Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chaos On Crane and Oooo Sable In The AMR

Busy weekend for me in the Daks.

Seems like I hiked a lot more than 15 miles over 2 days. I shot over 8GB of images over that time (lots of brackets of 16MB images), most in poor lighting and after a few days I've finally made some progress.

Saturday was a great easy hike in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, which is publicly accessible private land owned by the Au Sable Club.

After leaving a few minutes later than I intended, I met John and Joanne at the parking area a few minutes after 9am and we headed for some of the most spectacular (and most accessible) scenery in the Adirondack lowlands. Lots of waterfalls and chasms, streams and rivers. Just a beautiful place.

We kinda hit the lighting just wrong, and our overcast day turned a bit too sunny for even the usable diffused light provided by cloud cover. It was still very dead out there, as the trees hadn't even begun to bud. It looked like what I affectionately call the skeleton forest. Black flies and bugs were non existent which made the day ever more enjoyable. Great day though and lots of fun to just kick back and talk photography while taking our time, even if we didn't have the best lighting.

My partners left me at about 4:30pm, and I headed about a mile up trail to Wedge Brook and Wedge Brook Falls. I noted a few spots I'd like to hit with better lighting on the way down, and got to the falls. Beautiful place but despite spending an hour playing around I left with nothing that I liked. On the way back I shot a few frames of the East Branch Ausable River and some spring runoffs down the gorge walls.

After a few more shots on Gill Brook and the Ausable River, I got back to the car around 8:30pm and was back home by 10pm.

Sunday, Aim, Caney and I headed for Crane Mountain. Our last trip there in 2000 or 2001 ended in Caney losing his pack around the lake. I listened to Aim and didn't carry snowshoes and the spur trail was covered with 4 feet of snow making the 1 mile hike an incredible post hole fest. Lesson learned from that experience...when in doubt carry snowshoes even in April, and DO NOT PUT THE KEYS IN YOUR DOGS PACK!!!!

The 2008 Crane adventure was quite nice, although covered with blowdown from the uncharacteristic ice storms we had this winter, and the trail was at times poorly marked, lots of route finding, and some bushwhacking to get back. For an easy 3.5 mile hike we ended up hiking about 5 miles and it felt like much more. Overall great day but the black flies were out, and lightly biting at times on the hike up. On the return they mysteriously disappeared.

One disheartening thing about Crane Mountain was the trash situation around the pond. Typically the southern and western Adirondacks seem to suffer more from irresponsible and just downright lazy disgusting people who feel that it's too much effort to carry out the stuff they brought in.

Unfortunately, this attitude is contagious and trash left behind signals to the next user group that it's OK. Then things go out of control and the DEC is forced to make changes that affect everyone.

I'm hoping to organize a work crew to go in and clean this area up. Anyone reading this who is interested should drop me an email. I figure 4 or more people could circle the lake in an afternoon, disperse some of the poorly built campsites and partially burned wood, burn any burnable trash and pack out the many plastic bottles, and bits of broken glass.

To anyone reading this looking for information on campsites (and I know you do because of I see your search strings to get to my site) please have some respect for yourself. Yes for yourself, and pack out what you bring in. Keep in mind that the trash you leave can only end up 2 places, in the forest, or in the pond. And that in either place it will remain there pretty much permanently.

While one bottle, one wrapper, one cigarette butt might seem harmless, the cumulative effects are not. And it's pretty selfish and just plain disrespectful to literally destroy someplace that you, and others that follow you, obviously thought enough off to expend your sweat and energy to hike into.

The 6.5 million acres that forms the Adirondack Forest Preserve might seem inexhaustable, but if enough people carelessly abuse it out of nothing more than laziness, we will be left with nothing but a giant wilderness landfill.

Give a hoot, don't pollute.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sleeping Beauty Of Lake George

After getting squared away with the new car that killed a few weekends of potential outdoor adventure, I was ready for a hike this weekend.

Originally it was supposed to be beautiful Saturday and deteriorate Sunday. Thats ok, I can hike just fine in the rain but installing power outlets, and speakers just doesn't work in the rain. So after doing some mods to the new Adventure Mobile it was hike planning time.

With the weather forecast being wrong as usual, Sunday turned out to be another near perfect day. I didn't want to drive far or undertake a hard hike. So I had quite a few hikes in the Southern Adirondacks on the planning board.

Caney Bear hasn't been on a hike since the end of January when he got sick with kidney stones and a bladder infection. Which he promptly followed up with a bout of colitis (probably from stress following surgery) He is only about 6 weeks post surgery for the stone removal and only healthy for about 10 days. However, he is a Border Collie, and he is happiest when he is tired from activity.

