Monday, April 30, 2012

Biking - Test ride for a bum knee

With Holly heading to a conference in Rochester on Saturday, I tagged along and spent the day at my mother's place near Syracuse.  There was some spring yard work to be done, and since I would be there anyway, it was an opportunity to help out my two brothers in that area who cover this stuff all the time.  I even got in a round of disc golf at Jamesville Beach County Park in the morning, and then spent the afternoon tackling the other stuff.  Somewhere along the way, I must have done something to my knee, because it was very sore and tender when I woke up at home on Sunday morning.  I spent Sunday limping around and not doing very much.  So today, I wanted to get out.

I decided on a flat easy bike ride, with options to extend it if things went well.  So I headed west along the Mohawk with options for rides of 8, 15, or 32 miles, depending which bridge I crossed.  The good news is that biking is no problem for whatever is going on with the knee.  I wound up riding from Schenectady to Amsterdam and back, the 32-mile choice, and had no pain at all.  It didn't help that I hadn't biked in 9 days, and that the trip back east was into a headwind, but c'est la vie.  It was a good ride, and probably good knee therapy as well.  I'll have to baby it for the next few weeks with some serious hiking coming up mid-May.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

After a very strange weather day yesterday, and with a carbon copy apparently due for later today, I got out for an early couple of rounds of disc golf this morning before coming back home to mow the lawn before the weather arrived.  Both rounds were about average, not exceptional or horrible, but then my average is also coming down steadily, so it was an OK outing.  Trees and wind figured in the second round 67 more than the first round 65, but anything in the low to mid-60s is fine by me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Walk - Water, wildflowers and woodpeckers in the Indian Kill Preserve

Since I was in Glenville this afternoon anyway, and since we got a better than expected break in the rain, and even some sun, I got out for a walk in the Indian Kill Preserve, on Hetcheltown Road in Glenville.  The Indian Kill was running high, fast, and muddy after the heavy rains of the past couple of days.

I thought the rains may have caused the wildflowers in the woods to suddenly explode into bloom after our long dry spell, but today may have been a little too soon.  Still, there were a few to be seen, the most abundant of which was the red trillium, though many were past their prime.

Others included purple violets, trout lilies, colts foot, marsh marigold, garlic mustard, and May apple, some of which are seen below.

Marsh marigold
Garlic mustard, a nuisance invasive that's everywhere

May apple, not in bloom yet, but note the large bud
At one point, the trail I was on was flooded and impassable, so I had to climb steeply up the slope to a parallel trail.

Fortuitously, that provided a magical moment.  I heard a loud chatter off in the woods not far from the trail.  Stopping to take a look, I saw not one, but three pileated woodpeckers, hopping around on the ground and low on a tree, and cackling loudly at each other.  I tried, but couldn't get all three in one shot, but here's one, at least.  It was pretty special to see, and I lingered there until they flew off.

One of the three pileated woodpeckers
As I sat here posting this, I had to pause and get rid of a tick that I'd picked up somewhere along the way.  It hadn't attached yet, so no big deal, but they're definitely out there.  Be sure to check after every outing!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hiking - Pilot Knob

With rain coming in on Saturday and lasting for several days, Holly and I got out for a hike on Friday to Pilot Knob, on the east side of Lake George.  I was scheduled to lead a hike in the Catskills on Saturday, but the weather wasn't going to let us get through that one dry, so I cancelled it and we got out on a nice day instead.

Most people use this trailhead to climb popular Buck Mountain, to the north, with its well-worn trail.  There is no official trail to Pilot Knob, just an unofficial well-worn path with intermittent markers, once yellow, but painted over to match the color of the tree bark.  The path doesn't go to the actual summit, which is privately owned and has no views.  But the knob northwest of the summit has wonderful views of southern Lake George.  There were also many views to the north as we climbed steeply up the ridge, but unfortunately, I failed to capture any of these.  And since we did the hike as a loop, we missed them on the way down.

From a smaller knob just below the destination knob, we got a nice view of the final push to the top.
Our rocky destination straight ahead
We didn't see many wildflowers on this hike until we were near the top.  There we found clumps of bluets, and one lonely trailing arbutus.

The view from the top was pretty spectacular, with the lake and its islands spread out far below.

Beyond this summit, the path continued to a col, where we descended quickly to a marked trail below.  From there, it was an easy walk out to the car.  We decided that if/when we do this hike again, we'd want to do it in reverse.  The climbing would be easier, and we'd have views all the way down the ridge on the descent from this uncrowded summit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Disc golf and yet more spring wildflowers

After a fairly challenging bike ride yesterday, I chose to take it easy today.  First, I got out for a morning round of disc golf, and I was definitely on my game.  Finished the front nine -2 with 3 birdies, and moved on to the back nine.  With three holes to play, I was still even par, but couldn't keep it going, finishing with 2 bogies out of 3.  Still, I finished with a 59 (par 57), my second best ever, best front nine, and only the second time under 60.  Passed on a second round because of some congestion at the first tee when I finished on 18.

