Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Biking - Stymied by closed roads

I've been off the bike now for just about 2 weeks, for a whole variety of reasons. Today, I wanted to get in 20 miles or so, just to do SOMETHING. So I set off down Kings Road, hoping to do a loop with Old State and West Lydius, with a possible side trip to see how French's Hollow weathered the storm. But it was not to be.

Everything was fine until I got to the intersection of Kings and Morris Roads. Kings was closed at that point eastbound, which was my intended route. So I went right on Morris, hoping to connect back via Curry Road Extension. But that was also closed. There was no choice but to head west on Curry Road. And there was no bailout point on that until I got to the roundabout at Curry and 146.

At that point I decided I'd had enough, and went 1/4 way around the circle and headed home. Leaving the circle via 146 or continuing on Curry Road had no appeal at all in the afternoon traffic, so I was done, after a measly 8.72 miles.

With the river routes still closed after the storm, I thought this would be an OK alternative, but apparently there are also problems in the Pine Bush.  Kind of annoying, since I didn't see these particular closures mentioned anywhere in the past few days. I'm going to find other things to do for the next week or so.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Walking and flood gawking - Along the mighty muddy Mohawk

I was relatively untouched by yesterday's record-setting Tropical Storm Irene. I never lost power, phone, or internet. Only a few small branches came down in my yard. It wasn't much worse for me than an all-day summer thunderstorm. But I knew I'd been very lucky, and that there was a lot of water out there somewhere. So I headed for Cohoes Falls, where the flooded Mohawk River meets the flooded Hudson River, which would really be thundering today. I never got there. Construction on NY-7, along with other alternatives being either closed or very circuitous, led me to turn around and change plans. Strike one.

I remembered a couple of overlooks in the Schenectady Museum Preserve, now Mohawk River State Park. They looked out over Lock 7 and its dam, as we'd seen many times while skiing there in the winter. As in, when there's no foliage. No views today. I dropped down to the bike path at Lock 7, and saw many truckloads of dirt being trucked in. It turns out there's concern about the lock being breached, with major downstream consequences. Let's hope not. The water was very high, but I was upstream of the dam, and couldn't get any closer because of the ongoing construction. So I headed back to the car at the upper end of the preserve after an otherwise nice walk. Strike two.

On to Blatnick Park, a little further upstream. I climbed to the top of Mount Trashmore, the former Niskayuna landfill, and had a nice view out over the river, all the way to the Lock 7 dam at the far right. The river was high and muddy, but it was hard to tell from way up here just how high it really was.

On the far side of the river, at the other end of the dam from Lock 7, there's a power generating station, which has a nice overlook and viewing area. Could I get there? The Rexford Bridge was now reopened, so I gave it a shot. There was a circus atmosphere on and around the bridge, with people everywhere, cameras in hand. Traffic moved fairly smoothly across the bridge, and I continued on to the overlook.

Here, it was much more obvious just how much water was in the river. The dam is rarely submerged like this, and there are rocks below the dam now covered by the rushing water. And it was loud. Lots of people here too. Guess we all had the same idea. Lock 7 across the river looked to be nearly underwater.

On my way back to recross the Rexford Bridge, I pulled over along with several dozen others to look back on the bridge and the Schenectady Yacht Club from the top of the steep-walled gorge. Note the height of the water under the bridge, even worse than most spring floods.

After crossing the bridge, I headed into downtown Schenectady, not really expecting to see much along Erie Boulevard. But the entire brownfields area, now cleared of its decrepit buildings, was also under water. Another few feet and Erie Boulevard itself would been submerged. Sorry - no pictures in this stretch, but the local media have plenty.

Finally, I tried to head west to Lock 8, but found both the Rice Road and Campbell Road exits from I-890 closed, and the bike path under water. With NY-5S also closed ahead, and not wanting to cross again to the north side of the river, my only alternative was the Thruway back to Exit 25 from where I was at Exit 26. But first, I joined yet another crowd on the side of 890 where it overlooked Lock 8 below. Note the lock house at lower right. This is the highest I've ever seen the water here.