Aimee Bear just awoke from a 6 month hibernation. During which time she slept on a bed that was not too hard, not to soft, but just right. Dreaming of room temperature days that were not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

I've never hiked Sleeping Beauty Mountain but I've always found the hiking around Lake George to be as scenic as anywhere in the entire Adirondack Forest Preserve. The thing I like about the Lake George area is that I never expect solitude, but if we find it it's a huge bonus.

The Sleeping Beauty trail head is a relatively short drive from home. It was also a great test for the Suzuki SX4 we just got. Usually 10 miles of dirt roads is something we dread. But the SX4 is perfectly at home doing 40mph down twisty loose gravel dirt roads. Throw in a few mud slicks, some ruts, and some tight elbow turns and you have the makings of a fun drive. Well a fun drive for me, not my passengers.

This time of the year is strange in that it's not very pretty but there also aren't any bugs, whom don't typically arrive till mid May. While the lack of leaves and brush creates a wide open forest, and uncluttered views, the forest no longer offers any protection from the sun. I've had my fair share of April sunburns over the years from late spring hikes. Sunday's hike was no different, 15 degrees warmer than forecast and no refuge from the sun.

Having checked the DEC website I knew we'd have to park at the Shelving Rock Road trail head as the Dacy Clearing road was closed because of mud. Usually it opens later in the year and cuts 1.6 miles off the hike.

The road to Dacy Clearing is a pleasant walk and only added about 30 minutes to the hike at a leisurely pace.

Along the way we passed quite a bit of stone work, perhaps from homesteads, and some of which was from the CCC of the 1930s such as the Bumps Pond horse trail.

Unfortunately, we could a switchback right below the summit of Sleeping Beauty and ended up bypassing the view points and going straight across the summit plateau without the views. By the time I realized we missed the summit we were just starting out descent towards Bumps Pond. Oh well, I wanted to see the pond anyway, so we kept going rather than backtrack through the abundant blow down that fills the trail between the summit and Bumps Pond.

I felt bad for myself, but worse for the girls that blindly followed us and also missed the summit.

Bumps Pond was a pleasant little high mountain pond. Not too large but big on scenery even this early in the year.

The hike out over the horse trail was fast and easy.

Overall it was 7.2 miles and 2700 ft gained and lost over 4 hours.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The New Ride...

My new car, the Suzuki SX4 / Fiat Sedici (same car, Suzukis are made in Japan, Fiats in Hungary)

Probably the most full featured car for under $20,000. Actually about 18k fully loaded. Even includes a sophisticated stability system in addition to the AWD.

The problem with the SX4 is it's compact size and generally average fuel economy (30mpg highway, 20ish city) put it between classes. Is it a Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Mini Cooper competition, or is it Subaru Impreza/WRX, Toyota RAV4, Audi A30 competition.

However, if you want/need a full size SUV or a economy compact, or would just like AWD and lockable 4WD this car has it for $4000-10,000 less than a Subaru. It also gets better gas mileage than Subies. It's mild off road capable, unlike a Yaris or Fit or Cooper. And it splits the gas mileage between the classes.

Where it shines is handling. Almost no body roll. It will eat curvy mountain roads that are often found in the northeastern mountains for breakfast and crap them out as exhaust.

Key thing to remember about off road driving is it's not just
ground clearance but ramp angles and gearing. The SX4 lacks 4WD low but
in 1st gear the gearing is low enough to negotiate the roughest
improved logging roads and mud pits. The ramp angles are well designed and allow it to climb fairly steep and drop into fairly steep dropoffs.

It has class leading cargo space WITH the rear seats down. And if you remove a single rear seat you get 31cu ft of space plus room for 3. Since we rarely have more than a 2-3 people and a dog and lots of gear, this is perfect.

At highway speeds (75mph) the 4 speed auto pulls 3000rpm. The engine is most effecient at 3500rpm so it SHOULD get about 30mpg on road trips (or most of my driving, about 90%) around town it seems if you leave in in 3, rather than 3D it gets in the mid 20s. Not great but not bad

Rember though the transfer case adds a few hundred pounds and the 148 hp is best in class but it's got to move a lot more weight.

Of course my Focus, even with a 16 foot canoe or a cargo basket never got worse than 25mpg. And rarely got less than 27-28mpg per tank. Actually 2 mountain bikes typically did the worst for fuel economy, and you could feel them.

And finally, it's not a Corolla, or a Civic. Those are great cars, but they are tired, boring and just plain common. Handling is so-so, nothing that even remotely differentiates them from the pack, and they aren't cheap. Cost more than the SX4 and offer less.

So while a 2WD car like the Ford Focus has served me well for 6 years. I'm pretty happy to get something a bit more functional, without having to give up much in terms of economy and comfort.

Some video: