Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Biking and disc golf on another hot day

I passed up a bike ride with friends today, to do a ride of my own. I wanted slow, relaxed, flat, and closer to home than their ride. It seems like I've been making excuses lately for not riding, but the bottom line is that I'm just not as motivated as in some previous years. Today, I needed to just get off my butt and get out.

It had been a long time since I'd done the Mohawk River loop between Schenectady and Schoharie Crossing State Park, a 45-mile round trip, and that felt like the right idea for today.

An early start was a must, with temps expected to hit 90 later in the day. I skipped breakfast and got going a little after 8am, and stopped fro a breakfast sandwich and OJ at a Stewart's outside of Scotia on NY-5. I stayed with NY-5 through Amsterdam to Tribes Hill, where after the one climb of the day, I descended to the Mohawk and crossed on the Lock 12 bridge. I didn't stop at the visitor center at the park, but instead continued on to Karen's Produce and Ice Cream, a little further west on NY-5S. Ice cream seemed like a good idea, since it was now getting pretty warm.

Much of the way back to Schenectady followed the Erie Canalway Trail, and I got into a very relaxed mode, just gently spinning the pedals in a comfortable gear. This was more like the riding I did on my trip last summer, and not much at all like many of the recent group rides I've been doing. I rather enjoyed it. Arriving at Lock 11, the Mohawk River was glassy still, with no wind whatsoever.

Below the dam, the spillways were still raging with the last of the high water from recent rains.

At one point, I had a minor disruption of service on the trail, as these hissy geese refused to move until their offspring were safely out of the way.

The relaxed ride continued as I exited onto NY-5S and continued east toward Schenectady, picking up the bike trail again about 5 miles from the car. It was nice to be able to do 45 miles at my own (uncharacteristically slow) pace, and to stop occasionally for treats and pictures.

Back home, since I was already covered with sunscreen and road grit, I decided to throw in a quick round of disc golf in Central Park before getting cleaned up. I should have stayed home - suffice it to say it was NOT a top-10 round.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hiking - Alander Mountain, MA

Today, Holly and I and friends Dave and Theresa climbed Alander Mountain, near the corner of NY/MA/CT, in Massachusetts' Mount Washington State Forest. It's about a 6--7 mile round trip with excellent views from the summit for a fairly minimal amount of elevation gain.

Along the way, we passed this nice waterfall.

The summit was sunny and windy. The breeze was very welcome, because the sun was very strong as we were eating lunch. The views were mostly to the west, with some more interesting angles to the north and south. This is looking north up the valley along NY-22.

To the south, Mounts Frissell and Brace rose in the distance.

It turned out to feel like a very warm day, though the temperature was only in the upper 70s. The humidity felt like it increased as the day went on, but we avoided the chance of thunderstorms that had been in the forecast. Numbers of hikers increased as we descended, but we never felt crowded on the summit or on the trail.

Good conversation and ice cream on the way home, as always, made for a pleasant day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Disc Golf - Schenectady Central Park

More storms on tap for this afternoon, and more sticky heat this morning. For whatever reason, I just didn't feel like biking, and also wanted to watch at least part of today's Giro d'Italia Stage 19, with its mountain finish. That gave me a couple of hours in the cooler morning to do something, and once again, disc golf fit the bill.

The only thing consistent about my play is that it's consistently inconsistent. Although I'm generally improving across the board, I still have several bad shots and bad holes in every round, and if I could eliminate just those, I could be shooting close to par every time. Guess that's the story with regular golf as well, and not just for me but for everybody. After a couple of 66s my last two times out, today I shot 69 and 70, so not bad, just moving in the wrong direction from par 57.

The park is alive on these warm spring/summer mornings, and it's a pleasant walk (or two!) around the course amid all the other stuff that's going on.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Geocaching - Indian Meadows Park

Today, I went geocaching with friend Karen, who was recently given a very nice and complicated GPS, and wanted to learn how to use it. She bought me breakfast first, and then we set off for the park. After some time spent getting the GPS set up the way I preferred it (which must be the best way), we tackled a couple of easy geocaches in the park. We thought the first one might be missing, since my printed page was pretty old, and we couldn't find it. I knew we were in the right place, because Holly and I had found this one several years ago. (Wrong - discovered later that it was last found 3 days ago, so it must still be there.) We paused to review the GPS lessons learned on that attempt, and then tried another, a multi. Karen led us right to it, in a swampy buggy wooded area on the south side of the park. We didn't tarry long there, and just took the driest route back to the cars after a successful learning experience!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Disc Golf - Schenectady Central Park

With thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon, I got out this morning for another round of disc golf in Central Park. I met up with another golfer, Roy, on the first tee, and we played together. Now I see how these things are supposed to be thrown! Unbelievable distance from this guy! But he was also a little wild directionally, losing one of his discs in the woods at one point. It's probably still there. As for me, I matched my low score of last week (66), and played pretty well. If I can continue to keep it under 70 a few more times, I'll try the longer more difficult tees, just for variety.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hiking - Fog, wind, wildflowers, and snow on the Taconic Crest Trail

Today, Holly and I and a couple of her friends went for an easy hike on the Taconic Crest Trail, north of NY-2 at Petersburg Pass. The woods were lush and green, and eerie at times, since we were walking along alternately in and out of the clouds as a very cool wind howled across the ridge.

Taconic Crest Trail

The usual viewpoints out over the valley were socked in, but there were enough wildflowers to keep it interesting.

Painted trillium

Red trillium

Canada violet (?)


Common blue violet

The Snow Hole still had several feet of snow at the very bottom. At the rate the weather and temperatures have been going this spring, it will be there for a long time.

Snow Hole

Despite the cool temperatures, we made the usual stop at Stewart's on the way home for ice cream, after a pleasant outing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trail Maintenance - Northville-Lake Placid Trail

Tough day of trail maintenance on our adopted section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail. With the very wet weather of the past few weeks, there was plenty of mud, ditches to be cleared, blowdowns to cut our way through, and a thunderstorm as we finished up. This is our 18th year of adopting this trail section, and aside from the multitude of "boot-sucking quagmires", it's in pretty good shape, though today it was unusually wet and sloppy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Biking - Dodging the raindrops

Tonight was the weekly SWC beer and pizza ride, starting at a friend's house in the hills west of Schenectady. There was some doubt about the weather, but it looked OK, so I decided to give it a go. Instead of doing the usual 18-19 miles from this location, I cut off a few of the last uphill miles and settled for 14, but still with a good climb. I wanted to beat the weather, and didn't really feel like climbing that last hill anyway. It never rained, and the food (and beer) afterwards were well worth the effort. Now that I'm home, the rain has started again in earnest.

Earlier today, after taking advantage of a rare blue-sky opportunity to get the lawn mowed before it became impossibly deep, I got in a fairly tame 16-mile ride. I wasn't at all sure that tonight's ride would come off at all, with thunderstorms rolling in. But if it did, it was a hilly ride, and I didn't want to burn myself out too early, so I went for a flat route this afternoon. With temps in the low 70s and light winds, it was a really nice day to be out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Biking - Ride of Silence

Tonight was the annual International Ride of Silence, to memorialize bicyclists who failed to survive a tragic encounter with a motor vehicle. The local ride was in Albany, and visited several local "ghost bikes", placed along the roadsides where local cyclists met their deaths. It was a silent and somber procession, escorted by local police, and stopping to honor some of those who've passed.

Earlier in the day, a break in the constant rain appeared again, so I went back to Central Park for some more disc golf. The great thing is that this activity can be done in any weather, hot or cold, wet or dry, and it's usually easy to squeeze in an hour or so that's not completely miserable. The trees were dripping, and the woods were wet, but it wasn't raining, which is rare for this week.

Since the first 18 holes resulted in a personal best score, and the sky was still fairly unthreatening, I went around again, beating that previous round by a full 6 shots. I think I'm getting the hang of this course - might be almost time to move back to the longer tees.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fractured disc....

Frisbee, that is - read on.

Today was yet another wet rainy dreary day. But looking at the radar, and the direction everything was moving, it looked like there might be a break in the action by late morning. Getting a little tired of sitting home, reading, and watching the grass grow and the yard jungle-ize, I headed to Central Park for a round of disc golf between deluges. Though the grass was wet, and there was lots of water dripping off the trees, I got this round in with no weather problems. On hole #5, there was a (makeshift) bridge out across a small creek that runs through the park, so I had to detour a long way around that, but that wasn't a big deal.

Then, on #11, I whacked a tree dead on with a hard throw off the tee, and cracked my disc. Fortunately, it stayed in one piece and I continued on. I glued it when I got home, but a couple more hits like that will probably kill it, so I decided to replace it. Play It Again Sports, in Latham, carries a bewildering array of different golf discs. There are entire multi-disc sets, with different discs for different shots, just like real golf. Too many choices, and I swore I would never cave in to that level of specialization. Once, many years ago, there was only one kind of disc, the "Pluto Platter"...

I bought a "maximum distance driver" disc, that's supposed to fly farther and straighter than the "mid-range/approach" disc I've been using for everything. Maybe this will help my scores. So now, at least until the original falls apart, I'm a two-disc player. I swear I will never buy a "putter".

