Tuesday, February 28, 2012

XC Skiing - Best skiing of the year

This was a sweet, sweet day outside. Holly and I finally bit the bullet and drove a couple of hours to find some snow. And find it we did, on the Northville-Lake Placid Trail south of Lake Durant, near Blue Mountain Lake, NY. We've adopted this section of the NPT as ADK Trail Stewards for the past 18 years, but rarely get in here in the winter. It's a very nice ski trip, mostly a gentle uphill on the way in, and a gentle downhill most of the way out. Today, instead of making our usual trip to Stephens Pond on the NPT, we took a side trail to Cascade Pond, since Holly had never been there before.

After passing though the state campground and getting an initial climb out of the way, we found ourselves on a previously broken ski trail, with about a 10-12" firm base and a couple of inches of new powder. The sun was bright and the skiing was fantastic.

Leaving the NPT after about 2.7 miles, the side trail leading 0.9 miles to Cascade Pond had not been recently broken. Still, breaking trail in 6-8" of soft snow wasn't exactly a hardship. Arriving at Cascade Pond, we had lunch at the leanto after enjoying the bright sunny view of the pond.

Chilling rapidly, it was a quick lunch, and then we turned around to enjoy the downhill run back to the car. None of the pitches were exactly steep, but there was enough slope to get a good kick/glide going and a couple of short twisty sections that made the turning fun. The shadows were lengthening and the track turning crunchy in spots as we returned to the car.

What happens with this next storm remains to be seen. All snow would be wonderful, but it doesn't appear to be in the cards, at least not locally. But the southern Adirondacks might get a good dump, and that would open up some possibilities closer to home than this trip. It might be nice to finally have some winter, but only time will tell how long it will last.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Biking - The 100-mile February

Wow - big deal, 100 miles. In season, I bike that many miles almost every week. But this is February, and it's not supposed to be this way! I've now had more biking days in February than I've had local XC skiing days all winter. And that includes 2 not-so-local trips to Lapland Lake!

Today, I rode from Blatnick Park in Niskayuna to I-87 and back, with a headwind both ways on the bike path along the river. I swear it flipped around at the same instant that I turned around to head back. That's now 7 February biking days and 100.2 miles, a good start to the season.

Looks like March may have a few surprises to throw at us, based on a couple of tentative long-range forecasts I've seen, including some fairly definite snow here this week. Unfortunately, this storm will likely end as rain and render the new snow somewhat less than useful. We'll just have to continue to be flexible, and find ways to enjoy winter with or without snow.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Walk, Sanders Preserve, Glenville, NY

Although it was a bright sunny day today, it was pretty cool and windy to think about biking. So I did some time on the trainer indoors, and then got out for a walk this afternoon. I didn't really want to visit the bike path again, so I settled on the Sanders Preserve, in the Glenville hills. In all the times I've been there, I've never stumbled on the leanto that's on the property. Some friends recently mentioned that they had failed to find it as well. So that was today's mission.

Walking briskly on the trails that took me to the point where I thought I should branch off and start looking, I found no trail, which seemed odd. So I bushwhacked, without the aid of GPS or compass, just following the terrain until I thought I was getting close. Once the leanto was in sight in the distance, I found myself on a faint unmarked trail that led right to it. And there it was - mission accomplished.

Heading back, I followed the unmarked trail to see where it led and where it intersected the marked trail system that's mapped. Now I know, and can easily find it again without bushwhacking. On my way back to the car, I ran into Hank and Margaret, who had been on a recent Schenectady ADK outing that I was also on. We chatted for a bit, and then I continued back to the car. It was a nice day for a walk, and this was much more interesting than another high-paced stomp down the bike path.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

Last night's snow never came, at least not here, but the day still dawned cool, damp and dreary, with snow expected again by later in the day. Between these non-storms, I wanted to get some exercise somehow, and preferably outside. Biking would be a little raw with the added windchill, so I decided to get in some disc golf instead.

Even though it's a school vacation week, the park wasn't crowded at all, and I had the course to myself, the way I like it. I played 2 rounds as usual, this time throwing a 63 and a 66, both better than average and pretty satisfying. The 66 should have been even lower, but the trees began to assert themselves on that second back nine, blocking several shots that would otherwise have been on target.

