Category Archives: Outdoors

Trail Mix

Plenty of talk about the Albany County Rail Trail on social media recently.

On Facebook, a group called Bethlehem Resident News claims that thieves are using the trail as an express lane into Delmar from Albany. There have been a rash of car break-ins, so according to them, the perpetrators must be from Albany. They call the path the “Ho Chi Min Trail,” but I don’t think they’re suggesting it’s the Vietcong breaking into cars, do you? No, they’re saying it’s blacks from the South End.

Over on Twitter, there was a lively argument over whether these rail trails should remain unpaved green space, instead of developed into slick super highways for speeding bicyclists.

There may be something to that.

If you’ve been on the paved section between Albany and Slingerlands, you know how fast people ride. I made the mistake of running on the trail a few times, very early in the morning, and had to dodge careless cyclists who were ignorant of the common courtesies of sharing a trail with pedestrians.

The extreme end of the trail is in Voorheesville where I live. I’ve been running on the rough, unpaved surface recently, early in the morning when my only company have been deer. There are puddles and ruts, but I hope it’s never paved over.

Let’s not forget that bicycles are vehicles and they’re going to be on these trails they should travel at a reasonable speed — and if that means we don’t pave the paths, so be it.

Beaverville

The beaver are busy.

Just off Johnston Road in Guilderland, you can see where beaver have been working on a couple of substantial trees along the Normanskill. Many people are saying it’s part of a plot to cut off Voorheesville from the rest of the Capital Region. One never knows.

The beavers are eating these trees.

I don’t have to remind you that America’s largest rodent casts a long shadow here in ye olde Beverwijck.  Christ, they named the place after the beaver. Albany’s seal shows a beaver felling a tree as a white man and Indian look on, presumably saying, “WTF is up with these beavers?” Stranger yet, is the coat of arms of the Albany Diocese, which shows a beaver holding a bishop’s staff. Bishop Beaver, I presume?

But look closely and you’ll see lots of beaver activity around streams and swamps, and to learn more DEC’s excellent website has much information about beaver – including an extensive page on “nuisance beaver.”

Meanwhile, I’m interested in seeing how long it takes for those trees to come down. The beaver may have their revenge, yet.

Gliding

I’ve been on a few hikes lately exploring the trails in the north section of Thacher Park. Over the weekend we took the dogs and set off for the much discussed scenic overlook of Hang Glider Cliff.

And scenic it is.

The girls take in the view.

From the edge you see Altamont and the fairgrounds, apple orchards, dozens of water towers and the distant Green Mountains and Adirondacks. The absence of any railings make it more interesting, as well.

As we were heading away, several vehicles came down the narrow path. Yes, the hang gliders were arriving at Hang Glider Cliff.

The long list of chores at home would have to wait.

Hang gliders are a friendly bunch who love to chat about their flying. As they set up their gear, they explained the ins and outs of the sport. Nobody goes off the edge on a whim. Among the group were two men taking their first flights from a cliff, only after many hours of training to prepare them for the real thing.

Waiting for the wind to pick up.

One guy asked, “So, when are you going to start your lessons?” I looked back to where my wife sat with the dogs. “I’m probably not getting approval on that one.”

After some waiting for the wind to pick up, it was time to fly.

Pretty cool — not just for the spectacle of seeing these guys fly from the cliff, but also because of the great spirit and enthusiasm the flyers have for gliding.

Take a walk up the trail and maybe you’ll get to see them soaring. Like a lot of things, it depends on which way the wind is blowing.

Spring Awakening

After running through a winter of pitch black mornings, there’s now a bit of color in the sky by the time I finish. The winter is not just dark, but silent — so the sound of a bird singing at 5:25 AM was surprising.

It was just a single voice in the trees, and hopefully a sign of the seasons– not just a robin caught up in a moment of irrational exuberance.

The dawn chorus is still weeks away, but we have heard a soloist.

Lost

Lost might be overstating it, but it makes a much better headline than misdirected or mildly confused, wouldn’t you say?

Anyhow, I woke up on New Year’s Day in a strange house on the edge of Mother Myrick Mountain near Manchester. Our family ski vacation was a bust thanks to the lack of snow, but we turned it into a perfectly fine playing board games and drinking vacation.

So, the dogs and I greeted 2016 with a walk up the path behind the house. It led to a well travelled trail up the mountain, and the gradual climb was the perfect antidote for my throbbing head. We three went along until the human in the group had enough.

It’s not clear when things started looking unfamiliar, but somewhere on the way down it was obvious that we’d missed our turn.