There are still lots of roads closed, and thousands remain without power. I feel even luckier now than I did before this little outing. It will be weeks before everything gets back to normal around here. And I won't be doing any more nice flat riverside bicycling anytime soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hiking - Hour Pond

Yesterday, on the calm day before Tropical Storm Irene invaded our area, I joined a Schenectady ADK trip to Hour Pond, just west of Thirteenth Lake in the east central Adirondacks. There was a relatively new trail to Hour Pond that cut about 2 miles off the previous route, and this trip aimed to explore it.

We started out hiking along 13th Lake, which was calm and serene, despite the first signs of Irene's clouds approaching from the southeast.

Across the lake, we viewed Balm of Gilead Mountain, which Holly and I had climbed only a few days earlier.

Arriving at Hour Pond, we lingered for a while at a nice lunch spot along the shore. Nearby were some ferns beginning to turn their autumn colors. Be sure to click on the photo to see the fine detail in the veins of color beginning to appear.

Several of us explored along the shoreline as far as the outlet of the pond. There were even nicer views here than at the lunch spot a quarter mile away.

After a long lunch break, we checked out the relatively new leanto, and then headed back to the cars, after about a 7-mile round-trip hike.

This would make a very nice snowshoe hike in the winter, but many of us conceded that although marked as a ski trail, skiing it would be beyond the abilities of an average intermediate skier.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Golf - Hillcrest Golf Course

It's exactly a month to the day since the last time I swung a golf club, so I wasn't expecting any miracles as I headed off to Hillcrest this morning. My brother Walt had suggested I try a set of clubs he had in his basement, his old set that he has since replaced. Even so, they're at least 15-20 years more modern than the ones I've been using. So today was the day.

The course was wet and even had some puddles after yesterday's heavy downpours. The greens were wet, unmowed, and slow. None of this was responsible for the miserable score I posted, but at least the last few holes were better than the earlier ones. There's an old saying that "a round of golf is a nice walk ruined", and that was the case today. It's a tough game to play well consistently without playing regularly, and that just hasn't been the case this summer. Still, it was good to get out and try, and I suspect there will be many more rounds to come in the fall months ahead.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hiking - An Adirondack potpourri

Yesterday was a crisp clear day, a nice day to be looking down from a small mountaintop. It's getting increasingly challenging to find one nearby that we haven't already climbed, but near the Garnet Hill XC Ski Center in North River, NY, , we found just what we were looking for. Balm of Gilead Mountain is a hike of less than a mile to an outstanding view over 13th Lake from its summit ledges. On the way down the mountain, we successfully located a geocache just off the trail.

View SW, with 13th Lake below

Peaked Mountain (r) and Blue Mountain (bkgd)

This area has several interesting attractions, all within about a mile of the parking area at the ski center. Without returning to the car, we turned next onto the trail to William Blake Pond, a small body of water originally dammed to provide water for running the nearby Hooper Garnet Mine. A partially buried rusty pipe along the trail is all that remains of that era, leaving a pretty pond behind.

William Blake Pond

Finally, and again without returning to the car, we turned onto the side trail to the abandoned Hooper Mine. This mine was begun in 1898, and was in use in the early 1900s. Remains of a few buildings and equipment are scattered around the perimeter, and great views can be found by following informal paths to the cliff edges above.

Hooper Garnet Mine

Garnet in rocks near the mine

Leaving the mine and returning to the car, we figured we'd probably covered a total of only 5-6 miles, but had discovered a lot of variety in a relatively small area. The usual ice cream stop completed the day before heading home.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Biking and mini-golf on a very nice day

After watching the Vuelta a Espana this morning, Holly and I got out for a short bike ride this afternoon from her house to Slice's Mini-Golf, in nearby Ballston Spa. We dodged the usual windmills and other traditional obstacles, then stopped for ice cream, and talked to the owner Michael about his recent offering of the property on the real estate market. He created this course and has been operating there since 1992, but is getting ready to retire in a couple of years, and wants to get a head start on divesting himself of the business. We're hoping, as he is, that any prospective buyer will continue running this charming little course, with a definite retro '50s feel.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Walk - New trail at Schenectady County Forest

I read in today's Schenectady Gazette that a new trail had been added to the smallish network at Schenectady County Forest (subscription may be required). We ski and snowshoe here sometimes in the winter, and I wanted to see what the new trail looked like.

The only map I could find was the one at the entrance kiosk, so I've reproduced it (poorly) here. Essentially, a new loop has been added off the back of the existing blue loop, onto an adjacent parcel owned by the Town of Duanesburg. This adds about 1.3 miles to the total trail network, and makes a nice new figure-8 loop possible. The new trail would be best skied counter-clockwise, with a couple of nice downhills in that direction.

Start of the new trail section

I had the GPS turned on and tracked the new section, but I'm having some issues with GPS-to-computer communication at the moment, so can't produce a better map just yet.

The pond was like glass today, with storms moving in from the southwest later on.

It was a short outing, but enough to convince me that this probably now surpasses Featherstonhaugh State Forest, just down the road, as the new local high-elevation place for a quick XC ski trip. Ideally, someday the two will be connected, but that's still in the dreaming stage, with a couple of different private parcels stuck between.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hiking - Tenant Creek Falls

This afternoon, we were the guests of our friends Bob and Carol, at their camp on Great Sacandaga Lake. Sometimes when they invite us up, we go sailing on the lake. But today, there was very little wind, and thunderstorms were popping up all over, so we opted for a short hike instead. In fact, just as we pulled into their driveway, there was an enormous clap of thunder, setting the tone for the afternoon.

Tenant Creek Falls is a short hike from the Wilcox Lake trailhead, north of Northville, NY. An unmarked path leaves the main trail and continues upstream along Tenant Creek to the first falls.

There are two more waterfalls further upstream another mile or two, but with the uncertain weather, we decided to skip them for today. Instead, we headed back to the camp for an early happy hour followed by a delicious dinner. There was no more rain, and a nice cool breeze came up, making for a very pleasant evening.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Disc golf, yard work, and biking - another sticky day

With showers forecast for the afternoon, I considered playing real golf early today. But somehow disc golf had more appeal, so I headed over to Central Park to play a round or two.

The first 18 was pretty poor, as trees kept jumping out all over the place and getting in the way. After I finished, I noticed that nobody else was out on the course yet, so I played another 18. This is why I like playing early in the morning - no tripping over other players or groups of players. The second 18 turned out much better, only one shot off my best. My feet were wet from the dewy grass, and I was dripping from the humidity, but it was a good outing.

When I got home, I dried out and then sacrificed another t-shirt by mowing the lawn, dried out once again and had lunch. Then an afternoon of reading brought me to tonight's SWC Thursday night bike ride, in Clifton Park.

It's always such a pleasure to drive up there from Schenectady in evening rush hour (NOT!), but this was the second-to-last ride of the season, so I went anyway. I chose the 18-mile route, but as the evening progressed and the sun got lower, I took a shortcut to get back before it was too dark, on some fairly trafficky roads. I got a little over 17 miles in, downed a couple of beers and some pizza, thanked our host, and headed home.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Biking - the lunch that wasn't

Somehow, lunch rides have become my favorite kind of local ride. It helps to have a destination in mind to keep me motivated and have someplace to arrive, instead of just a loop for loop's sake. And one of my favorite destinations is Lakeside Farms, near Ballston Lake. So today, I set out on a 30-mile loop with lunch at about the 20-mile point. It was a perfect day for a ride, after a couple of very rainy rest days following Sunday's Ididaride.

Starting at Schenectady County Community College (SCCC), I took back streets through Scotia and began the climb to Charlton via Spring and Swaggertown Roads. Arriving in Charlton, it was a nice downhill section with a tailwind all the way to the east side of Ballston Lake. Another gentle uphill brought me to the lunch spot.

Unfortunately, Lakeside has become extremely popular around the lunch hour. There were at least a dozen people in the ordering line, and I had forgotten my bike lock at home. I really wasn't comfortable spending an hour or more here under those circumstances, so I turned around, got back on the bike, and headed back to SCCC and the car. I considered stopping in Little Italy in Schenectady on the way instead, but that seemed even more foolhardy without a lock. So I got in a nice ride, on a beautiful day, and settled for lunch at home. Maybe sometime I'll try their breakfast instead. And bring the lock.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Biking - I Did A Ride!

