Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Disc golf - A year-round activity?

This morning dawned gloomy and a little raw, the kind of day when it feels like it's about to snow.  That was, in fact, the forecast for a little later, though nothing would really come of it.  I continued playing disc golf all through last winter with our lack of snow, though I did draw the line at wearing microspikes to negotiate the sometimes icy fairways. 

I headed over to Central Park this morning to get in a couple of rounds, before the weather turned any worse.  The first round went sour gradually, with a couple of bad holes, leading to a mediocre 66 (+9), not one of my better efforts.  Then, I started out the second round with birdies on #1 and #2, and threw in one more along the way to finish with a 59 (+2), only one off my best ever.  Maybe it just takes longer to warm up on days like this.  Yeah, that's it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Biking - Over the top on a brisk afternoon

I'd planned to help out with some local trail work today, but when I woke up with a sore back, I thought better of it, and hoped I could get in some other exercise in the afternoon.  After running a bunch of local errands and having lunch, I decided to get the bike out one more time.

Every year, I set a mileage goal to work toward, not in any calculated way, but just to have some number to shoot for and keep me motivated.  This year, I started out hoping to reach 2,500 miles for the season.  But come September and October, I lost the urge to keep pushing toward that number, or even to keep biking in general.  Still not sure why.  So, in November, being within reach of a lower goal of 2,000, I started looking toward that instead.  I had biked off and on through last winter with its dearth of snow, so there was no reason now not to keep going until conditions prevented it.

Recently, I've been doing short rides on the bike path on a beat-up old mountain bike, which I would someday like to start using as my around-town transportation bike.  Need to get that idea going somehow if I can get past the convenience of jumping in the car.  But anyway, today's ride put me over that 2,000-mile hurdle, as I biked from Blatnick Park to just short of the Northway and back on the Mohawk River Bikeway.  Last year, the season after my cross-country trip, and being somewhat burned out by it, I came up short of 1,400 total miles, so this was a significant step back in the right direction toward longer rides and more touring.  As if to reinforce that feeling, I met a loaded bike tourist on his way to Boston from California, and we had a nice chat.

Time to raise this year's bar to 2,100, and next year, 2,500...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Biking (not shopping) on Black Friday - What a concept!

Black Friday.  And now Thursday, Thanksgiving Day itself.  What a sad commentary on our society.  After driving home from a day spent having turkey with family yesterday, I wasn't going near a store or mall this afternoon, instead getting out for another short bike ride.  Today looks like the last pleasant sunny warmish day for a while, so I returned to the Rotterdam Bike Path for a quick spin.  A lot of other people, mostly dog walkers, had the same idea.  It was a beautiful November afternoon, and outdoors was the place to be.  And I didn't have to spend even a penny doing it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Biking and disc golf - more nice weather

Yesterday I got out for a short bike ride on the Rotterdam Bike Path, inching my way toward my revised goal of 2,000 miles for the year.  I'd hoped for 2,500 originally, but really pooped out in September/October, so now it's just 2,000.  A couple more short rides, and I'll have reached that number.  Hard NOT to get out during this stretch of beautiful weather we've been having.

Another nice day today, so I got in a couple of early rounds of disc golf in Central Park.  The scores (61-59) came out much better than I felt like I was playing, and a +6 total for 36 holes is a score I'll be happy with anytime.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hiking - Hoffman Notch Wilderness

Yesterday, I joined a Schenectady ADK trip to Hoffman Notch, a deep gorge in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness.  Holly and I had tried this hike once before many years ago, but were stymied by high water in June at one of the stream crossings.  Today, the 14 (!?!) people on the hike would hopefully not have the same problem, despite a recent report from NYSDEC about a washed-out bridge on this trail.

We'd be hiking south into the Notch from Blue Ridge Road, and trying to reach Big Marsh by lunchtime, near the center of the map above.

After some initial route confusion and a brief separation, we regrouped and continued on our way.  Our first challenge, and possibly the referenced bridge problem, came at a series of small stream crossings not far from the car.  We managed to reinforce a small beaver dam to make it crossable, and all made it to the other side.

Reaching a former power line crossing, we saw heavy frost on the vegetation in the valley after a cold night, as the sun rose on the peaks to the west.

Entering the Notch, we found Hoffman Notch Brook very scenic, with water tumbling over large boulders alongside the trail.

This is the brook that had turned Holly and I back years before, but a series of new bridges had solved that problem by crossing smaller branches of the stream lower in the Notch, so there was no problem today.  The huge logs and high handrails on these bridges made us all look like small children or forest gnomes as we made our way across.

The upper sections of this trail were somewhat overgrown, lightly used, and more difficult to follow, but we reached Big Marsh, actually a good-sized pond, in time for an early lunch.  The ice was about 1/2" thick here, and signs of beaver activity were everywhere.

The trip back to the cars was uneventful, and the trail easier to see with the sun now at our backs and the leaf litter disturbed by the earlier passing of our large group.  We made good time back to the cars and headed home after a satisfying day outside.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Disc golf - Schenectady Central Park

With Day 2 of an insurance-reducing, snore-inducing defensive driving class in the afternoon, I took advantage of a sunny morning to get out for a couple of rounds of disc golf.  It was a frosty start, but the first nine was the best of all despite the temperatures.  The first 18 would have been pretty good except for a disastrous triple bogey on the final hole, and the second round was the usual mixture of fist-pumping and cursing, depending on the outcome of the shot.  I finished with a 64-65, slightly off my average, but overall, I was doing pretty well and managed several birdies.  It was a pretty morning, and nobody else was on the course, so I couldn't ask for more than that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Biking - Rotterdam bike path

After doing some mountaineering on the roof of my Cape Cod yesterday to fix a couple of popped-up shingles, Holly and I got out for a short bike ride on a November day in the 60s, a real treat.  It was windy and we had time constraints, so we only did about 10 miles, but it was good to be back in the saddle after a very lazy autumn for me, at least in terms of biking.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hiking - Touch-Me-Not and Cabot Mountains

Yesterday, I led a hike for Schenectady ADK to Touch-Me-Not and Cabot Mountains, two small peaks in the western Catskills.