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Golf, and an SWC Thursday night bike ride

Another beautiful day, too nice to waste by not doing something outside. After yesterday's brief sojourn on a pitch-and-putt golf course, and last week's improved driving range performance, I bit the bullet and headed out for a real 9 holes of golf. Hillcrest GC in Duanesburg is a wide open layout, with very little to threaten wayward shots. That's really the reason I play there, and not somewhere with narrower fairways, trees, water, and sand. I wasn't expecting any miracles, but mostly hit the ball pretty well, except when it came to within about 100 yards of the green. My short game cost me at least 6-8 strokes on the 9 holes, and inflated my score higher than it ever should have been. But I at least found out that I'm not so bad that can't keep playing there until I get that part right. Another summer activity to add to the list!

Tonight was the Schenectady Wintersports Club's weekly Thursday night beer and pizza ride. Our group did a 19-mile route up in the hills west of Rotterdam, with an extended series of climbs followed by a screaming downhill, where I maxed out at 36 mph.

And boy, did I have legs tonight! The uphills were nothing at 8-9%, and the last 5 flat miles I was pushing 18-20 mph. A couple of beers, some pizza, and socializing afterwards make these rides lots of fun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Real golf (finally - sort of) and another round of disc golf

I'm really itching to get back on a golf course, after hardly playing at all last summer, and watching the pros on many Sundays (which sometimes induces a nap). But I needed to know I wouldn't totally embarrass myself before I do that. So, after a fairly good day at the driving range last week, today I went to Players Park in Clifton Park, where there's a 9-hole pitch-and-putt course. Most of the holes are under 100 yards, and I can play this course with 3 clubs, one of which is a putter. It's a good tune-up and test of where I am. I forgot to pick up a score card, and it was just as well. I just played the holes and gauged my readiness. Four lost balls in the first three holes didn't bode well, and since I'd only brought four, I thought I was done. Fortunately, I found some other golfers' lost balls, and was able to continue. I was hitting it solidly every time, but having trouble knowing how hard to hit the pitching wedge, which was the right club for every hole. That's what got me in trouble. Aside from that, I think I'm ready for a real golf course, at least something like Hillcrest, where there's very little in the way of trouble.

Then, after doing a few household spring fixups, I headed back to Central Park for another round of disc golf, matching my lowest round so far, before setting off on a bunch of errands. Overall, a very productive and enjoyable day, with the spectacular weather we've waited months for.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Biking - A long, scenic (aka "hilly") ride on a perfect day

Today, some friends were doing a 40-mile ride up in the hills between Schenectady and the Schoharie Valley to the west. It's a very scenic ride, as it looks across both the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys to the hills far in the distance. But first we had to climb the hills on our side of the valley.

Having done the first major climb, and several smaller ones, we rode along through farm fields on very pretty and lightly traveled back roads. Coming down from the hills, we found ourselves in Minaville on NY-30, where we stopped at a small local diner for a second breakfast. Then it was up again, before the final descent into the Mohawk Valley and a flat ride for the next 5 miles. Unfortunately, our starting point was up several more short steep pitches, to the home of the friends where we'd started. I was pretty well spent by the end of those climbs, but happy that the legs had held out and let me do them.

Altogether, this ride had over 2,400 feet of total climbing, a pretty respectable day, and not too different from many days I had last summer on my trip.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Biking - A lumpy, windy 27 miles

Ordinarily, I would have been home this morning watching Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) bike race, but I decided to get out for a ride myself instead. When I returned home, I was shocked to learn of a terrible accident, where a Belgian rider going downhill around a hairpin turn had a horrific crash, and was killed. Sobering thought, when it can happen to a seasoned pro...

RIP Wouter Weylandt 1984-2011
Anyway, I did some hills of my own today, but I've long since lost the reckless abandon I once had. Traded it in for some aged wisdom and a good set of brakes.

I needed to do some climbing today, so I went to my old standby, Grant Hill Road. But today, I pushed a bigger gear than I normally would, just to see if I could do it, and also to start building some leg strength. Grant Hill, Wormer, and Relyea Roads all provided some short pitches that I rode this way, and it felt pretty good. The legs are coming along.

When I reached the southernmost point from home, a big northerly headwind began to blow, and it was a struggle all the way home. Well, I was looking for a workout, so I guess I shouldn't complain. It was a good ride, and the sunny cool weather was extremely welcome, despite the wind.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hiking - Long Path to Cannady Hill

Today, I led a Schenectady ADK trip to Cannady Hill, a 2-mile hike each way on the Long Path. Holly and I had been there once before a few years ago, and it had a decent view, and we needed something close to home today, so this filled the bill. This section of the Long Path is just west of West Berne, NY, about 25 miles from Schenectady.

