Sunday, February 27, 2011

XC Skiing - Sanders Preserve

Beautiful sunny afternoon today, near 40F, after another inch or two of new snow overnight. Holly and I headed to the Sanders Preserve, in nearby Glenville, for some more skiing before tomorrow's washout and warmup. We started out skiing in a packed snowshoe track, which wasn't bad considering the snow depth off the trail was close to 2 feet.

Further from the parking area, we found ourselves following ski tracks, discovering a couple of pretty steep hills we hadn't known were there. After climbing the first and skiing to the top of the second along the ridge, we decided against it and retraced our steps, carefully making our way down the one we'd climbed. From there, we followed a marked but unmapped and unbroken trail along the base of the ridge to where we would have come out earlier at the bottom of the other downhill. On the way back to the car, we had to descend a short steep switchback to a bridge over a stream, adding more interest and challenge.

Reaching the main trail we'd come in on, we noticed it was starting to ice up a bit as the late afternoon temperatures began to fall. The gentle downhill back to the car was more exciting than usual, but a nice ride. All in all, a good day of skiing, possibly the last for a while.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

XC Skiing - Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Yesterday, we got hit with about a foot of new snow, much more than anyone expected when going to bed the night before. It was heavy and wet, and shoveling the driveway repeatedly was not fun. With a big warmup coming on Monday, with lots of rain, Holly and I got out today to enjoy this latest storm while we could.

We chose the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, both because it was nearby and because we hadn't been to parts of it in quite a while. Some of the trails had already been snowshoed, which made for easier going in the deep and heavy snow. The trees were all coated in white, since this snow stuck to everything as it fell.

Parts of the area we skied in were being rehabilitated, and had recently been cleared of non-native vegetation, leaving only the pitch pines and other brush that really belong here. It made for some rather eerie looking terrain at times, and also some rerouted trails.

We spent about an hour covering a couple of loops, sometimes breaking trail, other times following previous human or animal tracks on the trails. More snow tonight to freshen things up a bit, and then one more day to enjoy this batch before it all starts to melt.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

XC Skiing - Lapland Lake XC Center

Holly and I don't often pay to go cross-country skiing, but when the snow gets to be the way it is right now, going someplace that grooms their trails is really the only choice. Lapland Lake does a really good job with whatever snow or other frozen precipitation nature throws at them, so we headed there this morning for some skiing and lunch, before the afternoon's messy weather was to arrive.

Conditions were probably the best that could be expected after all of the thawing and refreezing we've had. The tracks were crunchy on the sides, but with some loose snow in them, so skiing was OK. Outside of the tracks, there was enough tilled loose granular snow to allow control on the downhills, but they were still faster than usual. I did the double black diamonds, which were beyond exciting, almost scary in spots, while Holly stuck to the blue intermediate trails, not wanting to take any chances on reinjuring her recovering knee.

Apr├Ęs-ski, we had lunch in the Tuulen Tupa Grill on the premises, a delicious Finnish salmon-potato casserole called Lohilaatikko. Then we headed home. I'd covered about 15k for the day, Holly a little less. More snow is supposedly on the way tomorrow, especially to our north, so winter is not over yet.

Monday, February 21, 2011

XC Skiing - Woods Hollow Preserve

We got a couple of inches of new snow overnight, to top off the greyish-brown icy crust that developed in last week's thaw. Holly only had a little time to spare, so we decided to try skiing at the Woods Hollow Preserve, near Ballston Spa. Conditions were fair to poor, despite the new coating of snow. This place gets a lot of walking and snowshoe traffic, and the trails were pretty rutted and icy under the new snow.

