Sunday, July 31, 2005

Riding (and pushing the bike) along the Lehigh Valley Trail and the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail
Sunday, July 31, 2005

photo slideshow

Today Ann and I drove down to Canawaugus Park in Scottsville. From there we biked down the Genesee Valley Greenway to the river crossing, an old railroad trestle which was recently re-decked to connect the Greenway Trail with the Lehigh Valley Trail, which runs from the river all the way over to Victor. From there we rode the Lehigh Valley Trail to Rush.

The Lehigh Valley Trail is also sometimes called the Black Diamond Trail, both because the official trail signs have a black diamond on them and because the trail was originally the railbed for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which was originally built in 1891 to carry coal and then later offered passenger service between Buffalo and New York City. After changing hands numerous times during the mid-1900's, the railroad was shut down in the 1970's, and Monroe County acquired the rail bed. (See Rich and Sue Freeman's books at Footprint Press for more information.)

I first rode the Lehigh Valley Trail several years ago, on my road bike - the trail was definitely for the rough-and-ready, and after a long, hot, bone-rattling ride I decided I would only go back once I had a mountain bike. The following year Ann gave me an ATB for my birthday, and several days later I rode the trail again, and had an absolute blast. Rocks, mud, water, dirt mounds - both the bike and I came out of that ride covered in water and mud. What fun! Since then, the trail has been smoothed out and resurfaced with packed stone dust. It's much easier to ride... but I must admit I miss the "wilder" trail. The current trail is a nice ride... but the old trail was a FUN ride, at least for this crazy fool.

We took a short break at the park in Rush, and then headed back. Along the way I found some puddles to splash through, and Ann graciously agreed to take some pictures of me getting wet. Unfortunately, not long after that one of my tires went flat. No big deal - I had spare tubes and a pump - BUT no wrench to loosen the axle nuts so I could remove the wheel! (My road bike has quick-release skewers!) So I pushed my bike for about 3 1/2 miles back to the car. That part was not a whole lot of fun... but at least now there's a wrench in my ATB tool kit.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hiking the Chimney Bluffs & Wolcott Falls Park
Saturday, July 23, 2005

Chimney Bluffs State Park
more info on Chimney Bluffs State Park

photo slideshow

Another active day. Ann wanted to go over to visit her parents and then we planned to hike the lake shore out at Chimney Bluffs, so I decided to ride my bike from Rochester to Newark. It was a great day for the ride - not too hot and humid. Rode through Genessee Valley Park and along the Erie Canal Path. Got lost briefly in Palmyra when I hopped on a paved path that didn't go where I expected it to, but eventually found my way back to Rt 31 and pedalled the last 10 miles or so the Newark along the road. (That was probably the least pleasant part of the ride.) Made decent time - a little under 3 1/2 hours to ride about 45 miles.

After we'd had a bite to eat and visited with her folks for a while, we headed over to Sodus Point and spent a while hiking along the lake shore at the Chimney Bluffs. We had visited there three years ago, and I was glad we were going back, because I think it's a pretty cool place. Chimney Bluffs is a glacial moraine, or material deposited when the continental glaciers of the Ice Age melted ten to twenty thousand years ago. Originally the material was deposited in the form of drumlins (elongated hills) which over time have eroded, leaving behind an ever-changing array of knife-edged clay-and-rock formations. With an average erosion rate of 3 feet per year, the bluffs can change quite dramatically from one visit to the next. (see the entry in Wikipedia for more information.) Ann's father remembers the bluffs extending quite a bit further out, and the first time we visited there it was clear that the road/parking area used to run out further a ways and has since eroded away.

The bluffs were as cool as I'd remembered... Ann didn't want to hike along the upper edge, so we stuck to the lakeshore. Probably just as well, since my legs were pretty tired from riding and so it was rather slow going. At times there were a few too many people for my taste, but we were there late in the afternoon and it did really start to clear out. Overall, it was a fun walk in a really neat area, and I hope we get to go back again someday.

