Friday, August 31, 2007

PART 1 - Off to Sabattis
Friday, August 31, 2007

Ann and a group of her friends spend every Labor Day weekend in the Adirondacks camping. For as long as we've been together, they've been going to the Sabattis Scout Reservation (receiving permission to do so because the trip organizer and his brothers have done an incredible amount of work for the Reservation) and camping at a primitive site right off of Lows Lake. The Reservation itself is private property, surrounded primarily by state-owned wilderness (though there is also some privately-owned property in the vicinity.) As a result, the group Ann goes with is generally the only one actually at the site that weekend, though it is quite common to see folks canoeing, kayaking, or boating by on the lake.

I've gone up there three or four times, which initially may seem odd - after all, most of my recreational activities are focused on being outdoors and I love being in the mountains. I have to admit, that part of the weekend is very appealing to me. On the other hand... I guess I've become very attached to hot showers, flush toilets, and a comfortable bed (as opposed to cold dunks in the lake, an outhouse, and anything from sleeping on the floor of a tent to using a foam camp mattress.) They've also had a couple of years where it rained much of the weekend, and spending three days in primitive conditions cold and wet isn't an appealing option to me. The timing is also tough - right at the point where I need to mentally (and possibly physically) get prepared for another 9 1/2 months of teaching. So I always have mixed feelings about going, though since Ann enjoys it so much (and comments on how much she missed me if I don't go) I try to suck it up and go at least every other year. More recently, I've tried to find a happy medium by only going for part of the weekend... which is how Friday evening found me driving north and west into the Adirondacks (with several stops to pick up items I'd forgotten to pack) camping-bound. One big plus - the weather forecast called for great weather all weekend.

The drive out was uneventful, other than one wrong turn (which ended up being easy to correct) and very slow going for the last few miles as I tried to find the turnoff to their camp site (which I now know is called Lookout Point.) It was easy to find in the daylight, slightly more difficult at night, but finally I coaxed my Civic down the fairly rutted road to the parking area just down the hill from the campsite. (It turns out I had a very easy time of it... one of the other late arrivals ended up all turned around in the dark, went down the wrong road, and had a run-in with some overly aggressive trees, leaving dents in the front and rear of her SUV. OK, I have to admit I found it more than a bit ironic that I made it there just fine in my little low-slung car and someone in an SUV ended up having problems...)

Ann and I lugged my stuff up to the tent, then spent a while sitting by the fire before turning in. Morning would no doubt come all too soon...


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Originally, I had planned to head over to the Pine Bush and get in a short run after sitting through our first day of "start-of-the-school-year" meetings and before teaching classes tonight. But when I walked out to the car after the meetings, the heat and humidity was like walking through a sauna.

If I had a bit more time, I'd go for a ride, but I can't do that and make it to class on time... so it looks like today will be another rest day. I'll just have to get in a good long run tomorrow morning...


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Complete & Utter Chaos - Part 3
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The preferred morning perch - the bathroom sink. Impeccable timing - just as I need to use the water to shave or brush my teeth, she decides she needs a drink from the faucet.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

30.1 Mile Ride at Minnewaska State Park
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Minnewaska State Park official site
a site with lots of info about Minnewaska

an excellent guidebook to Gunks trails

photo slideshows:
Lake Minnewaska & Millbrook Mountain
Awosting Falls & Lake Awosting
Castle Point

I first visited Minnewaska State Park Preserve in 1999, when I went there for the Summer Solstice Run. I fell in love with the place almost immediately, and have tried to go back every chance I get. Over the years I've run in 6 races there (4 Summer Solstice Runs and 2 After the Leaves Have Fallen 20k's) and Ann and I visited there two summers ago to ride some of the carriage trails. I knew I wanted to get back there this summer for some more riding, and finally managed to do so today.

The drive down was uneventful, except for the unsettling sight of cloud cover off to the west. In the end, I decided there was nothing to be done for that, and all I could do was enjoy my time there. regardless of whether or not I had blue sky for the many photos I expected to take.

