Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category


Sunday, December 13th, 2009

We have had a long stretch of good weather here in the Northeast but that all came to an end this last week.  A storm of great magnitude and devastation came barreling across the country, leaving in its path many power outages, stranded travelers and tragically, several fatalities attributed to the weather.  On Wednesday, the storm reached Western New York with falling temperatures, rain and wind throughout the day.  By Thursday snow bands off of lake Erie set up in Buffalo and made for treacherous driving.  It was strange how one area would get several inches of snow an hour, and only a few miles away the sun would be shining.  Just about the time I was about to depart for my delivery route, the Snow Belt shifted directly into the area where I would be heading.

Several vans were having trouble with the parking lot at our warehouse.  Snow had drifted over the building to pile a foot deep by the overhead doors, causing havoc just getting in and out of the building.  Because of the temperature – only slightly below freezing – the consistency of the snow was very mealy and slippery.  Surprisingly, many drivers had either neglected to get snow tires or thought they would not need them at all this year.  I was glad that I had very aggressive snow tires and I had little trouble digging through the parking lot and out onto the street.  As long as I went slowly, I negotiated the highway without incident and pulled onto the New York State Thruway to head for the south towns.

I entered a different world once I reached Hamburg, NY.  Snow was falling at a rate of several inches per hour and high winds caused very limited visibility.  At times I could hardly tell where the road was.  It was a catch-22: I couldn’t see where I was but I couldn’t go to slow for fear of getting stuck.  There were no snowplows on the road at all.  I think they had all given up and decided to wait until the blizzard subsided a little.  Most of the parking lots weren’t plowed and it was an adventure at each one.  I usually ended up guessing where the driveway was.  Just to load and wheel my dolly into the store – fighting the wind and deep snow – was time consuming and exhausting.  Once inside, the stores were mostly deserted with only a few fool-hearty customers that had braved the weather.

I reached Silver Creek several hours behind schedule.  The Rite-Aide store was without power and they led me back to the pharmacy by flashlight.  Everyone questioned me about conditions in other areas I had come through and where I had last noticed electricity.  I told them of several trees broken or uprooted along the road, surely taking down power lines with them.

The scariest thing happened in North Collins.  Three sets to railroad tracks cross the highway just east of town, cantered at an angle that offers little view of approaching trains.  There are lights and guardrails at the crossing but I usually like to take a look down the track anyway.  I never have trusted the warning signals 100%.  Just as I pulled on to the first set of tracks, out of the corner of my eye I saw the lights start to flash.  I now had a glimpse down the track and I could make out the light of a train flying towards me.  The snow on the tracks was deep and my van slowly dug and chewed its way to the other side.  The crossing arms came down just missing the back of my van as I cleared the last set of tracks.  Moments later the train filled my rearview mirrors.

By the time I reached Fredonia, I was out of the snow band and the grass still peeked through the dusting of snow on the ground.  The wind was raw and howling from the south, rocking high-profile vehicles like mine, gearing up for a calamity of events that would unfold during the night and into the next day.  Later in the day, the snow would shift into the area between Fredonia and the Pennsylvania State Line, stranding motorists on the NYS Thruway for hours.  Several miles of thruway became a twenty-mile parking lot as visibility dropped to zero and accidents clogged the road.  Hundreds of people spent the night and most of the next day trapped in their cars as authorities closed the highway.   I can only imagine what it would be like to spend 16 hours snowbound in a vehicle.  Many motorists ran out of gas trying to run their heaters and stay warm. Some had nothing to eat or drink.  With a small twist of fate, it could have been me.

The trip back to Buffalo was fairly uneventful.  I hit some areas of high winds (clocked at 70 mph in some areas) and ran into a few bands of snow, but by then the plows had salted most of the major roads and cleared some secondary ones.  I would drive through whiteout conditions on Friday but nothing as bad as the day before.  When I reached Fredonia, the Wal-Mart I deliver to had 50 semi-trucks in their parking lot and hundreds more were waiting along the road for the thruway to open.  Out on the thruway, State Troupers were going from car to car checking for medical emergencies and people in need.  Not until late in the afternoon would snowplows and towtrucks free the line of motorists.

