Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dark Skies Won't Last Forever

Photo: Dan Duriscoe, National Park Service.

I suffer from an ailment called over preparedness. So as soon as my flight was booked for Vegas, I was researching both Vegas, and Death Valley.

Obviously, as a photographer, any opportunity to change up my routine even for a short trip is a nice way to refresh the creative battery. By no means am I trying to imply that I have somehow run out of things to shoot close to home, actually, I have a list that could take me a few years of dedicated shooting, or a lifetime of casual shooting. Living in a place with 4 seasons you could in theory shoot the same scene 4 times a year and each one will be unique in it's own way. I always laugh when people say, "there is nothing interesting to shoot close to home." Yet often their home is someone else's travel destination.

Largely the reason why I was so excited about the aborted Wind River trip this summer was the fact that I needed a change of scenery. So while I wasn't ecstatic about my brothers bachelor party being in Las Vegas, I'm also cognizant that Vegas is perhaps one of the great jumping off points in the western US. Within a 5 hour drive there is an incredible amount to do from a natural perspective, and Vegas itself is I'm sure quite photogenic. Cheap flights and cheap car rental make Las Vegas sort of an oddly perfect place to start a trip into the Western US wilds.

Death Valley is no doubt scenic in many ways, but while it might sound a bit hippie-ish, I love trees, I even hug one every now and then. I also don't mind water, actually, I love water. Perhaps it's something to do with the human body being 60% water and life originating in the sea! The real treat for me is going to be the hopefully clear dark skies of the Mojave Desert.

Sure enough we have some places with amazingly dark skies here in the eastern US. I cannot say with any data confirmed certainty but my recollection of my trips out west is that the skies are not tremendously darker than the Northern Adirondacks on a clear night, certainly not any more dark than Northern Maine. The only exception is perhaps the canyons of Southern Utah, which seemed to reveal shooting stars every time I opened my eyes while trying asleep on the desert floor. The problem is that here in the east it's also often quite cloudy, and the chance of rain coupled with condensation, make star trails a difficult endeavor. It just so happens that I've ruined a few star trails because of condensation on my camera lenses.

So coming across the following article was quite a bit disheartening. Every time my Dad comes upstate, he comments on how it's nice to see the stars at night, and of course I laugh, but the reality is seeing the stars might not be something we should take for granted anymore. Afterall, if a place as desolate as Death Valley, which is so famous for it's dark skies that the first thing I thought of was star trails, then maybe this is something that might be just a memory in a generation or two!

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK ----- High atop Dante's View, overlooking
sheets of salt flats and ribbons of sand dunes, night watcher Dan
Duriscoe shone a laser beam at the North Star and steadied his digital
camera at the starry heavens.

Click. The sky looks dark.

panned the camera toward the light factory of Las Vegas, 85 miles away
but peeking out like a white halo above the mountains in the eastern

Click. The sky is on fire.

"You can see the
Luxor vertical beam," said Duriscoe, pointing to a time-exposure shot
on his camera-connected laptop showing the Vegas Strip pyramid-shaped
hotel's famous searchlight. "That's the brightest thing out there."

for its ink black skies, Death Valley, the hottest place in North
America, also ranks among the nation's unspoiled stargazing spots. But
the vista in recent years has grown blurry.

The glitzy neon glow
from Las Vegas and its burgeoning bedroom communities is stealing stars
from the park's eastern fringe. New research reveals light pollution
from Vegas increased 61 percent between 2001 and 2007, making it appear
brighter than the planet Venus on clear nights as seen from Dante's

Duriscoe, a soft-spoken, mustachioed physical scientist
with the National Park Service, is part of a roving federal team of
night owls whose job is to gaze up at the sky and monitor for light
pollution in national parks.

"What is alarming to me is, what's
going to happen three or four generations from now if this growth of
outdoor lights continues?" he asked.

