Monday, May 28, 2012

Biking - Another great morning to get in some miles

Today was expected to be hazy, hot, humid, and heavy on the thunder later in the day, so I got out early while it was still pleasant for a 40-mile local loop without a whole lot of climbing.  This was basically a leg-testing and butt-conditioning ride - I need to get in more of these before some longer organized rides later in the summer.

The elevation profile above looks worse than it is, since the hills and the numbers are actually pretty small.  But the distance forced me to manage the drinking and eating of a longer ride, and a stop at the Stewart's in Voorheesville was a big help with that.  I picked up some Gatorade and an energy bar in case I needed them later, and I was glad I had them to supplement the water I'd brought along.

I finished the ride feeling pretty good, especially after 32 miles yesterday and hiking the two days before that.  The rain never materialized, another blown forecast, but it did get much hotter and somewhat more humid later on as expected.  Tomorrow looks similar, but with rain more likely, so I'll just have to wait and see if I can get something in.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Biking - Saratoga-Ballston Lake Loop

My friend Ted was up from Long Island this holiday weekend, and wanted to get out for a ride.  He has a second home in Saratoga, so I suggested a 30-mile ride starting at SPAC,  heading south, and looping around the southern end of Ballston Lake.  I had done this ride once before, and it worked out pretty well.  We timed it so that Ted and his wife Diane and Holly and I could all get together for lunch afterwards.

It was a beautiful dry cool calm morning as we set off, just a perfect day for riding, and there were lots of other bicyclists on the roads.  We finished as planned with time to spare, and then headed off to 50 South for a late lunch, followed by some pie back at Ted and Diane's place.  By now, it was getting warm outside, and we were glad we'd gotten the ride in early.  Great day with great friends.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hiking - Tully Mountain and Warner Hill, MA

On Saturday, we hiked with some friends to Warner Hill, a small summit on the Appalachian Trail east of Pittsfield, MA.  It's about a 3-mile section of the AT, for an out-and-back hike of a little over 6 miles.  We had to first pass over Tully Mountain, a flat summit with no view, but in general, the trail was well-worn and only gently rolling.  This was a good thing, given the high humidity as we hit the trail - we'd all be pretty worn out by the end of the day.

The most amazing thing about this trail section was the profusion of ferns.  According to the trail guide, the most common were spinulose wood ferns, not that I would ever know that or be able to identify them again.  They were everywhere, but especially in the open fields as we approached the summit of Warner Hill.

The summit had nice views to the north and west, with the Taconic Range and Mount Greylock being most prominent.  We could also see the spinning wind turbines at Jiminy Peak, near Hancock.

Taconic Range to the west

Mount Greylock in the far hazy distance
There was a nice breeze here, and virtually no bugs at all, so we had a leisurely lunch before retracing our route.  It seemed a lot longer heading back, probably because of the toll the humidity had taken on us earlier.  It was improving now, but the damage had been done.  The ice cream stop on the way home was definitely most welcome.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hiking - Dutton Mountain explorations

Today some friends and I continued our exploration of possible routes for the North Country National Scenic Trail through the Adirondacks.  A recent decision by federal regulators has placed a long-idle railroad bridge back into freight service, and since the NCNST was counting on using that bridge to cross the Hudson River north of North River, we needed to scout out part of an alternative plan.  Here, the bridge is seen far below.

We left a vehicle on 14th Road in Minerva, and drove north on NY-28N and down Northwoods Club Road to start the hike.  Though we expected a 3-mile complete bushwhack, we did find traces of a faint path at times throughout the day.  The first led us to the overlook above, with a great view right up the gut of the start of the Hudson River Gorge.  Blue Mountain towered in the hazy background.

Continuing along the edge of the steep side of Dutton Mountain, we found another view from a slightly different angle but just as spectacular.

But this day wasn't just about views.  Leaving this viewpoint, we nearly stepped on this beautiful Luna Moth just sitting in pine needles next to a tree, and moving when lightly prodded to prove it was alive.

A little further along, we came to an open slope with lots of low blueberry bushes, but sprinkled with 30-40 pink lady slippers.  Somebody even saw a pure white one, but I missed it.

As we descended steeply through thick and lush brush, we were surprised to find many large stands of maidenhair fern, not something we see every day.

Back at the spotted vehicle, we were transported to the nearby camp of one of our hikers, where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch on his front lawn while the other car was retrieved.  It had been a pretty short hike, but with great views and lots of other things to see.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Biking - SWC Thursday night ride

Having been off the bike for a full week (again!), I decided to go to the SWC Thursday night beer/pizza ride tonight, and just go for an easy spin.  I didn't choose the hilly 22-mile route, but the gently rolling 14 sounded just right.  I didn't push, never broke a sweat, and just had a pleasant ride.  And pizza.  And beer.  Early day tomorrow, so I didn't hang around very long afterwards.