Tonight's snow should be little more than annoying, followed by a couple of colder windy days before back into sunny and mild next week. Crazy winter.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Biking - Winds of change?

Today was expected to be once again in the upper 40s, and I was hoping to get out for another short ride. Then it got very windy. I could either use that as a convenient excuse to stay home, or just get out and do it. I've certainly biked in worse - you just gear down and grind it out. So I chose to head west first, into the wind, and then sail back to the car (duh).

Westbound from SCCC wasn't as bad as expected along the river, and the wind was interrupted often enough to make for a pleasant ride. As planned, the trip back was even better.

We may get some snow overnight, but not enough locally to really reinvigorate this bust of a winter. The Adirondacks may get a good dump, and maybe the Greens in Vermont, but nothing especially nearby. At this point, I'm losing interest, and would just as happily welcome spring. There - now I've done it. Let the blizzards begin.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

XC Skiing - Lapland Lake XC Ski Center

54 degrees today, another fine spring February day. The ground is bare around here, but the southern Adirondacks got a *little* snow overnight, a couple of inches. So after several days of fighting a nasty stomach bug, I won that battle today, and Holly and I got out for some skiing.

Lapland Lake isn't our favorite place to ski, but with backcountry conditions nearby only marginal, the groomed trails of a ski center seemed like the best choice. And Lapland Lake's conditions sounded like the best of the nearby alternatives. So off we went.

Conditions weren't bad, all things considered. The trails were groomed, the snow was soft and fairly slow, and the temperature was hovering near 40 in bright sunshine. Spring skiing in February. There were a few thin and slushy spots that really need some snow soon, but it was the best we could have hoped for in this wacky winter.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hiking - A fine spring day on the Taconic Crest Trail

On Saturday, I joined a joint Schenectady ADK/Taconic Hiking Club trip on the Taconic Crest Trail. We were going to do the southernmost section of this ridgetop trail, from Lebanon Springs to US20.

We started out by following a private access road (with permission) 2 miles up to the TCT on the ridge, and then we turned south.

The snow was only patchy, and mostly on north-facing slopes, so we bare-booted the entire hike. Microspikes weren't even necessary with the sunny mild conditions. Soon after turning south along the ridge, we came to a large beaver pond. What the heck were they doing up so high?

After ups and downs too numerous to count, we arrived at Twin Pond, where we stopped for a leisurely lunch in the alternating sunshine and light snow flurries.

With less than two miles to go, we finished this hike early, before 2pm, retrieved the spotted cars, and were all home well in time for dinner.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Biking - Sneaking one in before the rain/sleet/snow/whatever

When I got up this morning and looked at the forecast, and then at the radar, it really didn't look like the [insert precip type here] would be "mostly after 3pm". I figured I had until noon at the latest to do anything outside before something started falling from the sky.

I'd been wondering about the condition of the bike path west of Lock 7, a stretch that was still very icy a few weeks ago. I had also only recently been east as far as Fort's Ferry Road, and didn't know what conditions lay beyond there. So, I parked at Lock 7 and headed west on the bike toward Blatnick Park just to see how far I could go. Somewhat to my surprise, the ice was now gone, and I was able to ride up the hill to the park with no impediments at all. Then, I went back down the hill and rode east to the top of a short steep hill near the Northway, where I turned around and headed back. This entire stretch is now (temporarily, I'm sure) clear of ice and snow and rideable, a 15-mile round trip.

A few sprinkles started to fall as I passed the Niskayuna Train Station on my return, but nothing serious. As I drove home, the sprinkles started mixing with sleet, and I was glad I had gone out when I did. And there's no telling what tomorrow morning may look like.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Biking - Mohawk River Bike Path

Another day biking outside for real instead of inside on the trainer. Same 14 miles as previous times, another slightly windy day. Not much more to add - same old same old, but still MUCH better than the indoor trainer. Could this be a 100-mile February? Weird.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

It's been a while since I tried playing a round of disc golf, and the last time I tried, the course was so icy that I gave up after one hole. Before that, the last time I played was over a month ago. So I had no illusions about the sorts of scores I could expect when I headed over to Central Park this afternoon.