Death Valley works to preserve night sky : North County Times - Californian

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Crappy Day For Me And The Lemmings

Typical of the last few years, another snow storm followed by a warming period. The next few days will be wet and in the mid 40s, all but ensuring our 2 foot base of snow at the lower elevations of the Hudson and Mohawk Valley regions will be gone. Does anyone remember when this region of the country had snow cover for most of the winter?

As I noted a few blogs ago, the snowfall totals for this region of the country are only a little off the long term (40 year) averages.

However, we've lost about 9 days of snow cover in that time. 9 days is fairly significant when you consider the winter season is only 90 something days, it's a 10% loss of snow cover days!

The loss of snow cover due to the thaw cycles that are a result of regional or global warming. The odd thing about the thaw cycles is we as humans tend to only think about them in terms of how it has an impact on our lives.  Me, I'm thinking, no skiing close to home. So now I have to drive an hour north, and up to a little elevation to get my skiing. I'm thinking the base of the ice climbs will be on the rocks, and scree, making belays more treacherous. I'm thinking ice is taking a beating, and ice climbing guides who make a living off our diverse yet wintery climate are seeing less days of work per year.  I'm thinking the ski resorts, and snowmobile towns are going to be hurting. That upstate NY and the North Country in particular is largely a recreation based economy, and the winter season is not an off season, but a peak season for revenues for some of these towns.

Recently I read a study that showed that in Scandinavia (and possibly elsewhere with different species) the lemming is in danger of becoming extinct because of the freeze thaw cycles that are a fairly recent common occurrence. The lemming used to burrow under the snow and store it's food for the winter. With the thaw cycles the lemming lodges collapse, and freeze the lemmings winter food sources solid for the winter. The lemmings eventually starve to death.

Now without the lemmings, the owls and foxes lose a major food source, and then an entire ecosystem starts a downward cascade.

So if global warming isn't real, can someone tell the lemming that!

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Star Trails and Ski Trails, Night Skiing Under The Stars

For the winter solstice, the first night of winter, I set out to do two things:

1) Ski (duh) on the 2 feet of fresh powder. First time skiing this year, and a rarity to have actual powder and not at least heavy wet snow, if not worse. Plus, I was one of the first tracks, so it hadn't iced up yet!

2) Photography, but there is nothing like messing with wireless flashes multiple tripods/light stands, in 30mph wind gust, and 15F temps. Suffice to say direct flash WAS NOT in the plans. My idea was to have myself back lit with a wireless flash in front of me, with the spill off the snow further illuminating me. The long exposure was supposed to get the star trails.

As you've finally figured out, months or years into reading the Mountain Visions blog and photo captions, things ALWAYS go wrong. It's not that I have bad luck, actually, I find things tend to work out pretty well for me overall. It's just that it's a roller coaster of good and bad, and I'd prefer to have a more boring life!

So what went wrong:

1) In the cold the cheap Ebay triggers don't fire. Not even point blank range unless I warmed them first. In fairness the batteries are 2 years old, and they were in the cold for 30 minutes before I set up. However, blame goes to me for using the Ebay triggers and not the Elinchron Skyports I have sitting charged up on the desk next to me.

Unfortunately, the Ebay triggers (Gadget Infinity) come with a hot shoe mounting bracket, and I could not find my hot shoe bracket for the Skyports! So I could have taken the Sky ports, and used the Gadget Infinity triggers as stands, but hooked the skyports up to the sync socket! (If I lost you, don't worry).

2) The wind. Even if everything worked as planned a camera on a tripod is not going to stay still for 10-30 seconds in the 30mph wind gust. It was bad enough I was waiting for my flash to blow down into the frozen water during a few gust

3) I'm not wuss, but it was cold out in the open at Vischer Ferry Preserve. I was between two levees or something on the Old Mohawk River Canal system, which is right next to the New Mohawk River Canal, but the problem was the open ice funneled the wind. I chose that spot because it gave me a clear run to ski on, and also a clear shot of the sky (although facing the wrong direction, south towards Albany and it's inherent light pollution).

4) The sky wasn't perfectly clear. It was in and out of light cloud cover. So despite 10 attempts the only good star trail shot was just ok once blur and light pollution were factored in.

