Category Archives: Nature

Buttermilk Falls

I was recently in the Ithaca area getting some trail running in. Post run I went to Buttermilk falls to relax and do some writing. Then I decided what better way to cap off the days trip than to hike down into the gorge and photograph one of my favorite natural places. My knees did not enjoy this post run decision, but I took my time and enjoyed myself and captured some nice images. Enjoy.

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Buck Pond Campground

After a week of adventuring out from my base camp near Lake Placid it was time to move north to my new camping location, Buck Pond State Park. I decided that since I spent the first week of my trip driving and hiking and adventuring I wanted to really try to get into the relaxation part of what this trip was supposed to be. This decision was made easier by the simple fact that this new location was farther away from all the mountains I was interested in hiking, thus making it more logically challenging.

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Part of this trip was supposed to be about trying to unwind and relax. You know, find yourself, as they say. What I decided to do is not leave the campground at all for the two days I was there, except to buy firewood which was super conveniently close by and made a great big fire for me to enjoy. So that is what I did. It was not as easy as I thought it would be. For someone who always feels like they should be doing something or accomplishing something it was not easy to just relax and enjoy what I was there to enjoy.

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I spent time exploring the campground. I went for a nice walk around the campground to get the lay of the land. The campground is situated between two large ponds / small lakes. The only thing that could have made the campsite I was at better would have been to be along the water. As it was my campsite was perfect for me. It was nice and secluded. The campsite it itself was huge. It was set back from the park road so I wasn’t disturbed much by passersby. I could really just sit there and relax and feel like I was alone in the woods. I spent a lot of time sitting or laying in my hammock and just relaxing / napping or reading or in some cases reading until it became a nap. I also enjoyed several beers while relaxing in the hammock or enjoying a campfire during my stay there. My first night there I was happy to learn that there were loons out on the lake and I was able to relax and sleep to the sound of loons calling. If you have never heard loons calling that is one thing you need to hear. It is mesmerizing.

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In the morning I got up and went for a run. I looped around all the park roads which was just about perfect for a nice 5k run. Later I went for a walk with my camera to see if there was anything interesting to photograph. I was really hoping to see some loons, which I did but they were too far away for any good photographs. I also spent a lot of time relaxing and reading.

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Since this was the relax portion of my trip I wanted to just try something new for me. I wanted to sit and enjoy the sunset. I wanted to try to capture the sunset as a time lapse photography series. This would be something new to me. I have photographed sunsets before, but never in this method. I really wanted to capture the subtle change in colors in the sky as the sun sets and capture the clouds moving across the sky over time. I thought I had an idea about how to make this work using my GoPro. It turns out I didn’t have it quite right. One factor I didn’t think about was the water. I purposefully included the water in the photos thinking that it would look good, however the changes in the water happen at a different time scale than the changes in the sky and while my settings were geared towards capturing the changes in the sky it did not occur to me to account for how the water would change and how that would look in the time lapse footage. While the footage I captured did not come out as I had hoped it was still an enjoyable experience and I learned something about this new process I was taking on. I challenged myself to grow as an artist and as a person. Even though I didn’t succeed in that task the process was a success because I began a new journey and learned something new.

Even though I didn’t have the end result I wanted I still want to share these images with you, because life is about more than the final outcome it is about the process and I want to share my process with all of you.

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Spring Bird Photos

So, in case I didn’t spend enough time on my feet today I decided to go out and see if I could photograph some Spring birding action. I have been to some local spots that are normally good birding lately, not for birding or photography but for photography, and I did notice quite few birds particularly migratory birds that move through our area in early Spring and then move on to their breeding grounds. I really wanted to get out and try to take some photos before these birds move on.

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Blue-Winged Teal

First I went to Sperr Park in Big Flats, NY. There were quite a few birds there. I saw red-wing blackbirds, a large number of swallows, a good number of ducks, geese, and some smaller birds hiding in the bushes.

One aspect of my wildlife photography I struggle with is having patience and staying still and waiting for my subjects to come to me. This is much easier when you have already run 18 miles. I spotted a pair of blue-winged teals, which I don’t think I have ever seen here locally. They tend to be skittish so I just patiently crouched along the pond and waited and watched as they moved about hopping that they would get close enough for a few decent shots. I was also able to stand and watch some kinglets dance around in the bushes. They zip about at amazing speeds. They are not afraid of me and flew right by me multiple times as they chased down insects to eat.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

After Sperr Park I went to Eldridge Park in Elmira, NY., the sight of my run earlier today. I had noted that there were some interesting birds still here today so I wanted to make sure I got back and captured some photos of them. There were not as many birds or as much of a variety of birds as when I was here a few days ago, but the birds I was most interested in were still here. I watched the cormorants and horned grebes swim around the lake. I waited as they approached. They would dive and then emerge closer and closer to me. When there were within range I captured the images I was looking for.

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Double-Crested Cormorant

I was lucky today both species of birds were very active and moving around the pond so it was almost effortless to capture the images I wanted. I was even more fortunate as a dozen cormorants all took flight at the same time and I was able to photograph them as they wheeled around the lake getting higher and higher as they flew until they flew off. That provided me with several opportunities to photograph them in flight.