After that we drove to the nearby town of Wolcott to visit Wolcott Falls. I don't have my waterfalls book handy, so all I can say about the Falls is what little I remember - that they had once been harnessed to power a mill, which has long since disappeared, and now are part of a small park in Wolcott. Not a bad little waterfall, but nothing I would go out of my way to go visit. The park itself was pretty small, with only one real path that ran down to the falls (the rest was pretty swampy, and there was a decent amount of poison ivy visible along the path itself.) But it was a good place to visit while we were in the neighborhood.

So all in all a day well spent... got in a good training ride, and got to walk around some nice places with my sweetheart.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Short Hike at Peebles Island
Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sunday afternoon Ann and I walked the perimeter of Peebles Island State Park over by Cohoes… it’s surprisingly a really nice place to go, very scenic. About 2 ¼ miles for the perimeter loop. Of course, by then my legs were shot and I was walking VERY slowly…

Indian Ladder 15K Trail Run
Sunday, July 17, 2005

2005 Indian Ladder trail race results

2005 Indian Ladder race & Peebles hike photo slideshow

Indian Ladder is an old friend by now (albeit an old friend that kicks my butt every year.) The weather started out good – cool and cloudy – but VERY humid, and that made itself clear once we started running. Ann was a sport and came along again, despite the fact that waiting at a trail race is even less interesting than watching paint dry. (She muttered something about “beats sitting inside waiting for you to get back.”)

I started out strong – 9 minute miles for the first two – but then the hills kicked in and my legs started running out of “fast juice.” Managed a thumbs-up for Ann taking pictures at about mile 6, but suspect I looked like heck. The last three miles seemed to take forever… more and more I think the loop is mis-measured and is actually 4 or 5 miles long.

During this last loop it actually turned into a race between me and two other gentlemen. Passed one early on and he never quite caught back up with me. Passed the other about a mile and a half from the finish, and he never quite caught me either. Both finished within a minute of me, so they were right on my heels at the end. One shook my hand afterwards and thanked me for giving him such a good run. (Doubt I’ll ever hear THAT again!) Now for the truly funny part, lest it sound like I’m getting a swelled head from beating these two to the finish… the first one is 72 and the 2nd one is 69. I laughed for a while when I saw that in the results on-line. Yes, indeed, I can beat people well over retirement age (and only some… the other runners in their age divisions beat me, in some cases by as much as 15 minutes.)

So I finished at 1:47, which translates into 11 ½ minute miles. I find that disappointing – I was really hoping for something in the 10’s – but I ran as hard as I could. Probably too hard, given the aftereffects.

Woke up Monday morning and my left calf, which has been giving me minor grief after my runs, was screaming at me. Apparently I badly strained, pulled, or tore something that had been aggravated for a month or so. So the bad news is… no running for me for a while, which is driving me crazy. I cancelled going to the Presque Isle duathlon July 31, as well as a 7 mile race on August 3. I’m also writing off the Adirondack marathon… I doubt there’s any way I can safely get up to marathon distances by the end of September. I’m still shooting for some half marathon distances in September and October… that might be doable.

Depending on how my calf heals up, my next race may be a 7 miler on August 7, down in Connecticut. But August depends a lot on how things go over the next week.

In between being aggravated and bummed about not being able to run, I’m still working on my riding and aiming for the Lowlander 100 mile ride on September 10. Maybe another long ride or two as well… have to see how things go. Hopefully riding can keep increasing my aerobic conditioning so that getting back into running longer distances won’t be a major challenge.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Mountain Biking at Lake Minnewaska State Park
Friday, July 15, 2005

Lake Minnewaska history & info

photo slideshow

When Ann asked me a while back what I wanted to do on my birthday, my intial answer was predictable: "I dunno." After I'd thought about it for a while, I came up with a much better answer - to spend the day riding my bike around the Minnewaska State Park Preserve (otherwise known as Lake Minnewaska.) I'd been there twice before to run races, and had been really amazed by how beautiful it was. There are two lakes, Minnewaska and Awosting, and miles of carriage trails, many of which run along the cliffs and have fabulous views. While I'd never seen it, I also knew there was a waterfall, Awosting Falls, somewhere in the park that is a very popular photo spot.

