Tag Archives: New York State

Happy trails

DSC_0009At one point Sunday afternoon, as Chrissy and I ran over snow and sand and through mud and ice, I had to laugh at how lucky it is that we both find the challenge of trail running to be fun.  Yes, fun.  It’s like being a kid again, running through the woods to either get somewhere, or maybe away from someone, not really knowing exactly where we’re going, but having the luxury of enough time to simply run.

On Saturday we did the Parker 5k, a seriously challenging lope through the woods which Chrissy blazed through.  We were down a lunar b*tch, unexpectedly, but we both rallied for respectable finishes on a morning which was far more benign than expected.  There was no rain and the mud provided an obstacle or added an element of excitement, all in the eye of the beholder.

Aren't they lively looking?

Aren’t they lively looking?

A couple of remarks I heard post-race were validating, the race was “humbling,” and the trail “grueling.”  No one was complaining. This event is pleasingly small with only about 100 finishers and everyone who participated appeared remarkably healthy and fit.  As Chrissy said, it felt much more like a friendly group run through the woods than a race.  Next year, hopefully we’ll be our usual running threesome. Missed you, Karen!

Sunday was a gorgeous day – the first day of the year for me to run wearing only a single layer and sleeveless, at that.  We met at the Pine Bush’s trailhead #7, where we consulted a posted map and quickly determined we had no idea how to read it properly.  It was mid afternoon and we had time and an app on our side so we headed in, bearing right at most forks in the trail as we sought a longish run.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the day was an ambiguous one, early spring which easily could have been mistaken for mid fall.

"Mudders"We skirted a deep ravine and ran on the narrowest of paths up steeper than expected hills.  There was mud, but no real standing water and we both were glad we had worn our mudders from the previous day again.  We encountered fewer than a handful of other intrepid fun seekers and I have a new desire to familiarize myself with this large nature area.  Saratoga State Park’s trails have nothing on this place in terms of challenge and beauty and I can’t wait to go back for another, even longer, loop.

We wrapped up our running adventures with a first of the season soak in Chrissy’s hot tub.  It was a good weekend.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Events, friends, Local, running, Schools, Spring, sunday, upstate New York

Maple Weekend 2014

I don’t know about you, but I grew up believing that “pancake” syrup was all there was to drown my pancakes in. Based upon my middle son’s recent query about “Why is the number one ingredient in maple syrup water?,” I have to think that more must be done to educate children about the difference between pancake syrup and genuine maple syrup. Maple Weekend 2014 provided the ideal opportunity for a little lesson on the genuine article vs. that water-based, artificially colored and flavored bastardization known as “pancake syrup.”

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Last weekend, on a damp and cold morning, Quinn and I headed out to Berne to see the trees from which our syrup comes. The drive was full of sights for us to observe – cows and horses, heaps of lingering snow, raging creeks, and to discuss and, in case you were wondering, that boy has no interest in living in the country. Definitely a city kid.

We arrived at Mountain Winds Maple Farm in the late morning. While we weren’t the only folks visiting, Randy made time to take us on a little tour. Our footwear choice (rubber boots) was validated by the squishy earth and we confidently headed towards the little pumping station. This was where the tubing, working with a vacuum pump, initially collected the surprisingly clear and remarkably not sweet sap.

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Randy explained that the yield has thus far this season been very low since we have not yet had a true thaw to encourage a free flow of sap. Fingers crossed, a few days later that he and the other syrup producers are seeing a more impressive run as the temperatures have somewhat moderated.

From this first collection point the sap is sent to be boiled down, changing the percentage of sugar from approximately 2% to a more familiar 60+%. The rich amber color also develops as the syrup is concentrated and caramelized.

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We were lucky enough to nab his last gallon of syrup and have stashed it away in the basement as back up for the gallon we’re currently enjoying. In the DelSo, I use 100% pure maple syrup, preferably extra dark. I buy this delicious liquid, 2-3 times a year, by the gallon. It’s an investment at approximately $55, but buying in bulk definitely makes sense for my household where we eat pancakes or waffles or French toast at least weekly. In addition to this standard use of maple syrup, I frequently find myself reaching for the syrup dispenser to add flavor to root vegetables and other savory items. Delicious!

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When it is time for some more amber sweetness, we have options other than hauling out to Berne. Randy vends at the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market and also distributes through Farmie Market. In addition to syrup and syrup related products (cotton candy, syrup straws, hard candies, etc), he also sells farm eggs and fresh chicken.

See you at Maple Weekend 2015!  Don’t forget your boots.

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Events, Local, road trips, Spring, upstate New York

What makes a tradition?

unnamedI remember Aloysius asking me that very question a couple of years ago as the Laker guys and I started talking about revisiting Mountain Jam. Since we had all gone together the previous year, was returning to the festival for a second time, in fact, a tradition? Operating on the premise that traditions bring us closer as friends and family, we decided it was. This June, we’ll hopefully be honoring that tradition for consecutive year. Rock on.