More like a ride and a half. Yesterday was ADK's annual Ididaride, a 75-mile very hilly ride through New York's Adirondacks. Depending on your information source, the total elevation gained is between 4,500 and 6,900 feet, but no matter how you look at it, that's a lot of uphill, and also down. The most elevation I did in one day on last year's entire TransAm tour was only 4,200 feet, so this would be a challenging day.

The forecast was for rain, heavy at times, but mostly later in the day, so friend Terry and I decided to give it a go anyway. Some other friends canceled because of the impending weather. I came prepared for the worst, with a pannier containing an assortment of foul-weather gear and dry clothing, an additional 8 pounds to drag up the hills. Very few other riders seemed to be carrying much of anything at all.

Terry and I got an early start, some 40 minutes ahead of the crowd of over 300 other riders. Terry was having an off day, and turned around after about 16 miles, and returned to the start, which left me to ride my own ride, not necessarily a bad thing.

Up and down the first climb wasn't bad, nor was the long gentle climb to Speculator on NY30. I stopped in a store there for lunch and to pick up an additional bottle of Gatorade. With few long rides under my belt this year, I was expecting cramping problems later in the ride, and wanted to be prepared.

The next hill north of Speculator was touted as one of the worst on the ride, and though it was long and slow going, it wasn't as bad as I'd expected. From there, it was a rolling ride with long ups and downs to the Lewey Lake Campground, at about 45 miles. No problems yet, but the fun was about to begin.

A mile or two beyond Lewey Lake, I felt the first hints of some leg cramps. I'd been hydrating pretty well, so pulled over, stretched, and drank some more, hoping to stave them off as long as possible. There was still some tough terrain ahead, and I was beginning to doubt my chances of actually making it to the finish. As I approached each hill now, I wondered if it would be the last, if it would cause my legs to seize up and make me unable to continue. I really had to baby them now, expending as little effort as possible on the climbs, and stopping when necessary to give them a short break.

At the third rest stop in Indian Lake, I downed another banana, a good potassium source, and my third of the day, and continued on. The popular mantra that "it's all downhill from Indian Lake" is decidedly false, with 4-5 more climbs, some with truck lanes, before the long descent to the Hudson River. I was close to walking one of these, but the cramps continued to hold off, and I made it to the long descent, the bottom of which is only about 4 miles from the finish.

I had to stop once on this stretch, with the cramps threatening once again. I was pretty tired of Gatorade at this point, but took another good slug and continued on. Shortly, friend Herb caught up with me, and we rode together to the finish. We'd played leapfrog since somewhere north of Speculator, and I'd loaned him the use of my pump at one point when he'd flatted. We rode across the finish line together, and then joined the post-race feast that was already in progress, along with Terry, Herb's wife Gillian, their friend Mike, and their dog Rocky.

It had been a long day, but the rain never materialized. The sun was out much of the time, and it was warmer than predicted, but a good day for riding. Terry and I left for home shortly thereafter, and drove through a very heavy downpour just to the south, near Warrensburg. The timing could not have been better.

Distance: 76.08 miles
Elevation: A lot, but see above
Rolling time: 5:48
Elapsed time: 6:47
Avg speed: 13.0 mph
Max speed: 39.5 mph

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Disc golf and biking - A taste of fall in the air

After several weeks of warm and fairly steamy air, today dawned fresh and cool, a welcome change. With an SWC bike ride on the calendar for this evening, I didn't feel the need for another huge training effort this morning. The weather for Sunday's Ididaride is looking pretty iffy right now anyway. So I got in a round of disc golf in Central Park, ran some errands, and mowed the lawn instead. The disc golf round wasn't spectacular, but was a top-10 score when all was said and done, and it was good to get out again after not playing for a couple of weeks.

This afternoon, after making several minor tweaks to the bike (shift indexing was off by a bit), I went out for a short 14-mile ride to test my adjustments, and also just to keep the legs in some sort of active state between now and Sunday. It was a windy afternoon, and I'd be riding again later, so this short ride served both of these purposes pretty well.

