Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Walk - Indian Kill Preserve

Today started the return of November weather after a long warm spell, but it was still fairly comfortable and not raining. So Holly and I got out for a walk in the Indian Kill Preserve in Glenville. It was pretty muddy but otherwise pleasant as we made our way to the "Third Falls" and back, about 1.5 miles total. The trail continued from there, but a stream crossing was required, and the water was running too high for that. Tomorrow and beyond we'll be back in the low 40s again, more typical for this time of year, but still way too warm for any prospects of snow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Walk - Niskayuna's John Brown Trail System

Another fine November day, with rain possible later, so I got out for a morning walk on the new trails that the Town of Niskayuna has added recently near the closed landfill.

I was a little frustrated with this place last time, so this time I decided to actually document my frustrations in case anybody ever asks. I also GPSed the route, and created the map below. I need to emphasize that this first map is my doing, and NOT the Town's, but I believe it to be accurate, both in terms of trail colors and locations.

I started in this time from the closed Niskayuna landfill, where a trail suddenly enters the woods with no prior markings directing anybody to it. This blue trail soon had some DEC postings about a "restricted area" and "endangered species", so I jumped off on the white crossover trail to the main yellow loop, which I then walked counterclockwise. As I walked, I marked spots with the GPS where it seemed like the trail markings were confusing, and noted the location and reason for future reference on a paper copy of the basic map available at the kiosks at some of the trailheads. I had made this paper copy from a photo I took last time out, just so I had at least some kind of map with me that time (in the camera).

Finishing the loop, I followed the bike path back up the hill to Blatnick Park and the car. No sooner had I started driving home than the drizzle began. This may be the last warm day for a while, but it's time for some colder weather and a bunch of the white stuff. I say bring it on.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

November continues to amaze with its balmy temperatures, near 60 again today. It looked like there might be some rain by midday, so I hit the disc golf course in the morning for my now-weekly two rounds. Not much to say, except that both rounds were 67, one shot better than my running average, so not a bad day. Not much going on in the park today, just dog walkers, joggers, and the leaf blowers cleaning up the still very green lawns.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hiking - Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, MA

We've been trying to connect with friends Dave and Theresa for several weeks now, so with deer season in full swing, yesterday we decided to head for this Audubon preserve near Lenox, MA, for a worry-free hike. There's a fairly strenuous, though relatively short, hike to the top of Lenox Mountain, and its nearby companion Yokun Seat. It's about a 5-mile loop, with some steep spots that got our hearts pumping.

It was a very warm day for late November, sunny with temps in at least the mid 50s, and just a great day to be outside. We lingered for a while atop Lenox Mountain and enjoyed the northwesterly view while we had lunch.

Next, we moved on to Yokun Seat, about 0.8 miles each way along the ridge top. There we found good northeasterly views to the city of Pittsfield and its airport far below.

After returning to Lenox Mountain, we began the long descent back to the car. The Overbrook Trail follows a brook down the mountain, and today, the numerous waterfalls were flowing freely.

About 4 hours from the time we started, we were back at the car and headed for home, less than 90 minutes away, after a perfect day outdoors.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Walk - Avoiding Black Friday in the Lisha Kill Preserve

The title says it all. The last place I wanted to be today was in a crowd of other maniacal shoppers, so I got out for a walk on a relatively warm sunny afternoon. And I wasn't alone. There were lots of small family groups and dog walkers with the same idea. I walked all three loops, about 2 miles total. The ground was pretty wet and there was plenty of slippery mud to negotiate. It was easy to see why the trails here are closed during spring mud season.

This preserve was not spared the recent damage from both heavy rain and wind, but fortunately only a few of the larger trees came down.

Fallen giants

Mostly the trails were in pretty good shape, even though sloppy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Disc golf, yard work, and biking on the trainer

With morning temps now in the 30s and afternoons growing short, I've pretty much abandoned outdoor bicycling. So it's back to the trainer in the basement, a poor and boring substitute, but I've been feeling sluggish and gaining weight and needed to do something. I used to do this a lot more, and now need it to bridge the gap between bike and XC ski seasons. Add some music and a bunch of stretching, and it's not a horrible way to spend an hour.

Disc golf, on the other hand, knows no seasons. I suppose I'll stop when there's snow on the ground, but 35-40 degrees and partly sunny was just fine this morning. After a pretty good opening round 64, I messed up one hole in the next round, finding water and several trees in a classic series of compounding errors. The resulting 71 wasn't too bad, but could have been much better.