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Horned Grebe

State Parks Are Havens For Trail Runners

One of the greatest things about running is that you can run basically anywhere. You can walk out your door and run. There is not a whole lot that is necessary in order to run. Just put your shoes on and run. You don’t need a ball, a glove, a field, or a team. It’s just you, your feet, and the ground.

However, if you love nature you might also love trail running, and trail running requires one more thing, a trail. At very least you will want some outdoor space where you can run off road. Not all communities are fortunate enough to have areas where they can go out and run on trails very easily.

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In my experiences running on the past several years I have learned that there is one great resource that trail runners can take advantage of and that is your state parks. One thing that almost all state parks have in common is that they have trails. If you want to get out and enjoy some trails you need to check out your closest state park if you haven’t done so yet.

The Finger Lakes Region of New York is fortunate to be home to no fewer than 17 state parks. These state parks are areas where the people have decided nature is important and should be preserved and protected and that is one of the things that draws people to trail running. The opportunity to be out in nature and enjoy two things that go great together, running and nature, is irresistible.

In the Finger Lakes region there are multiple state parks where running clubs are able to put on great races. The Ithaca Running club has been putting on trail races or years and some of their races feature our great state parks. The Tortoise and Hare trail race is run in Buttermilk Falls State Park. The Monster marathon and half marathon, also put on by Finger Lakes Running Club, is held in Robert Treman State Park.  Forge the Gorgeous trail race is held at Filmore Glen State Park by the Finger Lakes Running Club. Red Newt Racing holds their Cayuga Trails race which encompasses to state parks, both Robert Treman and Buttermilk Falls. Lucifer’s Crossing trail race is held at Robert Treman State Park by Red Newt Racing. The race itself is named for one of the most prominent features of the state park, Lucifer’s Falls where the runners will be climbing the gorge along the falls.

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Soon we may have even more races to look forward to at state parks in the Finger Lakes region. The Southern Tier Running Club is planning to bring race to our area at Newtown Battlefield State Park and Pinnacle State Park. The proposed race at Newtown Battlefield would be a trail half marathon. The race at Pinnacle would have options for a 3 and 7 mile course.

Running races is one great reason to go for a trail run at a state park but there are more reasons. Most state parks offer multiple trails and not all of them will be covered by races. Not all trails are appropriate for races but all trails are appropriate for exploring. So take this great opportunity to explore. Go take a run down a trail you may not be familiar with. Just see where it goes and enjoy it. Relax, take your time even. Stop and soak in that nature. Exploration and connection are the best things about getting out there in nature on a run. See something new. Get out there and connect with nature.

State parks also might have trails that connect with other trails. Trails that go a much longer distance than you might otherwise expect. You can start on one trail in a state park and take a turn off onto another trail and go on an adventure. Who knows you could start in a state park and end up running across the state on the Finger Lakes Trail if you want to. You can pick up the Finger Lakes trail in Watkins Glen State Park and Robert Treman State Park for example.  You never know where the adventure might lead you. Be open to the adventure.

Another great aspect of state parks aside from opportunities to camp and hike or run trails is the opportunity to find solitude. Sometimes even running alone in the city you never really feel that solitude. There are always cars and street lights and other pedestrians and barking dogs. There are so many distractions to take you out of the moment. Too many other things to pay attention to that take you out of that moment. Get out on a lesser used trail at a state park and you might not see anyone for miles. No cars to worry about. No barking dogs to contend with. You can become fully immersed in the moment and just enjoy the run with no other concerns. Just drink in the nature and experience real solitude.

Gather your friends and meet up at a state park and start your adventure today.

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Winter Trail Long Run

The weather and timing finally coopaerated enough for me to be able to get out for a decent trail run this winter. I am in the process of training for a trail marathon and a trail 50k and I have been aching to get on some trails. I like road running but hitting the trails is really where it’s at for me.

This weeks long run in my training plan called for 14 miles. There aren’t really any local trails that allow for that distance too easily, so I headed to my favorite local spot planning to just run loops of various trails there until I reached my goal of 14 miles. The warm weather had melted off most of the snow in our area but then the temperature cooled right back down. I was being cautiously optomistic about the quality of the run I would be able to have with mostly clear trails. I expected there to be at least some snow or ice left on the trails but I was hopeful that it would be minimal.

When I arrived it looked like the conditions would be good. It looked like most of the snow had indeed melted and I would be set to get in some good running. As I approached the trail head I was greated with the sight of a large sheet of ice. My heart sank a little. This was going to be interesting.

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This run ended up being more challenging than I had anticipated. I think I experienced just about ever trail running condition you can all in one run. It was cold. The temperature was in the mid to low 30’s. The trails were hard because, well its winter. It was kind of like running on a very hard, lumpy, uneven road with potholes in it. Despite most of the trail being hard there were also parts that were still muddy and had not refrozen from the cold. There was standing water in parts as well as run off running down the trails too. Combine this with the nice long sheets of ice on some spots and the frozen puddles, and patches of ice interspersed with the grass and you had quite the adventurous obstacle course to navigate. Oh, and did I mention the wind. The wind was especially brutal in the sections where I circled one of the highest parts of the hillside that is completely exposed. So the wiping wind combined with the cold temps were enough to chill you pretty good. The only trail running conditions that I didn’t really have to contend with was precipitation and heat. Could you imagine if in the middle of that run somehow it started getting hot. Things would have really gotten tumultuous then.

