I love this series of photos of this American Staffordshire Terrier moving through the weave poles during agility competition at the Wine Country Circuit Dog Shows at Sampson State Park in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate, New York.
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.
I have been writing a lot about my trail running experiences. I hope you aren’t getting sick of it because it seems to be a growing trend, especially as I explore new trails. I’ve written about how trail running has allowed me to and encouraged me to explore so much more of the natural world that I love so much. Today was no different.
Without running, but hiking instead the amount of distance one can cover on a trail in a reasonable amount of time is limited. If I was going to go for a hike would I choose to drive an hour to hike a few miles on some random trails in the woods or would I go to a well known state park where I knew that at least in those few miles I will be able to enjoy nice scenic views. I think I would probably choose a park. Nothing against state parks, I love them and go there frequently but that’s the point. I don’t see something new by doing that. There is less exploration.
Thanks to running I can cover 8 miles in a couple hours. So that is 8 miles of state forest land I can explore and discover for myself for the first time. Being able to explore that much nature in a relatively short amount of time is worth it to me even if there aren’t any majestic views. That all lead me to choose to go explore the Finger Lakes Trail through Danby State Forest.
I am not going to try to oversell Danby State Forest. I really enjoyed my time there, but I am sure it’s not for everyone. It is beautiful without being scenic, if that makes any sense. There are no grand waterfalls, or even small waterfalls that I saw along the FLT. There are no lookouts with wide open scenic vistas. You are in a forest just about all the time. There are trees of all sorts. There are roots. There are streams. There are flowers. And there are countless little spotted newts that I did not stop to take photos of but had I been out on a hike I surely would have. Being in Danby State Forest means enjoying the simple little things about nature. I didn’t even see any people until I had gone about 12 miles of my 16 mile run.
The run itself was very fun and interesting. I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t look at the map other than to confirm I could get a total of 16 miles in and stay in Danby State Forest. I didn’t look at contour lines or anything like that. Maybe I should have, but I am glad I did not. If I had maybe I would not have done it. My first thought when I began running on the trail was “oh nice this is rather runnable, not very rocky, no big climbs looming.” Then I started to go down and down and down. This was in the moment fine by me because I love downhill running and the trails were very runnable and I really enjoyed it. But it was one downhill after another without much climbing back up in between. I was loving all the runnable downhills but in the back of my mind I kept thinking “This is going to be a lot of climbing on the way back.” And it was. The first climb I came to I felt like it wasn’t so bad, but then climb after climb just wore me down. By the end I felt like I was barely able to move. I ended up with over 3,000 ft of vertical gain which wasn’t shocking but I was really thinking it would be more in the 2,000 ft range. I really loved the first half of the run with all the open downhill running. I just need someone to pick me up after eight so I don’t have to go back up next time.
I am looking forward to continuing to explore the Finger Lakes Trail, but as I explore it more and more I will need to drive farther and farther from home to reach new trail sections so that might make further exploration a continually growing challenge, but I will find ways to get out there and keep exploring. Maybe at Twisted Branch 100k next year.
I went on a 10 day camping trip to the Adirondacks. I reserved campsites at two different campgrounds because I couldn’t get 10 days straight at one site. That is the extent of the planning I did for this trip. I had lots of ideas running through my mind of what I wanted to do, but I did not actual planning of what I was going to do or when I was going to do it. I am not the kind of person that needs to have an itinerary of my day planned out or me on trips, but generally I do plan when I am going to do big things during a trip. But for this trip I didn’t even know what the big things I was going to do were. I was just going to wing it and have a nice relaxing trip. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.
The more I thought about this trip leading up to it the more I thought about all the things I could possibly do during a 10 day trip to the Adirondacks. While I did not plan out specific details I knew in general what I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. So that lead me to reason 1 that I decided to camp at Meadowbrook Campground. It was the closest state campground to the High Peaks region as far as I could tell. So I would have less traveling. This worked out perfectly because I really didn’t’ have to drive far at all for any of the hiking I did even when I was outside the High Peaks region. Reason 2 I chose Meadowbrook Campground was that it had a trail that lead directly from the campground out into the forest and up a mountain. I figured I could run or hike that as much as I wanted with no travel involved at all. In my mind I figured I would be on that trail repeatedly. In reality I only accessed the trail one time and that was for my one and only trail run during the trip. I think this was in large part due to the fact that the mountain had no view at all. When I imagined it I thought it would be perfect for hiking up in the evening and watching the sun set, but since the mountain summit was completely forested there would be no watching of sunsets. Reason 3 for choosing to camp at Meadowbrook Campground was that it was only 4 miles from Lake Placid and I reasoned that would allow me to literally run into town any time I wanted. I wouldn’t even need to drive if I wanted to go to town. Running 8 miles in a day has become something I do regularly. Turns out I never did that at all, and I was kind of surprised as to why.