This afternoon, I mowed up the rest of the leaves in the yard, and got rid of a bunch of dead perennials. That should about do it for winter preparations. It was a good day, and a comfortable tiredness, along with a late glass of wine, should lead to a good night's sleep.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Walk - Niskayuna's new John Brown Trail System

Late this morning, I set out for a walk in the Lisha Kill Preserve, on Rosendale Road in Niskayuna. But when I got there, I saw a school group and leader in the parking lot, so thought better of it. Instead, I headed up the road a piece to Mohawk River State Park, aka the Schenectady Museum Preserve, off Whitmyer Drive. I was hoping to explore some new trails I'd heard about adjacent to this park, called the John Brown Trail System. John Brown, a local resident, has apparently been instrumental in their creation and maintenance, in cooperation with the Town of Niskayuna.

Across the end of Whitmyer Drive from the parking area is a trail map and the beginning of the trails. I photographed the map to carry with me in case I needed it, and set off along the fence following blue markers. The blue trail led me to a yellow trail in the area of Shaker Gorge, which the yellow trail loops around coming back to the blue again at the end. The yellow loop was pretty rugged, with lots of steep twists and turns and sharp dropoffs alongside the trail. I'd originally thought about skiing in this area, but I think snowshoeing would be a much better, and safer, idea.

A sign at the start of the loop advises that some bridges over side gorges are not yet in place, and I had a steep scramble across one of these. But more importantly, I found the marking of the trails confusing. Several times, I came to a point where a sharp turn needed to be made, but saw no obvious markers showing where the trail went next. Other times, a marker seemed to just be on the wrong tree, hinting at a direction change that wasn't really intended. The color scheme of the trails may also need to be refined, or at the very least, a better map produced. Otherwise, people are likely to be getting temporarily misplaced in here.

It was an interesting outing, about 2 miles altogether. The trails are new, and bugs like the above will surely be worked out. Meanwhile, it's just nice to have yet another place to go without driving very far.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Disc golf - Consistently inconsistent

After a few early morning showers passed by, I got in a couple of rounds of disc golf in Central Park. The only thing consistent today was the scoring, a pair of 71s. There were WAAAY too many 5s on the scorecard (most are par 3s), and I swear that the trees were making a stronger effort than usual to just get in the way. It was still a nice walk in the park, which was very quiet today, aside from maintenance workers and the usual Rose Garden volunteers. I had the course to myself, but just couldn't seem to cash in with good scores.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Walk and geocaching - J. B. Thacher State Park

With rain coming in for the afternoon, Holly and I got out for a short walk and a few geocaches this morning in John Boyd Thacher State Park, high in the Helderbergs above Altamont, NY. We spent some time on a section of the Long Path, finding 3 of the 4 caches we looked for, and then walked back along the edge of the escarpment to enjoy the views.

On the drive home, the rains arrived in earnest, and we were glad we were able to get out when we did and stay mostly dry.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hiking - Peaked Hills, Hoffman Notch Wilderness

Yesterday, some friends and I climbed two small summits, the Peaked Hills, west of I-87 in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area. We left the parking area, crossed under the Northway though a large culvert/tunnel, and entered the wilderness. We followed an old logging road, then an ax-blazed path, and then another logging road as long as they continued to take us in the right direction. None of these appeared on any maps, so we still needed to pay attention to where we were going, CCW around the loop on the map below.

Finally, we left the road and started the steep thick bushwhack to the northern summit. There was a lot of blowdown, thick spruce, and slippery rock to negotiate, but finally we broke out on the summit rocks. Hoffman Mountain (3704') to the west dominated the view.

We were expecting to see Hoffman close up and not much else, and were really surprised by the fine panorama of the Adirondack High Peaks spread out before us to the north.

Because the direction to the southern peak from here would have dropped us right over a cliff, we descended steeply to the north instead, stopped for lunch in a flat sunny clearing, and then circled the northern peak to continue on to the southern one. There were many fine views along this southern ridge to the south and east. The northern tip of Schroon Lake appears near the center of this shot.

The hazy blue ridges extended off to the distant horizon.

As we descended the southern peak's ridge to navigate back to the original logging road, we got one last view of Pharaoh Mountain (2556') and its cliffs to the east.

Crossing the northern end of a small pond on a soggy floating bog, we eventually rejoined the logging road we'd come in on, and followed it back under I-87 to the car. It was about a 6-mile 2000-foot adventure, with views much better than expected, to a mostly trailless place where people rarely go.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hiking - Plotterkill Preserve

Normally, if I go for a walk in a local preserve, I call it a "walk", not a "hike". The Plotterkill Preserve is the one exception to that rule. The trails are many and varied, but all involve some level of steepness. Today, with temps again in the 60s, I did the long red trail loop, clockwise, to the lower end of the preserve, about a 5-6 mile distance with 1200-1600 feet of climbing total. That's a little more than a "walk".

