Monday, October 31, 2011

Walk and geocaching - Galway Preserve

Today, Holly and I got out for a short walk in a preserve we'd never before visited. The Galway Preserve is a fairly new property of Saratoga PLAN, on Crane Road in Galway. In its 49 acres, there are 8 geocaches and one letterbox, and a loop trail of about 1.3 miles that passes many of these. We found the letterbox with no problem, but only 2 of the 5 geocaches that we searched for. We'll go back for the unsuccessful three and the three we skipped some time after this preserve dries out, possibly even in winter. There was a lot of mud here, and a beaver dam that was threatening to overflow the trail. It was a nice walk, and good to get out someplace new, and we'll be back to try again another time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Disc golf - Sneaking some in between showers

After spending the morning inside catching up on miscellaneous stuff, I really felt like getting out of the house this afternoon. Since the radar showed no more rain in the immediate future, I decided to head over to Central Park and see how many rounds I might get in. It was cool and raw, and the ground was very wet, but this was an activity close by that would also get me a walk, so what the heck?

After breaking a disc earlier in the week, I bought a couple of new ones that have different curve ratings, the new ones supposedly flying straighter. Straight is good with all the trees on this course, but not always possible up to this point. The first round was about average, though messing up the last two holes inflated my score to a 32-39-71. But in the second 18, I figured out these new discs, or so it seemed. I threw a 33-30-63 for my best round ever, and also the best back nine ever. That's only 6 over par for the round, and it really surprised me. These discs do indeed fly straighter, once I got the right throwing motion. Almost time to move on to the longer tees!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trail maintenance - Featherstonhaugh State Forest ski trails

Each autumn, the Environmental Clearinghouse (ECOS) gathers at Featherstonhaugh State Forest to clear our adopted ski trails before winter. Today, a group of about 20 of us converged on the forest and gave it our best shot. We spent the morning on the figure-8 loop west of Lake Road on the map below.

There was plenty to keep us all busy, with a variety of tools including loppers, axes, saws, and our own brute strength. This large tree, and another like it, were each cut twice by a couple of men skilled with axes, and the remains rolled off the trail with considerable effort. It was amazing to watch these guys, who obviously knew what they were doing with an axe.

This bridge had been lifted off of its supports by the root ball of a falling tree, where it now rested.

It's now back in place and skiable again. It took many of us to move it off of the tree and back into place.

The trails to the east and south of Lake Road were heavily impacted by logging over the past few years, and will likely be rerouted. At any rate, that area is too wet to address in warmer weather, and we'll be going back in winter to see how things are in there.

(Thanks to Will and Nancy for the "before" photos above.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

Today was warmer than normal for October, with rain forecast later. I had some other things to do, so took care of them in the morning, and headed out for some disc golf after lunch. Today in Central Park was the girls' sectional tennis championships, so there was a lot more than normal traffic, both motorized and pedestrian.

I got most of the way through one round before one of my two discs, one that had been semi-cracked before, now broke most of the way, and I was lucky I finished the round. It was a good round, but I was done for the day. Went home, did some online research into the plethora of discs available, and headed off to Play It Again Sports in Latham to pick up a replacement. They carry the widest selection I've seen, and I left with a replacement and a new "driver" disc, one that supposedly curves less than the one I have. Maybe now my scores will start to come down....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hiking - Trail maintenance and a couple of small mountains

This weekend, there was an informal gathering of Northville-Lake Placid trail stewards at the historic Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake. We'd be meeting for dinner on Saturday evening. And since we'd postponed our October 15th trail steward trip because of weather, we rescheduled it for Friday October 21, the day before the gathering, and booked two nights at the hotel. It was good that we did reschedule, since friends Mary and John were available and eager to give us a hand on what turned out to be a pretty tough day, much more so than usual. The trail was extremely wet and muddy after recent rains, and many (MANY!) drainages were clogged with downed leaves. There was much work to be done, but our crew rose to the occasion and left the trail in better shape than we'd found it. Many thinks to Mary and John for all of their help!