Wolfed down some quick lunch while I changed clothes and got set up, and then headed out on the trails. One of my goals for this visit was to ride some paths I hadn't been on before, so I started out with a warmup around Lake Minnewaska (quite a warmup - there are a lot of hills!) and then headed out on the Millbrook Mountain carriageway. Some climbing, and lots of downhill on the way out (meaning I was looking at a lot of uphill on the way back... sigh.) But it was well worth it - there were wonderful views both along the path and from the cliffs at the end.

Headed back to the Lake Minnewaska carriageway and made my way back to the car to resupply. Then I rode down the fairly steep Sunset carriageway to the park entrance... it was along here that I discovered that my front brakes had worn down to the point where they weren't much use for stopping anymore, though they still slowed the bike down. Followed the Awosting Falls carriageway down to the waterfall and then all the way to the edge of the park, where the path changes over to the Trapps road through the Mohonk Preserve. Since there's a separate fee to ride at Mohonk, I headed back to the park entrance and made my way to the Lower Awosting carriageway at the edge of the lower parking lot.

I knew there would be some climbing on the Lower Awosting carriageway - after all, the trails from Lake Minnewaska to Lake Awosting go uphill, and I had done some substantial downhill to reach the lower parking lot. Overall, this path wasn't terribly scenic... basically, a sunny dirt road through the woods which took me gradually but consistently uphill. As I gained elevation, it was interesting to watch the vegetation change from deciduous forest to conifers and eventually scrub pines. Just before reaching Lake Awosting, the road went up and up and up and I had to get off and push the bike for the first time all day (apparently, this stretch is nicknamed "Cardiac Hill")

The loop around Lake Awosting is one of the more technical sections that I've ridden - somewhat rocky and eroded, with views of both the lake and the ridge overlooking it. Once I'd circled the lake, I headed down the Upper Awosting carriageway to return to the car. I have to admit, by this point I was hot and fairly tired, so the fairly consistent downhill was great! Since the sky was still cloudy, I didn't stop to take many pictures - besides, with the Hamilton Point carriageway closed to bikes, I'd be passing this way again on my final loop.

Back at the car I ate a bit, which helped me regain a bit of energy and enthusiasm, and worked on my brakes, swapping the front and back pads. I also debated over which way to ride the final loop, but finally settled on taking the Upper Awosting Carriageway back to the lake, and then climbing up and over Castle Point on the Castle Point Carriageway, which would leave me with a long easy downhill most of the way back.

As I rode out, the sun came out, and the last loop turned out to be spectacular - lots of climbing for the first four miles, but great scenery and views! It turned out to be slow going, mostly because I kept stopping to take pictures. I stopped briefly at Castle Point to take in the view - gorgeous! And then made my way downhill and back to the parking lot, where I packed up and left as quick as I could, since the park was closing in half an hour.

All in all, a good day spent at Minnewaska. As I was riding some new (to me, at least) trails today I was struck by what a great place this would be to do a long run - I'll have to give that a try next spring or summer. Also, as much as I enjoyed riding the trails, I have to admit to feeling a bit sad during the last loop, both because Ann couldn't be there and because today really signals the end of my summer break. And for the fourth day in a row, I watched the moon rise as I wrapped up the day's activities... there's no real significance to that, but it really struck me when I saw the moon sitting big and orange just above the horizon as I drove down into New Paltz after leaving the park.


Monday, August 27, 2007

7.5 Mile Run Along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path
Monday, August 27, 2007

Going home,
when the summer's coming in,
And the moonlight on the
show's me where I've been...

-"Going Home" Runrig, Day of

As I ran down the bike path along the river, watching the full moon rise and then light the path for the final couple of miles of my run, I couldn't help thinking of the opening song on Runrig's Day of Days CD, which collects songs from their live performance at Stirling Castle in 2003 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the band.

Despite my left knee being a bit sore, I had a pretty good run this evening. Even ran up the hill along the old landfill, down into the park, and then back down the hill on my way back... that hill was the site of the Crash last August, and this is the first time I've run down it since then (I've ridden down it a couple of times this year.) I can happily report that I did not crash as I ran down it tonight!


Sunday, August 26, 2007

21 Mile Ride Along the Erie Canal
Sunday, August 26, 2007

photo slideshow

When Ann headed down to the ambulance base for her Sunday night duty squad, I packed up the bike and headed over to the Public Safety facility on Scottsville Road to try and get in a ride before it got dark. At this point I've ended up parking there so many times in the past few weeks that I think they should name a parking space after me...