So what did I learn:

1) Battery operated stuff sucks in the cold. And that the cheaper the electronics the worse the problems. My Canon G3 was just fine in the 30 minutes I was setting up and shooting, the Vivitar 285HV and it's batteries were fine as well. Only the wireless flash triggers had issues.

2) When you have a $200 pair of wireless flash sync transmitters at home, don't take the cheap $40 Ebay triggers that you got prior to the good stuff.

3) Leave camera, and multiple tripods in car when wind is gusting to 30mph, go skiing and come back another night when it's less windy for the photography portion

4) Albany/Saratoga/Niskayuna are not quite the sticks that my brother makes them out to be. Yes we are a lot closer to the best weekend wilderness in the country, but we have a fair amount of light pollution 5 minutes from home...Of course, 1-2 hours north is the best star gazing in all of New York State.

5) Night skiing is the best. Had the place to myself as always, aside from a few snowmobilers who were on another trail. Between the wind and the snow muffling the sounds, it was eerily peaceful. I guess I'm nocturnal because I just prefer the night for most things including paddling, mountain biking, hiking, skiing, driving and photography.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Lovely Weather For A....

First real chance to test the SX4 out in DEEP snow.

I took it to several unplowed parking lots, the last of which had 10-12 inches of unplowed snow.

Well the video is nothing too impressive (despite 20 minutes total of snowbashing, all I can say is the person shooting the video is not exactly in my good graces), but I was able to salvage a bit of it.

I did get the car stuck on a 2ft snow bank that, oddly, I created while doing donuts and slaloms. Fortunately this isn't the cars fault, as no car is designed to drive when the wheels are only about 80% on the ground on a slippery surface. We cleared the snow out from around the car and the wheels and it still wouldn't go with the wheels spinning but not much movement. Perplexed we finally we cleared some snow out from the mid section under the car and pulled out like a champ.

All I can say is you would have to try really hard to get this little guy stuck assuming you put decent tires on it. I still have the not so great stock all seasons on it until I get the new ones mounted, so I actually expect much better performance.

I've been driving 2WD cars for the last 9 years, and with a good set of snow tires they are pretty formidable in any weather, but AWD is simply a different league in performance. So much so that even with the All-Season tires, I found myself turning off the ESP (traction/stability control) and AWD the other day on my drive home just to have some fun! But when you've got a 4 hour drive to NH on a Friday afternoon in January, the I-AWD, stability control, and a good set of tires will really make things a lot less stressful!

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Shoe'd Out Of Office With The Reflexes Of A Cat

While I try to keep the Mountain Visions blog somewhat relevant to the title, occasionally it's merely my musings of the surrounding world.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am amazed that George W. Bush was elected once, and completely dumbfounded that he was elected to a second term. Failed policy after failed policy in the first term. A war that was both illegal, morally wrong, and poorly planned. And despite the 2000 campaign promise of restoring dignity to the Oval Office, an administration that was filled with scandal after scandal, including possible treason.

We won't even mention the fact that the nation went from a budget surplus in 2000 to 1 trillion deficit, BEFORE the bailouts! That while people had been saying for most of his administration that the middle class was vanishing, it's now quite clear it is. That personal wealth evaporated under his watch, right after the gap between rich and poor grew to all time highs. That deregulating Wall Street (and this is coming from someone who believes in the stock market) is like having a prison without guards, bars, or doors!

Let us not forget that in the 2000 election debates he promised not to engage in "nation building" and now we are building at least 2 nations!

Worst of all, I truly believe if he could have run for a third term he'd have won.

I still firmly believe he won't be satisfied unless he leaves the White House smoldering behind him on January 20th.

Yet, somehow, I find the guy ever amusing. More than just the late night jokes and the political pundits who make a mockery of him. I actually enjoy just watching him on the world stage, the mannerisms, the faux pas, and his complete ignorance to all of it!

The other day, on a "surprise" visit to Iraq for what some believe was the solidification of his only possible legacy -eventual victory and democracy in Iraq- he was attacked by a shoe throwing journalist.

