Saturday, November 27, 2010

Geocaching - Ushers Road State Forest

Despite the blustery weather this afternoon, Holly and I got out for a walk involving 3 geocaches in this relatively new state forest near Round Lake. There are actually more than just those 3, but we saved those for another visit. The wind was howling and light snow was blowing around, but we easily found the first two caches we looked for. The last, described as an "easy P&G", took us a little longer, but then the cleverness was detected and we found that one as well. It wasn't a long walk, but it got us outside without driving very far, and it was more fun than biking on the trainer in the basement. Did that this morning - bleccccch.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Geocaching and Letterboxing - Tawasentha Town Park

Tawasentha Town Park, in Guilderland, has many miles of trails in addition to its ball fields, performing arts center, and pool. There are also 5 geocaches and one known letterbox in the park, so today Holly and I set off to see what we could find.

The web page for the letterbox was last updated in 2002, and we failed to find it, either because we missed it somehow, or because things have changed since 2002. We also struck out on part one of the first geocache we tried, a 3-part multi-cache. It had a fairly difficult rating, but was last found about a month ago, so probably shame on us for that one. The next two were easy finds, and then we turned around and headed back to the car, saving the last two, which were still further away, for another day.

It was a sunny day in the 40s, with a bit of a wind, but a nice day to be outside.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hiking - Bartholomew's Cobble Reservation, MA

Looking for someplace different, and preferably with a view, today Holly and I drove to the southern Berkshires to Bartholomew's Cobble Reservation, a property of "The Trustees of Reservations", a Massachusetts land trust organization. There are 5 miles of trails here, with lots of variety, and we covered 3-4 miles of them in the 2 hours we were out. The highlight is the expansive view from Hurlburt's Hill, an open field on the northern slopes of Miles Mountain, across the MA/CT line and off the property. Click on the picture below to embiggen. That's Race and Everett Mountains at the left of the shot to the northeast and the Housatonic River valley in the center.

Other trails wind along the Housatonic River and over the top of the 100-foot Cobble itself near the visitors center. This place is about 90 minutes from Schenectady, and the spring wildflowers are said to appear in profusion in April, a good time for a return trip.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Walk - Ushers Road State Forest

Rain overnight lingered through the morning, but it looked like there might be a couple of dry hours early this afternoon, and before the high winds arrived later. So Holly and I got out for a short walk in the Ushers Road State Forest, in nearby Clifton Park. This is a small oasis in the middle of civilization, with about 1.75 miles of total trails, but just enough for our purposes.

The northern part of the loop winds through a pretty forest of very large and old hemlocks and white pines, while the southern half is more open. The extension to the northwest was pretty wet today, but we explored it anyway. Since I'm responsible for the map of this area for the next edition of the ECOS "Ski Tips" cross-country ski areas booklet, I needed to field-check things anyway. We got spritzed a couple of times by brief rain showers, but nothing major. It was nice to go someplace so close by where we'd never been before.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Geocaching - Woods Hollow Nature Preserve

Rain was forecast for later in the day, but this morning, though murky, was dry and fairly warm for November. So Holly and I got out for a walk and some geocaching in the Woods Hollow Nature Preserve, near Ballston Spa. There are 3 geocaches here, a 3-part multi-cache and two others. We had found the multi many years ago, but memories fade as we age, so we added it to today's list again. In all, we needed to zero in on five different locations, and we found them all, a better success rate than on many other recent outings. These were all pretty easy, but provided a nice focus for a walk in the woods on another warm November morning.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Walk - Featherstonhaugh State Forest

Finally got the spelling right after all these years - there's no "e" after the "n".

With the moonlight snowshoeing season fast approaching, and with heavy logging still in progress at Featherstonhaugh, I decided to take a walk and see where things stood with the ski trails there. It was a short walk. Things are basically a mess.

I started at the parking space at the low point on Lake Road, and first headed back toward Tidball Road on the ski trail, but didn't get very far before I gave up. That eastern side of the forest is where the main logging focus has been. So I turned around, crossed the ski bridge back near the car, and headed in the other direction. This part of the forest is very wet when not frozen, but I got past that part OK. But then I lost the trail markers altogether, along with any trace of anything like a trail. Parts had been flagged to get around obstacles, but there was no more of that either. With a light drizzle beginning to fall, I admitted defeat and headed back to the car.