So, the day after our buggy trip to Beartown, we packed a picnic lunch and headed for the mountains overlooking New Paltz (even though it wasn't my birthday - I decided going on a weekday was preferable, since it would probably be less crowded than on the weekend.) The drive alone is gorgeous - once you leave New Paltz the ridge is almost always visible, and to get to the park you need to drive up into the mountains and then wind through some beautiful scenery. Even once you get into the park, there's a long winding road to get to the main area of the park. It's not too difficult to see why there used to be two resorts on this property, or why there's a very expensive high-class resort right next door (the Mohonk Mountain House.)

Got off to a late morning start, so we ate as soon as we got there, then unpacked the bikes and hit the trail. First we circled Lake Minnewaska, which turned out to be a much hillier path than I remembered. These were the most crowded trails, so between walking up hills and watching out for all the walkers, it was somewhat slow going. Then we headed off to Lake Awosting via the Upper Awosting Carriageway.

While there are hills along this path, it's not too bad, though Ann did grumble that I mostly seemed to take her picture when she was pushing her bike. From there we biked around Lake Awosting and then headed uphill to Castle Point and the Castle Point Carriageway, which is the longest stretch that runs along the cliffs. From there it was an "easy" downhill back to Lake Minnewaska and then to the car to drop off some gear and refill out water bottles for the trip to Awosting Falls.

It turns out the reason I'd never seen Awosting Falls is because it is down near the park entrance, and the other times I'd been here I was either heading to a race (the entrance is always VERY busy then) or leaving after a race (typically I'm too fried at that point to be looking for trailheads.) So the good news was - it was all downhill to get to the falls. After several hours of riding the trails, that was a welcome break. The falls were beautiful, with a surprising amount of water going over them, and at the top Ann splashed in the stream (something she'd been wanting to do all day.)

Then we started the long uphill hike back to the car. (Yes, that's the drawback to a long downhill ride with the car parked at the top.) Took about 45 minutes but we made it back with a bit of time to spare (about an hour before the park closed.) And then it was time to say good-bye to Minnewaska again...

All in all, this was a great trip… it really makes me want to do the 20K trail race there in November, and I definitely want to go back to ride the trails again (maybe in less hazy, humid weather.) If you get a chance to go to the 'Gunks, do so - they're absolutely wonderful. One of these days I need to visit the Mohonk Preserve, which borders Minnewaska Park but requires a separate fee, since it isn't state-owned. Maybe someday I'll get bored with the 'Gunks - but that day's probably a long ways off.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Mountain Biking at Beartown State Forest
Thursday, July 14, 2005

Beartown State Forest info

photo slideshow

Beartown is another place I visited frequently back when I lived in the Berkshires. There are miles of trails, as well as sparsely-travelled paved and dirt roads - great for running and riding. You can be out for hours in much of the park and not see other people. It's great!

Ann was visiting for my birthday, so after a morning of taking it pretty easy we packed up the bikes and headed down to Massachusetts. I had gone for a run at Beartown back in May, and really wanted to visit the park again. After the long-ish drive we parked at the old CCC camp and headed down the road on the bikes.

Unfortunately, it’s very hilly, very muddy, and apparently very buggy… I tend to enjoy the former two (well, hilly can get old pretty quick) and I hadn’t noticed the latter before, maybe because I was always running along fast enough that the bugs didn’t catch me, or maybe it was just a good year for bugs. In any case, Ann found the terrain challenging enough that we walked a lot… and also got chewed up big time by the ‘skeeters, despite having used bug spray when we started. Ann is very vocal in her dislike of annoying insects, so that part wasn't much fun for either of us.

We briefly tried riding on the Airplane trail, which has been chewed to pieces by ATVs and was mudhole after mudhole. I guess I should be happy we didn't encounter any of the culprits, but it's still frustrating - that trail was one I ran and skiied a lot, and I'm sorry to see the section we were on in such bad shape from idiots being irresponsible with their toys - I'm not sure I could have ridden it even had I been by myself (though I'm stubborn enough that I might have tried.) I'll have to try running it again sometime.

After that we hiked the bikes up the very steep Sky Peak Road and carefully "zipped" down the the other side (it had been recently graded, so the surface was pretty loose.)

Wrapped up the day with a drive through Lee and Lenox and dinner up in Pittsfield... too late to visit either the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail or Mount Greylock, unfortunately. We'll just have to go there some other time...