The climbing starts soon after entering the woods, then levels off for a ways, and then climbs a very steep section to the top of the ridge. We had to hunt for the view, as shown by the GPS track above, but once we found it, it made a nice lunch spot. The highlight of the view was the Blackhead Range in the Catskills, with other peaks also visible, though tough to identify from this unusual (for us) angle.

There was a moderate threat of showers throughout the day, but the worst we got were a couple of quick spritzes, not even enough for raingear. Wildflowers were starting to appear but were still rather sparse. We did see red trillium, bellwort, several varieties of violet, a sedge. and a few trout lilies, but it will be another week before everything starts to really bust out down here.

It was a short hike and an early day, but the more serious rain wasn't far behind us, so the timing worked out great.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Trip to the driving range, and then biking - finally a nice day!

A few weeks ago, I spent a rather pathetic and discouraging hour at the local golf range, spraying balls in every conceivable direction, except straight. I returned there today, with just one club, and finally found my groove (at least with that club!) I don't belong on a golf course just yet, but the progress was at least encouraging.

With temps approaching 70, and despite a growing wind, I next hit the road on the bike to get in some climbing. With the recent spate of dismal weather, wind would be the least thing that would stop me from getting out on an otherwise fantastic day. After struggling through the hilly ride of last Sunday, I knew I had work to do, and with the variety of climbs up out of the Mohawk Valley, there are plenty of choices. The shortest is probably Rector Road, west of Scotia on the north side of the river. It's about 1.6 miles to the top, with the steepest climbing in the first .8 mile, up to 10% grades. I put together a ride that would take me up Rector,and then to the Charlton General Store for lunch, about 24 miles total, and mostly downhill to the end.

The wind was increasing from the west as I passed through Scotia and out along the river to the base of the climb. I actually made it up non-stop with one cog to spare, and my breathing felt much better than last week. Time to move on to some longer hills. Another positive sign for the day!

The rest of the ride was pleasantly rolling, both before and after a delicious lunch at the store, and I was back to the car at SCCC in good time. Now it's time to put together a string of rides like this, and to feel the fitness again that I apparently lost over the winter. Hiking and XC skiing a couple times a week just wasn't regular enough to maintain it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Disc golf and an evening bike ride

It was a brisk windy day for this time of year, and with an SWC bike ride on for the evening, I went back to Schenectady's Central Park for another quick round of disc golf this morning. This is getting to be habit-forming, especially as my scores keep coming down. It's free and very nearby, and I can fit in a round almost anytime, so why not?

Tonight, Holly hosted the first SWC bike ride of the season. Despite cool windy conditions, and even a threat of showers, there was a good turnout. I took the old 10-speed, expecting to get wet, and did a short version of one of the available rides, then hightailed it back to the house to go pick up the pizzas. I had more energy tonight than on that last hilly ride, and felt strong. Hoping for better weather to start getting back into something like last year's condition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Disc Golf - Schenectady Central Park

With rain expected later, and the morning spent doing other things, I squeezed in a round of disc golf around mid-day. I was the only one on the course, and the round went by quickly. I'm starting to get the hang of this, and also figuring out the best way to play some of these holes, so scores continue to come down, with "putting" showing a huge improvement. As in real golf, my biggest challenge is directional control, and there were still a couple of very wayward shots. But it's a pleasant way to take a walk in the park, now resplendent with the signs of spring.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Biking - A tough ride for early in the season

With a choice of two rides today, I chose the tougher one. A couple of friends were riding in southern Albany County, and climbing Copeland Hill Road, which I had struggled up last spring. It was time for a rematch.

The route we took from the Delmar Park and Ride had another interesting climb we weren't expecting, up Collaback Road from NY-32 and Old Quarry Road. This one maxed out over 12%, and had us puffing and wheezing by the top. Then it was downhill on very scenic back roads, until we reached the bottom of Copeland Hill Road. This is only about a mile long and 350 feet, but there's a pitch at the very top that's around 15% (or 20%, depending who's measuring), so it's a good challenge. Despite riding this hill on my old 10-speed last year (when I was in great shape before my trip), I struggled today, even with lower gears. The legs felt great, but I had no wind, having ridden very little in this very wet spring. I stopped once and then continued, so will need to try this one again later in the season.

All told, we covered 23.5 miles and about 1,700 feet of climbing, some of it fairly steep, which was quite enough for me. Now to mow the lawn...