This afternoon, I headed back to the Schenectady Museum Preserve (Mohawk River State Park), to see if the fields of trout lily were in bloom yet.  And they absolutely were, in the moister bottomlands along the creek.

Trout lily
Despite the dry conditions, many other flowers were now blooming.  I'll just post them all here for your enjoyment.  Help appreciated where noted.

A purple violet.  Just don't ask me which one.
Wood strawberry, I think

Thought I knew it, and probably do, but even looking it up didn't help.  4-6" high
Tiny 5-petaled flowers, 1/4" across.  Anybody know it?
Some fiddleheads unfurling
Smooth yellow violet (I think)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Biking - Uphill and against the wind, but not both ways

Today some friends and I got out for another long-ish ride north of Schenectady.  The  plan was to get a fairly late 10:30 start at the Glenville Park & Ride because of cool morning temperatures, and arrive at the corner market in Galway in time for lunch.

Winds were light, but from the north, and since we did this loop CCW, they were headwinds at the same time that we were climbing up out of the valley. This overall uphill continued all the way to Galway at 18 miles, just before the high point on the profile above.  We were ready for lunch as we arrived at the store not long after hearing the noon whistle somewhere in the distance.  This store has a deli that makes very good (big!) sandwiches, and there's a small park across the street with picnic tables, so it makes an excellent lunch stop.

After lunch, there was another climb almost immediately to the highest point of the ride, and we were glad it came after we'd refueled.  Southbound soon thereafter, the wind was no longer a factor, and we made good time back down to river-level and NY-5, which gave us a fairly flat ride back to the cars.  But that was only 36 miles, and the majority wanted to hit 40.  So we crossed the river and rode casually out to the Rotterdam Junction dead end of the bike path and back to the cars.  That gave us 42+ miles that had included goats, llamas, horses, cows, ducks, geese, and some very nice country roads.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Biking - A change of plans that worked out for the best

Some friends and I had planned a 35-40 mile ride today, with lots of climbing, and we were going to try to get it in before the 90-degree temperatures and gusty winds arrived this afternoon.  But one of us showed up at the wrong meeting place, and had arrived there by bicycle, so it wasn't practical timewise to wait for him to come to us.  Instead, we went to him by car, and did a different ride, a loop along the Mohawk River between Rexford and Waterford/Cohoes.

It turned out to be a good choice, with a little over half the climbing of the original idea.  We still got in 35 miles, but made several refreshment stops, including one for ice cream, that wouldn't have been possible on the other route.  It did get warm and breezy as the day progressed, but it was a comfortable morning for riding.  The temperature hit 91 this afternoon, a new record, and another record for the earliest 90-degree day here.  Cooler temperatures return tomorrow, and maybe we'll give that other ride a try later in the week.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Biking - Warmup for a bigger ride tomorrow

With other commitments for the afternoon, and a pleasant morning near 60F, I took advantage of the time window to get out for a short 21-mile ride in the hills of Guilderland and Rotterdam.  Tomorrow, a few of us are doing a tougher ride, 35-40 miles and nearly 2,000 feet of total climbing, and since I hadn't been riding much, it seemed like it might be about time to get back on the bike.  I returned to my old friend Grant Hill Road to get in a short climb, and came home through French's Hollow, which I hadn't visited yet this year.  I took it easy on this ride, but wanted to test the legs and get loose for tomorrow's climbing.  Near 90 and windy later tomorrow, so we'll be getting a morning start to beat the worst of it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Walking and wildflowers in a couple of local preserves

Today was a sunny day in the upper 60s, a real treat, so Holly and I got out to look for some more blooming wildflowers.  We started at the Limestone Rise Preserve in Knox.  I visited here a week before, but without Holly, and the hepatica was everywhere.  So we paid a return visit to start off the afternoon.  The hepatica was still pretty widespread, but had declined some since last week.

This week, the spring beauty had come on strong, and will soon overtake the hepatica as the dominant bloom here.

Spring beauty
Last week, there was a mystery flower that I thought might be a red trillium, but it looked very different from the others I'd seen.  Usually, the leaves are open wide before the flower bud opens, but not this one.  Today proved me right - before and after shots below.

Red trillium
It will be a couple of weeks yet before Limestone Rise becomes a sea of white trillium, and that will be well worth another return trip.  

Next, we moved on to the Margaret Burke Wildlife Management Area, just a few minutes away, and a place we'd never been to before.  There aren't a lot of trails here, but as a short add-on, it was about right.  There were some nice trout lilies in bloom here, with many more still to follow.