Catch-up time...

OK, I've been getting lazy about this blog.  I missed two posts last week, so will add a few words now.

On Thursday, May 17, I joined SWC's Thursday night beer and pizza ride, in Altamont.  It was a hillier ride than I've been doing, and it wore me out.  The beer and pizza were most welcome.

On Saturday, May 19, Holly and I and three friends tackled our semi-annual trail maintenance on the Northville-Lake Placid Trail, near Lake Durant.  It was another tough day, capped off by the traditional ice cream stop.

Tonight is another bike ride, and I'm hiking both of the next two days.  I'll try to do better here, I promise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

It was a rain-free morning, but things needed to dry out for a while before I could squeeze in mowing the lawn before the expected afternoon thunderstorms.  So I headed over to Central Park for some disc golf for the first time in about 3 weeks, not expecting any scoring miracles after that long layoff.  On the first hole, I hit nearby trees on the first 3 successive shots, and thought I'd be in for a long morning.  But then I settled down and threw for a 65 and then a 62 (par 57), both better than my average, and not bad at all considering I hadn't been out recently.

The park was abuzz with maintenance workers, mostly mowing the lawns, which were very wet.  My feet were soaked by the time I finished, but I'd salvaged part of a day that promised to be messy later on.  Got home in time to catch the end of today's stage of the Giro d'Italia bike race from Italy, then had lunch and mowed the lawn.  T'storms are now on the way, but at least the day wasn't a total waste.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hiking - Taconic Crest Trail End-to-End Weekend

Every year, the Taconic Hiking Club runs an Endurance Challenge on the Taconic Crest Trail, which runs along the Taconic Ridge on the NY/MA border.  The trail itself is 35 miles long, but the Challenge "only" covers 29 miles of that total.  It's a tough day, with over 7,000 feet of total climbing, and you'd better be in great hiking shape before you consider attempting it.  I did it 10 years ago, when I was younger and stupider, and have no desire to do it again.  But the event requires lots of volunteers to make it happen, so this year I got involved at that level.

On Friday, the day before the hike, five of us carried 7 gallons of water up the 2.65-mile Mattison Hollow access trail below the ridge to the 13-mile point of Saturday's hike 800+ feet above.  This would be one of the places where hikers could replenish their water and supplies.  Since I would be hiking up that same trail the next day, and it was an hour's drive from home, I decided to camp at the hike's starting point at Berry Pond Campground with many other volunteers and most of the hikers.  After dinner at the Bridgeway Filling Station, a biker bar in Cherry Plain, after our water supply hike, two others and I drove up to Berry Pond, listened to the briefing given to the hikers, and then I settled in for an early sleep, this time in my car.  

Up at 4:30 to get organized and avail myself of the hot breakfast served at 5am, it was a short and fitful night.  The kitchen and assembly area were in full swing when I arrived.

The club's trail master, Colin, and bagpiper, Neil, made an interesting contrast in outfits.

Promptly at 5:30 am, Neil bagpiped and led the hikers off the start line and on to the beginning of a very long day.  A short video is below.

My duties for the day of the hike, along with three others, involved driving back to the same trailhead as the previous day, and carrying the hikers' resupply bags (lunches, etc.) up to that same 13-mile point where we'd already left the water.  Once all the hikers had passed through that point several hours later, we would follow behind them to the 21-mile point as sweeps, in case any of them ran into trouble.  This alone was a tough enough day for me, with 10.5 total miles and 2,700 feet of total climbing.

It was a picture-perfect day weather-wise, with temps climbing into the 60s and low 70s, and not a cloud in the sky all day.  We were amazed by the profusion of trout lilies still blooming everywhere at this higher elevation.

After many ups and downs, we finally reached the summit of Berlin Mountain, the highest point on the trail at just under 2,800 feet.  The views to the east were wide and expansive, including Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts.

We lingered here for a while with a tired hiker until she was ready to continue, and then descended, and ascended, and descended, to Petersburg Pass, the end of our section.  Cold drinks awaited, and then we were driven back to our cars after a long and tiring day.  But it was only 4:30pm, and the last hiker on the 29-mile hike didn't finish until after 8pm, so we really couldn't whine very loudly.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Biking on a very iffy weather day

My friend Phil was in town from Long Island for a few days, and we wanted to get out for a ride, the only available days being Wednesday and Thursday.  Today's weather appeared to be headed for low 70s and a minimal chance of showers, with bigger winds on Thursday, so we planned on getting out today.  The radar was clear as I prepared to leave, and called Phil to tell him it was a "go".  Then, as I was actually leaving the house, the drizzle started, and continued off and on all the way to Saratoga where we were meeting.  Damn.