Will someone please tell me why I took this South-Town route?

Letchworth Hike

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

With cold weather fast approaching and the days getting shorter, I felt the need to try for one more exercise hike before I gave into winter hibernation.  I pondered several areas that have good hiking trails: Allegany State Park, The Fingerlakes Trail, Letchworth Park, all of which offer beautiful scenery and miles of groomed trails.  It seemed logical to pick someplace I wouldn’t have to drive far to get to, and it would be nice to have a loop trail to avoid retracing my steps back to the truck.   After searching through my maps for places that met this criterion, I happened upon an idea.

Letchworth Park has a trail that follows the gorge for more than 20 miles, meandering back and forth along the eastern rim, through mature woods, ravines, waterfalls and majestic overlooks.  I noticed that there was a road intersecting several access points along the trail and I decided I would leave my truck at one of these parking areas, ride my bike a few miles down the road to another access point and hike back through the woods.  What could be better exercise than hiking and cycling?

It’s hard to believe that the middle of November in New York can still be warm and sunny.  Here I was riding my bicycle down the highway towards the Mt. Morris dam on a glorious Saturday morning.  The temperature was in the 60’s – way out of normal for this time of year – and sunshine forecast for the whole weekend.  I couldn’t remember whether I was supposed to ride with traffic or facing traffic, so I would weave back and forth across the road depending on which way I felt less paranoid.  Traffic was light, thank goodness, and I was soon entering the visitor center road near the start of the Letchworth trail.  I hid the bike behind some bushes and picked up my backpack and hiking poles.  For day hikes I still carry some warm clothes, rain jacket, headlamp and first-aid kit, along with snacks and water.  Even though there is cell phone service along the entire trail, I like to be prepared.

It was good to be off the highway and back in the wood.    Most of the trail was dry – below normal rainfall for the last few weeks – and I thought once of hiking in sneakers but opted for my hiking boots.  The path was mostly level except where it went through ravines.  Sometimes the ravine was so deep and steep that the trail had to detoured a long way around.  There were areas of huge Red Oak trees, some still hanging on to their brightly colored leaves, refusing to let go until snow comes and pulls them to the ground.  At times the trail would take me to the edge to the gorge for a panoramic view of the fertile valley along the Genesee river.

I only met three people on the hike.  Two were on mountain bikes and they passed me in a flash.  I have mixed feelings about allowing bikes on hiking trails.  I guess I want some places you can only get to by walking and it made me feel good when I came to a place where I knew they would have to get off and push.  I came upon one giant tree that had fallen across the path and I knew they must have really struggled maneuvering through the limbs.

When I parked my truck, I set a waypoint in my GPS so I would know exactly where to come out of the woods.  As I hiked back, it seemed like I had gone too far and I almost didn’t trust what my GPS was telling me.  Biking along the road was so easy that I couldn’t relate it to the distance of walking back.  With all the winding of the trail through the woods, I probably walked twice as far as I rode.  But it worked out good and combined for a great day of exercise.  I’m thinking now that the possibilities could be endless with a small moped or scooter instead of a bike.

Blog is not in my Dictionary

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

I have looked at some of the tools and editing procedures that are available to me as the owner of this blog, and they are quite daunting and confusing.  When I read other blogs, I never gave much thought to what goes on in the background.  My brothers and sister have such interesting sites filled with pictures, categories and links, and it never dawned on me until now how proficient they are at producing very professional blogs.

I can see that it will take some time to get used to the idea of being a publisher.  I also realize that it will be fun to learn how even though it may seem like work at times.  I know there are several people just waiting to give me advice on how to do it:) (I need to make a smiley face here)

Someone once said that inactivity makes for very poor writing and I have to agree that when I hike, go geocaching, or visit someplace new, I have a lot more to say.  Over the last few years I’ve written several journals about the backpacking trips I’ve taken, and even though I write them mostly so that I can remember, they might be something to share here.  I don’t intend to make this a place to reminisce, tell my history, or write some kind of memoir of my life, but I have very few opinions about anything.