Tonight's SWC ride was in Amsterdam and West Glenville. It was a very nice 14.6-mile somewhat hilly route, and very enjoyable, mostly on roads I'd never biked on before. Beer and pizza afterwards completed the day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Biking - some quality time with granny

I was looking for a hilly ride today, and boy did I find one! I have an old book entitled 25 Bike Tours in the Hudson Valley, by Howard Stone. One of the rides is called "The Ridges West of Schenectady". I had done this one before, but not in quite a while. So I loaded it up into to see what it looked like. It's about 30 miles, with over 2,000' of climbing, some of it steep, starting at Schalmont High School.

I wasn't in the mood for an early start, but it looked like the rain would hold off until afternoon anyway. So I had a good breakfast first and off I went. The first 12 miles is basically a long steeply rolling uphill to a point on Herrick Road. Then a long downhill to NY30, and another easier climb to Mariaville via Batter street. From there, it's mostly downhill with a few uphill pitches thrown in. There wasn't a lot of flat road on this ride, and I used every gear at some point or other.

Reaching Mariaville, the sky in the west was pretty dark, so I decided on a shortcut back to the car. A few minutes later, I was donning raingear as the inevitable approached. I waited out a passing shower under a tree and then continued on, my shortcut actually adding about a mile to the original plan. But the rain was over, and so was the ride, another good tuneup for Sunday's Ididaride.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Biking - 40 miles before the rain

There's no place like home. Especially when I need to get back on the bike and get prepared for this weekend's Ididaride. My main concern is mileage at this point, and less so the hilliness of the ride. I wanted to get in some 40-50 mile rides this week, weather permitting, and then rest a couple of days before Sunday's event. I passed up a shorter ride with friends today, and went it alone, wanting to stick to my plan and my own riding style. I repeated a ride I did last week, 40 miles including Grant Hill, for a total of 1,268 feet of climbing.

The climb was uneventful, and at 17 miles, I stopped at Indian Ladder Farms for a monstrous apple fritter and a large glass of cider. That kept me going, and I felt pretty good when I finished, even still having a bit of a kick. Sunday's ride is almost twice as long, and much hillier, but if I can just pace myself and eat well, this may just work out OK.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hiking - Clear Pond, Indian Lake, NY

(INDIAN LAKE, NY) Monday would be our last day in Indian Lake. The consensus was to get in a short flat hike to nearby Clear Pond, about a mile from its trailhead, and then return to camp, finish off some leftovers for lunch, clean up the camp, and head home.

Clear Pond

It was a fairly nondescript trail to the pond, with few landmarks. The pond itself was attractive, with small mountains rising in the background.

Back at camp, we finished most of our food, got some help from Walt with cleaning up the camp, and then he headed on to his next destination. There wasn't much left to do but pack the car, so we did that, got on the road, and made it home in time for dinner.

This was a good week away, and we may explore cottage rentals again in the future.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hiking - Sawyer Mountain, Blue Mountain Lake, NY

(INDIAN LAKE, NY) Sunday looked like it wouldn't be a very good weather day. With wifi in the camp, we were able to check the local radar and make plans according to when it might be dry. My brother Walt arrived around 10:30-11:00, and the rain would be there not long thereafter. Fortunately, it looked like a brief passing shower, so we chatted for a while, had lunch, and then decided to get in a short hike, to nearby Sawyer Mountain.

It was a steamy afternoon, and even worse once the sun appeared. We were all soaking wet by the time we reached the view near the summit.

View to the west near the summit

After returning to camp, we all felt like a paddle and a swim, and the weather still looked OK. So we paddled out to a sandbar in the middle of Adirondack Lake, secured the boats, and enjoyed the shallow warm water until more clouds started to roll in. Watching golf on the wide-screen TV in the camp finished off the afternoon.

For dinner, we ate at the Indian Lake Restaurant, at the junction of NY28 and NY30. There was a bit of a wait, but the menu was varied and the food was pretty good all around. Then it was an early night after a couple of beers and a little reading.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hiking - Watch Hill, Indian Lake, NY

(INDIAN LAKE, NY) Camp week continues. Yesterday's guests, Bill and Nancy, had breakfast with us, after Nancy and Holly got out for an early paddle on Adirondack Lake. With our next guests, Dave and Theresa, expected around 10am, Holly went for a short walk with Bill and Nancy while I waited for Dave and Theresa to arrive. When they got here, we headed off for a short walk of our own, to nearby Bullhead Pond. We arrived back at camp just as Holly was climbing out of the lake, having just arrived home herself. Bill and Nancy had left for home straight from their pond walk, and a new day had begun.