Sunday, July 10, 2005

45 Mile Bike Ride
Sunday, July 10, 2005

...because they aren't much use if you don't have them with you!!!!! (I know that probably seems obvious to everyone, but apparently it wasn't so obvious to me.)

Another gorgeous summer afternoon, so I went out for a long ride today, over into Bethlehem, New Salem, Altamont, Voorheesville... very tough going at first (lots of uphill, especially coming out of Bethlehem before heading over toward New Salem and Altamont) but was really getting into it as I left Voorheesville heading back toward the Helderberg Escarpment (I was going to loop back around in an attempt to rack up some additional miles...) And right around 30 miles into the ride, without warning, my seat bolt snapped and the seat pretty much fell off.

This happened to me 7 or 8 years ago, at which point I put a spare seat bolt in my tool kit... unfortunately, I redid my tool kit this spring and the seat bolt (as well as the allen wrench I'd need to install it) remained in a bag on my living room table.

So after venting my frustration at the gods of cycling and idiot cyclists, I managed to tie the seat on with a stap from my Camelback (so that it would not fall off... it was not even remotely secure) and then spent 15 miles precariously balanced for coasting and pedaling the flats and downhills, and walking any uphills, all the way back home. Fortunately it's mostly downhill from Voorheesville to my house. But there are a several parts of my anatomy that are going to be very sore tomorrow.

Oh, well. It could have been worse. At least I didn't have to walk 15 miles to get home. I'd still be out there...

Anyway, just thought everyone would get a kick out of this one.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Hiking in Letchworth State Park
Saturday, July 2, 2004

Letchworth State Park info
more about Letchworth

Letchworth hike photo slideshow

Five years ago Ann and I spent a better part of a Sunday at Letchworth State Park, about an hour south of Rochester. Unfortunately, it rained much of the time we were there, so we really didn’t see that much – but we saw enough for me to know that I wanted to go back someday. And since this seems to be the year where I revisit places – off we went to Letchworth, on a sunny Saturday.

The most prominent feature of Letchworth is the gorge, cut out during the last Ice Age and currently forming the bed of a portion of the Genesee River. The canyon is one of the deepest east of the Mississippi River, and is sometimes referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East” (though Ann tells me there’s another place in Pennsylvania that also claims that name.) The entire park is nearly 20 miles long and is made up of three gorges separated by two valleys – the southernmost gorge is the one that sees the most visitors, since it contains three major waterfalls (Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls) as well as the Glen Iris Inn, which used to be the home of William Pryor Letchworth, who owned the property as a private estate until 1907 when he deeded it to New York State to be developed as a state park, to protect it from industrialists looking to turn the area into a hydroelectric generating plant. (Much of this info comes from Rich & Sue Freeman’s Waterfalls in Central & Western New York – more info on this excellent guide book and their other guides to hiking and biking in western NY can be found at )

As should be clear from the pictures, the entire park is very beautiful, and the gorges are spectacular. I’m VERY pleased we finally went back…

We started out with a fairly quiet picnic lunch and then hiked down to the river and wandered around for a bit. After that we stopped at a very nice area with a stream and a tall (and unfortunately difficult to see) waterfall – that spot was VERY crowded, as was the area around Lower Falls. Ann managed to climb to the top of an outcropping near Lower Falls, but even that had lots of people coming and going. The area around Middle and Upper Falls was also pretty busy, but large enough that we weren’t bumping into other folks very time we turned around.

After looking at the falls we hiked up the steep path to the railroad bridge over Upper Falls and went out of the bridge to take some pictures. Oddly enough we were the only ones up there, despite the fact that we had seen many people on the bridge previously. Perhaps they had somehow gotten word that one of the park police was in the area – we were very apologetic and he was nice enough not to give us a ticket for trespassing (the bridge is off limits for obvious safety reasons – trains still use it!)

After that we hiked back down and watched a local company set up a hot air balloon and take a group up for a ride… that was pretty cool. We wrapped the day up buying Chinese takeout in Mount Morris and eating it while waiting for the July 4th fireworks to start… that was pretty crowded, but they did put on a decent show (and we were already there…)

So, all in all, a pretty nice day spent walking around an absolutely breathtaking park with my sweetheart. And yes, I want to go back again and explore even more (maybe during the week when it might be a little less crowded.)