The ice was mostly gone, and not too surprisingly, I was the only one on the course. The first round started out with a birdie on the first hole, which was pretty unusual. Then, on the long par 4 fourth hole, I dropped a long swooping 100-footer into the basket for another birdie. Longest shot I've ever made. How can this be happening? I finished that round with a 64, only two off my previous best. That called for another round.

I finished the front nine of the second round at even par 28, another personal best. But there was still the back nine to come, and I couldn't possibly match the 3 birdies I had there on the previous round. I only got one this time, but still tied the previous back nine total, and finished with an all-time best 61, and my best one-day two-round total ever.

Crazy stuff and really fun. Since there's no snow, I'm going to start doing this more regularly again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Biking - A windy day on the bike path

After a cold day yesterday and a dusting of snow overnight, today promised to reach the upper 30s again with some sunshine. There was no excuse not to get outside and do something, except maybe the wind. I was not inspired by the thought of biking on the trainer, and have been walking quite a bit over the past few days. So despite the strong west winds, I biked west on the bike path along the Mohawk River. The 7 miles westbound was fairly slow into the strong winds, but I was dressed for it and was never cold. The 7-mile return trip was quite a bit faster and easier, especially sitting upright on this old mountain bike and catching a good tailwind.

Still no substantial snow in the forecast, so we're still stuck at fewer than 14 inches so far this season, one of the least snowy winters here ever.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hiking - Moose Mountain Pond

Yesterday, I joined a Schenectady ADK hike to Moose Mountain Pond, in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest, northeast of Northway exit 29. Much of the hike involved scouting a possible route for the North Country National Scenic Trail through this area, bushwhacking through unmarked woods and beaver meadows, with some waterfalls and a pond with a leanto thrown in for good measure.

The snow was hard-packed and supportive without snowshoes so we left them in the car. Once again, microspikes were the footwear of the day. From the parking area, we followed the marked trail to Berrymill Flow, passing a waterfall that we'd seen on an earlier trip in this area back in December. It looked quite different now.

Waterfall on Berrymill Brook - then and now

Reaching Berrymill Flow, there was a nice view of Owl Pate Mountain in the distance.

Now we followed the trail upward toward Moose Mountain Pond. Part of the way there, we took a side trip, bushwhacking southwest to another waterfall we'd discovered on the earlier trip in December. This one was much more photogenic before it was frozen over, and was almost unrecognizable now.

Waterfall on Moose Pond outlet - then and now

Returning to the trail, and then reaching the pond and the leanto via a bushwhacked shortcut, we stopped for lunch. This was a very nice and scenic location.

Some of us ventured out onto the frozen surface of the pond for a better view of the surrounding mountains.

After lunch, we bushwhacked from the leanto back toward the north end of Berrymill Flow, passing through several frozen beaver ponds along the way. Reaching the trail here that we'd come in on earlier, it was now an easy trip back out to the cars.

Friday, February 10, 2012

XC Ski Getaway - Landgrove, VT

Short version - the skis stayed in the car and microspikes saved the day.

Every year, Holly and I get out of town for a few days and go to the Landgrove Inn, in tiny Landgrove, Vermont, one of our favorite places to stay. There are usually tons of snow in that area, and some really good cross-country skiing, not to mention some fine dining experiences at the Landgrove and other local restaurants. Not knowing what sort of snow conditions we'd find this year, we packed all kinds of gear in the car, and drove up there on Wednesday. What we found was a few inches of old icy hard snow, and even the commercial ski centers looked pretty bare and icy. After checking a few known last-ditch alternatives, we gave up on skiing, and settled for walking instead. The skis, and even the snowshoes, never left the car for the rest of the trip.

On Wednesday afternoon, we took a walk at the Hapgood Pond Recreation Area, a short drive from the Inn. The pond is drained for the winter, but the nature trail winds around it through the forest and provides a nice short walk. This year, the trail was icy and a bridge was out as a result of Irene, so we donned microspikes, adjusted our route, and still got in a decent afternoon outdoors.