It seemed like a long drive to Little Pond State Campground, south of Pepacton Reservoir and southwest of Margaretville, but it was really only about 2 hours.  We parked outside the closed campground gate, and walked in to the start of the blue trail up Touch-Me-Not, a fairly steep and relentless climb of about 700 feet.  There was lots of recent blowdown along the way as a result of recent high winds and coastal storms, and we cleared what we could without any tools.

Beyond the summit, we turned west on the red-marked Finger Lakes Trail for the short walk to the base of the even steeper climb up Cabot Mountain.  Though this climb was only about 400 feet, the steepness and the slippery downed leaves made for slow going.  There was a nice viewpoint near the summit, but the air was so hazy that views were not all that good.

After lunch at the summit, we descended via the yellow trail, through the ruins of an old farmstead, and back to Little Pond.  From there it was an easy walk along the pond past campsites and back to the cars.

Not a very photogenic day, so no pictures, but it had been a good hike with friends on a better than expected weather day.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Walk - Bike path in Rotterdam Junction

I've been feeling sluggish lately, just not getting enough real exercise.  Oh sure, I've been getting out walking various places, and the weekly disc golf is OK.  But those are fairly mild, and not much of a workout. 

Last winter, in the absence of snow for XC skiing, I started doing 4-5 mile walks on the ice-free bike path, at a very brisk pace for about an hour or so.  These turned out to be a good cardio workout, and a good substitute for biking in the cold, which just didn't seem very appealing.  So today I fell back on that experience and went for a fast walk from Rotterdam Kiwanis Park to Scrafford Lane, where the bike path comes to a dead end, and back to the car.  The signs say that's 5 miles round trip, but I think it's more like about 4.3, and it's a nice place to walk along the old Erie Canal.

There's lots of traffic noise here from the Thruway above, and an occasional train whistle, also from nearby.  But it's usually not crowded at all, and that means ducks, herons, and even the possibility of beavers who are definitely working hard out here.  Despite the noise, it's a scenic spot, and I enjoyed the briskness of both the walk and the stiff breezes that were blowing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Disc golf on a windy morning

First round 64 was about average, then the winds came up.  Tricky winds, lots of tree interference, and a couple of uncharacteristic splashes in the creek led to a pretty bad 69, worst in months.  Couple of great shots kept it from going even higher.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Walk - Vischer Ferry Preserve

Today was the first day we'd seen the sun in what seemed like forever, and though it was chilly, it was a day not to be wasted.  After doing some other stuff in the morning, I got out for a walk in the Vischer Ferry Preserve, in nearby Clifton Park.  Days are getting shorter, and I didn't want to drive very far, so this was a good choice.

I  parked at the end of Ferry Road, in the hamlet of Vischer Ferry, and walked east along the old Erie Canal towpath toward the main preserve.  I tried to stay close to the river, but there was work in progress there, related to dredging, so that trail was closed, and I had to backtrack.  Back on the towpath, I soon came to the well-preserved remains of old Erie Canal Lock 19, a double lock built in 1842 during the Canal's enlargement phase.

Leaving the lock, I watched for a trail toward the river, and found one that passed through a very strange and eerie landscape.

There were very large trees here,  but almost no standing underbrush.  The plants were all matted down and covered with downed leaves, except for the occasional masses of twigs, stems, and weeds that were hanging from trees up to 6 feet off the ground.  Then I noticed the high-water marks on several trees, and it all made sense.

High water marks about 6 feet above the ground
There had recently been a lot of water here, probably last fall when Irene and Lee swelled the Mohawk River far over its banks.  That explained the matted down and hanging vegetation.

Finally reaching a puzzling circle of very tall spruce trees, I decided to turn around and head back to the car.  I made it all the way back without having seen another person on the entire walk.

Since it was still early, and I'd be passing right by it anyway, I made a quick stop at Mohawk Landing Park, a small town property with river access for non-motorized boat launching and a couple of picnic tables.  It's only a short walk from the parking lot, and there's a nice view here downstream along the serene Mohawk River.

Then, wanting to beat rush hour, I headed home.  It was a beautiful day to be out, and there's no shortage of places close to home to do just that.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trail maintenance and construction - Hennig Preserve

Yesterday, I joined a group of volunteers who've been building and maintaining trails in the Hennig Preserve, a Saratoga PLAN property in the Town of Providence, near Lake Nancy and just south of the Adirondack Blue Line.

We were working yesterday on a new trail in the adjacent Homestead County Forest, shown in purple above.  Trails here will connect to those in the Hennig Preserve, creating a nearly 10-mile trail network.

The new trail had previously been flagged and mostly roughed out, so yesterday we were cleaning up some rough edges and breaking through a few sections that were still not cleared at all.  It should now be almost ready to be formally marked and opened for general use.  This will be a very nice trail when completed, following Cadman Creek (Lake Nancy's outlet), with views of beaver dams, remains of former sawmills, and this very nice waterfall where we stopped for lunch.

I hope to spend more time with this kind of local trail work, especially after next year when we give up our adopted section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail much farther north, after 20 years of maintaining it.