Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Disc Golf - Schenectady Central Park

Today was going to be lawn-mowing day. But since things were still pretty wet early on from heavy dew and fog, I decided to let it dry out while I got in a couple of rounds of disc golf in nearby Central Park. The park was pretty quiet today, and I was the only one on the course. I threw a couple of pretty good rounds, punctuated by fishing my lost disc out of a muddy stream on hole #10. That was a tough and lengthy fight, and I must have drawn more than a few puzzled looks. But unlike real golf, discs are a more expensive commodity than golf balls, and it was worth the struggle and the mud. The day turned sunny while I was there, and it was a nice morning for a two-mile walk in the park.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hiking - Tomany Mountain

Tomany Mountain has been on my radar for quite a while. It's a small peak near Arietta, NY, that used to have a fire tower, a trail and a view. Now it has none of those. The fire tower was removed over 40 years ago, the trees have grown up obscuring any hope of a view, and the formerly marked trail was abandoned and is no longer maintained. But the trail is still shown on topo maps, and is supposedly still fairly easy to follow. So, with today headed for near 80 degrees and brilliant sun, Holly and I decided to give it a try.

The trail starts from a parking area on NY-10, and rises only a little over a mile to the wooded summit. Along the way, occasional old telephone poles with wire dangling told us we were in the right place. After losing the faint path for a while, we bushwhacked for a short distance and then rejoined it near the summit, where we found the ruins of the former ranger cabin.

This is probably the clearing where the fire tower once stood. There's no sign of it now at all.

The arrival of fall colors was well underway in the southern Adirondacks. Holly snapped this shot looking overhead as we relaxed on the summit under a clear blue sky.

On the trip down, we managed to stay on the clearest path with no bushwhacking. There were still occasional red trail markers on some of the trees.

On the way home, we made the requisite ice cream stop, and were home by mid-afternoon after a very nice day outside.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Biking - the four Thruways ride

It's been a slow year on the bike, a combination of burnout/low motivation, an overabundance of rainy wet weather, and just wanting to do some other things. I can't count last year, but for the two previous years, I spent about 100 days each in the saddle. This year? Only 50 so far. So today, I wanted to just get out for a ride, an easy relaxed long-ish ride, just for its own sake and the enjoyment of it.

I have just such a ride mapped from my house: 30 miles and only 800 feet of total climbing.

I call it the "4 Thruways ride" because it crosses I-90, the NYS Thruway, four times in the process of looping back and forth to add on some miles. It's a good alternative to the flat local riverside routes, either on a weekend when they're more crowded, or in this case, since they're still recovering from the flood damage of a few weeks ago.

I planned to take it easy and just enjoy the ride, and was a little surprised to see my overall average speed come out higher than usual. Guess that proves I'm well-rested...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Biking, and an evening with a bicycle traveler

As a member of the online Warm Showers List, I was privileged last evening to host another long-distance bicycle tourist. Jose, from the Chicago area, had called me the day before, asking if he could camp on my lawn as he passed through the Capital District. Knowing it was going to be a damp night, I offered him my spare room instead, along with a garage for his bike, dinner, and breakfast. I've had a few other requests like this since I joined the list, and they're all different. What's always the same is that we're all bicyclists, and there's no shortage of good conversation and sharing our stories of life on the road.

Jose left Seattle in June, on his way to Boston, a cross-country trip. But his trip doesn't end there. He's hoping to touch all 48 continental states, a journey that he estimates will take him the better part of two years, and over 12,000 miles. Only 25-30 years old, he quit his 10-year job, and threw everything into this trip. Amazing stuff, even to one who has biked coast-to-coast himself.

We spent a lot of time talking over dinner and breakfast, and then it was time for him to go. He needed to get from my home in Rotterdam to NY-7 east out of Troy, so I rode with him through Schenectady to the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway near the GE R&D Center, and on to the Niskayuna Railroad Station where we parted ways. He'll be picking off a corner of Vermont over the next few days, and then heading south to US-20 across Massachusetts, having followed US-20 much of the way across the country already. Trying to stay ahead of winter, he'll be headed down the east coast after touching each of the New England states. He takes it as a compliment when people call him "crazy".