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This was the first real long run on a trail I have done probably since I ran the Green Monster 25k last October. It wore me down pretty good. I was tired and competing with all of the trail conditions did not help me. I slipped a few times and tripped a bunch of times. I managed to stay on my feet despite a few close calls. I ended the day with general body soreness and a sore ankle from all the tripping. I definitely have to work on getting my feet up when I am tired. But overall I was happy with the run and glad to get it done and in the books. I was just super happy to have an opportunity to hit the trails again for a good run and take a few photographs along the way. Monday starts week 8 of 50k training. Getting close to half way through the training plan towards running my first trail marathon at Sehgahunda in May.

Tanglewood Trail Not So Much Run

Since I began training for my 50K in the beginning of January I have yet to run any trails. Trail running is my favorite kind of running and my training is to prepare me for a trail marathon and then a 50K, so I have really been itching to get on the trails. So far timing or weather or any other of life’s many variables have conspired to keep me from trails.

Going into this week 6 of the training plan long run I really wanted to get out on a trail to run. The weather had not really cooperated with multiple days of snow into mid week. But I really wanted to run trails. Then life circumstances really started hitting home and I really just felt like I needed to get out into nature. Nature is where I can find my peace and maybe just escape from life for a while. It is what I needed. So I doubled down on my desire to hit the trails today.

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Normally on a long run in the winter I would were some running tights, but aparently life prevented me from having any of those clean. I have a pair of windpants that I can run in that have a light mesh lining to them and I figured would be perfect for the temperature and at least keep me warm. So I geared up and went out to my favorite local trail spot at Trnaglewood Nature Center.

My assumption was that Tanglewood is a pretty popular outdoor destination locally. I assumed that people would have been on the trail over the past few days so that the snow would be a little packed down and more runnable. And that is where it started to bite me in that ass. I always think I have learned my lesson about assuming. You know the saying when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME. Well I sure began to feel like an ass once I began running.

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There had been almost no one on the trails. Miscalculation number 1. Especially not on the trails I wanted to be on. I was pushing through fresh 6+ inch snow with every step. I was wearing my Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s that I love but they were no help in that level of snow. There was no traction to be had. The snow was so deep every step was over my ankles. Every step pushed snow up into my open pant legs of the wind pants. Miscalculation number two. Thank goodness I did have the good sense to where nice warm and tall Smartwool winter socks. Also since the snow was pushing up into my pants and the pants had a mesh liner the snow was powdery enough at first to just pass through the mesh liner. Once the snow got between the mesh liner and the outer layer of the pants it compressed and did not come back out through the mesh. I stopped to try to get it out but that was not happening. The snow just built up inside the bottom of the pant legs. Miscalculation number three. By the end of the run it was like trying to run in the snow with ankle weights on.

I am glad I went out with the intent of taking some photos and getting some time lapse footage or I may have given up sooner. Having something else to focus on other than the inability to run helped me to want to stay out there longer. And I did get some decent footage.

It is odd how something can both be a bad experience and a good experience at the same time. Thinking about this experience as a run and it was terrible. It was a grind and miserable at times. But when I think about it as a nature experience it was nearly perfect. I was out in nature experiencing something pretty unique for me, pushing through fresh snow and taking photos. As a nature experience it was something I needed. My dog just died and I needed to get outside and connect with nature and feel some connection and try to let the tension melt off me. This was the experience I needed. It was not the run I wanted or hoped for but it was the therapeutic nature experience that I needed to help me cope with life.

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There was really nothing about this trail run that was normal. The snow slowed me to basically a walk at times, especially on hills. The deep snow made finding footing difficult. I couldn’t tell if my footfalls would be on trail or on flat ground. I spent much of the time fitting the edge of the trail being of balance. Tanglewood is a place I love to run at in part because I am so familiar with it. I have been there to hike and run dozens and dozens of times. However, on this occasion the snow also made the trail in general difficult to see. The trail was so difficult to see at times that I couldn’t tell if I was even on the trail during the course of my adventure. I found myself stopping multiple times and looking around trying to figure out if I was still on the trail or not. I could not really tell. I looked around slowly searching for trail markers. It really slowed me down in my progress on the trails but I did eventually find the trail markers and succeed in getting back on the trail.

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I kind of think of this as a metaphor for life. In life unexpected and unfamiliar circumstances can blind you to your usual path. The path that you are so comfortable with you can follow blindfolded. But this new life experience has thrown you for a loop and no you are struggling to find your way. So, if you find yourself stuck by some unexpected life circumstances and you are struggling to find your footing or you can’t see the path your life normally follows anymore, stop and take your time. Get your bearings. Look around and find those trail markers that will guide you back to your path and help you find your way. Look to those friends and family members that have always been there for you and count on them to get you back on your feet and help you find your way again.