I don't think that the eastern side of Lake Road will be the location for this year's moonlight snowshoeing, though this place definitely looks better with a deep coating of snow. We'll have to use the figure-8 trails on the other side of the road.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hiking - Taconic Crest Trail

Today was to be another rare sunny November day in the upper 50s, a perfect day for a hike. Today I joined a joint ADK/Taconic Hiking Club trip on the Taconic Crest Trail along the NY/MA/VT border. It's an 8.4-mile ridge walk with a lot of up and down, starting up high at Petersburg Pass on NY-2, with a steep 1400-foot descent at the end to the cars we'd left there earlier.

It was a crystal clear day, and we could easily see the Catskills to the SW and Albany to the west from some of the earlier viewpoints.

Next, we came to the Snow Hole, a local attraction. It's a deep fissure in the rocks that usually contains snow all year. The men, or "little boys" as we were called by the women, all scrambled down into the hole and explored its depths.

After another mile or two, we stopped for lunch on the ridge, knowing that the preferred lunch spot, another viewpoint, was still too far off. We reached it just before the steep 1 mile descent back to the cars below. Vermont lay below us, with distant northwestern Massachusetts off to the far right.

We'd covered the 8+ miles in about 5 hours, not a bad pace for a not-so-young group, especially with all of the continual climbing and descending.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hiking - Mt. Utsayantha and Mine Kill State Park

Today was expected to be sunny and in the mid-40s, a fine November day. So Holly and I headed off to the western Catskills, near Stamford, NY, and climbed little Mount Utsayantha. Actually, at over 3,200 feet, it's not so little in the overall Catskill scheme of things, but it's an easy 1-mile walk up a dirt road, gaining only about 700 feet from the parking area. The road would even be driveable in good conditions, but after the snow of the past day or two, we wouldn't see any people driving it today.

Near the top, there was a nice view off to the east.

Somebody is apostrophe-challenged. This drives me crazy.

It didn't take long to reach the summit, where the views from the fire tower were outstanding. The white building was once an "observatory", not the astronomical kind, but the kind that tourists would flock to in droves for the views. Stamford, 1,400 feet below us, was once quite a popular resort with many big hotels, and the summit of Utsayantha was a major local tourist attraction, now being lovingly restored. The kiosk on the summit tells the whole story.

To the south, we were trying to figure out what summits we were looking at, since we rarely see the Catskills from this angle.

The walk down took even less time, so we stopped on the way home at Mine Kill State Park. It was just too nice a day to quit that early.

Opening the trail register at the trailhead for the Long Path, we found it had an inhabitant. There was quite a nest in here, and this guy wasn't the least bit shy about posing for pictures.

Leaving the Long Path shortly, we followed the yellow trail, a portion of which in winter is the designated "expert" cross-country ski trail. We agreed that it deserved this rating, with a long twisting downhill ending at the Schoharie Reservoir. The dam in the distance maintains this reservoir as part of New York City's water supply, and also provides flood control for the communities downstream. There's also a pumped-storage power generating facility on the opposite shore.

This is a large park, with plenty of trails to explore. We'll probably be back here someday, but now it was time to head home. Darkness comes early now that daylight savings time has ended.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Walk - Christman Sanctuary

With a couple of rainy days coming up, and not feeling especially inspired to bike, I decided to at least get out for a walk. And the Christman Sanctuary, near Duanesburg, is one of my favorite places. Today, the water was low enough that I was able to cross the stream easily and walk the orange loop on the other side of the stream. This gave me a longer walk, and also some scenery other than just the usual cascades and waterfalls.

Most of the leaves were down, creating colorful patterns on the forest floor.

The last hangers-on were the golden beeches and the bright yellow tamaracks.

There was still plenty of green in the more shaded areas, with the ferns and moss growing beneath the tall hemlocks.

Crossing back over the stream at the end of that loop, I visited the main waterfall at the end of the yellow trail, as well as some other pretty cascades along the way.

From there, it was a short walk back to the car. I hadn't seen another soul in the Preserve on a very bright crisp fall day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Geocaching and Letterboxing - Ballston Lake Bike Path

After some fall yard work at Holly's house, we got out for a short walk on the Ballston Lake Bike Path. There were two new (2010) geocaches and one letterbox within the first mile from Ballston Lake, and we found them all easily. It was a cool, crisp, but sunny afternoon and a nice time to be out. We saw very few other people, just a couple of dog-walkers, and had the path mostly to ourselves.