After a quick loop through Genesee Valley Park I headed west along the canal - a route I've ridden a lot in the past but not much this year. The first few miles run fairly high above the canal, and pass through mostly industrial areas, but then the surroundings shift to being a bit more rural (and easier on the eyes!) Some parts have only been paved for a few years now, which is definitely easier riding than the dirt path that used to be there.

At one point I almost managed to snap a picture of a kingfisher... but then he swooped down, snatched his dinner from the water, and disappeared across the canal. Oh, well.

After a quick rest stop at Greece Park, I headed a little bit further west before turning around and returning to the car. I definitely could have used a long-sleeved shirt or jersey on this ride - instead, I made do on the trip back with one of my windbreakers, which had me sweating pretty freely but beat shivering.

On the way back, I had a nice view of the rising moon, and I made a special trip to the crest of one of the Genesee Valley Park bridges to get a shot of the moon over the waters of the canal and Genesee River, which cross at one corner of the park.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Perinton parks info
Hiking in Perinton - includes links to trail maps

photo slideshow

In the mid-1990's Perinton was named one of the top 10 "Trail Towns" in the United States by the American Hiking Society and the National Parks Service. There is an extensive network of trails running throughout the town and connecting with trails in neighboring towns. Last summer Ann and I hiked the Horizon Hill trails and found them scenic but quite challenging with some major climbs. For a variety of reasons, today we chose to visit the Indian Hill trail system for a short hike before she went on her usual Sunday night ambulance duty squad.

The initial section was a fairly steep uphill, which didn't bode well for the rest of the hike, but once we came out at the top the terrain became a bit more reasonable. This one had a little bit of everything - shaded woods, stream crossings on wooden bridges, a few places which would be pretty muddy in wetter weather, and mowed paths along the edges of fields and meadows. We only had time to explore a portion of the trails, but the part we did hike was pretty nice, and would probably make for good running - the trails were fairly clear, there were enough hills for a good workout but not so many to make it a killer, and according to the map there are a couple of miles of trail. Perhaps later in the fall or next summer I can head over there for a run...

It would have been nice to have more time to explore, but it was still a good way to spend an hour or so with my sweetheart on a sunny, cool August afternoon.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area
Stony Brook State Park
Letchworth State Park
Saturday, August 25, 2007

Conesus Inlet DEC site
Stony Brook State Park official site
Letchworth State Park official site

Conesus Inlet photos
Stony Brook photos
Letchworth photos

Since this was probably the last weekend for a while where we could go away, I suggested that we visit one of the parks out near Rochester, and Ann suggested Stony Brook, since neither of us had been there before (well, she'd been there, but the gorge trail was closed because of high water.) Checking my maps, I realized that visiting the Conesus Inlet (which we previously missed going to when we were in the area to visit the Hemlock and Canadice Lake trails) would be fairly easy to do. So after breakfast and shopping for supplies (lunch and drinks) we headed south for a day of (hopefully) communing with nature.

Conesus Inlet

Conesus Inlet is a wetland habitat at the southern end of Conesus Lake. Managed by the NYS DEC, the area includes a heron rookery and spawning habitat for northern pike as well as walleye and carp. There are several trails in the area, including viewing platforms, and overlooks off of Rt 256 which forms the western boundary of the state-managed area.

I had hoped we'd see a variety of waterfowl and wildlife, but other than frogs of various sizes and robins throughout the woods, all of them were too far away to get a good view. So this visit turned out to be a short walk along the edge of the swamp and through the woods. Pleasant (except for being very hot and humid) but nothing particularly outstanding. Had I planned ahead a little bit better, we'd have brought binoculars and perhaps been able to see a few more birds off across the water.

Stony Brook

In the late 1800's the glen which is currently Stony Brook State Park was a popular resort which included a large dance hall and theaters as well as nature trails. Trains brought visitors from as far away as Pennsylvania and crossed the gorge on a 239 foot trestle, then the tallest such structure east of the Mississippi (the concrete footings of the bridge, which was dismantled in the 1940's, remain in the gorge.) In the early 1920's the resort closed and the state took over the property in 1928. Workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's built many of the structures that are found in the park today. (Bill Bailey, New York State Parks, 2003.)

