Friday, June 29, 2012

Biking - Return to Kinderhook, and beyond

Last week, a friend and I biked from Castleton-on-Hudson to Kinderhook.  Once there, we decided to skip some added loops that this group often rides, grab a bagel, and then retrace our route to the car, for 22 miles.  Today, with several others in this same group, we continued on beyond Kinderhook for an almost 34-mile ride.  The extra 11-12 mile CCW loop can be seen on the map below

A hot day was on tap, so we got started from Castleton at 8:30am, and got up the first 1/2 mile climb while it was still pretty cool.  The ride to Kinderhook is flat to gently rolling through active farmland on lightly travelled roads. After Kinderhook came a 1.2-mile climb, followed by more rolling scenic rural countryside.  Part of the way around the loop, we stopped at a farm stand and the 4 of us polished off a quart of fresh strawberries before continuing on.  Back in Kinderhook, it was time for a bagel break, and then we headed back to Castleton, finishing just before noon and the heat and winds to come later.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Biking - Weekly beer and pizza ride

Tonight was our weekly SWC beer and pizza ride, this time hosted at a house in Clifton Park, near Okte School.  We dropped down Southbury Rd. to Boyack to Riverview, and rode west to Grooms Road, returning via Grooms, Ray, and Englemore.  It was only 16.46 miles, but as so often happens on these weekly rides, testosterone takes over and produces a very fast pace.  I swore I wouldn't fall prey to that tonight, but when the slight rollers on Riverview presented themselves, I was gone.  I never caught the lead pack, and didn't try, but powering up the hills felt good, as did passing many of the other riders who had previously been far ahead of me.  I don't usually ride like this, and try to just relax and take it easy, but sometimes it's fun to push a little, this time to an average speed of 15.8 mph.  I'm usually much more comfortable around 13-14.  Man, that first beer was good!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hiking - A short walk in the Plotterkill Preserve

After getting in some yard work this morning, and with winds gusting in the 30s, I decided against biking today, and instead went for a short walk in the Plotterkill Preserve, west of Schenectady.  A week or so ago, Ed Atkeson posted an interesting loop on his Hiking the Plotterkill blog, a new possibility since the opening of an additional trailhead on Lower Gregg Road. 

This new trailhead allows easy access to the lower end of the Preserve, a big plus for rescuers, but also makes possible a short hike to some nice cascades and falls a long way from the other trailheads.  I was the only one here today, but there's room for 4-5 cars.

The new loop follows the new trail to the North Rim, where it picks up the existing red trail.  Turning downstream toward the Thruway and descending to cross the Plotterkill, a junction with a yellow trail is reached at the point where the red trail begins to ascend to the South Rim.  Following the yellow trail through some recent blowdowns, a nice cascade is reached in just a few minutes.  The yellow trail ends here.

From here, the loop follows the stream, and quite easily today because of very low water.  Just above this initial cascade is Jacob's Ladder Falls, with many small steps over the layers of rock.

Continuing up the stream bed, and crossing back and forth when necessary,  a series of 3 smaller cascades, Step Falls, is reached.

From here, some careful searching and terrain awareness reveals another yellow trail leading back up to the North Rim and the red trail. I had to search a little for the bottom end of this one, but it was clear once I found it.  Turning right and reaching the junction with the new trail from Lower Gregg Road, I was back to the car in less than an hour, and about two miles, from when I started.

This is a great short getaway when there isn't time for a longer walk here, and these lower cascades are some of my favorites.  Thanks, Ed!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Disc golf on a windy morning

With rain in the forecast for later (still nothing as of 3pm), I got out this morning for some disc golf in Schenectady's Central Park.  With a pretty good breeze blowing, I wasn't expecting very good scores, and the first round started out confirming that suspicion.  But then I settled down after the first few holes, and the "putts" started falling.  There were many errant "drives" today off the tee, but to use a golf term, I scrambled very well, saving par or bogey in most cases.  The first round was about average, a 65, but I followed it up with a 60, one of my better rounds of the year, only 3 over par.  It was a surprisingly good outing given the winds, and I headed home to catch up on some stuff around the house for the rest of the day.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Biking - Another day, another long ride

After a good 40-miler yesterday, I decided to join some friends today for another 45 miles, this time in Saratoga County.  It's a modified version of an old MHCC half-century (50 miles) ride, beginning and ending at Lakeside Farms in Ballston.