While some people might consider this a violent act of aggression against a head of this nation, and just plain wrong, I have to disagree and with a unique reason.

George W. Bush has almost seemed relieved his 8 years are over. If you look at him, he often looks like a player whose team is down by 40 points in the 4th quarter and just wants the clock to run out so he can shower and get something to eat.

While his decisions were never good, this writer believes his heart was in the game for most of his presidency. Perhaps had inept morons like Brownie, and Rumsfeld, and other overzealous war mongers not filled his administration his 8 years might have been yielded more fruitful results.

Yesterday, I believe GW had a rare moment of fun, like a pillow fight, or a snowball fight. The guy threw a shoe, and GWB dodged one, smiled, and dodged another (almost appearing to try to catch it). Almost like, "I knew this Presidency thing could be a good time."

If you watch the video, and watch it again and again like I did, you see the pure joy the President got from this harmless incident. Part of me truly believes he wanted to pick the shoe up and throw it back. Not in anger, but for fun.

In the end, this proves 2000 correct. George Bush definitely is the guy you'd want to have a beer with. Is there anything wrong with that? Not at all, just remember that you probably don't want your silly goose of a friend, who makes a great bar buddy, running anything important to you!

Personally, I wouldn't let this guy run my fantasy baseball leagu,e but in a different time, with a different supporting cast, he just might have been a fun president to have in office!

So the next time you have a chance to vote for the guy you want to have a beer with, keep in mind the last 8 years. Sadly, I think Joe Average day in office is over,. Of course, I have a good feeling that in 2012, you are going to see Barbie Mooseburger running for office as the Walmart Mom of choice. I truly hope that American's have learned their lesson (and I truly hope Obama does a good enough job to make any challenger nothing more than a passing thought in the minds of voters)!

One final note, how cool is it that we have president that says, "I don't know what the guys beef was with me."

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hour 36 Without Power...

First real test of the SMS (short messaging system) and Verizon Wireless Email to connect to the blogosphere!

This is hour 36 without power, in one of the worst ice storms to hit this region in decades!

Current conditions: F'ing Cold. 44F indoors! Approx 10F outdoors, sunny but windy! Ground is a sheet of ice! While some areas seem to have been spared, or seen minor damage, our area was perhaps hit the worst. Every mature coniffer tree, is either destroyed or extensively damaged, many hardwoods also sustained damage! Quite a few structures has sustained damage from falling trees.

Early estimates were 200,000 Capital Region residents and businesses without power. I believe this does not include New England which was hit perhaps harder!

Traffic signals are out at many intersections, and many morons believe that an intersection without a light is a "green light." PLEASE STOP AT ALL INTERSECTIONS!

I'm going back to sleep for an hour or two. Then going for a hike!


Justin Serpico
Sent from my Verizon Wireless mobile phone

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Severe Weather Alert: 67F On Nov 15th, How Long Till Winter Arrives?

Current Severe Weather

Record Report

Statement as of 12:56 am EST on November 16, 2008

... Record high temperature set at St. Johnsbury...

A record high temperature of 64 degrees was set at St. Johnsbury
yesterday. This ties the old record of 64 set in 1993.
Warnings for Western Essex, New York : Weather Underground

Well we have no idea really, but typically these heinously warm spells are followed by extreme changes in the air streams that bring our weather. I was saying to my wife the other night as we walked into the restaurant in downright balmy conditions, "you know what is coming next?" She said (with a sigh of dread), "yeah, I know."

This weather change from warm to cold is exactly what brings in the lake effect snow that makes national headlines, as people around the country think Buffalo is the snow capital of the world. It's the same weather that pounds the Tug with 400 inches of snow, and funnels it's way into the Adirondacks.

Looking at the long range forecast, around the northeastern North Country, it looks really good.

Lake placid isn't expected to break freezing for it's daytime highs more than a few days over the next 14 days. This is weather more typical of mid winter, not late fall!

