Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Disc golf, yard work, and a short bike ride on a fantastic day

Disc golf - Worst. Round. Ever.  Enuff said.

After that pathetic effort, I came home and mowed the lawn for the first time, and had to fiddle with the lawn mower to get it running smoothly on its first outing.  A stop at the grocery store, lunch, and then I was off to Holly's house to help her with some of her yard work.

After finishing that up, we went for a short ride around the great roads in Burnt Hills.  I rode an old mountain bike, and pushed myself with big gears on the few uphills.  It was a beautiful afternoon to be outside, and it feels like spring may finally be here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A wildflower bonanza in the Colonie Mohawk River Park

Today would have been a great day for a bike ride, but with a full day of trail maintenance coming up tomorrow, I didn't want to overdo it.  So instead, I got out for another wildflower walk, this time in what used to be called the Colonie Town Park, on the banks of the Mohawk River east of I-87.  I hadn't been there yet this spring, and it's relatively close to home, so it seemed like a good choice.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Click on each for a larger version.


Early saxifrage

May apple


Turkey vulture

Trout lilies

Seeing those last few trout lilies on my way back to the car, I was reminded that I'd be passing right by the former Schenectady Museum Preserve on the way home, and there's a huge patch of trout lilies there very close to the car that I've been keeping my eye on.  It seemed worth another look.

I saw these just a few steps from the car, and had a pretty good idea what came next:

Just a few steps further along, I could see the effects of the last few days of warm weather.  The trout lilies here had virtually exploded into bloom.  This is the best patch of these I've ever seen this close to home.

I try to catch this spectacle every year, and today it was FINALLY here.  Must be spring at last!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Looking for spring in the Sanders Preserve

Today was much cooler and breezier than yesterday, so I passed on biking again and got out for another walk.  I've been hitting lots of different local preserves this spring looking for early wildflowers, and today, decided to try the Sanders Preserve in nearby Glenville.

My first discovery gave me hope for the rest of this outing, a nice patch of bloodroot just opening right next to the trail.

But after that, I saw nothing at all, except the usual early leaves of trout lily and a very few budding trillium.  I was about to give up, when the colors of a few small patches of hepatica really jumped out from the surrounding brown leaves.  Every shade from white to violet was represented in a few square yards of ground.

It was surprising not to see more here, with the usual wet ground and recent warmer temperatures.  But finally things are beginning to pop, so I'll have to revisit some favorite spots in the weeks ahead.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Biking - A lazy 30-mile loop

Wednesday forecast:  Sunny with a high near 71.  

Well, it's about time!  And with clouds, stronger breezes, and a chance of showers late in the day, it was time this morning to get back in the saddle.  As sporadically as I've been riding, I didn't want to kill myself with a tough climbing ride.  So I fell back on a favorite, a 30-mile loop from home with no long climbs and no grade higher than 5%.  Today was more about miles on the legs and butt than about climbing.

Though there weren't any long hills, the route was lumpy enough that the total climbing came out just under 1,000 feet.  But it was spread out just enough to make it interesting.  I took it easy on this ride, relaxing and shifting a lot to always be in a comfortable gear.  No hammering, and no pushing myself up hills.  Just a nice casual ride on a beautiful day.  It felt good.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bike racing, disc golf, some yard work, and another wildflower walk

Ah retirement!  What would I do without you?

The day started off sunny with lots of promise, but too cool yet to do anything fun outside.  So I caught the end of Stage 3 of the Tour of Turkey bike race, which ended on the most evil-looking climb I think I've ever seen.  Then it was time to get out and do something.

Holly and I had talked about biking together later, and I was going to extend that ride by biking to her house and back.  But that wasn't until afternoon, so I got out for another round of disc golf before lunch.  I knocked off a couple shots from yesterday's debacle, but there's still lots of room for improvement.

By midday, the sun had disappeared and temps were still only in the 40s, so we bagged the bike ride idea, and I helped Holly with a few things around her yard.  Then we got out for a short walk in the Indian Kill Preserve, in Glenville.  It's actually starting to look a little more like spring, with lots of colt's foot, blue cohosh, and the buds of trout lily and trillium everywhere.

Colt's foot
And then there was this, which made the trip complete:

Red trillium
Finally!  One of our favorite spring wildflowers in bloom!  Can real spring be far behind?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Two kinds of golf on a pretty nice day

I couldn't for the life of me get excited about biking today, so instead, I returned to the disc golf course in Central Park where I haven't been for the past two weeks.  I've started playing the longer tees now, since I seem to have enough distance in me to do that, and my scores off the short tees have stagnated somewhat around +5-6 for the round.  I had a very good first nine, no worse than off the short tees, but crumbled on the back nine, finding water twice and ballooning my score.