I arrived early, eager to down a good breakfast before we set off - bacon, eggs, toast and orange juice.  Plenty of salt and potassium there to head off the possibility of cramps later.  I had also spiked my Gatorade with both a little salt and a little potassium-based salt substitute, mostly as an experiment.  I'd be drinking this regularly all day, and would see how it worked out.  The taste of those two items was almost unnoticeable, so it seemed like a reasonable plan.

The weather today was at least drier than yesterday, and a bit cooler, only getting to the mid-80s.  But the June sun was hot whenever we stopped, interrupting our self-created breezes.  We tried to head for shade whenever pausing in the ride, and once stopped at a convenience store about halfway around the clockwise loop.  It was a nice ride with lots of variety, including the east side of Saratoga Lake, where the traffic wasn't bad for a weekend.

We finished with 44.85 miles, and no hint of cramping despite 1,600 feet of climbing.  Lakeside Farms was a bit crowded when we finished, so I passed on lunch or ice cream and just headed home instead, where lunch and a quick nap awaited.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Biking - A sticky windy morning

Today was slightly cooler less warm than the past couple of days, but still expected to reach the upper 80s with pretty high humidity.  I wanted to get in an easy 40-mile ride, and do it my way - no pushing, no powering up hills, easy pace, stop occasionally, drink a lot.  After several recent experiences of cramps at 45 miles, I wanted to push the limit just a bit, but not go past it, and see if the above steps were any help.  I chose a relatively easy 40 miles for this one, given the heat and humidity, a loop from home visiting Guilderland, Voorheesville, Altamont, and western Rotterdam, with plenty of opportunities to replenish food and drink and to bail out if the rains came.

In Voorheesville, at 15 miles, I ate a banana, not my favorite, but full of potassium, a necessary electrolyte.  I also picked up a Gatorade for later.  At 22 miles, in Altamont, I downed a sample package of E-Gel, an electrolyte supplement with more potassium and also a good bit of sodium.  At 27 miles, I stopped at a kids' lemonade stand and chatted for a bit.  They also nicely refilled a water bottle with ice water.  All the while, I was riding easy, drinking plain water regularly, with an occasional gulp of the Gatorade I'd bought earlier.

Whatever I was doing right apparently worked.  I arrived home with not even a hint of cramping, though the temperature was now near 90.  I never reached the magic 45-mile point, and it also wasn't a very hilly ride, only 1,000 feet total, so the jury is still out.  But I did order a box of E-Gel packets, and will continue the other behaviors next time out.  Which happens to be tomorrow.  45 miles.  Hmmm....

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Biking - A relaxed 30 miles with a gelato reward

Some friends were meeting at the Niskayuna Train Station (Lions Park) this morning for what was being a "ride of the tip-over crowd", so-called for the speed of some of the older riders.  The plan was to ride the Mohawk River Bikeway to Jay Street in downtown Schenectady and return, about a 20-mile ride at a "tip-over" pace.  With temps expected to be well into the mid-90s again, a slow morning ride seemed like the right idea, so I decided to join them.  But I would ride from home to Lions Park, a distance of 10 miles, and then peel off and head for home before returning all the way back there with them at the end, for a total of 30 miles.

As it turned out, only four of us showed up, and none of the older slower riders.  But we took it very easy and relaxed anyway, enjoying a gelato at Civitello's in Schenectady's Little Italy before turning around and heading back.  For variety, and to avoid climbing Amen Hill, we cut through Union College and back streets through Schenectady and Niskayuna, rejoining the bike path near KAPL, beyond that climb.  I turned around here and headed for home in Rotterdam, and the others continued back to Lions Park.  It was getting pretty hot by the time we finished, even though it was only noon, with the worst heat still to come, but it had been a nice relaxed ride.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Canoeing - Heading north to escape (?) a sizzler

Today and tomorrow are forecast to hit the mid-90s here in town, with high humidity and really uncomfortable conditions.  So Holly and I loaded up her canoe and headed a couple of hours north to the southern Adirondacks for an afternoon of paddling.  Sand Lake, near Piseco, is one of our favorite places to go, despite the half-mile sometimes muddy carry to the put-in.  It wasn't too bad today, and with the canoe on my shoulders, we made good time to the lake.  It only (?) got to about 90 here, and there was a welcome breeze and even some cloud cover.