When Phil arrived, we decided that since the drizzle was only sporadic and it wasn't actually raining, and since we'd both driven a ways to meet there, we'd at least give it a try.  The weather steadily improved as we biked along back roads in southern Saratoga County, and we even had to shed some layers as we stopped for ice cream at Lakeside Farms.  It only got better from there, with breaks of sun appearing as we wound our way toward and through Ballston Spa and back to the cars.  It was a pleasant 30 miles with lots of conversation, and we were glad we hadn't given up on what looked like an unlikely biking day.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hiking - Shelving Rock Mountain and Falls

A beautiful day was on tap, so Holly and I got out for a short hike on the east side of Lake George.  Shelving Rock Mountain is only a 1.7-mile hike from Shelving Rock Road, and has great views of Lake George for a minimum of effort.  Neither of us had been here before, and new territory is getting harder to find, so this was a very interesting day out.

Many of the trails off of Shelving Rock Road, west of the Hogtown Trailhead, follow old carriage roads built long ago by the Knapp Estate (can't find a good link).  The trail to Shelving Rock Mountain is no exception, with gentle grades and many switchbacks.

At the summit was a great view of southern Lake George.  It almost didn't look real.

To the east, we could see the cliffs of Sleeping Beauty Mountain.

Below the summit, we found a herd path to the top of some cliffs with panoramic views of the lake, from its south end to Montcalm Point, the southern tip of the Tongue Mountain Range.  We had lunch here and lingered for a while.

On the descent, we noticed some of the only wildflowers of the day, many columbine growing on the sunniest hillsides.

When we got back to the car, we replenished our water, and then walked a short distance down the road to another gated carriage road, this one leading to the top of Shelving Rock Falls.  This was a very nice waterfall with a steep gorge below.  But since waterfalls are best viewed from the bottom, we found our way down for some wonderful views.

Returning to the car, we had covered a grand total of 3.7 miles and taken in some wonderful scenery close to home on a beautiful day.  The obligatory ice cream stop finished it off as we headed for home.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Biking - Albany Bike Expo 2012

Today was the second annual Albany Bike Expo, in Washington Park.  It was organized and sponsored by Albany Bicycling Coalition and New York Bicycling Coalition, both headquartered in Albany.  It would have seemed silly to drive to such an event, so being the biker that I am, I decided to bike over there and check it out.  I used to commute by bike to Albany during the last few years I was working there, so already had a familiar route picked out.

The event was held at the Washington Park Lake House and the surrounding area, and included many vendor tables as well as ABC, NYBC, and other local bike advocacy organizations.  I don't usually spend a lot of time browsing at these sorts of things, but it was heartening to see how much this event has grown since last year.  Kudos to all who pulled this together!

Photo by Bert Schou

I arrived in time for a short 8-mile guided ride around various parts of Albany to look at some of the new bike amenities that have recent been installed.  There are bike lanes, sharrows, and signage designed to make bicycling easier and safer on some streets in the city.  There need to be more of these, and they really need to be added to some Schenectady streets as well.

After that guided ride, and chatting with a few friends there, I turned for home, winding up with about 38 miles on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Biking - An easy 12 miles

Since we were heading to a Cinco de Mayo party later this afternoon, and had other things to get done this morning, Holly and I got out for a short easy ride from her house in Burnt Hills after lunch.  We followed the short route that we provide when she hosts an SWC Thursday night ride every year, which she did this past Thursday.  It's 11-12 miles of gently rolling country roads, and I rode an old mountain bike intended as an "equalizing" factor.  We topped off the afternoon with some great Mexican treats and Dos Equis with friends as the weather steadily improved, turning into a beautiful spring day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Walk - Limping along the Lisha Kill

I had originally planned to bike today, but the weather changed from the forecast of sunny and 60s to the reality of cloudy and 50s, and I just couldn't get inspired.  I puttered around all morning waiting for some afternoon improvement that never came, and finally decided to get out for a walk instead.  My knee is still a little tender from some unknown incident over the weekend, so I opted for the Lisha Kill Preserve, nearby and with a couple of miles of varied terrain to see how things were progressing.  I wasn't actually limping, just a little uncomfortable and tentative, and slower than usual.  There weren't a lot of flowers to be seen, so this was just a slow casual stroll among the big trees.  I could probably do OK hiking with some ibuprofen and an elastic knee brace, but will hope for some improvement over the next week before I volunteer to help out with the Taconic Hiking Club's biennial End-To-End hike of the Taconic Crest Trail.