29 March 2014

Castle Point - 29 Mar 2014

Today's long run featured a run up to Castle Point from Lake Minnewaska.  7 miles.  Slushy snow, snappy ice, mud, wind, rain, and mist made for a fun run.

When I pulled up at the booth, I asked the lady working there if the trails were still only for skiing.  She said I could try that, if I wanted, hinting that it wasn't a good idea.  There was still snow, and it had frozen and thawed quite a bit.  I said that I was planning on running on the carriage roads, and she said I could try that, too.  I liked her attitude.

There were quite a few people parked at the upper parking lot, but they all seemed to be hanging around the lake.  I only saw one other person beyond the lake: a cross-country skier.  When I first saw him he was gingerly making his way around some mud.  We exchanged hellos, both of us surprised to see the other.

It quickly became apparent that I needed to put on my YakTrax.  The terrain was rarely level on my route, and there was plenty of solid ice, rubbed smooth and too slippery for my shoes to handle.  Once I had them on I had enough traction to run on the ice, though.  My main problem ended up being the snow.  It was slushy, about the consistency of sorbet, and I ended up going slower than I would have liked.  Still, I made it up and back again in two hours.

The View
The View
The summit was windy, and the view was non-existent, but it was fantastic to be back up there again.  This peak has a special place in my heart, and I've been up it many times.  The views are exceptional, when they're visible, the rock is gorgeous, and the trees are stunted to the point of being cute.

On the drive home I had a bit of euphoria.  I was running much, much slower than I had expected to be, but the snow and the constant up and down explained that.  I was still able to move much faster up there than I ever have.  I can't wait to run back there again, on a day with a view, at a faster pace.  I'd like to run up via the Awosting Reserve, or possibly from the north or west, or even one of the routes I've done many, many times before.

23 March 2014

Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail - 23 Mar 2014

Driven half mad by cabin fever, my family headed out in search of some relief.  My first thought, the playground at Clifton Commons in Clifton Park, was a bust: it was covered in what looked like rock hard ice and snow.

We headed further south, and I decided to go have a look at the bike path in Latham and Niskayuna.  We found it mostly free of snow and ice, at least along River Road as far as the old train station.  It was, however, way too windy today to have the kids out for very long.  I do my best to get out under any and every condition, to train my mind as well as my body, but it's too much to ask of small kids.  My youngest has only recently started telling us when she's cold without being prompted.  As such, they only logged six tenths of a mile this weekend.


That was actually an improvement.  Last weekend I took my oldest out for a run along the Zim Smith Trail, and between the snow, ice, standing water, and wind, she only lasted for half a mile.  On the drive home, she said, "I only like running on blacktop."  I asked, "well, what about dirt?"  She said, "dirt is fine, but no snow, or ice, or mud, and especially no water."  I chuckled.  "Ok," I said, "we'll head back out once the snow has melted."  To which she replied: "how about summer?"  I chuckled again, and promised to take her out again once the surfaces were clear.

When we pulled up to the bike path today, she said, "I don't want to go for a walk.  I only like to run," to which we replied: "so run!"  So, she did!

It occurred to me later that her style of running is entirely fartlek (that's Swedish for speed play).  Run as fast as you can here, run over there, stop, walk, stretch, run some more, run fast, run back, stop, run in to someone, run, stop.  It drove me crazy at first, but now I mostly just laugh and encourage her (or corral her, as needed).

I hope to get them out again next weekend, hopefully for a bit longer, and hopefully without any wind.

On a different note: from what I could see of it today, the Zim Smith Trail (where it meets the Northway) seems to still be covered in a layer of snow.  I assume that this is from the sled traffic, compacting the snow down to a rock hard layer, since most of the surrounding terrain is snow free.  When we went out last weekend, we parked at the parking lot off of Round Lake Road.  There were several short stretches of clear pavement, but it looked like the trail was mostly snow, ice, icy snow and standing water.

