Friday, October 29, 2010

Trail Maintenance - Northville-Lake Placid Trail

Twice every year, usually in May and October, Holly and I visit our 3-mile adopted section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail for some routine maintenance. This is our 17th year doing this, and it's generally in pretty good shape. But there are always drainages to be cleared out, encroaching brush to cut back, and the occasional downed tree to try to remove. I usually lead this as a Schenectady Chapter ADK outing, but this fall we were going to be on our own, until a couple of friends volunteered to help us out.

The four of us spent about 4 hours in a cold rain getting the trail in as good shape as we could under the circumstances. It was wetter than any of us had ever seen it, and the current rain wasn't helping. We did what we could, had a quick chilly lunch in the lean-to at Stephens Pond, and then retired to a Stewart's Shop in Indian Lake for hot liquid refreshments. It was a pretty miserable day, but the company was good, and we met our obligation for this fall.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Biking - Indian Ladder Farms and Lunch

Almost 70 degrees. Sunny. October 28. Wow! Despite feeling kinda biked out for this season, this was not a day to be wasted. So I saddled up and headed for lunch at Indian Ladder Farms, a local orchard near Voorheesville. They have a nice cafe with some interesting menu choices, and I can make a fairly easy 30-mile loop stopping there for lunch. The only problem today was the wind, gusting to near 40 mph.

Fortunately, the wind was mostly from the south, and my route took me to the south at first, then west and then north, before turning east for home. So I got the southbound part done just as the wind was picking up, and had the SW winds on the return trip.

I like to route my loops through French's Hollow if I'm headed that way, since it's a very scenic spot. The Normanskill was running high today after all of the rain over the past few days. The dam here is the outlet of Watervliet Reservoir, best seen along US20, and trains are often seen here crossing the trestle.

Continuing south to Voorheesville, I turned west to my lunch spot, where I had a very good wrap and some fresh apple cider. Leaving the farm, the route turned north toward Altamont, with great views of the colorful Helderberg Escarpment towering above.

By now, I'd worked out some of the kinks of this past lazy week, and was feeling pretty good. So I extended the ride just a bit and finally came in with a little over 35 miles. The wind was now blowing hard, and every which way, so it was a good time to be finished. But we may not see another day like this for quite a while, and I was glad I took advantage of it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trail Maintenance - Featherstonehaugh State Forest

The Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady (ECOS) has a stewardship arrangement with NYSDEC to maintain the cross-country ski trails at Featherstonehaugh State Forest, near Mariaville. Every fall, we go in and cut back brush, blowdown, and undergrowth to get the trails ready for the winter ski season. Today, we had a group of 12-15 people and left the western figure-8 loops in pretty good shape.

The main ski loop, on the other side of the road, is in an area that's currently being heavily logged, and that whole section is quite a mess. It may or may not be skiable this winter.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Biking - A Long Flat River Loop

Today was one more nice day before the rain and cold arrives. I wanted to bike, but needed a reason, and not just another loop to nowhere. I decided to hook up with Holly's biking group, the SOBs (Seniors on Bicycles), which was doing an 18-mile ride on the Erie Canalway Trail between Amsterdam and Auriesville. I would extend that ride by biking from Schenectady to Amsterdam, meeting them at their starting point, and riding back to Schenectady afterwards, making my ride about 50 miles.

The temperature was about 35F when I left Schenectady, and there was no wind whatsoever, making for great riding conditions, with the right layers of course. I attached one rear pannier with an extra layer, and also to use later once I started shedding layers as the temperature approached 60F. I reached Amsterdam in a little over an hour, and the group headed on to a rest stop at Schoharie Crossing. The river was like glass, reflecting the remains of the Schoharie Creek Aqueduct, which once carried the Erie Canal across Schoharie Creek.

A little farther along, Bob and I rode up a short steep hill to the Auriesville Shrine, while the rest of the group turned around and headed directly back to Amsterdam. The parking lot at the shrine provides a great view up the Mohawk River valley.

Leaving the shrine, we stopped at Karen's Produce, where I picked out a pumpkin to stuff in my pannier and take home. On the way back to Amsterdam, we stopped at the dam across from Lock 11 for another photo opportunity.