We crashed early after dinner Friday night, and then got in a couple of short hikes on a fairly dreary Saturday. We went first to Mount Arab, one of the fire tower peaks included in the ADK Fire Tower Challenge. We had previously completed enough of these mountains to achieve the patch award, but there still remain a few of the others we haven't climbed. Mount Arab was one, and Saturday was the day. It's only about a mile to the summit and its tower, and the views were good enough to warrant a return trip on a better day. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died, and I have only this one misty shot of Eagle Crag Pond far below.

After Arab, and with new camera batteries, we drove east a short distance and climbed little Panther Mountain, just south of the junction of NY-30 and NY-3 north of Corey's. This one was only about a half-mile each way, and again, it demands a return trip. The High Peaks were not visible this day, aside from occasional glimpses of Emmons and Donaldson in the nearby Seward Range. And Blue Mountain to the south had its head in the clouds. On a good day, the effort/reward ratio would be outstanding. It was a steep but short and rewarding hike, and we'll be back here again, also on a better day.

Returning to the hotel, we got cleaned up and joined the gathering downstairs for dinner. There's a lot happening right now with the Northville-Lake Placid Trail, including its new web site and ADK chapter, and it was interesting to get together and share stories among fellow trail stewards.

Sunday saw us on the road early headed for home, with other commitments to keep. It was a good weekend, with less rain that we'd expected, and a lot of quality time spent with friends, old and new.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

It's been two wet weeks since I last got in a round of disc golf, and with nothing else on today's calendar, I got out for an early start. It was cool this morning, near 50F, and the park was very quiet. The tennis courts were mostly empty, and the only people out were walkers, joggers, park maintenance workers, and the usual volunteers maintaining the rose garden. I got in two quick rounds, and the 2-week layoff was reflected in the scores, first a 72 and then a 66 as I rediscovered whatever groove I may once have had. The second round was only one off my best ever, so that was satisfying, while the inconsistency was maddening. Golf - a good way to ruin a nice walk. Not really - it was still a nice walk.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Biking - Mohawk River Loop, Again

Today, some biker friends and I decided it was time to get off our butts and get in some more miles. The weather hasn't been great lately, or all summer for that matter, and we've all been feeling a little sluggish. We chose an easy ride, the same loop I did a few weeks ago, my last time on the bike. We rode a loop from the Niskayuna Railroad Station and park, along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway, crossed the Rexford Bridge, along the north side of the river to the Crescent Bridge, and then returned to the start again via the bike path. Along the way, we stopped at Riverview Orchards for warm fresh cider donuts, and at Stewart's in Crescent for a light lunch. It was a relaxed ride at a comfortable pace for everybody, and it was just good to get out again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Walk - Charleston State Forest Ski Trail Exploration

Yeah, I know - it's only October. But deer (bow) season starts shortly, and I wanted to get this in while it was safe.

I remembered reading something about a so-called "Overlook Trail" at Charleston State Forest, and needed to find out what that meant. Most of the ski trails there are in deep woods, with no chance of a distant view anywhere. Google turned up an old Times-Union article with the following intriguing reference:

"A bit further west, there are a number of great cross-country ski and hiking trails in the Charleston State Forest in Montgomery County. More than 20 miles of trails loop among several roads. From Route 30A, the trails can be accessed from Hughes Road, Burtonville Road, Gordon Road and Gidley Road. The trails are divided such that several trips are possible. The trails off of Gordon Road are interesting, winding through the swamps and beaver ponds. From Gidley Road, the Overlook Trail winds around a hardwood ridge that offers a great view of the Schoharie Valley. The terrain on this trail is a bit steep, though."

The article was from 2001, and 10 years of growth might mean there was no longer any overlook. I needed to find out.

I let my GPS get me to a parking area on Gidley Road that I assumed was where I wanted to start. This was some distance from the main parking area and kiosk on NY-30A, circled on the map below. Click on the map to enlarge it.

This was a delightful loop, about 2.6 miles long, which I walked CCW. The climbs and descents were long and gradual, not as steep as exaggerated above, but more rolling than some other trails we've skied here. And, at the far northeastern end of the loop, there might have even once been a view. In winter with the leaves down, it's likely there still is. In fact, the stretch of trail immediately NW of that point should also have something of a view.