On Thursday, we opted for a longer hike. We'd heard about a hike in the Lye Brook Wilderness to Lye Brook Falls, at 125 feet one of the tallest in Vermont. It was only 2.3 miles each way, and seemed like a good way to spend part of a day. The trailhead was just east of Manchester, down low in the snowless valley. We found the trail snow-free, but with a lot of icy patches for much of the way, and microspikes were the footwear of the day. We climbed gradually, mostly on old roads, and reached the spur trail to the falls at 1.8 miles. Heading along the side of the valley wall, we came to a major landslide across the trail, also presumably from Irene or Lee this past summer.

A little further along, we reached the falls and stopped for a light lunch. The falls were ice-covered and stunning, towering high above us. Including the additional cascades below our viewpoint, I read somewhere that the total height is near 180 feet, a good-sized drop.

Heading back out, we reached the car and were back at the Landgrove by early afternoon. That left us time for our annual trip to the Vermont Country Store, just up the road in Weston. We don't always buy anything, but it's a pretty neat place just to browse.

This morning, we had high hopes of getting in another short hike on the way home, but it involved a Vermont State Park (Molly Stark) that was closed for the winter, with no safe parking at the entrance along VT 9. So we headed west toward home, and walked a short distance on a trail to Little Pond, just west of Woodford State Park, and just up the hill from Bennington. We didn't go all the way to the pond, but it was just too nice a day not to do something, and this short walk broke up the trip.

Home now, and pulling my stuff together for another hike tomorrow, this one in the Adirondacks. Check back again!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Biking - Return to the bike path

With temps well into the upper 40s and sunny skies, I skipped the basement bike trainer workout today and got back outside. On the trainer, I can't even last quite half an hour before complete boredom overtakes me. But even if I ride a flat 14 miles on the bike path, that's an hour or so. I put in a longer period of effort, and it's infinitely more interesting.

I considered getting out the road bike today and doing something else, but stuck with the mountain bike that was already still in the car from last time out. It was windy again, but warmer than Saturday, and many more people were out walking. I only saw a couple of other bikers, one an older man plodding along, and the other a young woman in full Lycra from head to toe, in a rush. He gave a friendly wave, she didn't even look at me, which seems fairly stereotypical around here.

It was a nice day to be outside, and this was a good alternative to the other forms of exercise I've been deprived of by this snowless winter.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Biking - First miles of the new season

The last couple of times I've been walking on the bike path, there have been a couple of other people out there on bikes. And why not? The path is now largely clear of snow and ice, there's no XC skiing within an hour's drive, and biking on the trainer in the basement is très boring. I've been doing that almost daily now for the past few weeks, including today, but this afternoon, I decided it was time to get outside for a ride.

The good bike is up on the stand attempting to inspire me to begin its winter overhaul, but it hasn't succeeded yet. Leaving it there just in case, I took out my old beater mountain bike, and headed to Schenectady Community College and the Schenectady end of the Rotterdam bike path. The plan was to ride west to the dead end at Scrafford Lane in Rotterdam Junction, about 7 miles one way. There was a pretty good headwind as I rode west, but no other problems with the path itself other than a couple of easily negotiated icy patches. There were very few other people out there today, despite it being a weekend.

Turning around at the end, the ride back was a sheer delight with a nice tailwind. This was infinitely more fun than riding on the trainer. If we can't have snow, I need to start doing more of this.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Walk - Mohawk River Bike Path

After a quick trip to Featherstonhaugh State Forest this morning, I decided to cancel my scheduled moonlight snowshoe outing for this month. A few days ago, before the warmup, there was enough snow, if barely. Today, there were bare spots, rocks, and roots, and it just wouldn't be a good place for a night-time walk, or even a daytime walk. The green winter continues...

This afternoon, I got out for an alternative walk, a fast 4+ miles on the bike path west of Schenectady. This section is also clear of snow and ice now, from Rotterdam Kiwanis Park to the dead end to the west. It's seriously time to think about taking out one of the bikes.