Friday, December 31, 2010

XC Skiing - Dyken Pond (again)

We weren't going to go skiing again today, feeling somewhat the aftereffects of yesterday. But when there's good snow on the ground, temps in the 40s, blue skies, and rain on the way, you do what you have to do, and get out and savor every moment while you can. So this afternoon, we headed back to Dyken Pond (see yesterday's post) to wander some of the other trails.

Arriving in the parking lot, we recognized Roy and Sue's RAV4, now knowing that they were out there somewhere again as we were. We started out the northern end of the Long Trail loop, and very shortly ran into each other, as they were just finishing up the same loop in the opposite direction. We skied together for a little bit, and then we went our own ways. We thanked them for breaking the trail for us on the rest of the loop, and they headed back to their car.

The snow today was much wetter and heavier than yesterday, making steering on the downhills, like this one through the "Rock Garden", a little tricky.

Continuing on, and turning back toward the Center, we reached another landmark, "Grandfather Rock".

Somehow we missed the shorter westbound leg of the Otter Creek Trail, and wound up doing that entire loop as well. The sun was setting as we finally reached the car, casting an orange glow on the tops of the trees around the parking area.

I said yesterday that this 15-20" of snow would survive the weekend rain, but even after a couple of days above freezing, many rocks were already poking through on the trails. This area needs LOTS of snow cover, and preferably a good base, and may not be skiable again until we get some more snow.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

XC Skiing - Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center

With over 20" of snow falling to our east in parts of Rensselaer County in this last storm, it seemed like a good area close to home to find some nice skiing. First, we drove to Pittstown State Forest, south of NY7 near Pittstown, only to find the parking area unplowed, and snowmobiles being the dominant tracks in the snow. So, we headed a little south to Grafton Lakes State Park, ate lunch in the parking lot, and discovered that today, this too was overrun with the buzzing machines. Then Holly suggested Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center, not far from Grafton, also at high elevation, and usually with some pretty deep snow. It was a good choice!

We pulled into the parking lot about 15 minutes later, to find our friends Roy and Sue also just getting ready to start off. They'd been talking with a staff person about the current state of the trails, many of which had not yet been broken. So the four of us set off following the trails that HAD been broken, and had a very nice outing. The snow was indeed 15-20" deep, soft, and fluffy, though with today's warmer temperatures, we all experienced some stickiness from time to time. We probably skied for about an hour and a half, much of it in deep partially broken snow, on a sunny blue-sky afternoon. That snow will definitely survive any rain that passes through this coming weekend.

Pictures courtesy of Roy, since I forgot my camera... :-(

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

XC Skiing - Albany Pine Bush Preserve

After driving back from Syracuse this morning, returning from our third straight day of Christmas overindulging, Holly and I got out for a bit of local skiing this afternoon, on the first skiable local snow of the season. We parked at #7 on the map below, near Point of Woods at the end of Washington Avenue Extension, and did the two loops highlighted on the map. The upper loop actually has yellow trail markers, and the trail between the two loops has white ones. The SE corner of the red loop had a challenging twisty downhill to a bridge over a stream, but otherwise, the trails were mostly wide and smooth.

All things considered, the skiing wasn't bad. There was about a foot of snow, but it had been walked on and snowshoed on, in addition to the ski tracks. And with no base, that made it a little thin in spots, with the occasional root showing through. But beggars can't be choosers, and we finally got some snow without driving somewhere for an hour. Too bad we'll be getting rain this coming weekend, and may have to start over.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Walk - Indian Meadows Park

Took a break from Christmas preparations today, and Holly and I went for a brisk walk in Indian Meadows Park in Glenville, before all fa-la-la-la-la breaks loose over the next several days. Several other people were out doing the same thing, despite the cold breeze and lack of winter scenery. Big storm will now miss us on Sunday night, so we'll be driving somewhere for some skiing next week.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hiking - Taconic Crest Trail

With my back yard looking like this:

and no cross-country skiing to be found anywhere nearby, today I joined a Schenectady Chapter ADK hike on the Taconic Crest Trail, along the ridge that defines the NY/MA border. It's only a little over an hour east of here, but 1,500-2,000 feet higher in elevation. Based on recent reports, we were all expecting a couple inches of snow, and no base except the occasional icy patch. With that in mind, we headed to Petersburg Pass to head south on the trail for 5.2 miles, before dropping off the ridge and retrieving the second car we'd left at Southeast Hollow, 7 total miles from our start.

Well guess what?


We put our snowshoes on at the start, and never took them off. On the ridge, there was about 6-8" of new snow that had just fallen overnight, drifts up to 2 feet, 20 degrees, snow still falling, and a howling wind occasionally causing near-whiteouts. Wow! The trees were beautiful covered in snow, and it was a completely different kind of day than we'd expected. There were the usual first-hike-of-the-winter flubs and should-haves (at least speaking for myself), but we all survived and had a great time.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Geocaching - Tawasentha Town Park

Holly and I took a break from Christmas stuff today and returned to Tawasentha Park in Guilderland to pick off the two geocaches that we had left behind a few weeks ago. The first was in the "Winter Recreation Area", on the east side of NY146, which would be an interesting place to cross-country ski were it not right along the main road. Nice hills and wide trails - may have to give it a try, if we ever get any snow. We found this first cache easily enough, and walked the rest of the loop trail we were on.

The next cache was across NY146 in the "Community Gardens" network of trails, and traffic was heavy, so we decided to use the car instead of attempting to cross the road on foot. This trail crossed a field and entered the woods, continuing along the edge of a steep dropoff to the Normanskill valley below. Not a good ski trail, this one. This second cache was also pretty easy and obvious, and we checked it off as well.