This loop begs for a return trip on skis this winter. The only problem is that it may not get enough traffic to count on this trail being broken. And this forest gets a LOT of snow, which could mean a tough slog for a too-small group. I'll have to recruit some willing sloggers and get back in here to check it out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hiking - Fall colors at the Berry Pond Preserve

The Berry Pond Preserve, a property of the Lake George Land Conservancy, opened to the public in 2008, adjacent to the Village of Lake George Recreation Center Trails. There are two trails in this preserve, a blue trail that climbs steeply to an unnamed summit, and a red trail to Berry Pond itself. Today, Holly and I walked them both.

We wound our way through the Rec Center XC ski trails, following the blue markers to lead us on to the Preserve. This part was a bit confusing, mostly due to an over- or under-application of the two-markers-for-a-turn trail marking convention. Eventually, we entered the Preserve and climbed steeply to the ridge, where we found a spectacular view of Lake George below. This was a great lunch spot.

Continuing on to the second, south-facing, view nearby, looking into the sun muted the colors somewhat, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Leaving the summit, we descended down an old logging road to the junction of the Blue and Red trails near Berry Pond. Reaching the pond, there were eye-popping fall colors everywhere across the glassy surface.

As we walked the loop around the pond, there was evidence of beaver activity at every turn. We saw at least two lodges, and stumps everywhere. At the south end of the pond, there was also a small heron rookery, though we didn't see any actual herons today.

Now heading back to the car, we were amazed at how much we were descending along the red trail back to its eastern junction with the blue. Retracing our route along the blue trail, we noticed a waterfall we'd failed to see on the way in. There's a leanto at this location, facing the waterfall, a nice place for a break.

We returned to the car and tried to figure out a good ice cream stop. After two end-of-season-we're-closed failures, we wound up at Stewart's in Corinth on the way home. Later, totaling up the mileage and elevation, we had covered about 5.3 miles and almost 1,500 feet of climbing, convincing us we'd earned that ice cream stop.

This was a nice hike with a little bit of everything - views, fall colors, wildlife, and a waterfall. We'll probably be doing this one again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Walk - Moccasin Kill Sanctuary

I just bought a new GPS, and wanted to see how it worked in the field. So I downloaded a map of the nearby Moccasin Kill Sanctuary, loaded it up, and set off for a short walk in the woods. This GPS (a Garmin eTrex 20, just released) is so far above the older GPS I'd been using for the past 10 years that it took some time to figure out. Once I spent some time with it, I can see that this new one will provide a lot of the things I've always been missing, the biggest of those being on-board topo maps. The other really neat feature is the ability to download any map as a JPG image and load it into the GPS for use on the ground. That's what I did today, and it worked well.

I walked all of the trails at the Sanctuary, but it only amounted to about 1.33 miles. But there was a lot of up and down and it was a warm day, so that was OK. It was clear that there had been a LOT of water running through here during last month's flooding events, with plenty of debris and rocks strewn about everywhere in the streambeds.

It was a short walk, but served its purpose. I traced all the trails with the GPS and came home and played some more with this new toy. Can't wait to use it for some real bushwhacking.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Biking - Mohawk River Loop

After another almost 2-week hiatus from the bike, I finally got back in the saddle today and went for a ride. This late in the season, I'm not "training" for anything, and I'm not interested in pain and suffering. So I went for an easy 28-mile spin along the Mohawk River, between the Rexford and Crescent Bridges. Though relatively flat, there are 1,000 feet of climbing scattered throughout, but it's a pretty relaxing ride if it's allowed to be.

I took it easy today and just enjoyed the ride on another really nice October day.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Walk - Featherstonhaugh State Forest

Today was lawn-mowing day, yet again. All this rain has made the grass go crazy, and I'm still mowing it weekly in October! With cool dewy (frosty?) mornings, I have to wait until afternoon when it warms up and dries out to do this. So after some errands and lunch, I dispensed with the lawn pretty quickly and got out for an afternoon walk on another gorgeous fall day.

With logging now completed in Featherstonhaugh, with Irene now long gone, with an ECOS trail maintenance trip there coming up in a couple of weeks, and with my monthly moonlight snowshoe trips coming up a little later, I wanted to see what kind of shape the trails were in. I expected a wet mess in the worst way, so wore appropriate footwear and set off for the forest.