Trout lily
Blue cohosh is not very exciting, but it, too, was beginning to bloom, with its small yellow flowers.

Blue cohosh
We also saw a few assorted violets, colt's foot, and wild strawberry, but that was about all.  It's still early in the scheme of things, and many more blooms will begin to appear in the weeks to come.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Biking - A great idea foiled by weird weather

I had planned to try to get in a long-ish bike ride today, with sunny skies and light winds in the forecast.  I was going to ride from Schenectady to Fort Hunter, stopping at Karen's Produce and Ice Cream for lunch.  That ride involves about 20 miles northwest to Tribe's Hill on NY-5, across the Mohawk River at Lock 12, and heading just a little west over the Schoharie Creek to Karen's.  Then I return to Schenectady on the Erie Canal Bikeway on the other side of the river, for about 45 flat miles total.

I soon discovered that the winds were not as "light" as forecast, and it would have been 20 miles into a direct headwind from Schenectady to Tribe's Hill.  Reaching Lock 9 and NY-103, I decided I was NOT having fun, and didn't have to do this.  The winds wimped me out, and I crossed the river there and headed back to Schenectady, for only about 16 miles total.  But I was soon vindicated.  The skies had clouded up, and there were showers visible in the distance.  By the time I got home and into the house, it was raining.  And it's spritzed off and on all afternoon since then.  I would have been wet several times had I continued, so it all worked out for the best.  Another time...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hiking - Hennig Preserve

Today, I joined a group of friends on a tour of some new trails in the Hennig Preserve, a property of Saratoga P.L.A.N. in the town of Providence north of the Capital District.  The elevation here varies between 1200 and 1600+ feet, and the land is heavily forested with a mix of hardwoods and softwoods.  Friends Walt, Norm, and Jackie have volunteered a lot of time here improving existing trails and creating some new ones.  Joining us today was one of the land's donors, Barbara Hennig, who was able to provide a lot of the history of the parcel.  We walked about 4.4 miles altogether, turning around at Round Pond near the eastern end of the preserve. 

Round Pond.  The open water is another 500 feet through this bog.
It's a nice place for a quiet walk, and seems much farther from home and the suburbs than it really is.  It would be an especially nice place to ski in a winter that we actually get any snow, particularly because of its elevation and proximity.  We'll have to keep this one in mind for a return visit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Disc golf - Two very different rounds

Today's weather turned out better than forecast, though still breezy, and since I'd promised to help Holly with some stuff in the afternoon, I got out this morning for a couple of rounds of disc golf.  The first round was a fairly good 30-34-64, so I was looking forward to an even better second round.  But then I got greedy, and started trying to make some longer "putts" that would have better been safely done in two shots, and which often resulted in taking 3 to hole out.  On one hole, I went back and forth across the basket several times and took a whopping 8 (par 3).  At least I settled down on the back nine and salvaged a sub-80 score, though it was close with a 43-33-76.  That 43 may have been my worst nine ever.  Must have been the crazy winds.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Walking and wildflowers - Three walks in two local preserves

Today was another sunny day in the 50s, so I got out for a couple of local walks in search of more early wildflowers.  My first stop was the Wolf Creek Falls Preserve, between Altamont and Knox.  It's a fairly new preserve with lots of wooded trails and a couple of streams with small colorful mossy cascades.

This preserve is also the home of countless stone walls, zigzagging through the woods marking long obsolete property lines.

But alas, I saw not even one wildflower in bloom on my entire 3-mile route, aside from some colt's foot along the side of the road near the parking area.

So it was off to preserve #2, the Limestone Rise Preserve, just a few miles up the road.  The notable feature here is the maze of limestone crevasses, big enough to swallow a leg if you venture off-trail.

I remember once long ago being overwhelmed by the profusion of white trillium in bloom here, but today I was too early for that.  But the hepatica was everywhere, in shades ranging from pure white to deep lavender.  This was the best collection of the year so far.

Although the white trillium is still a few weeks away, there were a couple of red trillium either in bud or fighting to get opened up.  Not sure that second one is actually a trillium - doesn't quite look right, especially the stems.  Guesses welcome.  It was growing in a fairly wet area.

And last but not least, spring beauty.  There was a lot of this mixed in with the hepatica, in various shades of pink.

The loop at Limestone Rise is only 1.3 miles, but it took me a while because of all the photo opportunities.  As I was getting close to the car on the return, I passed this set of keys hanging in a tree.