This afternoon, I pulled out a golf club and went off to hit a bucket of balls at my local range.  I hardly played at all last year, or even for the past several years, so had no idea what to expect.  The usual problems are still there, but overall, I couldn't complain too much about how things went.  I haven't gotten any WORSE for the long layoff, so that's a plus.  Might be time to try a par-3 course and see how bad the rest of my game has become.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

3 short walks , still looking for spring

Last year, two weeks ago this time, I paid a visit to the Limestone Rise Preserve, west of Altamont on NY-146 in the town of Knox.  On that trip, I saw the most profuse blooms of hepatica I had ever seen in one place.  It was almost impossible to walk without stepping on them.  So today, I decided it was time for a return visit.  This has been a very different spring season from last year, but I though by now, after a few days of sunny warm weather, things might be catching up.  But whether because of today's brisk cool winds, or because I'm still rushing this late spring, it was not to be.  There were indeed hepatica all over the  place, but they were almost all still closed up.  And not even a single spring beauty had sprouted yet to keep them company.

Since I was out anyway, I decided to try another preserve at a lower elevation, where the snow melted earlier, temps may have been a little warmer, and it might be farther along.  At the Moccasin Kill Sanctuary, in Rotterdam, I saw not a single wildflower, somewhat surprising, but I guess it shouldn't be based on what I'd seen everywhere else so far.

On the way home, I took an impulse detour for a quick stop at the Mohawk River State Park in Niskayuna.  There's a large patch of trout lilies here that might also be in bloom by now.  Or so I hoped.  But I found a similar situation here, mostly just their speckled leaves and a very few blooms.  And those were also still closed up, either against the cold or against the calendar.

With another week of warm days, I think that we'll be seeing things really explode, because they're very close now.  I guess I just need to be more patient.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Biking - A longer loop on a beautiful day

Sunny and upper 60s!   It's about time!  I decided to celebrate by doing one of my favorite loops, clockwise along the river between the Rexford and Crescent Bridges.  It's about 27.5 miles, my longest of this season, as well as having a little more climbing overall than I've done so far.

I decided to start from the Niskayuna Train Station heading west, and get some of the climbing out of the way early.  Normally, I would start at about the 5-mile mark above, near KAPL, but that means a couple of annoying hills near the end when I'm tired.  There was also a slight westerly headwind, and by breaking the westbound section in half, I didn't have to fight it all at once.

There were lots of other bikers out today, with the best weather we've had so far, and the bike path was surprisingly busy for a weekday.  I rode today at an easy pace and just enjoyed the great weather.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another walk, still no wildflowers

With an early afternoon appointment, a windy morning, and a forecast of steadier rain later, I got out for an hour's walk this morning, again in the Mohawk River State Park.  There's a very prolific patch of trout lilies here not far from the car, and I was curious to see their progress after a few days of rain and warmer temperatures.  Unfortunately, spring seems to be arriving at a glacial pace this year, and there were still only their early speckled leaves and no flowers.  In fact, I saw no flowers of any kind as I wandered around the trail system here.  I got briefly spritzed a couple of times by passing showers, but nothing serious, and blue skies returned shortly.  Looking forward to warmer temperatures and some progress over the next few days.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Biking - Testing the legs on the first climb of the year

Finally, a day with some biking appeal!  Warmer temperatures, lighter winds, and nothing else to do.

So far this season, I've been doing relatively flat rides, repeating the same 16-mile loop as weather and schedule permitted.  Today, I decided to add on a bit with a 21-mile ride that included a climb of my favorite, Grant Hill Road in Guilderland.  I rode this loop clockwise, starting from home, just off the top of the map.

The day just wasn't warming up fast enough, so I finally bit the bullet, layered up, and hit the road.  There was a little more wind than I'd expected, and temps were still only in the 40s, but I was dressed right, so it was still pleasant riding.

Grant Hill Road is a fairly short climb, less than a mile, but there's a 9% pitch near the top that gets your heart beating.  I ride this climb a lot because it lets me gauge progress in leg strength as the season progresses.  Today, I was in a much lower gear than usual, but there was never any question of making the top.  From there, it was mostly downhill to French's Hollow, now closed to cars, but the bridge over the Normanskill is still open for bikes.  I always stop for a drink here and enjoy the water coming down from Watervliet Reservoir.  On a good day, there might even be a train crossing the trestle.

It's a short steep climb out of here, and soon I'm back on the end of the 16-mile route I've been doing, with a few miles added today.  A few unexpected sprinkles hit me on the way home, but overall it was a good day on the bike.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Walks - Looking for spring in three local preserves

After Tuesday's ADK outing, the rest of the week turned colder and wetter, so I still haven't been back on the bike since Sunday.  But I have managed to sneak in a few local walks between the raindrops, hoping to find some early signs of spring.

On Wednesday, I walked a slow loop around the H. G. Reist Sanctuary in Niskayuna.  Although there were birds everywhere, the only wildflower I saw was the prolific skunk cabbage that always grows here.  It hadn't leafed out yet, and only the flowers were visible, much like we'd seen the day before.