The 60' high upper falls had more water going over it than I expected to see after a week or two of relatively dry weather.

I didn't add on any side trails today, or descend to the bottom of any of the major waterfalls. At the lower end of the preserve, I decided to take the high-water route (blue) just in case there might be a problem with the red trail's crossing of the stream. This trail gets much less use, and it had been years since I'd hiked it. I was amazed at the amount of storm debris that had been dredged out of the stream at the culverts that pass under the NYS Thruway. This must have been quite a torrent to see after tropical storms Irene and Lee, and the entire stream bed showed the effects of those storms.

Just after crossing the stream and rejoining the red trail, a yellow side trail leads to one of my favorite cascades here, and I always stop for a drink and a rest to enjoy them.

Next came the 400' steady climb back out of the gorge and up onto the south rim. Once on top, the trail continues along the rim to a mowed gas pipeline junction below the Coplon Road parking area. Here, the red trail descends back into the gorge, recrosses the stream, and climbs back up to rejoin the trail I used coming in along the north rim. It was about a 3-hour walk altogether at a leisurely pace, and until the very end, I had almost the entire place to myself, on what is probably the last of these spectacular warm November days.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Biking. In shorts. In November.

We're having a spectacular stretch of nice weather, soon to be interrupted by a few days of rain. But today was sunny and mid-60s, much warmer than normal, and a day like that is not allowed to be wasted. Biking friend Judy and I have decided to push each other a little harder for the rest of this season, since we've both been seriously slacking off of late. So today, we took on an easy 28 miles that we've both done many times before, the Mohawk River loop between Rexford and Crescent.

It was a beautiful warm calm day for riding, and we just took it easy and enjoyed the ride. This loop requires a stop at Riverview Orchards for cider and donuts, so we fulfilled that requirement. After another brief stop at Stewart's in Crescent, it was back up the US-9 hill and onto the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway back to the start at Lions Park in Niskayuna. There were lots of others out enjoying the sun and warmth, the right idea at this usually unsettled time of year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Disc golf - A crowded day in the park

After a busy morning of various errands and stuff that needed doing, I headed to Central Park this afternoon for some disc golf. Much to my dismay, there were 5-6 cars already parked near the first tee, so I knew I'd be catching up to some traffic at some point. I was alone until #9, where some major-league leaf-blowing was in progress, halting play for another guy, Neil, and me. We finished that 18 together, catching a couple of other groups near the end, and played another 9 together before he headed for home. This guy got some serious distance on his throws, and it was a lot of fun to watch, and envy. I continued through my second 18 after he left, improving my not-so-good first round 71 with a 66, much better. It's great to see so many people out using this fairly new feature of the park, but I much prefer having it to myself.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hiking - Ragged Mountain, MA

Ragged Mountain is a rugged furrowed ridge just below and to the east of Mount Greylock, the high point of Massachusetts, near Adams, MA. We followed the Bellows Pipe Trail, an old road, to just below the southern summit of Ragged, and then an unmarked trail steeply to the summit. There were great views here of Mount Greylock, but not of much else.

The plan was to next bushwhack a short distance down the rugged ridge to some more expansive views. We soon decided against the further of the two, mostly because of increasingly deep snow and the distance/time involved. But we did find great wide-open views from Raven Rocks, on the east side of the ridge.

After enjoying the warm sun there for a while, we headed back to the summit and the trail back to the car. It was just a beautiful day for hiking.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Biking - With a good lunch stop

Another 21/2 weeks off the bike, after an equal hiatus before that. A November day with sunny skies and temps near 60. Yard work temporarily caught up. Gotta get back in the saddle and just do it.

For the rest of this season, I'll be sticking to 20-30 mile rides, since that's about what my fitness level has deteriorated to. Today, I biked from Schenectady Community College to the Charlton General Store for a great lunch. That got me about 11 miles. Then I continued east along Charlton Road to the east side of Ballston Lake, returning via Schauber Rd, Ashdown Rd, Blue Barns Rd, the Rexford Bridge, and the bike path. That came out just over 30 miles, but honestly, 20 would have been enough. I found hills that didn't used to be hills, and used much lower gears than usual. Amazing how a long layoff leads to slothdom.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Disc golf - A couple of good rounds

After the day warmed up, I got out today for a couple of rounds of disc golf in Central Park. I picked up right where I left off after last time out's personal best of 63, throwing a 65 and a 64 (par 57, avg 69). These new discs definitely give me more control, and that's reflected in the scoring. Now if I could only learn to "putt"...