We paddled the circumference of the lake and explored the main inlet from Mud Lake before heading to The Big Rock and a cooling swim.  This lake is completely surrounded by state land, and the only "trail" is the muddy path we'd used to come in on.  We only saw two other people all afternoon, and they just appeared and then disappeared from the put-in off in the distance, apparently exploring for a future visit.

Sand Lake from "The Big Rock"
As often happens here, Holly spent a lot of time in the water, but with the nice breeze, I was content to just sit and watch the resident pair of loons and then lie down and relax in the shade until it was time to head back to the car.  No trip on a day like this would be complete without ice cream, so we made a stop on NY-30A north of Johnstown at Udderly Delicious, which aptly describes the experience, before heading home to the real heat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Biking - A pleasant spin from Castleton-on-Hudson to Kinderhook

On Sunday's ride, there was much talk about a possible ride in the Kinderhook area today, in southern Rensselaer and northern Columbia Counties, south of Albany and east of the Hudson River.  Somehow, that ride never came together, so friend Terry and I did it together anyway.  It's an area I don't remember ever visiting, so I was looking forward to seeing something new.

Aside from the initial climb up out of the Hudson Valley, this was a relatively flat to gently rolling 11+ miles each way through rural farmland to the village of Kinderhook, a quintessential small town with much to offer.  We stopped here at a bagel shop to refuel after doing that first 11 miles into a headwind, and then reversed our route and returned to Castleton and the cars.  Along the way, we visited the grave site of Martin Van Buren, the 9th president of the United States, in a well-kept cemetery in Kinderhook.

It was a pleasant side-by-side ride with much conversation on lightly trafficked roads in an area I'll need to visit more often.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Disc golf - A couple of windy rounds

After yesterday's cramp-fest on the bike, I decided to take it easy today.  Despite the winds, it was a very nice morning, so I got out for a couple of early rounds of disc golf in Central Park.  It had been a couple of weeks since I'd played, and the wind was definitely a factor, but I finished with rounds of 67 and 66, only a little worse than average.  The Central Park Rose Garden was in its full blooming splendor, and there were lots of people out enjoying the morning.

Later, I helped Holly with some yard work, and then came home and took care of some of my own.  Aside from that, it was a quiet non-physically demanding day as I let the legs recover from that strange day yesterday.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Biking - A hilly 48 before the heat to come

Some friends and I got out for a fairly serious ride today, 48+ miles and 2,500 feet of climbing, starting off with the 7 miles up to Mariaville.  From there, it's a rolling 17 miles with nice views, along the eastern edge of the Schoharie Valley, and down to Fort Hunter along the Mohawk River. 

As always when out this way, we stop at Karen's Produce and Ice Cream for a well-deserved break and something to eat.  Since it was only 10:30, I settled for a strawberry sundae before we continued on our way.

The flat route back along the Mohawk found us grinding into a pretty good headwind, and then came the final few smallish climbs.  On the first one, at 46 miles, my quads cramped up solid, and I was done.  This is the third time in less than 2 years that I've had this issue at exactly that mileage.  I was well-hydrated, and remain somewhat mystified about this problem, as I have been previously.  In 2010, I biked from coast to coast, 75 riding days, many in the 60-80 mile range, with lots of climbing and in ridiculous heat, and never cramped once.  I really need to figure this out.

Up until that point, it was a very nice ride, one of our favorites.  Thanks to Bill for picking me up a short distance from the finish.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 11-15 - A short getaway to Martha's Vineyard

Details and some pics to follow whenever I get around to it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bear Swamp Preserve - A short walk, and then more biking later

Several year ago, Holly and I took my daughters Katy and Theresa to the Bear Swamp Preserve, near Westerlo.  The place is renowned for its giant rhododendrons, many over 30' tall, and we were hoping to catch them in bloom.  When we arrived, the trail was flooded by beavers less than 100' from the parking area, so that trip was a bust, and we've never been back.

