Thursday, June 22, 2017

Camping at North-South Lake

North-South Lake

I've camped at North-South Lake many times now, but on this past visit we had the best campsite yet. The above photo was taken where our site met the water. Plus, this same view was visible from the site itself - a few sites have short paths to the water but the view is blocked by trees.

10/10, would do again.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Birdwatching in Bashakill

Bashakill

We decided to explore a new area on our way back to the big city, and J wanted to get some birding in, so we stopped in the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area to try to find the eagles. She wasn't sure where they had seen them before, seeing as her notes were at home, so we took a shot in the dark. We didn't find that area, but we did find visit a nice viewing platform.

After turning on Haven Road, we parked at the side of the road where the Shawangunk Ridge Trail/Long Trail run through on an old rail bed. The trail then parallels Basha Kill Lake for a mile, before a side trail leads to the platform. The view from the platform is shown in the photo above. From the platform, we mostly saw catbirds and red-winged blackbirds, so nothing exotic, but it was pretty. Other birds were around - there were swallows where Haven Road crossed the lake, for example.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chill hike along the Kaaterskill Rail-Trail

Kaaterskill Rail TrailThe day after summiting SW Hunter, we thought it best to take it easy and do a nice recovery hike. Since the 1.5-mile Kaaterskill Rail-Trail was very close to our campground, we decided to stroll it.

We parked at the eastern end and walked to the other end, where the historical society is located. The entire trail looked very much like the photo at left. Occasional vernal pools or small embankments on either side mixed things up a bit.

Once we returned to the parking lot (which, unlike far too many Catskills parking lots, actually had port-a-potties!), we decided to also head up the .3-mile trail to the viewing platform above Kaaterskill Falls. You can't actually reach it from the main falls trail. Last time we were there, we actually saw construction on this area. I don't know if some day they will connect.

The view from the falls is nice, although popular, given its proximity to the parking lot. The platform itself is sturdy. (Seriously, people, you all have no more excuses for randomly wandering off trail and falling to your death! Stay on the paths.)

Kaaterskills Falls overlook

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Quick trip to Ashley Falls

Ashley Falls

At .2 miles round-trip, the walk to Ashley Falls is about as short as a hike can get. Still, you get to see a waterfall, so it counts, right?

The falls (above) are a little hard to photograph, because there is a large rock slab at the base that dominates any photo. Still, they're pretty.

On this trip, we had the added bonus of a duck couple hanging out in the stream along the trail.

Duck fam

Friday, June 16, 2017

SW Hunter, my final Catskills 3500 hike

SW Hunter

SW Hunter was my only remaining Catskills 3500 peak, and it was becoming my nemesis. Not because it is so challenging, but because we simply tried it at the wrong time twice.

Backtrack: I began hiking the Catskills peaks three years ago with Hunter Mountain. As a solo hiker, new to the Catskills, it didn't occur to me to hike it with SW Hunter, although that is how it is frequently done. Fast-forward to January of this year, when J and I spent a weekend in the Catskills. After doing Balsam on Saturday, we had planned to do SW Hunter on Sunday. But with the weather being exceedingly brisk, we scaled back to just going as far as Diamond Notch Falls. Then in March we again spent the weekend, trying to get some peaks in before the official Club end of winter (March 21). Naturally, we came up right after a major blizzard, and once again we only made it as far as the Falls. Meanwhile, I had finished Eagle, my penultimate peak.
So back to this trip, where neither snow nor below-freezing temps were likely to be a problem. We started out once again from Rider Hollow, where we encountered a group of four 3500 club members setting out to do a one-way hike of SW Hunter and Hunter. They zipped by us as we hiked the easy stretch (seen in the photo at the top) to the Falls.

We then got on the Devil's Path and started going up. Most of the hike is fairly unremarkable. Oh, sure, it is uphill, and it is pretty woods, but there are no major landmarks, intersections, or scrambles. Finally, we reached Geiger Point, the only real viewpoint on the trip, seen below.

SW Hunter

Now, SW Hunter is considered trail-less because it can't be reached by trails formally maintained by the DEC. But it's like Bearpen, Vly, and Kaaterskill in that there are use trails or old roads - it's not bushwhacking. We found the old logging road to turn off on pretty easily, after only one false turn to a campsite. The next turn, off of the old logging road to the summit, was well-marked by cairns.

Because of this, the canister is easy to find; you don't have to hunt for it. We found it and signed in, finding a note from Tom (thanks!). In addition to my final peak, SW Hunter was also J's first trail-less peak, so it was an exciting moment for us both. We didn't linger long, however, thanks to the flies.

SW Hunter

The trip back down was only notable for a brief rainshower near the end.

So ... there it is, the end of my 3500 quest. What now? Do I work on the winter patch? The grid? Red-lining? New England's 100 highest? So many decisions?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The bridges of Gowanus

By Sunday, I felt up to a slightly longer walk, so on a whim (with a push from J), I decided to walk across all the (pedestrian) bridges of the Gowanus Canal.

Up first, we have the Union St. Bridge. (All photos are looking north from the respective bridges.)

Gowanus canal

Next, the Carroll St. Bridge.

Gowanus canal

Third St.

Gowanus canal

Ninth St.

Gowanus canal

Hamilton Ave.

Gowanus canal

And last, a bonus bridge, at the Fourth St. Basin. If you look at a map, it shows the basin terminating west of the street, but in fact in terminates just east of it. Unlike the above photos, this is of the bridge, rather than from it.

Gowanus canal

Monday, May 29, 2017

LASIK recovery update

Dandelion

Lasik recovery is going quite well from a medical standpoint. I've had very little discomfort, although I've been quite tired. No doubt healing eyeballs is work, but also I've had mild cramps all week and my allergies are kicking in, so it's hard to know exactly how to apportion blame.

From an amusement standpoint, it's a totally different outlook. The day after surgery, I had a meeting, a work lunch, and commencement, which was all I could handle, even with an aggressive nap in there. The next day was better, but I quickly ran up against the limits of my amusement. Reading for any extended period was out, as was television. A two-mile walk left me tired - again, allergies or eyes, it was a toss-up, but I certainly don't want to harass my eyes with pollen.

J is out of commission with some crud, so there was no one to entertain me on command. I tried a recorded short story but couldn't concentrate on it. Having listened to books on tape before, maybe it was just the narrator. I tried several podcasts, which are not a Thing I Do, and now I know why - mostly I was frustrated at listening to something I could read in a third of the time. I finally found one I like, the Bowery Boys. It's tightly written, without all the chatter of morning radio show hosts.

It turned out there were a couple of things I could do, though. One, cleaning. My apartment was already pretty clean, but now I've cleaned things you didn't even know could be cleaned. (No worries, no nasty chemicals or kicking up dust allowed.) Two, I could cook. I finally made a sourdough that worked - kind of a cheater, though, since it also used yeast.

I have taken a few walks, although nothing strenuous. The photos at top and bottom are from Riverside Park.

Spring flora

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Laser eyes!

This week, I am having LASIK surgery. It requires that I wear my glasses for two weeks prior, which is a good reminder of just how annoying they are. They get dirty, my peripheral vision is shot, they slide down my nose, I can't wear sunglasses, and it's hard to be active. Contacts, of course, are a vast improvement, but they don't work in all situations - it was much easier to do the Long Trail without worrying about contact hygiene.

The doctor tells me my vision should be pretty good the next morning. However, my eyes will be healing, so I'll need to avoid/reduce some activities for a week. Specifically:

  • No swimming
  • No eye makeup
  • No "dusty, dirty environments"
  • No TV
  • No long bouts of reading
  • No driving
  • No going to the gym
The day immediately after is commencement, so I do have to work, but luckily that mostly involves sitting there. But then it's a four-day weekend, and I can't hike, can't read, can't binge-watch Netflix ... what, exactly, am I supposed to do?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

We came, we saw, we Sauntered

Great Saunter

I've always intended to get around to the Great Saunter someday, although admittedly I wasn't in a hurry (and let's be honest, that's partially because there is no patch). But an opportunity came up this year when a friend's husband had to cancel on her, so there I was, standing at the oldest tavern in Manhattan early last Saturday morning, ready to walk 32 miles. Or at least as ready as one can get, which is to say, not really.

For the record: The Saunter is not actually 32 miles. No, if E's calculations were correct, it's almost 36 miles. The distance varies slightly from year to year based on detours, but underestimating by at least three miles is significant. I demand credit for all my steps!

Also: 3 mph, the advertised speed, is not a saunter. Sauntering is 1, 2 mph tops. Sauntering is "without effort" per one dictionary.

Now with that out of the way, back to the story. We got off to a reasonably fast start. The Saunter goes clockwise, starting with the more scenic west side. I don't just say that as a biased west sider - not as much of the east side has been developed as a greenway, and in fact a considerable chunk of the east side is away from the water. Eventually, we saw the George Washington Bridge in the distance. And kept seeing it. For miles.

Great Saunter

The downside of finally passing the bridge is that the route actually goes uphill after being flat all morning, leaving the water for the first significant stretch, then uphill again into Inwood Park. The park is the official lunch spot, but we saw people stopping before then, and I can't blame them. We were getting pretty hungry and ready for a break. (Yes, we had snacks. We're not animals.)

After food, rest, and sock changes, we were good to start down the east side of Manhattan. There is a good chunk in Harlem where you're on the water, but the park isn't nicely developed. One thing you can see on this journey is where the city likes to put its money - then again, you can see the same thing by comparing subway stops across the boroughs and neighborhoods.

Anyway, after this, the route cuts inward, and farther than usual this year because of some construction. The neighborhoods are perfectly fine (except for the creepy police mural. Seriously, is that the eye of Sauron up there?), but walking inland is not what is advertised. We were ready to get back to the water - and we did, into the plush environs of the Upper East Side. See, even the statuary is classier on the UES.

Great Saunter

The exhaustion was starting to kick in hard around here. After we somehow missed another set of restrooms, we cut inland a couple of blocks early to hit up Starbucks. Coffee never tasted so good! Then we passed the United Nations and were back at the waterfront, and honestly I couldn't tell you much from there. There was a lot of walking, and tiredness, and grim determination. But we got through the last few miles - once you see the Brooklyn Bridge, you really have no excuse to quit anymore. We even managed to miss the forecast rain, with only a few gentle drops falling on us as we returned to the tavern.

So there you go: The Great Saunter.

Great Saunter

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hiking through Sterling State Forest

Sterling State Forest
Spring had appeared seemingly overnight a week ago, so by Sunday's hike in Sterling State Forest, it was green everywhere. The hills were still visible through the trees, and the weather was a pleasant 60-something (after being in the 80s the previous day). It was the perfect day for a tough 15-mile hike with the Ramblers along the Appalachian Trail.

We hiked through Sterling State Forest, starting near Arden and ending at the Bellvale Creamery - spoiler alert, probably the best way to end a hike. I'd done parts of the hike before, mostly in the second half, although the first time, it rained. (The second time was a backpacking trip in the opposite direction.) This time we added a little fillip onto it by adding a loop using the new Doris Duke Trail.

The end of the hike was the most spectacular part, going over Cat Rocks and ending at the creamery.

Sterling State Forest

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Instagram

Just a reminder that I have Instagram. Currently, I am obsessed with spring flowers.

A post shared by Eve Proper (@eproper) on

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hiking in Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain

Not, you will note, on Bear Mountain, but south of it! Our Ramblers hike this week combined some trails, some old roads, and some getting lost. The weather was perfect, and with the trees bare we had great views of the surrounding hills.

The only downside (unless you count the bushwhacking) was that the trails were quite wet; my feet did not stay dry. Luckily, it was warm enough that wet feet didn't also mean freezing feet.

Bear Mountain

All told, we went about 10 miles with approximately 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

Bear Mountain

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Circumnavigating Lake Minnewaska

Lake Minnewaska

After not making it to the top of SW Hunter, J and I decided that we likely wouldn't be able to make it to the top the next day ... or to the top of any other Catskill peak. Luckily, the 3500 isn't the only list we are working on. There is the Views and Brews patch, for one.

We had to head south to return our rental car anyway, so we decided to do something in the New Paltz area. I've driven through the Shawangunks and even stayed in New Paltz, but never hiked there. The Gunks are most famous as a climbing area; that doesn't mean they don't have nice hiking.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve (entrance fee required) was perfect for a nice snowshoe hike. The trail around the lake is just a few miles. It has some elevation gain and loss, but nothing like the Catskills. And the snowshoeing conditions were perfect - especially since trail was already broken. It was the introduction to snowshoeing I should have given to J!

Cross-country skiers and even booted hikers were also out, although the latter had some tougher work cut out for them. We found the snowshoeing easy as we hiked counterclockwise around the lake, which came in and out of view.

Afterwards, we had to fulfill the "brews" part of the requirement. We stopped at Rough Cut Brewing, which had really excellent beer (I only sipped tiny tastes of J's flight, being the driver, but the nachos were also quite good).

All told, the hike is two picturesque miles, with the ability to add miles via other trails.

Lake Minnewaska

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hiking to Diamond Notch again

Diamond NotchSince I have one peak left in my Catskills 3500, J and I headed up to the Catskills this past weekend in spite of the major snowstorm earlier in the week. It was heavy enough that some cities and counties simply shut down all their roads the next day while they dug out. By Friday, the roads were perfectly clear, and the forecast only called for a light snow on Saturday.

There are several different routes up SW Hunter, my remaining peak, but coming up from Diamond Notch is supposedly the easiest. We had hiked that route as far as the falls back in January and knew that part of it was flat to gently sloping. Of course, things are different under a couple of feet of fresh powder.

Someone had clearly been through in skis a day or two earlier, but the trail was essentially unbroken. Since it was J's first time on snowshoes, I was breaking trail. But with only one set of prints, J was doing a fair bit of work, too.

Once we reached the falls, it was evident the trail ahead was totally unbroken (and about to get steeper). We decided to turn back. We learned later that a couple of folks came through that afternoon and broke trail for another mile and a half, turning around when the snow swallowed up their legs - so we made a good choice.

Upon turning around, snowshoeing in our own trail was easier ... at least until we reached the point where a small group had postholed to, mucking up the trail.

It probably wasn't the best first snowshoe experience for J, but I had expected that someone would have broken trail before us. Even if we went back the next day, we would have had to go at least a mile in deep, unbroken powder, and it sounded like too much.

So SW Hunter still remains, and I won't get back up there anytime in the immediate future.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

New Rochelle-Larchmont

New Rochelle-Larchmont

For some reason, I thought this hike was going to be less suburban. Okay, I knew it was in the suburbs, but I thought we'd see more parks and fewer houses. Instead, the first 2/3 was a mix of small shoreline parks and expensive homes, and the final 1/3 was on a strip of land that had somehow been preserved in suburbia.

We had a day that was sunny despite the cold - and it was cold. Early on, we did some in-and-out walks into parks.

New Rochelle-Larchmont

After that, we wove in and out of expensive homes and waterfront parks.

New Rochelle-Larchmont

The end of the 12-mile hike was on the Leatherstocking Trail.

New Rochelle-Larchmont

I can't say there was anything spectacular about the hike; if you live in the area, it would be a natural place to go. As a destination, it's a change of pace, but not the kind of hiking one falls in love with.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hiking from Massapequa to Cold Spring Harbor

Massapequa-Cold Spring Harbor

Even as I planned to go on the Ramblers hike on Sunday, I had little idea of what to expect. Yes, I had looked at Google Maps, seeing that it was a 14-mile drive between the two train stations. Yes, I know Long Island is mostly flat. But I didn't see much in the way of green space on that map, so I was worried it would be a lot of suburbia.

My fears were unfounded, in the end. We went near a lot of suburbia, but not through it. Turns out there is a thin green corridor running nearly the whole way. Much of this is Trail View State Park, land that was bought for a highway that was never built.

It is true that at the very end, we had to walk about a mile alongside the road, and along the way we had some road crossings: This was by no means the wilderness.

Still, most of the trail was surrounded by trees ("green space" being an not entirely accurate term this time of year). It was almost entirely flat, aside from a few small hills at the end. We totted up 17 miles, although part of the group took a longer detour at the end.

One quick note: We had an exhaustively detailed hike description from a hiking book, but there are a lot of trails that criss-cross each other and aren't always well-marked. This isn't so much true where the trail is in a thin corridor, but where it passes through parks it isn't easy to follow. Be warned.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Staten Island amble

Staten Island
J and I took a visit to Staten Island and took a stroll along the waterfront. From the ferry, we walked west as far as Snug Harbor and then back, about two flat miles each way.

Much of waterfront is hidden, either by businesses, such as the Atlantic Salt Company, or by construction. The waterfront that is accessible isn't exactly developed. J reminisced about when Brooklyn's waterfront was the same way, back in the day.

This view was taken from the shore across from Snug Harbor looking east. The photo below is from the same spot, but looking west. The remains of the old railroad, I found out later, are what is left of a railway route that used to run from the ferry to about Goethels Bridge, crossing over into New Jersey on the Arthur Kill Railroad Bridge. The rail stopped running in 1990.

Staten Island

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hiking Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck Ridge
On Sunday I returned to Breakneck Ridge for the official Rambler hike, clocking in at 11 miles with 2,900 feet of elevation gain. The weather and hiking conditions were almost identical to the previous week.