We managed to spend a little less than an hour on mostly pretty flat terrain, aside from one exciting downhill near the beginning and a bushwhack around another icy uphill. The skiing wasn't great, or even good, but we at least got out for some exercise on an otherwise very nice day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Snowshoeing - West Glenville

Went snowshoeing with some friends this afternoon on their property in West Glenville. The snow was crusty and the wind was howling, but it was good to get out. Back to their house afterwards for chili, cornbread, wine and good conversation.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

XC Skiing - Rockwood State Forest

Since I'm scheduled to lead a cross-country ski trip to Rockwood on Saturday for Schenectady ADK, and since conditions have deteriorated somewhat this week almost everywhere, Holly and I decided to do a pre-ski this afternoon and see if this trip would still be able to go. It was good that we did. Although Rockwood still has plenty of snow, it's old snow, very beat up by snowshoes and bare-booters, lots of twigs and debris, and not very good for skiing. Today was warm, in the mid-40s, and Friday will be even warmer, so at least today the snow was relatively wet and soft. But Friday night promises another refreeze, and Saturday will barely reach freezing, with 30mph winds gusting to near 50. That means the conditions will be icy, hard, and fast. That also means the trip Saturday will be cancelled. But at least we got in a short outing this afternoon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

XC Skiing - John Pond

Holly got cheated out of some of the best skiing of the season with a bum knee, and now that we've had some thawing and refreezing, skiing near home is no good at all. Today, we took a chance that conditions would still be at least OK further north, and skied into John Pond, near Indian Lake in the Adirondacks. It's about a 5-6 mile round trip, depending whose mileage you believe, and it's normally a novice trip with gently undulating hills.

We arrived at the trailhead to find a snowshoe trench that was hard-packed and fast after a thaw/refreeze earlier this week. There was just a little loose snow in the trench that made kicking and gliding possible, so we decided to give it a go. We followed an old road for a while, passing this marshy area with some minor peaks in the background.

Leaving the road, we began to encounter more and slightly steeper uphills, and wondered what they'd be like going downhill on the way out. We arrived at the leanto at John Pond in good time, and looked across the pond to these interesting cliffs.

The trip out was exciting, to say the least. The normally tame downhills were lightning fast, and controlling speed was difficult since we were skiing in a packed trench. I think today would have easily been rated "intermediate" on this fairly easy trip under normal conditions. We arrived at the car with only minor mishaps (Holly - 0, Me - 1), and hoped we'd be getting some fresh snow again soon. More thawing/freezing coming in the days ahead, and skiing will be iffy until we get some new powder.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Moonlight Snowshoeing - Ushers Road State Forest

This past week was my regularly scheduled moonlight snowshoeing outing for Schenectady ADK. There hasn't been a good opportunity since late last week, but tonight turned out to be perfect. The sky was crystal clear, and the moon was 92% full and very bright. After some short-notice cancellations because of other commitments, three of us set off for Ushers Road State Forest in nearby Clifton Park.

The trail was hard-packed and crunchy after yesterday's thaw and today's refreeze, so we left the snowshoes in the car and donned microspikes instead. The northern half of the forest is deep conifers, and the woods were fairly dark, despite the bright moon. But the southern half, returning to the car, was incredibly bright in more open woods. It took us about an hour to cover the loop on a brisk evening.

Although it was interesting to try this trip in a new location, we all decided that we like Featherstonhaugh State Forest, the usual location, better for this activity. It's farther from civilization, and definitely feels like it. Tonight we had residential lights, traffic noise, and even a nearby train passing by. Despite all that, it was a beautiful evening to be out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

XC Skiing - Camp Saratoga, Wilton

Today was surprisingly over 50 degrees in the morning, with wind and rain expected later, so Holly and I got out for a quick ski around the trails at Wilton Wildlife Preserve's Camp Saratoga. There had been a snowshoe race on Saturday, and the trails had not been regroomed since then, so the surface was hard-packed and fairly wet snow, with lots of twigs and pine cones. Not the best of conditions, but it was a day not to be wasted, especially with another deep-freeze tonight and more freeze/thaw cycles over the next week. The days of soft powder are now gone, but we hope only temporarily.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

XC Skiing - Featherstonhaugh State Forest

After yesterday's outing, I wasn't up for much today. But Holly wanted to get out for an hour or so, somewhere nearby that was also relatively flat. Despite recent ice storms, we knew Featherstonhaugh would be skiable, so we went up and skied the main loop at a lazy pace. It was just enough. There was a little new snow in the deep tracks, so despite the crunchy sides of those tracks, the skiing wasn't bad. Big warmup coming this week, so there's no telling what we'll be left with after that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

XC Skiing - Stephens and Cascade Ponds

Today, I joined a Schenectady ADK ski trip to Stephens and Cascade Ponds, near Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Holly and I are the ADK trail stewards for much of this Northville-Placid Trail section, but had skied it only once before, many years ago.