Since it was a very hot and humid day, we expected Stony Brook to be very busy. It wasn't bad when we arrived - there was even still parking in the lot - but while we were eating lunch they began directing people to park on the grass, and the swimming area at the north end of the park was packed. We followed the recommended hike from Rich and Sue Freeman's 200 Waterfalls guide and hiked out on the gorge trail, which follows the brook, crossing it at several points on both wooden and stone bridges. There wasn't a huge amount of water flowing, since we've had a fairly dry summer, but there were still numerous small waterfalls and two fairly large ones. All in all, it would have been very pretty and scenic... except for the people seemingly everywhere. Once we were around the bend from the swimming area, it was like one long noisy waterpark (the rangers had clearly given up on the idea of enforcing the "no swimming or wading" rule.)
Ann had a good time, because she had come here intended to play in the water a bit, but I think I would like Stony Brook a lot more in cooler weather...

When we reached the old bridge foundations, I waited while Ann walked upstream a bit further to the last waterfall (when she came back and told me it was crawling with people, I decided to skip it) and then we hiked up seemingly endless steps to reach the west rim of the gorge. From there we followed the rim trail back - not as scenic, but a much quieter option, and I enjoyed getting away from all the noisy crowds. There were few level sections along this trail; mostly it ran downhill, in many spots steeply enough that there were more steps. We were passed by several folks hiking uphill, all of them grumbling to one degree or another about how difficult it was...

When we got back to the swimming area, Ann swam for a little while and I found a shady spot to sit on a bench and relax. Then she changed into dry clothes and we decided to visit Letchworth State Parkt, since it was still fairly early and we were only half an hour away (and having paid to get into Stony Brook - we'd get into Letchworth for free!)


Ann and I first visited Letchworth in July 2000. It was a rainy day and we actually didn't see that much of the park - mainly the road from Mount Morris to the south end by the Glen Iris Inn, and then we visited the Middle and Upper Falls and walked a ways on the trail along the rim of the gorge. We went back in July 2005 and between nicer weather and a couple of guide books saw quite a bit more (though still nothing approaching the entirety of the park.) Letchworth is a gorgeous place, so when I saw that we would be relatively close to the southern entrance when we visited Stony Brook, I kept it in the back of my mind that a visit there was a possibility.

The drive over was rather scenic, and we passed an old lock from the Genesee Valley Canal (the towpaths and subsequent railbeds now form the basis of the Genesee Valley Greenway, a trail I've visited quite often in the last 5 or 6 years.) Entered the park for free, thanks to having a receipt from Stony Brook, and the gate attendant told us to enjoy the sunshowers. (In fact, on the drive over the line of the rainstorm was quite clear. After a brief stop at the railroad bridge that crosses the top of the gorge, we drove down to the Middle/Upper Falls parking area and spent quite a while wandering around looking at the waterfalls.

After that we drove north on the park road, stopping frequently to enjoy the varied views of the incredible Letchworth gorge. It rained pretty steadily for a while (and got somewhat dark) but even in the rain Letchworth is a pretty incredible place. It's very easy to see why it is sometimes nicknamed "the Grand Canyon of the East" (though I've been told there's a gorge in Pennsylvania that also lays claim to that title.) We actually drove down to the parking area for the Lower Falls and hiked part of the way down the trail, but finally realized that it was too long a hike, in the rain, to go see the least impressive of the three falls.

As we continued the drive north, the rain stopped and the sun did its best to peek through the clouds, giving us both some nice rainbows and eventually a rather nice sunset!

Our final stop in the park was at the overlook for the Mount Morris Dam - one of these days I'll learn why the huge dam never has any water behind it when we visit (I suspect at times of lower water flow, it's all diverted for electricity generation, and the dam really only serves to block water flow when there's high volume coming down the gorge.) There was an impressive number of turkey vultures soaring above the dam, and I managed to get several pictures of both the birds and the rising moon.

We ended the day with dinner at the same place we bought dinner at two years ago - a small Chinese takeout place in Mount Morris. And then it was time for the drive back to Rochester, a drive that previously seemed long to me but with all the travelling I've done this summer seemed more like a hop around the corner tonight!