Jose has a blog, and I for one will be following him the rest of the way. He's also trying to raise money for a charity to fund a water well for a village in Cameroon, Africa, and there's a link there as well. I wish him the best of luck, and admire him for following his dream.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Disc Golf - Schenectady Central Park

Today was another beautiful day, but I got off to a bit of a slow start. With yard work hanging over me later before a few days of possible rain, I headed off to Central Park for what seems like about a weekly game of disc golf.

The course didn't appear to be very crowded at all, but then I played through a foursome around the 6th hole. I finished the front 9 with a personal best, only 2 over par, including 2 birdies. Then, on the 12th, I caught up to the rest of the day's parade. Some organization within GE was having a disc golf outing, and there were several groups now ahead of me, moving much more slowly than I was. The group I'd played through must have been playing even slower.

I was about to bail out and cut the day short, but the group I'd now caught invited me to play along with them, so I did. None of them had ever played before, so it was like I was the seasoned pro. I finished the round one off of my personal best for 18, and enjoyed playing with these guys.

Then, since the first tee was open and nobody was in sight, I decided to go around again for a second unencumbered round. But when I caught yet another unrelated foursome on the 3rd hole, I gave it up and went home. This is getting to be a very popular pastime!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hiking - Moxham Mountain

Yesterday, I joined a Schenectady ADK hike to Moxham Mountain, near Minerva, NY. This mountain has no trail, though NYSDEC has proposed someday building one, as outlined in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Unit Management Plan, Appendix J.

The day's plan was to try to follow the route of the proposed trail. This would involve about a 2.5-mile bushwhack each way, with lots of twists and turns to avoid the private land at the beginning and to attempt to stay on the intended route. Norm did an outstanding job with GPS and compass to guide us through the sometimes thick and featureless woods, and approximated the route very well.

The mountain itself was spectacular, especially as we approached the summit along the open rocky ridge.

The view from the summit was well over 180 degrees, stretching from the Hudson River in the east, through North Creek and Gore Mountain to the south, all the away around to Blue Mountain in the northwest, and beyond. I failed to capture the east and south views, probably because of the direct sun from that direction. The view further west and north was my favorite. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Having successfully followed the trail's proposed route on the ascent, we opted for a slightly shorter route on the descent. That's the beauty of bushwhacking - you can go wherever it suits you. Once again, Norm steered us around a beaver swamp and the faintly marked property lines and brought us out perfectly back at the cars.

This will become a very popular hike if the trail is ever built as described. As it was, we were in the woods for about 5 hours, plus a long time on the summit enjoying the views. It was a long slog but well worth it, and will be even better if and when that time is shortened by a marked and maintained route.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Disc golf - And a much-needed walk in Central Park

After yesterday's bicycling fiasco, I wanted to take it easy today, but also wanted to get out for at least a walk, to loosen up the aching legs. As I pondered a suitable destination, I decided that disc golf was a good solution, giving me about a mile per round on gentle terrain, and close to home. The Central Park course is much less likely to be crowded now that school is back in session, since many of the players I saw over the summer were of school age.

Central Park has been largely cleared of any earlier storm damage. The exception is the tennis stadium, which still has several large trees leaning on and crushing the surrounding fence. These don't affect the disc golf course, and all blowdowns that did interfere have now been removed. I played 2 rounds, both about average, with a few bright spots, and a few curses, as always. The legs felt OK, so I'm planning to go hiking tomorrow. More on that when I return.

Biking - An almost half-century...

Every year, the weekend after Labor Day is the Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club's annual Century Weekend. There are rides each day of 100, 62, 50, and 25 miles, with rest stops, SAG support, and a good feed afterwards. I usually ride the metric century (100km, 62 miles), but this year didn't really feel up to that, so opted for the 50-miler instead, riding on Sunday. I was riding with a new friend Phil, whom I'd never met, but who turned out to be a very compatible and companionable fellow rider. There was a new route this year, so I didn't really know what to expect, and no route profile was provided. I worked this one up afterwards:

To cut to the chase, the cramps that had only taunted and threatened on last month's ADK Ididaride hit home in a big way on this ride, and at about the same 45-mile distance as on that earlier ride. On a small uphill rise, my quads began to spasm and throb, and finally locked up to the point where I could not even bend my knees. When Phil heard me screaming in agony, he came back and helped me off the bike so I could try to stretch things out and continue on. I managed to get in another mile, but started to lock up again, and I knew I could never make it another 5-7 miles to the finish in this condition. So I made the embarrassing call to the SAG vehicle for a pickup, my first ever. (Well, the second actually. I once called my father after about 120 miles into a 130-mile ride. The problem then wasn't cramps, but darkness. The year was 1973, and I was younger then.)

Anyway, I rejoined Phil at the post-ride feast, and finished off an enjoyable day, despite the cramping issues. Though I was certainly well-hydrated, there were apparently not enough electrolytes, despite several quarts of Gatorade. And it was only about 70F, so I'm still a little mystified. Need to figure this one out...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Biking - Walkway Over the Hudson

Yesterday, I joined a Schenectady ADK/Taconic Hiking Club bike trip to the Walkway Over the Hudson, in Poughkeepsie, NY. It's an old railroad bridge that's been converted to pedestrian and bicycle use, spanning the Hudson River which is about a half-mile wide at this point.

There's a loop route we planned to use that crossed both the Walkway and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge to the south. We also planned to ride the 3.5-mile Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which extends westward from the west end of the Walkway.

We started on the Poughkeepsie side, and rode westward across the Walkway. From the Walkway, we had a fine view of the FDR Bridge to the south.

Leaving the Walkway, we headed west on the HVRT. This section was newly paved, and had some interesting bike racks at stops along the way.

The Black Creek Water Trail, a canoe access point off the HVRT, was indeed a water trail today, with the creek overflowing from recent rains and flooding.

At our westernmost point, we stopped for lunch at Tony Williams Park. There was a nice gazebo here near the tennis courts, and rest rooms in a building near the ballfields.

After lunch, we turned around and headed back toward the Walkway. Before getting there, we turned south off the HVRT to pick up a local road leading to the FDR Bridge.

This bridge had a narrow separated walkway on each side, with traffic roaring by up the center.

We had a great view from here of the new Walkway Over the Hudson to the north.

Leaving the FDR Bridge, the signed loop route followed local streets in Poughkeepsie back to the parking area where we'd left the cars. This route seems to be designed for walking and not biking, as it led us on busy one-way streets, the WRONG way, through the Amtrak station and back to the cars. This needs to be reexamined if it's being encouraged for bicycling use.

Before leaving town, we decided to bike a few blocks north to a local farmers' market in a town park nearby. We arrived before it actually opened, but could see that it was very small-scale, so decided not to wait around for its opening. Instead, we took one last spin across the Walkway and back, and then headed for home.

It was an interesting outing to do once, just to see and experience the new Walkway, but a long drive for only 15 miles of biking. Still, it was a pleasant day with a very friendly group of riders.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Biking - Saratoga National Historical Park

Today, Holly's twice-weekly biking group was going to Saratoga Battlefield to ride the tour road.  This has some appeal, so I tagged along.  It was an almost traffic-free relaxed 11 miles in scenic surroundings on a cool comfortable morning.  To make it more of a challenge, I rode it on my old 10-speed, and without shifting at all, staying in about a 65-70 gear/inch setting for the whole ride.

From the overlooks, it looked like the Hudson had receded quite a bit, and it was nowhere near as muddy as the Mohawk, at least not here.  Things are beginning a very slow and protracted return to normal.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

Not sure where the past 2 weeks have gone, but after getting back on the bike for the first time since then yesterday, today I did the same for a round of disc golf.  I got a fairly early start to beat the later arrivals,and had the course to myself for two uninterrupted rounds.  There were several large trees down in the park, along with lots of small branches and leaves.  Only one hole (#2) was really affected, with the crown of a large tree coming down right around the basket.  That probably added a shot to my score for that hole, but it was still playable.  Both rounds were about average, with the usual holes causing the usual troubles.  But it was a nice way to get in a 2-mile walk on a nice late summer morning.