Rounding out this report: I did my long run yesterday at Saratoga Spa State Park.  The bike paths are a mixed bag.  The portions that are normally clear are clear.  Along Avenue of the Pines there are sections with several inches of water covered by a thin sheet of ice, punctuated at regular intervals by a few crazy fools who decided to run through it (like me).  The closed portion of Putnam Road has a thin layer of milky ice on it.  Further into the park, the woods roads are covered in ice and icy snow.  The western half of the Picnic Loop road is in exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, the same state that it was several weeks ago: covered in several inches of hard snow that is a mess of tracks.  The North-South Road appears to be in the same state.  The East-West Road is mostly free of ice or snow where it was plowed (at least from the western entrance to the edge of the hill after the Peerless Pool).  And, finally, as you would expect, the dirt road leading south off of the East-West Road, across from the Peerless, is a muddy mess that deteriorates the further south you get.

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

14 March 2014

Moreau Lake State Park - 9 Mar 2014

I decided to check out Moreau Lake State Park last weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.  I have been driving down Spier Falls Road every so often, trying to pick out the trailheads.  The main parking area is just east of the apex of the road, on a single lane dirt and gravel road that winds its way over to a small parking area.  It is not plowed in the winter.  I did a quick hike off of here last August, but I haven't really explored the area yet.

There are at least two other trailheads along Spier Falls Road; but I have yet to check out the trail from there.  Both of them looked plowed, and they probably provide decent snowshoeing.  I say probably because there's a lot of bare boot activity over by the main entrance, so it's hard for me to say without checking it out myself.

At any rate, last weekend I went in the main entrance, and I was very surprised at what I found.  The parking lot near the booth is plowed, and it was packed full of cars.  People were there to walk their dog, to walk across the lake, to XC ski, and to snowshoe.  I didn't expect it to be that busy.

The road that leads from the booth over to the Nature Center was plowed, providing a somewhat clear surface just shy of a mile for walking and running.  There was some ice on it, but it was runnable, with or without YakTrax.

(It's amazing how much easier it is for me to run over ice than it is to walk, with or without traction devices.  I don't fully understand it, though I assume it has to do with the force of my strike and the fact that I midfoot strike when I run and heel strike when I walk.  Has anyone else experienced this?)

I did a quick out and back, and then grabbed my snowshoes for a run over the trails.  I located the Red Oak Trail, which starts right across the street from the parking area, and put on my snowshoes.  The snow was in rough shape, and I found myself in danger of losing my footing along a few slope traverses and downhills.  The combination of warm weather, rain, and the fact that most of the trail users seemed to not be using snowshoes explained the poor condition of the trail.

I saw two other parties while I was playing in the snow.  The first was a group of four people whom I saw heading up as I was heading back to my car (and whom I had set as a target to catch up to).  The second... wow.  As I neared the top of a rise in the trail, I heard a whooshing noise and looked up to see someone skiing down through the trees.  They were off trail, looking for fresh snow, but it was amazing that they were able to exert as much control as they did.  One screw up and they would have run in to a tree, but they made quick work of the descent and were soon out of sight.

As I made my way along, I crossed three completely open brooks, as well as several downslopes that were completely iced over or eroded down to the mud.  It was certainly challenging, and I wished that I had brought my poles for the extra support, but I made it through without falling.  The steepest and sketchiest stretch was along the Moreau Overlook trail, and I ended up bushwhacking a bit to get around the ice slope.  Once I got down to the lake, I started making my way around the edge of it, following trails and tracks, until I made my way over to the road near where I had started.  I contemplated running across the lake.  There were several other parties out there, so I knew it would probably hold me, but I didn't have anything on me to dig a hole in the ice to check for certain.  The ice fishers might not have appreciated me thudding past, either.

Bluebird day at the lake
Bluebird Day at Moreau Lake

I sat down on a nearby bench to take off my snowshoes (what a novel concept), and headed back to my car.  As I mentioned, I didn't fall at all... until I was walking around my car to get in the driver's seat, and my feet slipped out from under me.  I landed with a thud on my rear. Ouch.

I look forward to exploring this park some more in the future.  It looks like a good place to train.

Until next time, be excellent to each other!