On Thursday, I took a long walk in the Mohawk River State Park and the adjacent John Brown Trail System, also in Niskayuna.  Here, I started to see the first leaves of the trout lily as well as the leaves of a few violets.  No flowers here yet either.

Today, with showers in the forecast for later in the day, I visited the Plotterkill Preserve before lunch.  There's a really good map here on Ed Atkeson's extensive Plotterkill blog, and I'll be referring to it here as I continue.

I parked at the lower entrance on Lower Gregg Road, and headed up the north rim to the yellow side trail leading to the "Step Falls", the group of 3 small triangles on the map.  The trails were muddy, but hey, it's spring, so it's to be expected.  The upper Step Falls was almost submerged by the raging waters.

Upper Step Falls
 Across the stream was a pretty tributary, usually dry in the summer, but flowing nicely today.

Near upper Step Falls
I continued downstream as far as I could, and reached the middle Step Falls.

Middle Step Falls
There was really no way to continue along the stream from here, so I retraced my steps back up to the rim, and continued upstream to the next yellow side trail.  This one led me to Sergeant's Falls.

Sergeant's Falls and tributary
Sergeant's Falls and tributary
Again, I was stymied along the stream bank, so I headed back up to the rim and the red trail to retrace my steps back to the car.  Along the way, I saw the first wildflowers of the spring, some colts foot growing on an exposed mud slide part way down into the gorge.

Colts foot
At this point I thought I was down for the day.  But then I again noticed a pretty significant roar and lots of white water down below.  It was the other unnamed group of 4 small triangles on the map.  There's no trail to these falls, but they sounded worth a trip, so I found a relatively gentle way down, being very careful, and reached an amazing spot deep in the gorge.  I was standing near a big bend in the stream, below rocky cliffs on both sides.

View downstream from just above the upper four-triangle falls
Working my way downstream as far as I dared, and before reaching towering cliffs above me, I came to the next set of four-triangle falls:

View upstream from below second falls
Once or twice, long ago, I walked the entire gorge during times of low water, and must have passed here before.  But I'd never seen it like this, and was glad I'd come down in the gorge to see it.

Now I was done, and it was time for lunch, so I headed back to the car.  As I was driving home, I noticed a deer tick crawling up the outside of my pants, and quickly disposed of it.  It's that time of year, and they're definitely on the prowl.  Be careful out there!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Walk - Bog Meadow Nature Trail

After that windy ride on Sunday, and a bunch of yard work yesterday, I was at a low energy level today, so had signed up for an easy 4-mile hike/walk on the Bog Meadow Nature Trail, east of Saratoga Springs.  This was a joint Schenectady ADK and Taconic Hiking Club outing, with the ostensible purpose of finding some early spring wildflowers.  Nineteen (?!?) of us left the trailhead, spread out into many casual conversational groups.  It was a pleasant enough walk, but in terms of flowers, I guess you could say we got skunked.  The only early blooms we saw all morning were skunk cabbage, and even it seemed to be in its early stages.  What a difference a year makes!  Last year at about this time, I was walking in the Limestone Rise Preserve near Altamont, and the flowers were prolific.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Biking - "We're not in Kansas anymore..."

But it sure felt like it:





There are two ways to ride on a windy day.  You can either fight it, cursing all the way, or you can relax, accept it, even embrace it, and just enjoy the ride.  After several days of unseasonable cold and wind, today was forecast to be sunny and in the upper 50s, but with the unfortunate addition of the above wind advisory.  Now I've cursed the wind as much as anybody when out on the bike, not the last time of which was as I crossed the aforementioned Kansas 3 years (?!?) ago now.  But spring has been late in coming this year, and I just couldn't waste a day like this.

I decided to ride the same 16-mile loop I've been riding so far this year, not adding anything, and letting the wind make it a more difficult outing all by itself.  The first 6.5 miles, to the southeasterly point on the map below, was almost dead on into a headwind, with swirling gusts from a variety of directions.  But I wasn't allowed to whine about it, since I'd known what to expect when I decided to ride today.  I just spun the pedals in a lower gear, and enjoyed finally being out there again on an otherwise pleasant day.

Once I turned that corner, and I headed back the other way, things improved immensely, and for all the rest of the way back home.  I even spent some rare time (for me) in the big ring, cranking at 18-20mph with a nice tailwind. 

I was glad I hadn't just sat home cursing the wind.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Biking - Going loopy

With the cold, windy, even snowy weather we've had for the past week, I haven't been out on the bike at all.  So when today promised sunny and 50s, it was time to get back in the saddle.  I thought maybe by now I'd be upping the miles a bit, but with the week of inactivity, I thought better of it, and just settled for the same 16-mile loop I've been doing so far.  But it seems I needn't have worried.  Today's ride felt good, and I could feel the leg strength coming back.  Next time out (tomorrow?), more miles, or a climb, or maybe even both.