In March 2011 I skied for the first time at Belleayre Mountain. When I say “first time” I mean, I’d never really skied before and I’d never been to Belleayre. I was participating in a winter triathlon and I only took one run down the mountain, but I remember grinning like a fool as I cautiously wove my way down the mountain. The view was gorgeous and the novelty of actually having edges on my skis gave me, a veteran cross-country skier, a new sensation. I loved it.

During the winter of 2012-13, I got back down there twice, once for Ski School with my youngest son and once just to enjoy the slopes with Aloysius. That second visit was on a beautiful late winter day in March. The skiing was great as was the novelty of enjoying a cold beer midway down the mountain in the warmth of the bright sunshine. Sublime.

Yesterday, I made my way down that way again. My map app offered a number of different routes and I chose the one which took me along local roads through Greene and Ulster counties, in no rush despite having been robbed of an hour due to daylight savings time. The drive was beautiful with a sky alternating between flurry-filled and sunny.

I pulled into the parking lot just before noon, with perfect timing to take advantage of the half-day rate of $90 for rentals and life ticket, and to meet friends who had gotten an earlier start. As has been my experience on previous visits, the staff was incredibly pleasant and helpful. I obviously don’t have a lot of experience with skiing or the skiing lifestyle, but the folks here are excellent ambassadors to a novice like me. I particularly appreciated when the young guy who fitted me for skis remarked that I “looked like an athlete.” Yes, and thank you very much for noticing, my new friend.

I got in a couple of runs on the easy trails, gradually becoming confident as the moves became more familiar, prior to meeting up with my friends. We had lunch together in the base lodge and then took one run together on a moderate trail that I remembered from prior years. Chrissy remarked that I skied with a lot of control, a fair enough observation. I have no interest in getting hurt, I just want to enjoy being outdoors – the fresh air, the mountains, the sounds of my skis cutting through the snow.  My friends left and I returned to the chairlift again and again until I was cold and ready to warm up and head north again.

While I wish I had the time and the money to get to Belleayre more frequently, I’m okay with only getting there a time or two a season.  After all, the traditions I most treasure, like Mountain Jam, are those which only occur once a year.  That being said, if anyone wants to head down there before the snow disappears for another year – hit me up.  I’m in.

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Filed under Aloysius, beauty, Exercise, friends, road trips, skiing, snow, upstate New York, winter

Your choice today…

558887_10151999036987889_307448373_nVote – or don’t discuss politics. Maybe it is my first-generation American mentality, but I don’t understand why people don’t exercise their civic rights and responsibilities.  It takes only a moment, generally, and provides a genuine opportunity to be part of a process.  I haven’t missed an election since I turned 18 and I sincerely hope the experience of accompanying me to the polls wears off on my boys.  I find it kind of exciting that my oldest son will be able to vote in the next presidential race, even if he sometimes threatens me by describing himself as conservative.  I certainly can’t be described using that C-word, but when it comes to fiscal choices, like the gambling proposal on today’s ballot, I am decidedly cautious.  That’ll be a “no” vote from me.  If you’re undecided or unaware of this year’s ballot proposals, please click here before heading to the polls.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Filed under Albany, Events, politics

Minnewaska must mean “beautiful” in Native American

lake

In what feels like a previous lifetime, my girlfriends and I would meet in the mountains outside of New Paltz for our annual hike.  There were years before the babies came, and even a couple of years after the oldest of the babies were born, when we would simply amble along a path by the climbers and real hikers.  We just wanted to be outside together and the trails of Minnewaska State Park were perfect for us.

Other than a cross-country ski adventure a winter or two ago, it’s been a while since I’ve been there.  The holiday weekend, however, threw the perfect opportunity my way – a 20k trail run with one of my childhood friends.  Yes, 20k, I said.  Which makes it about 3 or 4 miles longer than I’ve ever run. And I mentioned it was a trail run, right?  Exactly – awesome!

If you were lucky Columbus Day weekend, you got to spend some time outdoors.  If you were incredibly lucky, you were running through the woods of Minnewaska State Park.  It was spectacular!  The leaves were not quite peak yet, but the colors were still pretty gorgeous.  The sky was blue and the air was slightly more damp than crisp.  It was absolutely ideal weather to run.

The path we took was an official 20k route and the terrain was very hilly, with mostly soft ground cover.  We paused a number of times to take in a view or sip some water as we circled both Minnewaska and Awosting Lakes.  It was all about the journey.  As we ran, the sky turned to dusk.  We were careful as we finished with the last couple of miles of trail all downhill and leaf-covered.

this pretty much sums up how i felt 11 miles in - great!

this pretty much sums up how i felt 11 miles in – great!

And I want to do it again.