The original plan was to jump off the NPT on an unmarked fishermans' path to Stephens Pond, about 1.5 miles from the car. Then we would ski about .75 miles on the surface of Stephens Pond to the leanto located there, avoiding some unnecessary hills. But recent DEC ice advisories, as well as the prospect of a strong wind in our faces on the pond, led us to change our plans and just ski the NPT all the way to the leanto. The snow was deep off-trail, with about 8-10" of new snow over a previously broken track. These were some of the best ski conditions of the season, and we enjoyed the gentle ups and downs that took us to Stephens Pond, at about 3.4 miles from the car. The wind was howling up the pond here, and we decided we'd made the right decision.

After a quick lunch at the leanto, we headed back up the hill to the NPT junction with the Cascade Pond Trail. This trail was not as well-maintained as our trail-steward section, but it was an easy 1-mile up-and-down to the leanto on Cascade Pond. As always, leader Roy wanted lots of group pictures.

Once we got back to the junction with the NP trail, the rest of the 2+ miles back to the cars was mostly downhill, and was very pleasant skiing in our previously broken tracks. Overall, we were probably on the trail for about 4 hours, to cover the 8.6 miles. It was a pleasant day, with temps in the 20s, occasional flurries, and some really fantastic skiing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

XC Skiing - Featherstonhaugh State Forest

Went XC skiing today at Featherstonhaugh with a local group that shall remain nameless. The skiing was fair, with a little fresh powder atop the otherwise icy tracks. The sides of the ruts were crunchy, so there was really no possibility of turning on any of the mild downhills. We really had to stay in the tracks and do quick step turns as needed. We skied the entire trail network, about 4 miles, at varying paces. Not a bad day, despite the usual lack of organization.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Annual XC Ski Getaway - Landgrove Inn, VT

For almost as long as Holly and I have known each other, we've been heading off to Vermont for a couple of days of XC skiing every winter. For much of that time, we've been staying at the Landgrove Inn, an old country-style inn with lots of charm, located in North Landgrove. You may not find that town on any map, but it's northwest of Londonderry and southwest of Weston. They've had scads of snow this winter, and we caught the owner, Tom, on the roof clearing off some of the excess.

Because of Wednesday's storm, we'd gotten a late start, and had no time for skiing when we arrived. So we settled in for a nice dinner at the Inn. Afterwards, we went out snowshoeing in the dark for a while, and spent the rest of the evening reading and talking with Tom and some of his other guests in the cozy lounge.

Thursday morning found us at the Vermont Country Store, in nearby Weston. Even though we both hate to shop, we always make a stop when we're in the area because of the many unique things to be found here.

On Thursday afternoon, we went skiing at nearby Wild Wings Ski Touring Center, in Peru. The trails were nicely groomed, and the woods were beautiful. This is an old-time, family-owned, no-frills cross-country ski center, with lots of snow, good prices, and best of all, no skating allowed! The trails are relatively narrow, and are only groomed for classical skiing.

Thursday's dinner was at the Inn at Weston, a place we'd never tried in many previous trips to the area. Then it was back to our own Inn and more quiet time in the lounge, playing games, reading, and talking.

On Friday, before checking out to come home, we skied on the Landgrove's own trail network, a modest one, which had so far only been "groomed" by a pass with a snowmobile. The real grooming was to take place on Friday, but we were out there before it happened. Many of the trails are in open meadows and along a stream, with others deep in the pine woods.

Arriving back home Friday afternoon, we found mounds of snow already turned brown and black since Wednesday's storm. Vermont was still very white, in stark contrast. A couple of inches on Saturday will freshen us up again and continue this wonderful winter.