The rhododendrons usually bloom in early July, but with the unusual year we've had, I thought that just maybe they'd be a little early.  So I went to find out.

I first walked the short trail to the north of the road, which promised an overlook of the rhododendron swamp.  It was somewhat overgrown and neglected in spots, but did lead me to a pretty good overlook.  This would be a good dry place to see the rhododendrons in bloom, which they were not.  Will file this location away for a later trip sometime.

 Nearby was a memorial stone dedicated to those involved in creating this preserve.

After returning to the car, I set out to try the longer yellow trail on the south side of the road.  This was where we'd been stymied on that earlier trip.  Sure enough, the trail straight ahead was still flooded in about the same spot, and had a "Trail Closed" sign on it.  But just before that sign, yellow trail markers directed me off to the left, raising my hopes of a longer walk.  But it was not to be.  This trail was flooded as well, so I returned to the car.

Note the yellow trail marker on the tree just above center
Later on, tonight was our weekly SWC beer and pizza ride, this time from a host's camp on Galway Lake.  The weather was questionable, and we weren't sure we'd get it in, but planned to go regardless, for the socializing and just to enjoy the place on the lake.  As it turned out, the weather cooperated and the ride was on.  I chose the 19.4-mile hilly option, which got stretched to 23 miles when our group missed a turn, also adding some more hills. 

1,585 feet of total climbing
Then it was back to the hosts' camp for some delicious casseroles and beer to cap off the night.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Biking - The rain that never was

Some friends and I were planning to get out for a fairly serious bike ride this morning, but when we got up, it was drizzly and bleak outside.  The radar looked like there would be actual rain just about in time for our 8:30 start, so we decided to wait an hour and see what happened.  By then, it seemed that the approaching showers were dissipating as they got closer, so we decided to just go for it.  And we were glad we did.  We only got a couple of brief sprinkles all day, and had a great ride that even included some sunshine.

Judy and I met at Bill and Gina's house in Westhill, just up the road from Rotterdam Square Mall.  From there, we climbed to Mariaville for about the first 8 miles, and then we wandered around up in the hills on the east side of the Schoharie Valley before dropping back down to the Mohawk River and heading back to Rotterdam.  There, we faced the short steep series of climbs back up to Westhill.  All told, we covered about 42 miles with 2,700 feet of total climbing, definitely my toughest ride so far this year.  Back at the house, Gina pulled together a scrumptious lunch, and we sat and talked for a while before calling it a day.  I think we'll all be feeling this one tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

The weather this week promises to be unsettled every day, so this morning, I looked at the weather radar, and decided to sneak in a couple of early rounds of disc golf, which only requires less than 2 hours.  The first few holes had me thinking I should have stayed home, but then I settled down and birdied 7-8-9, and finished with an OK score for that nine.  The back nine was fairly routine, though the "putter" continued to be hot, and I finished with a respectable 63, or 6 over par.  The second time around, I was at even par after the first nine, and was hoping for a special round.  But a couple of stupid mistakes cost me penalty shots on the back nine, and I could still do no better than a 62 overall.  Both rounds were several shots better than average, and I see a definite improvement trend here.

There was only one short misty period for the whole morning, and then the day actually turned out better than forecast.  Hoping for more of the same weather tomorrow for a long bike ride, but hopefully sans the mist.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Disc golf and biking - a busy week

Another quick update - lots to do.  Went for a couple of rounds of disc golf in Central Park on Tuesday, with heat and big rain expected in the afternoon.  The morning wasn't bad, though very muggy, and I had two very good rounds of 62-62.  How's that for consistent?  The "putter" was uncharacteristically hot and saved me from disaster on several occasions.

Thursday night was the weekly SWC beer and pizza ride, this time in the hills of West Glenville.  We did 16-17 miles on a cool night, with only one climb of any significance, and adjourned to our host's house for beer and pizza afterwards.  There was a big crowd, nearly 40 people, probably because of the beautiful weather.

Staying close to home today, and getting some things done around here.