That leaves one multi-cache in Tawasentha where we DNFed Part One last time we were there. Some other time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

XC Skiing - Whiteface Mountain Toll Road

Today, a Schenectady ADK chapter trip was skiing up, and then down, the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway, near Lake Placid. The road is closed to traffic in the winter, and provides a great route to to the summit and its awesome views. This is another item that's been on my "bucket list" for many years, and the conditions looked good for today to be the day. It's a long 5-mile slog, continuously uphill about 2,200 feet, to the castle at the end of the road, just below the summit. Then, it's a glorious 5-mile downhill back to the car.

We started in Wilmington at the toll house, where the gate is closed to traffic. Though there was very little snow in Wilmington, there was plenty here as we started up the road. Colorful ice flows covered the rock faces next to the road.

Many open views greeted us along the way, though the wind was blowing pretty hard and the summits were socked in.

The higher we went, the deeper the snow, and the colder the temperatures.

Occasional signs let us know our current elevation. Here, we're at 4,289 feet, with the castle at about 4,500, and the summit at 4,867.

Not long after this picture was taken, we reached a point just below the Wilmington Turn, the higher of the two hairpin turns on the map above. We were already in the clouds, and there would be no views from higher up today. Besides that, the road was getting pretty icy and windblown from here up, even more so than the occasional icy patches farther down. By (mostly) consensus, we decided to turn around and start the run back down the road. We'd covered about 4.5 of the 5 miles to the castle.

Snowplowing, and snowplow-turning, down an 8-9% grade for 4.5 miles is quite an experience. Frequent stops were needed to rest the burning quads, and let the trailing group members catch up. There were also crowds of skiers now ascending the road that we had to work our ways around. And there were icy stretches where we needed to hug the edges of the road to find softer snow. By the time we reached the toll house and the cars, we'd probably climbed for about 3 hours, and the trip down took only about 1 hour.

This was a memorable trip, but a tough one for so early in the ski season. I'm going to be plenty sore tomorrow morning.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Walk - Mohawk River State Park

Still no snow nearby to ski on, though it's all around us if we wanted to drive an hour or so in almost any direction. That didn't appeal today, so since it was sunny and less windy than previous days, Holly and I got out for a walk instead. The Mohawk River State Park, aka "Schenectady Museum Preserve" to anybody who's lived here for any length of time, is along the Mohawk River near Lock 7 in Niskayuna. We used to cross-country ski there a lot, but now it's been taken over by snowshoers and dog walkers, except immediately after a big snowfall, so isn't quite as appealing for skiing anymore. It's still a nice place to get out for a walk, and there are also several geocaches there, most of which we've already found. It was a little brisk today, so we skipped geocaching and just walked for about an hour on some of our favorite trails, picturing them with snow, and wondering when the first big dump will come.

Monday, December 6, 2010

XC Skiing - Clapper Hollow State Forest

Though we only got a dusting of snow overnight here in Schenectady, a lake-effect snow band off of Lake Ontario parked itself overnight in southwestern Schoharie County, with reports of 6-8" of snow on the ground. Ever the optimist, and eager to get back on skis, I headed to Clapper Hollow State Forest, in the middle of that action, and only about an hour from home. We skied there once last year, and the trails are mostly on old roads, so not a lot of snow cover would be needed to make it skiable.

Three trails leave the parking area. I knew that #10 to the right had a long uphill/downhill on it that might not have enough snow to be safe. #1 to the left still looked pretty overgrown and weedy, and not yet flattened out by earlier snows, so I opted for #4. My complete outing is highlighted in red.

It certainly looked and felt like winter here, with the temperature only about 18F, big winds, and blowing snow still falling.

But there were several problems. There's no base, the ground under the snow was not frozen, and there were wet spots, leading to gloppy ski bottoms which then iced up. Once I started up the hill, this was no longer an issue until I returned back down there later. The other problem was insufficient cover under the pines, the dark areas on the map. I was climbing through small rocks and roots, even thought I was on an old road. When I got to the top and looked down the other side at the stuff showing through the minimal snow, I wasn't the least bit interested in attempting that downhill. So I turned around and gingerly headed back down the hill I'd just climbed, much of it having the same problem. I thought I might go back and try #1, which was less piney, so better covered.

Back at the bottom, my skis iced up badly, including some mud, so after just a half-hour of skiing, I decided this just wasn't going to be worth the aggravation. It's an early season lesson to be relearned every year in our eagerness to get out on the snow, and today I learned it for this season.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Geocaching - Indian Kill Preserve

It was a sunny and cool early December day, and since Holly and I both had time on our hands, we got out for a short walk and another geocache. The Indian Kill Preserve is a Schenectady county area in Glenville, with a meandering stream, waterfalls, and many trails. We had already once done one of the two geocaches here, but not the other. Poor satellite coverage kept us walking in circles and just not seeing anything until Holly finally discovered it almost by chance. It's hard to miss an ammo can, but it was even harder today to zero in on the correct location. Once we found it, we continued our walk and explored a trail we'd never followed before before heading home.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Geocaching - Old Maids Woods Preserve

With other things on our plates today, Holly and I got out for a short walk in the Old Maids Woods Preserve, off Schermerhorn Road in Rotterdam. This small and largely forgotten piece of property is owned by the City of Schenectady and managed by the Nature Conservancy. There's a 1-mile loop trail through a very old forest atop a ridge, and a couple of geocaches were there waiting for us.

The first geocache was a micro that has apparently had its share of problems, so we gave up when we didn't find it after some fairly diligent searching. The second was much easier to find, despite the poor satellite reception under the canopy of large hemlocks. The rumble and whistle of a freight train passing just outside the preserve accompanied us on our search.