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Filed under beauty, Exercise, friends, road trips, running, sunday, upstate New York

Riding that train

DSC_0001Last week in our (delayed) haste to soak in the last of Summer 2013, two of my boys and I hopped aboard the scenic Saratoga-North Creek Railroad.  Despite the late night I had thoroughly enjoyed the previous evening at a concert at SPAC, we left Albany a little after 9:00 a.m. to catch our train, which was scheduled for a 10:00 departure.

We pulled out of the station a little late but, hey, what’s the rush?  We had all day to relax in the comfortable double-decker dining car perusing the breakfast menu which featured reasonably priced entrees ranging from $4 for pastry to $9 for the Adirondack omelet, French toast or waffles.  My guys ordered and were served fairly quickly.  Their plates were hot on arrival, nicely presented and portioned generously. The servers were, without exception, friendly and accommodating.

The train took us through some remote areas with beautiful views of the mountains and Hudson River.  The tables invite conversation and the period music playing softly in the background added to the sense of being part of another, more gentle time.  As we approached North Creek the sun broke through the clouds and help to remove the chill of the air-conditioned car – I forgot to bring a sweater.
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North Creek is a friendly little town with a couple of cute shops and a handful of restaurants.  Note: the helpful map distributed at the ticket office is NOT drawn to scale.  If you need more clarification on that fact, please see my youngest son.  He has probably still not forgotten the trek I led him on, which ultimately ended at our chosen destination for lunch.  Which was closed.  I’ve been wanting to try barVino forever but, unfortunately (and expectedly) they don’t serve lunch.  We ended up at Izzie’s Deli and Market, where I enjoyed my chicken salad, served on a bed of greens as I requested.  A few heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved, finished the plate.

Dinner is served on the return trip and, again, is fairly priced with entrees ranging between $10 for their Adirondack casserole (described as turkey and assorted root vegetables in a homemade cream sauce finished with a bread crumb, Parmesan and butter topping) and $16 for a 7 oz filet.  We didn’t indulge on the way south but the domed car captured and circulated some pretty enticing aromas.

The leisurely pace of the train, coupled with the 3 hour layover, made for a long day, but it was really enjoyable.  During the ride south I allowed the train to rock me to sleep and woke up fairly refreshed for the return drive down the Northway.  I would definitely take this trip again and am interested in the Ski Train which takes passengers to North Creek where a bus is available to complete the journey to Gore Mountain.  A day well spent.

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Filed under Boys, family, ideas, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, Summer, upstate New York

History in Hyde Park

The window on Val-Kill's door.

The window on Val-Kill’s door.

A long delayed return to Hyde Park finally occurred last weekend as history buff, Liam and I spent the afternoon visiting the Hudson Valley.  The primary purpose of the trip was to see Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage retreat.  I wasn’t aware of this lovely property prior to Liam and I touring the FDR mansion a year or so ago.  Seems that Eleanor’s mother-in-law, Sara Delano, was a bit of a controlling influence in the FDR/ER marriage and Eleanor needed an escape hatch.  Thus, Val-Kill came to be.

Our visit took about 90 minutes and included a brief movie in a blessedly air conditioned outbuilding and an organized tour of the home.  We also checked out the cutting garden, but did not take the trek to Franklin’s Top Cottage up the hill.  Seems Liam was not feeling the 1 mile uphill trek.  We wouldn’t have been able to view FDR’s cottage, other than from the outside, due to budget cuts anyway. I’m not embarrassed to admit to being a bit awestruck to walk through the same modest threshold through which JFK and countless other politicians and dignitaries had passed. History can be so cool when there aren’t boring tests to complete or dates to memorize!  The cottage was cozy with lots of wood and walls covered haphazardly in family photos and framed holiday cards.  There was zero pretension or formality.

We made a quick stop over at the FDR library, but were one day premature for the reopening of what is our country’s first presidential  library.  There were a couple of rooms of photo exhibits which we both found really interesting and revealing and I know we’ll get back there (maybe in the fall?) to take in the renovated library in its entirety.

Our final stop was for lunch.  Since we’re both fans of tacos, we Yelped to locate a nearby joint.  Leave it to my son to pick the place that

  • A. Didn’t have margaritas
  • B. Only accepted cash and
  • C. Was really close to the train station and thus offered an opportunity for checking out trains
Fish tacos

Fish tacos

Taking all of this into account, he did good and we had a terrific lunch for cheap at El Azteca.  We went with two chicken quesadillas and the fish taco special with a side of guacamole.  Our order, along with a coke and a delicious lime Mexican soda set us back $17.  Yes, $17.  The food was delicious!  Everything was super fresh, tasty and served piping hot.  I know where I’m stopping next time I’m taking Metro-North to the city…

There are so many cool spots to visit in our beautiful Hudson Valley, don’t you think?  What are your favorites?  Tell me!!

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Filed under Boys, Food, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, upstate New York