The marked access trail from Tidball Road was my main concern. The logging had left a mess here, and it appears nothing has changed to correct it. Lots of downed branches on the "trail", a paucity of remaining trail markers, and the wettest conditions I had ever seen, mostly due to the vehicle ruts. This will take days or weeks to clean up, and I don't plan on using this access trail anytime soon.

Once I managed to find the main ski trail loop, it wasn't in bad shape, although still very wet. That won't be a problem in winter, so OK, it's probably skiable, at least the part I saw. I didn't continue as far as I'd hoped, because it just stopped being fun with all the wetness. It was worse than I could have imagined, and this wasn't even the traditionally wettest section.

As I was about to head back toward Tidball Road via a different and better access trail, my cell phone rang. It was a former consulting client with a software question he thought I could answer. It was weird sitting on a stump in the middle of the woods and having this conversation, but it was brief, and then I continued out to Tidball Road and back to the car.

At some point, I had wandered through a patch of some kind of weeds that left my pants and sweatshirt covered with hundreds of clinging seed pods. That will be a fine mess to clean up, picking them all off one by one. Sounds like a good rainy day project.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hiking - Moose Mountain Cliffs

Every autumn, or almost anyway, Holly and I set off to climb Moose Mountain, off NY-30 just south of the Sacandaga Campground near Wells, NY. Moose has no trail, at least not yet, and it's a pure bushwhack from the car to the summit cliffs. There are plans to add trails here in the future, but we're selfishly hoping that never happens.

Today was our 9th trip up this mountain, and we like it because we avoid the leaf-peeping crowds that are found on the more popular trails. I handle the GPS, and Holly follows the compass bearings I give her and guides us through the woods. As can be seen from the map below showing 7 of our trips, we're a pretty good team and have this one down pat. We occasionally wind up "exploring" a little, either intentionally or not, but also often recognize the same boulders or downed trees on the return trip that we passed on the way up. (The red line to the east is the route of one of the proposed trails which we were trying to follow. The red lines to the west were somewhat less intentional on one of our early trips.)

We always head first for the western summit and its viewpoint, which is now rapidly growing in. This is consistently about 90 minutes from the car.

After lunch, we dropped back to the col between the two summits, and went to a much more open view on the eastern summit. Cathead Mountain (center) and the West Branch of the Sacandaga River can be seen from here.

The fall colors this year seemed very subdued. We weren't sure if we were just too early, or whether we had already missed the brighter reds, many of which seemed to be on the ground underfoot.

It was such a beautiful fall day that we hated to leave. But the ice cream calling us from Northville drew us off the summit and back to the car. After a very wet couple of weeks, it was nice to finally get outside on such a perfect day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Disc Golf - Schenectady Central Park

After the early morning rains, there was another break in the action. So I took advantage and headed to Central Park for my weekly disc golf outing. It was still pretty dreary, and there was nobody else on the course, just the way I like it.

The first round was not bad, just a little better than average with a 34-34-68. Par is 28-29-57. The second round started out at a personal-best-tying pace, with a 30 on the front nine. Then on the back nine, I imploded and finished with a 30-38-68. Two rounds of 68 is not a bad day relative to my average of 70, but it could have been so much better... Still, it was a 2-mile walk in the park, and that's the whole point.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Walk - Schenectady County Forest

Yesterday was supposed to be another in a string of cool rainy days. So when I saw a break in the action on the weather radar, and even a hint of temporary partially clearing skies, it was almost obligatory to get out of the house and do something while I could. I didn't want to waste any of that time driving, so I headed to the nearby County Forest. There's a new trail here that I had walked once before, but I had failed to capture a GPS track of its location. So that was today's hope, and a rough track appears below. The new trail is on Town of Duanesburg property outside the forest proper, but adds another nice loop to the overall network.

There were many trees down since my last visit, which was before TS Irene came through. And although it wasn't actively precipitating, it was extremely wet and sloppy going, with many puddles on the trails, and most bog bridges surrounded by standing water. I cleared a few drainages where it was possible and a sturdy stick was available, but in general, this place really needs to dry out and have some tree removal done. But I got in a 3-mile walk, and now today, it's raining once again. Better weather is coming, or so "they" say...