Untitled

Rob, where the f**k are we?

We walked and walked, and eventually emerged from the woods, at a point on the road some three miles from the house.

At worse this was an inconvenience.

There are few places in the northeast where you can really get lost these days. Keep going and you’ll come to a road, and if you’re luck you’ll turn right instead of left when you get to that road. Then , perhaps, you’ll have a half mile walk home, instead of a three mile walk. Oh, well.

The Deerslayer

Saturday was supposed to be about raking leaves until my son called early in the morning. He said he was coming home with a deer. It was already dressed, he said, which momentarily summoned up funny images of a buck in a flannel shirt, but I’ve lived upstate long enough to know what dressed means.

He lives in an apartment, so there really isn’t a good way to skin and butcher a deer, so my house was the deer destination. I cleared out a space in the garage and screwed a big hook in the ceiling so the poor devil could be hoisted up by his horns.

I’ll spare you the details. but by mid-afternoon, my son and his girlfriend were vacuum sealing freshly cut venison on the kitchen counter.

My wife does not appreciate hunting, and she would certainly not like having a dead deer hanging in the garage. She was spared his earthy spectacle because she was gone for the day, off baking cookies with my sister in Poughkeepsie.

But fate’s a funny thing isn’t it?

Less that 12 hours later she called to say she’d hit a deer — a very big deer — not far from our house. She was fine, the car was a mess and the deer was MIA, having stumbled off into the woods.

Deer karma? Perhaps.

Before the tow truck arrived, I took a picture of the damage and wondered if the deer community would share pictures of wrecked vehicles the way hunters show off their prizes.

My son said I should have gone into the woods to find the deer. “No thanks — but don’t forget that your mother got a bigger deer than you did this year.”

Canis Populi

If you take your dogs to Thacher Park, it’s best to go early. More often than not, you’ll have the place to yourself and they can race up and down the trails without bothering anyone.

One recent morning was different. Instead of the usual empty parking lot, we found three school busses — and the hiking paths were far from empty. We were barely out of the car when college kids started approaching us and asking to take pictures of the dogs.

Pictures of the dogs? Of course you can — but why?

Dogs

It turns out that this was a biology class from Siena College who were out learning about the forest by conducting a scavenger hunt, and among the things they needed to find was a mammal. As we walked along, we continued to be approached by mammal hunters, petting the dogs, shooting pictures and checking off an item on their list.

At one point, we encountered their instructor, who looked on sourly as the students discovered our dogs. I’m sure he had squirrels, chipmunks or other woodland critters in mind — not dogs — when coming up with the activity.

But hey, you take what you can get, right? And the dogs loved being queens of the forest for a day.

The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing…

Cheers to the Discovery Channel for pulling off a whopper.

As part of their Shark Week ramp up, this video was circulated showing a shark off the shore of Wolfe Island in Lake Ontario:

This was of special interest to me because I vacation on the island each summer; the presence of sharks would certainly spice up my kayak excursions.

The whole thing caused quite a media sensation until Discovery’s PR firm revealed it was all a big promotional stunt.

The best line to emerge from the shark panic came from Frontenac Islands Mayor Denis Doyle, who joked, “We’re going to have to get a bigger ferry.”

Down By the Water

You should know by now that screwing up Mother’s Day is bad news.

I’m happy to report that this year’s celebration went off without a hitch. The agenda included brunch at Max London’s in Saratoga, a leisurely trip to the Spa City Farmers’ Market and a stroll in the Saratoga Spa State Park.

We walked along the trail where many of the mineral springs are located and, naturally, brought a cup along so to take of the fabled curative waters.

How was it? My impression of the magical mineral elixir was about the same as when I first tasted it decades ago: “Blech!”

Imagine drinking water that tastes like it comes from a rusty pipe and that will give you some idea of the flavor.

Nonetheless, I insisted on trying each one, as if we’d eventually stumble on one that tastes like an enchanted cross between a fizzy mountain stream and unicorn nectar.

My son had more sense and did not partake. But he was curious, the conversation going something like this:

“How is that one?”

“Not as bad as the last one. But bad. It smells like sulphur, which makes it interesting. Are you sure you don’t want some?”

“Yes.”

One spring, according to a nearby sign, was known for helping digestive ailments and for its laxative effect. That’s not exactly what I’m interested in when out walking around in a park.

We went away with the memory , but I swear I could still taste the water in my mouth hours later, perhaps because of all the minerals I’d ingested. And without going into detail,the next morning there was a definite laxative effect.