When we get lows around the single digits, and highs right around freezing, we get two things. Fast ice formation, and regeneration. The best ice winters like 2000-2001 are fairly mild but seasonal. Meaning cold nights, and days with below freezing temps. We don't need 3 months of 0F days and -20F nights, just nights around zero and days in the high 20s, and voila plastic ice all winter that looks virgin after a few days of regeneration.

The bad news? We are below normal for rainfall, but better than last year where we were extremely below normal.

This year, we are a little off the 20 year average. Worse, we are not forecast to see a tremendous amount of precip in the next month. The result, if it snows at the lower elevations it needs to stick around. Of course days of snow cover is one of the big problems with our regional climate change (i'll concede there is no global warming here for arguments sake). In the last 20 years our snowfall has fallen off somewhat, but the bigger issue is that our days of snow cover has significantly lowered, and the result is you need a base of snow for accumulation to be deep and lasting, so less cover creates a viscous cycle of low snow depth winters which then give the impression we are getting less snowfall overall.

So keep your fingers crossed, and you might be climbing the trade routes on ice fat enough for a 22CM screw before Thanksgiving, and no doubt the Tug will have plenty of snow for a long winter of XC skiing in just a few days!! The issue really becomes how long till the Catskills, Helderbergs, Mohawk/Hudson Valley and Berkshires catch up. These areas are MUCH more impacted by regional climate change than the higher elevations and the North Country.

But more importantly, keep your fingers crossed that we go back to the days of a single mid February melt out, rather than the pattern the last few years of several mid season melt outs that take a few weeks to return to winter conditions. And just in case things remain status quo pack a bottle of DEET for those 50F winter days when the mosquitoes find a few hours to come out!

Bad news:

Good News:

More Good News:

NWS Forecast for: Keene Valley NY

Issued by: National Weather Service Burlington, VT


Chance Rain/Snow. Chance for Measurable Precipitation 30%
Hi 41°FFalling Temperatures

Chance Snow. Chance for Measurable Precipitation 50%
Lo 23°F

Chance Snow. Chance for Measurable Precipitation 40%
Hi 33°F

Chance Snow. Chance for Measurable Precipitation 40%
Lo 19°F

Chance Snow. Chance for Measurable Precipitation 40%
Hi 27°F

Chance Snow. Chance for Measurable Precipitation 30%
Lo 14°F

Partly Sunny
Hi 26°F

Mostly Cloudy
Lo 11°F

Mostly Sunny
Hi 27°F

Today: A slight chance of rain showers before 1pm, then a chance
of rain and snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a temperature falling to
around 33 by 5pm. West wind between 14 and 18 mph. Chance of
precipitation is 30%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Tonight: A
chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 23. West wind
between 7 and 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New snow
accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Monday: A
chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 33. West wind
between 3 and 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow
accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Monday Night: A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 19. North wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Tuesday: A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 27. North wind between 6 and 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Tuesday Night: A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 14. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Wednesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 26.

Wednesday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 11.

Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 27.

Thursday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 10.

Friday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 27.

Friday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 16.

Saturday: A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 27. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Point Forecast: Keene Valley NY
44.19N 73.81W

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

International Rally New York

International Rally New York, held Oct 31-Nov 1st, is the final race in the USA Rally Championships. The stages were held in multiple closed course locations around the western edge of NY's Catskill Forest Preserve.

Rally racing in the US is almost an unknown sport, while in Europe and other parts of the America's it is actually an immensely popular sport. I suppose it's a lot like soccer or cycling, the US just doesn't appreciate it.

Rally racing is usually done on closed roads rather than tracks, meaning that unlike the permanent left hand turns of a Nascar track, there is actually some diversity in rally racing. The roads are often dirt, or snow covered, and might cross standing water, or streams, but the races also occur on paved sections, or entirely paved courses. Cars often catch big air, and drift around hairpin turns.

While most of us are never going to put a race car on the track, rally is the type of racing most of us can relate to most easily. Rally racing is the epitome of the saying "fast cars drive the straight-aways fast, and fast drivers drive the turns fast."

