, including a pond-side lunch, then enjoyed root beer floats and soft ice cream on the way home. Thanks, Mary, for helping out yet again!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Biking and yard work in Burnt Hills

Sunny and low 80s today, so after watching Stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia this morning, I set off on my own ride to Holly's house to help her out with some yard work and heavy lifting. It's a win-win, since her stuff gets done, and I get in some miles. I've finally found a relatively painless way through Schenectady to the Western Gateway Bridge into Scotia, so it isn't a bad ride, 29 miles R/T. Add in some lawn mowing, plant digging, mulch spreading, and bags-of-topsoil-moving, and the day is complete.

5 miles of trail maintenance tomorrow, so more of something like the same.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Biking - SWC Thursday night beer and pizza ride

It was a warm breezy evening, and the perfect night for a ride. Several of us started out on an 18-20 mile ride along the north side of the Mohawk River from Clifton Park. After descending to River Road, the hammer-fest began. Terry took off out front, and I led the rest of the "peloton" at about 17-18 mph to Vischer Ferry, where I pulled aside and let Dennis take over. I also decided at that point to slow down and ride my own ride. Judy and Marilyn agreed, and we also decided to cut short the planned ride and take it easy back to the beer and pizza at the host's house where we had started.

For some reason, these Thursday night SWC rides always get going much faster than I usually ride, and tonight, I was as guilty as anybody else. It's fun for a while, but it's just not my normal style. It was a real pleasure to just relax and enjoy the rest of the ride at a leisurely pace.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Biking - Cool, cloudy 26 with a climb

Today dawned cloudy and uninspiring, and there were scattered showers about as well, but with tomorrow unavailable because of weather and other commitments, I couldn't waste the morning. By the time I got up and about, had breakfast, and dealt with some business issues, I only had time for a shorter ride before a noon conference call. So I went back to my old reliable Grant Hill loop, with a few changes. I explored a couple of Guilderland town parks (hoping for a restroom!) and wound up with a 26-mile, 800+ foot ride, getting home just in time for a sandwich before the call. Aside from a little residual soreness from yesterday, I felt the leg strength returning, and had a good ride.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Biking - Back in the saddle again

After 10 days off the bike, today's nice weather was all I needed to clear the afternoon and get out for a ride. I knew I'd probably lost something in those 10 days, so I settled for an easy 30 miles starting from my driveway. There's not a lot of climbing (800+ feet) on this route, but it gets me out for 2-3 hours of pedaling and saddle time, and is a good ride to ease back into the routine. I definitely felt less endurance than 2 weeks ago, but that will return with time. It was a nice day to be out, with light winds and lots of sun. I hope to start bumping up the mileage again in the weeks to come.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hiking - Waterfalls and Wildflowers

Having biked for the past 3 days, and seeing today dawn pretty windy yet again, I was not inspired to get out and do the 50-miler I'd been planning. So, at the risk of becoming multi-dimensional, I went and did something else.

The Plotterkill Preserve is just west of Schenectady, and only 15 minutes from home. It has miles of trails, and some pretty rugged terrain. It's often the scene of late-night rescues of lost wanderers, and even an occasional steep-terrain rescue call. It's best known for its 3 large waterfalls, the largest of which is shown below. I didn't get to the bottoms of any of the falls today, and that's much easier to do in winter when the stream is frozen.

I hiked the North Rim and South Rim loop, shown as the red trail on the map below, from the westernmost trailhead. It made about a 4-5 mile loop, with plenty of ups and downs, some relatively steep.

I also detoured on a couple of the yellow side trails to some favorite cascades deep in the bottom of the gorge.

Along the way, I indulged another long-neglected love, that of wildflower photography. There weren't a lot of flowers on the North Rim, but the South Rim had a much better selection.

All told, I was out for about 3 hours and got a pretty good workout. This was cross-training at its best.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Biking - First SWC Thursday Night Beer and Pizza Ride of 2010

Every summer, the Schenectady Wintersports Club (SWC) holds a bike ride on Thursday evenings from a member's home. Several different ride lengths are offered, and afterward, we all gather back at the house for beer, pizza, and socializing. Tonight was the first one of the season, and Holly and I co-hosted it from her house. It was a cool and very windy evening, with temps falling through the low 60s. I started out on the medium (17-mile) ride, but cut it short to get back to the house in time to pick up the pizzas (six 12-cuts!). 27 people had come to this ride, and we actually ran out of beer, necessitating a beer run. It's called "an eating club with a biking disorder", and that's no exaggeration.

Anyway, I got in 12+ miles, and pushed myself a little here and there to make the short ride worthwhile. It was tough enough with the 20+ mph winds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Biking - A longer gentler ride

It was another beautiful morning before an afternoon spent inside, so I got out for another ride. After riding loaded for the last several rides, I decided today to do a longer, flatter ride without all that baggage. This was a 40-mile loop from home, with only about 1000 feet of climbing overall, all of it in scattered rollers with no extended climbs. This was a real pleasure after the last few outings. The legs felt strong, and I could have done more when I finished, but it's time for "office hours", so now here I sit on a perfect spring afternoon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Biking - 7-mile 1000-foot climb, loaded

With regular consulting office hours now of T/W/TH 12-5, I need to take advantage of mornings to get out for some riding. Today started off sunny and near 60, so I loaded the bike and panniers in the car and headed off to a parking area just west of Schenectady. My route was going to be from river-level up to Mariaville, a 9-mile 1100-foot climb, with all 50 lbs of gear. As it turned out, rain started to threaten, and since on this ride I had a choice, I bailed a little before that and only did 7/1000. It was also a good excuse to not climb Weast Road :-) The overall ride was 16.8 and 1,300 feet, and the first raindrops were falling as I was driving home afterward. Good choice.

Although the climb itself varies in grade, it's generally pretty gentle. There is a 10% pitch in there somewhere, but it's mostly much less than that. I never hit my lowest gear, but stopped about every mile for a standup break to drink, catch my breath, stop the burn, and get my legs back. That's about the same as I did on my climb of Brandon Gap in Vermont a couple of years ago, and it seemed to work. Coming down, I reached well over 30 mph several times, and even hit 38.5 at one point, but the bike and load were rock-solid.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hiking - Harvey Mountain

Today I led a hike for Schenectady ADK to Harvey Mountain, just south of I-90 on the New York/Massachusetts line. It's not far from home, and is a relatively short hike, so we got a late morning start with plans to eat lunch on the summit. Six of us set off through the early spring woods, with the sun streaming down through the new green foliage.

After a few ups and downs, we reached the final climb to a large clearing just below the actual summit. After visiting the real summit and finding the NY/MA border marker, we returned to this clearing for lunch and some views.

The day was becoming warmer by the minute, with more than a hint of humidity, and there wasn't a lot of shade to be found here. After an abbreviated lunch stop, we headed back down the way we had come. Tentative plans to also climb nearby Beebe Hill were scrapped because of the heat, the hour, and the overall shortage of additional water.