After lunch, with the threat of showers later, we went for a bit longer hike up nearby Watch Hill, off NY30 near Snowy Mountain. The weather had turned much more warm and humid than we'd expected, and it was a fairly soggy hike, but with nice views of Snowy through the murky haze.

Back at camp, with no rain yet in sight, we paddled up Adirondack Lake against the increasing wind, then sailed back to camp with a nice tailwind. After a pleasant dinner of BBQ chicken, the first drops began to fall, and we moved inside for dessert. Another nice day with friends in the Adirondacks.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hiking - Castle Rock, Blue Mountain Lake, NY

(INDIAN LAKE, NY) Today, we were expecting friends Nancy and Bill around 3:00 pm, so we opted for another short morning hike. Castle Rock overlooks Blue Mountain Lake and its many islands, and is only a short distance from where we're staying. It's about a 3-mile loop, with great views for the effort.

We went up via the main yellow trail, with lots of unnecessary ups and downs along the way. That being the case, we returned via the back door on the north slopes, and then out via the red Sargent Ponds trail. This was a much easier route, despite the need for some maintenance. We were back to the camp in time for lunch, and then learned that Nancy and Bill would be delayed a few hours. So, Holly's out paddling, and I'm spending a lazy afternoon with a good book, and maybe even a nap.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Getaway to Lake Adirondack

(INDIAN LAKE, NY) For the past few days, we've been staying at the camp of some friends near Indian Lake, on Lake Adirondack. We'll be here over the weekend as well, and will have several friends and family coming to visit. Holly submitted the winning bid at a goods/services auction at her church, so here we are. It's a small camp on a small lake, but provides a good base camp for exploration of short hikes and ponds in the area.

Yesterday, friends John and Diane joined us for some paddling and dinner. We took a spin around Lake Adirondack, with its floating bog islands held in place by cables. We also saw a pair of loons with an immature but growing offspring.

This morning, we hiked Chimney Mountain, which in all my years of hiking, I had never been to before. First, we hiked to the "chimney" itself.

Then, we backtracked just a bit, and followed a well-worn herd path to the true summit, about 0.2 miles to the east. Here, there were views in all directions, dominated by Snowy Mountain to the west.

Finally, on the way down, we followed another of the many herd paths to another small ridge that faced the "chimney" from a short distance, giving a much better feel for its true size. Note the people at right.

There was also a nice view from this ridge down King's Flow, and included the Chimney Mountain Cabins, where we'd left the car.

From there, we followed more herd paths back to the main trail, and back to the car.

After lunch, we paddled the western end of Lake Durant, and saw another loon pair with a growing chick. Aside from the nearby highway noise from NY28/30, this was a nice place to paddle for an hour. We put in at the far end from the campground, near the Cascade Pond trailhead.

More company and more Adirondack adventures in the days to come.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Biking - Getting out early on a steamy morning

With thunderstorms in the forecast for mid-day, I hit the road fairly early this morning to get in another longish ride. This one would be about 40 miles, including a climb up Grant Hill Road, followed by a breakfast stop in Voorheesville at about 15 miles.

The temperature wasn't all that high as I started out, but the humidity was stifling. I was pretty well soaked by the time I got to the top of Grant Hill and continued on to a much needed breakfast sandwich at Stewarts in Voorheesville. I also downed an OJ, and picked up a second Gatorade to go with the one I already had on the bike. It was going to be a day for lots of fluids.

The rest of the ride was mostly just rolling, with a couple of short slightly steep pitches. A couple of times, I felt the first hint of an approaching cramp, but downed some Gatorade and that seemed to solve the problem. I made it home in time for lunch, but first needed to cool down and dry out. The temperature was in the mid-80s by now, and the dewpoint was still around 70, so it was pretty uncomfortable.

Overall, this ride went much better than the 55-miler of a couple days past, and I rediscovered the touring rhythm of last year where I relax and just don't ever push it. It's a much more pleasant way to ride.