Of course, the cars used in the rally races are anything but stock. WRC cars are based on the stock 2.0L 4 cylinder engines found in the production models but they have heavily modified safety systems including full reinforced roll cages, racing seats and harnesses, bigger brakes, better lighting, and use special tires. They also are turbo charged, and have different gear boxes.

To give you an idea of how little rally racing is known in the US. The Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO had been sold in Europe and Asia for over a decade before hitting the US. Fitting with the trend that the US market only wants big cars, or muscle "sports" cars, rather than cars they can actually drive for fun, the US market was ignored.

In the early 2000s Subaru was the first company to market a rally inspired car in the US, the WRX. Mitsubishi also unleashed the Lancer EVO the following year. Not surprisingly the Lancer EVO and Impreza WRX, and other rally inspired cars like the Mini, and the Suzuki SX4 have had strong US sales.

Rally New York was a good time though, and I’m definitely looking forward to more rallying. Actually, I’m hoping to race the Covered Bridge Rally in Vermont next year in the stock division, I drive most of those roads a dozen times a year while going hiking, and I can say it's a fun drive (unless you are in my passenger seat)!!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Driver Killed After Colliding With Moose On I-93

This is something I wouldn't exactly say I joke about, but something that is a legitimate reality and concern of mine driving in the North Country. People are always talking about oh you could die doing this and that in the wilds, but I always say, driving up often in the early hours, and home often in the late hours of the day, hitting a moose is probably the most likely way to get killed.

Moose weigh between 600-1500 pounds with males usually weighing over 1,000lbs and full grown females closer to 800lbs. In comparison, deer in this same region of the country usually weight between 150-250lbs. Deer can come up through the windshield if they are tall enough and hit head on, but moose have a higher center of gravity and are even more likely to enter the car cabin since you hit them comparatively low. If a 800lb moose goes through the windshield at highway speeds you are in a lot of trouble. Sadly, there is really no way to avoid it short of driving at about 10mph.

The sad irony, is that I usually worry about this most on the more rural mountain roads that are filled with blind curves and limited line of sight. This fatal accident happened on I-93, which isn't exactly I-95 running down the DELMARVA but it's still an interstate that has fairly straight driving with good line of sight.

From the news information it seems she was doing everything right. Not speeding, was wearing her seatbelt, and was not impaired.

My condolences.

SANBORNTON, N.H. -- A woman was killed Thursday morning when a car collided with a moose on Interstate 93, rolled over and landed on its roof.Police said the car collided with the 800-pound moose at about 6:30 a.m. near exit 22. The collision caused extensive damage to the vehicle.

"The moose had very tall legs, and the front of the vehicle strikes the legs," Trooper Stanley Dombrowski said. "The upper body, where much of the mass is, comes upon the hood of the vehicle."

"They have a very dark body, and by the time your headlights catch up to that, you don't have time to see an eye shine or anything that would give you a clue that there's a moose in the road," said Rob Calvert of Fish and Game.

The driver, Erin Coffey, 31, of Bristol, N.H., was the only one in the
car at the time.

Police said the driver was wearing a seat belt, but
the collision was too violent, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said speed and driver impairment did not appear to be factors in the collision.

News Video: Car Strikes Moose, Rolls Over, Killing Driver

Driver Killed After Colliding With Moose On I-93 - New Hampshire

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ithaca Is Gorges: Fall In The Finger Lakes

It occurred to me that despite autumn being my favorite time of the year that I never seem to make the most of it from a photography standpoint. Last year was so dry it seemed like the colors were not very bright or long lasting.

As of Columbus Day weekend 2008 I had absolutely nothing to show for what is so far a colorful autumn.

The high peaks in the Adirondacks are already well past peak as are the upper elevations of Vermont and NH. I had already seen some great images of the snow covered summits with colorful lower elevations and knew going south was better.

Leaf season peak foliage varies by elevation and localized climate (duh, but I just wanted to impress you with my common sense wisdom). Even two areas at the same elevation and latitude can differ if one is close to the water and the other inland, or has some other factor that influences local climate. Just like chasing spring wildflower season can last weeks if you do it right, foliage season can be mapped out to catch peak after peak.

As it turned out the Heidelberg’s and Catskills are currently at peak and generally always around Columbus Day weekend.

So Saturday afternoon we headed to Thacher State Park to hike the Indian Ladder trail. The trail is almost paved in many spots, and no special hiking attire is required to hike the approximately one mile loop. Actually, it is one of the few places you will find (attractive) women hiking in heels and mini skirts!!!

I had hiked the Indian Ladder once before on a dreary spring day and had the place to myself, but I had a feeling this trail was typically packed and devoid of any wilderness character. Sure enough it was, only making photography more difficult. Making things worse, the picturesque waterfalls I had photographed in my spring sojourn were almost totally dry.

However, the near peak colors made up for the crowds and lack of water. I came away with a few nice shots and a nice hike only a short drive from home. I often fall into the same trap as everyone else by thinking I need to go someplace far away to capture great images, the truth is, you have a unique advantage when shooting close to home in creating the very best images, since you can time everything for optimal conditions.

Since Aim did not have off Monday, I needed to decide whether to do a day hike Sunday and Monday or go camping and save fuel, carbon emissions, and maximize shooting in an ideal setting. Aim did not seem too enthused about going to the West Canada lakes wilderness, which was near, or slightly past peak for a day hike, so I decided to go camping Sunday and Monday.

Checking the foliage report showed that the Catskills were at peak, and the Finger Lakes were near peak, with the Great Lakes regions not yet peaked.

Having enjoyed, but spent so little time in the Finger Lakes over the years, I decided to go south and west and enjoy this different part of the state for a few days of off-season camping at Robert Treman State Park.

Treman, unlike the bulk of NYS Parks, and DEC campsites is opened past Columbus Day. Actually, Nov 30th! So it makes a great base camp for camping and foliage photography in what I consider one of New York States gems.

The Finger Lake region is obviously home to 5 of New York's largest lakes, but also it is home to New York’s largest wine region, and highest waterfalls. The area between this region and the Catskills is also some of New York’s most fertile farmland. New York is the #4 producer in the US of corn, and among the top in milk (#3), and apples (#2), cabbage (#3) and third in grape production. This region clearly shows the agricultural roots of NY. Fittingly, it is also home to New York’s (and perhaps the nations) best agricultural and veterinary school, Cornell University.

While if you’ve ever read any of my other trip reports you know my first love for a region of the diverse state of New York is the Adirondacks, but I’d be hard pressed to offer a better region as an example of New York than the Finger Lakes. To me the ruggedness, diversity, and refinement of the region are New York in a nutshell.

Robert H. Treman (there is also an Allan Treman a few miles north) is on the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes region, in the town of Ithaca. It is within 8 miles of 4 other state parks, and almost across the street from another equally beautiful park, Buttermilk Falls State Park.

I was actually surprised at the amount of people camping this weekend. There are 50+ sites at this park, and nearly all of them were filled. The last time we were here in September 2004, it was empty at the campground even though plenty of people were still out hiking on the trais.

The trails of these state parks are unique in themselves, they are aptly suited for those lacking either the fitness or desire to hike less civilized trails.

The trails of many of these Finger Lakes parks could actually be considered a history lesson of sorts, perhaps a great excuse for a teacher who loves to hike to organize a field trip ;-).

During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt started the CCC to put men to work doing something, even if most of the work that was done was essentially busy work. Still paying people to work rather than just giving them a check was better for the morale of a nation built on the puritan work ethic, and of course provided nearly of century of quality stonework that sees thousands of hikers a year.

A lot of the CCC work in the Finger Lakes is in need of serious repair, while other parts look brand new. Keeping in mind of course that this area sees a tremendous amount of water and temperature extremes resulting in many freeze/thaw cycles, that most of this stonework is still in great shape 80 years later.

Many of the Finger Lakes state park trails have a similar and sensible naming system which goes like this: above the gorge is called the “Rim Trail” and in the gorge is called the “Gorge Trail”.