We caught up with the rest of the group shortly after they'd reached the cars, and then I headed back toward Schenectady. I crossed the NY-30 bridge to cycle on NY-5, making this a loop ride. Shortly after I got going eastward on 5, an annoying easterly headwind appeared, making the last 10 miles a little tougher than I was expecting. Fortunately, it's pretty flat, and I've become used to much worse.

No more riding for a few days, as we turn colder and wetter. I guess it must be almost November.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Biking - Adjustments and a Test Ride

After arriving home from this summer's tour, I'd been having problems with both the rear brake and rear derailleur. Both seemed sticky and sluggish, most likely from the rain, mud, salt, and sand of the past several months. After spending several hours getting everything feeling right again, I got out for a ride this morning to check it all out. Any excuse for a ride! I also needed a little more exercise than yesterday's relatively glacial pace on the Erie Canal historic tour. Despite some swirling winds, I cranked out 16+ miles in slightly under an hour, and the bike now feels great. I was riding harder than I usually do, but with that short a ride, it was good to get something of a workout out of it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Biking - Local Erie Canal History Ride

Today, the Albany Bicycling Coalition, a local advocacy organization, offered a historical tour of Erie Canal artifacts between downtown Albany, the Canal's original terminus, and Cohoes, about 12 miles to the north. Many of the 18 former locks in this stretch have been nearly lost or forgotten, and the original canal long since paved over. But with a little research, it's possible to find them, and our leader did just that. We probably saw stonework or other evidence from at least 12-14 of these old locks, and many were far off the beaten path and covered with weeds. Others, like Lock 1 in North Albany, have been excavated somewhat and preserved as historic sites. This one was actually a "weigh lock", one of only 3 on the system, where canal boats and their cargoes were weighed to determine the appropriate canal toll.

Continuing northward and passing many of the other 17 locks, we finally arrived in Cohoes, where the falls of the Mohawk River were running high and were spectacular. Click on the picture for a larger image.

After lunch in Waterford, we headed back south, crossing into North Troy and then back into Watervliet, where we joined the Corning Preserve Bike Path along the Hudson River, and back to our starting point. It was an interesting and relaxing way to spend a fine October day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Biking - Grant Hill Loop

Got all the Delaware sand cleaned off the bike, and headed out for my first ride since returning home. I decided to climb Grant Hill, and see how that felt with new legs and no baggage. The big difference I noticed while riding was that if I gave the pedals a little extra kick, the bike actually accelerated immediately, instead of sluggishly as it did when loaded. I wonder what a 15-pound carbon bike would feel like?

Grant Hill Road seemed like nothing, and I was up it with 3 cogs to spare. Back in June before I left, I'd needed 2 of those cogs to get to the top comfortably with only one to spare.

I didn't extend the ride, because I'm having a few minor rear brake problems I need to address, so headed directly home through French's Hollow, for about 21 miles total. It felt good to be riding on another spectacular fall day, especially with rain coming in for the next few days.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hiking - Lenox Mountain, Lenox, MA

I'm glad I got home in time to enjoy fall in the northeast. I would have really missed that.

Today, Holly and I climbed a small mountain in the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, between Pittsfield and Lenox, MA, a short drive from home. There are plenty of trails here, but we chose the "Trail of the Ledges" for its purported views and destination atop Lenox Mountain. On the way up, we came to the aptly named "Farviews" viewpoint.

Continuing on to the summit, at 2,126 feet, we had great views to the west and northwest, with Richmond Pond directly below.

A family we met on the summit told us about another viewpoint a little further north on the ridge, so we spent the 15-20 minutes to take that one in as well. That's Mt. Greylock in the center, and Pittsfield to its right.

Descending, we followed the Overbrook and Bluebird Trails back to the car. There were many small waterfalls as we descended back to the valley, as well as some very large white pines. We probably covered about 4 miles total on a beautiful October afternoon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Great trip, but it's good to be home

Dipped my front wheel in the Atlantic on Friday, October 8th, drove home on the 9th, and am in the process of sorting out and getting back to normal after 3 months away.

Stay tuned for more adventures, but on a MUCH smaller scale.