It's a tough hike - we started off with a steep climb up Breakneck. Not the scramble up its face, mind you; the trail itself is still challenging enough. Then we went down its north face, then back up Sugarloaf, then down and up over and over, with a last climb up Mt. Taurus before heading back down to Cold Spring.

There are many nice official viewpoints along this hike, and in the winter there are many more vistas through the trees.

Breakneck Ridge is a very heavily visited area, particularly the trails near the Hudson River, so going in winter is a nice way to see it without the usual crowds. However, the impact of the high visitation is visible, especially on the Washburn Trail. It could really use some trail work, maybe even aggressive hardening like at Bear Mountain.

One thing of note; the previous week at Sunset Point we had noticed one of the two platforms was missing several stairs. On our return, they had been fixed. Thanks, park employees or volunteers!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Scouting Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck Ridge
Next week, I'm leading a hike for the Ramblers around Breakneck Ridge, so yesterday a few of us went out to test-drive the route. It's going to be a good hike, with quite a few tough hills. I'll save a longer writeup for after official outing, but here are a couple of pics of what people can expect.

Above is the hike along the top of Sugarloaf, with views of Storm King across the Hudson. Below is a hiker coming up to the top of Sugarloaf.
Breakneck Ridge

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hiking Eagle Mountain

Eagle MountainSince our first attempt to hike Eagle had been stymied by a deep stream crossing, we decided to try again. The Rider Hollow route, the shortest, was out, as the water would still be high. The Seager Road route is by far the longest, and it has several stream crossings. That left McKenley* Hollow, with a couple of easier stream crossings, a medium length - and a lot of elevation gain, about 1,000 feet more than Rider Hollow.

The warm weather meant that the lower slopes were almost totally bare of snow. It was well above freezing, so what was left continued to melt. We started off with bare boots, with no need for any kind of traction devices.

The 1.9 miles up the Oliverea-Mapledale trail to the junction with the Pine Hill-West Branch trail comprise the toughest part of this hike. It’s quite a steep slope as you follow the creek. Fortunately, the trail moderates at a little over 3,000 feet at the col between Eagle and Balsam Mountains. 

Eagle MountainThere, we put on our microspikes for the final 2.1 miles, since there were icy rocks and slushy snow. The trails follows a long ridge before heading up for a final climb to Eagle’s 3,600-foot summit. We were worried about time, and I was afraid we might have to turn around to avoid hiking in the dark. Fortunately, we met a group of hikers returning from the summit with a GPS, and they told us it was .75 miles to the top. We didn’t necessarily enjoy the last climb, but we made it.

Eagle’s summit doesn’t have a view. The summit itself is off the trail, although canister-less, and marked by a cairn. To get any views at all on this route, I recommend hiking when the leaves are off the trees; you’ll get glimpses of some mountains as you go. 

With Eagle down, I have only one peak left to complete my Catskills 3500. SW Hunter, here I come.

*The map shows it as McKinley, but the signs say McKenley. I’m not sure which is right. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hiking Slide Mountain

Slide Mountain
J has started working on her 3500 peaks, so for the Winter Weekend we decided to join a led club hike to Slide, one of the required winter peaks.

The weather had been rather warm for the previous week, with some rain and freezing rain, so there was as much ice as snow. It was going to be another weekend I couldn't use my new snowshoes, alas. Microspikes were a definite necessity - although we saw a few folks without them, I think that's just asking for trouble. I was the only one without poles, which I keep meaning to buy eventually, so it's safe to say most people would prefer them for a little extra stability.

We came up Slide from Frost Valley Road, taking the most direct route. Despite the icy trails, we were blessed with sunshine and relatively warm temperatures. Compared to two weeks earlier, it felt positively balmy.

Despite the ice, this hike is pretty non-technical. There are no rock scrambles, and the stream crossings were all easy. That makes it one of the easier winter peaks. And there is a nice view at the top, which always feels like a nice reward.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Diamond Notch falls

Diamond Notch
On Sunday, we did an easy hike, up from Rider Hollow to Diamond Notch Falls. The falls were frozen, which was cool, but it wasn't easy to get to a good vantage point. In summer, it's no big deal to walk down to the stream. In winter, you wouldn't want to go sliding into the icy water.

By comparison, here is what it looks like in summer:
Diamond Notch Falls