I hiked the 5 mile Rim/Gorge loop at Robert Treman, which goes to the top of Lucifer Falls, a cascade of over 112 feet. When you reach Lucifer Falls, the gorge is over 200ft deep. Along the trail, the gorge is filled with mosses, ferns, and in the warmer weather wildflowers. In the fall, the contrast of the changing leaves with the rich greens of the mosses and ferns can make for a spectacular contrast. The gorge is one waterfall or cascade after another, and honestly, if you dedicated yourself to shooting in the good light, you could spend years capturing the beauty found along this single 3-mile stretch. Although solitude and quiet contemplation you will not find during a weekend.

Monday, I woke up at 2:30am wide awake after hitting the sack at 8:30 the night before. I went back to sleep off and on till 5am when I decided to commit to the early start I had envisioned but expected not to make. It took me about 30 minutes to break down camp in the dark, and load up the Zuk.

The plan was to get to Taughannock Falls State Park, about eight miles away before sunrise, unfortunately while the plan worked, the sun didn’t cooperate. Instead of the brilliant blue skies we were forecast to have, it was a hazy light overcast. This soft diffuse lighting is great for macro shots and shooting water, but not great for foliage. I wanted the soft golden morning glow and Mother Nature didn't cooperate. I almost stayed on the shores of Cayuga Lake, to photograph what looked to be an interesting purple sunrise through the haze. But we’ve all seen enough sunrises, it’s foliage we want.

Once again, you have the Rim Trail and the Gorge Trail. The last time I was at this park Aim and I did the Rim trail to the falls overlook. My goal was this time around was to go to the base of the falls. I don’t remember the distance but I think it is about a mile to the base.

Taughannock Falls is actually New York's, and the eastern US highest waterfall. This of course can often be debated depending on how you rate the fall (there are longer cascades for instance), but Taughannock Falls is a single purely vertical drop that CANNOT be contested. No matter how you measure it, it’s going to work out to an equivalent of 215 vertical feet. How impressive is this? Well, Niagara Falls is a mere 182 feet high. Of course Niagara Falls claim to fame isn’t it’s height, or width but the sheer volume of water the that passes over the falls. Taughannock Falls by comparison is merely a trickle most of the year, and in summer nearly dries up.

The area below the falls would make an excellent swimming hole in summer, aside from the fact that these gorges are inherently unstable. Anyone lacking the intelligence to determine where the piles of rubble at the base of the gorge came from, just needs to stand around for a while and listen for the popping, cracking, and eventually falling of the rocks above. Suffice to say while wandering around off the trail I was a bit uneasy. Having been hit in the (helmeted) head plenty of times while rock climbing, I don't take rock fall lightly.

Disappointed with the morning light, I looked around for some shots that benefited from the soft low contrast light, but eventually just headed out after having the park to myself for a few hours.

Overall a nice beautiful weekend and a change of pace for me.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Throwing In The Towel...

I actually have a few trip reports that were waiting on photos, but they are stuck on the laptop which is short WiFi right now, and my desire to copy the blog entry's onto a memory card and load them onto my PC is pretty pathetic.

I mean lets face it, anyone that reads this blog is looking for 2 things, trip/camping info, and/or the photos. Anyone actually reading the text is in my opinion only doing so to make themselves feel like a literary genius after 5 minutes of spelling errors, misuse of homonyms, lack of spell checking, and just poor formatting (come on, how many times have I let two words run together???).

Any how, I am now up to mid June for my photos...not counting Beer Fest (Mondiale de le Biere - Montreal), and of course the rest of Heather's graduation photos, so consider this a partial update to the last real blog entry of 2008 which was the Snowy Mountain blog.

So without further delay, without all the little jibber jabber that slows down your scrolling to the maps, photos, and trip info...


Heather's Graduation

Memorial Day (revisited) The Davis Path....


Escaping The Heat: 3 Days In the Northern Presidential's (Caps Ridge, Mt Jefferson, Adams, Madison, King Ravine)

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