An omen?
I'd noticed them on my way in earlier and wondered then what kind of idiot would lose a set of keys in a place like this.  Then I reached in my pocket for my own, and my question was answered.  No keys.  2-3 more searches of all pockets - no keys.   Damn.  They must have fallen out of my unzipped jacket pocket when I was down on the ground getting some of the eye-level shots above.  But where?  In a crevasse?  Would I ever see them again?  Though I had spares in my wallet, the only reasonable thing to do was to walk that 1.3 mile loop again and hope they made themselves obvious somewhere.  It would be an exercise in close observation of the forest floor.  Most of the way around the loop, I was losing hope, and then, there they were, right by a nice clump of hepatica I'd gotten down on my belly to photograph.  Phew!  What kind of idiot, indeed!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hiking - Plotterkill Preserve

Today was a very nice sunny day in the 50s, a perfect day to get outside.  I joined some friends from the Schenectady Wintersports Club on a hike in the nearby Plotterkill Preserve, a Schenectady County property with miles of trails, a deep gorge, and many waterfalls.

We mostly hiked the red trail clockwise from the parking area at lower left, with a steep shortcut at the end.
We hiked along the north rim of the gorge to the northeast end of the preserve, and crossed the stream near the New York State Thruway.  Finding a lunch log with seating for a party of 8 was somewhat challenging, but we found one shortly after the stream crossing.  After lunch, and before taking on the biggest climb of the day, up to the south rim from the stream, we paused beside one of my favorite cascades here.

Cascades near our lunch log
On the long climb now up to the south rim, we found many red trillium ready to burst forth, and even a few already in bloom.  At the top of the climb, we found this hepatica blooming beside the trail.

Hepatica, an early harbinger of spring
Winding our way along the south rim, we reached a point where we could take a shortcut to the blue trail on the south rim near our cars, so opted for that route instead of recrossing the stream and returning on the longer red trail the way we'd come.  The newly marked orange trail (not on the above map) climbed steeply at first, but then levelled off before joining the blue trail near an overlook of one of the larger waterfalls here.  From here it was a short distance back to the cars, and an ice cream stop on the way home after about 6 miles on the trail.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Walk - Mohawk River State Park

Lazy and unremarkable walk this afternoon at the Mohawk River State Park, aka Schenectady Museum Preserve, in Niskayuna.  Hoped for some blooming wildflowers, but not much of anything yet.  One trout lily, a few colt's foot, and early May apples just sprouting and unfolding.  Ready for spring to come again.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Disc golf - Getting out before the winds

Last week, Holly picked up some golf discs at her church rummage sale, and I was anxious to try them out.  They included a "driver", a mid-range disc, and a "putter".  I already had each of the first two, but no putter.  So this would be a "get acquainted" day with these new discs, with no expectation of scoring well.  I got out early this morning, because we were expecting some serious winds later on.

It turns out that different discs, and discs from different manufacturers, do indeed have different "personalities".   I'd been using a driver and mid-range disc from DisCraft, and these new ones were from Innova, two of the bigger golf disc producers.  I discovered that I could do things with my previous discs that I was unable to do with these newer discs, in terms of steering them different ways and that sort of thing.  It was an eye-opener, and definitely affected my scores, and not in a good way.

Then there was the new "putter".  I've been saying all along that I would never own one, because it just seemed pretty silly.  Well, I'm sold.  This one saved me on several occasions after the wayward behavior of the other discs, and I will now continue to carry it, along with the other two original discs I'd been using.

The wind was coming up as I finished the second and last round, but with a 70-67 for the day, I was not that far off my average.  Next time should be interesting.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Biking - An early season half-century

Friend Judy and I usually try to push each other a little when it comes to getting in the biking miles, so today we planned to get out for a ride.  The forecast from a couple of days ago when we planned this was for temps around 50 and light winds.  Then last night the forecast changed to around 50 degrees and winds at 20 gusting to 30.  We decided to go anyway.

We would meet at the Pine Bush Discovery Center on NY-155 and navigate a loop around Guilderland, Altamont, Princetown, and Rotterdam, totalling about 36 miles and including a climb up Grant Hill Road near the beginning.  I decided to increase my miles by riding from home to the Discovery Center, a little over 7 miles each way.  I had a nice tailwind in the morning, but I knew the ride home would be somewhat less pleasant.

Our route, 36 miles and 800+ feet of climbing
The hills were really not the story today - it was the wind.  The entire 12 miles from mile 8 to mile 20 (15 to 27 for me) were basically into a strong northwesterly headwind and slightly uphill.  I might have bailed out early had I been alone.  But we persisted.  When we got to mile 20 (27), we stopped for a snack, and then enjoyed the turn away from the nasty headwinds.  Reaching the Discovery Center again, I still had 7+ miles to get home, and by now the winds had increased from their morning levels.  It was a tough final 7 miles, directly into a gusty headwind, but at least it was flat.  I feel surprisingly good after this ride, and look forward to more long rides like this as we prepare for the Bon Ton Roulet in July.