I purposefully chose to go on this trip alone. I have camped alone before. I enjoy a certain amount of solitude. It is peaceful and relaxing to me. However, it turns out that going to a small relatively bustling tourist town, Lake Placid, alone is not peaceful for me. It is the exact opposite. It was extremely anxiety inducing. I don’t know if it is because I am generally an introverted person or what but wandering around this small town amongst the other tourists was very stressful for me. I could not relax. The only things I did while I was there was go to REI and a bookstore to look for trail maps and was not relaxing at all that made things worse, go down to the park by the lake which was better than being on the strip with all the businesses, and go to the small art gallery. The art gallery was the only place in Lake Placid where I felt relaxed and calm. I love the art scene and was able to just relax and enjoy the artwork. I only stayed in ton about an hour and a half and did not return. I learned there is a very big difference between solitude and being alone in a crowd.
I imagined so many things that I could do on this trip: Run up mountains, Hike a mountain every day, Trail running, Photography, Read books, Write, Relax, Nap in my hammock. While I don’t need plans I think that I left my possibilities so wide open that even making a decision as to what to do was anxiety evoking at times. Sometime making the decision of what to do when you can literally do anything is the hardest thing to do of them all. I did manage to fit a little bit of everything into my trip but not as much of any one thing as I imagined I would.
I ran up a mountain. I hiked up 7 mountains. I did a little road running. I read 2 books cover to cover and started a third. I spent some time writing my book. I sat around relaxing. And best of all I took many naps in my hammock at whatever time of day I felt like it. I even slept in it out under the stars one night. A funny side effect of having so many things you would like to do and the very real possibility of doing them all is that you then have to pack like you might do any or all of them. And you have to pack like you might decide to do that one activity a lot if you want to be able to do it whenever you want as much as you want to. There was a real possibility that I would decide to hike every day or that I would run every day. Those two activities require certain types of gear and most importantly proper clothing to enjoy them. I literally packed just about all my running clothes and all my regular summer clothes which at this point are hiking clothes. I think I had one duffle back full of regular clothes and a separate one of the same size of jut running clothes. I give a lot of my friends grief for having a lot of running shoes, but I also have a lot of shoes. They are all just very task specific shoes and some of which I have had for a long time. I literally took a garbage bag full of shoes on this trip. I took multiple pairs of hiking shoes, road running shoes, trail running shoes, casual shoes, and a pair of sandals. It doesn’t help the packing situation when you have size 14 feet either.
Also, in case you haven’t noticed the photographs accompanying this post I am also a photographer. This trip presented a plethora of photographic possibilities. I wanted to be prepared for them all. I would not want to be caught without a camera and miss out on a good photographic opportunity due to being unprepared. I have a bunch of gear but not all gear is suitable for each type of situation. I packed 2 DSLR camera bodies, 4 DSLR camera lenses, 2 mirror less camera bodies each with their own lens, 2 GoPros, 2 small tripods, and other assorted gear. If I am going to be running I need a camera I can carry and access while I am out running so a GoPro or small mirror less camera. If I am hiking up a mountain I probably will only be able to bring one camera body and one lens with me. If I am hiking a flat trail I have many more options available and could carry multiple camera bodies and multiple lenses plus additional gear.
The purpose of this trip was to get out of the daily routine, to stop being stuck in a rut and just relax and enjoy life. I wanted some freedom. What I learned is that even if you have the freedom to do anything you want, you still can’t do everything that you want. Even on a trip with no limits on free time. No constraints. No plans. A trip where I was completely in control of what I would do. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things one might want to do. Even over a 10 day trip. The depressing thing about that is, if there is not enough time to enjoy all the things one might want to do when we have the freedom to just do it how in the world are we supposed to find time to do the things we love when we have all the time constraints that daily life places on us. I am not sure what the answer to this is. I feel like it has something to do with take time out of every day to do one thing that you love. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small. It doesn’t matter if it is accomplishing a monumental task you never thought you would get done or doing some tiny seemingly insignificant thing. It doesn’t matter if it is extraordinary or mundane. Do what you love and love what you do. Find time and find peace in that.
I didn’t do all the things I imagined I would on this trip but I grabbed every minute of peace and joy I could and I embraced it with no regrets and it was a great trip.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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During this trip I camped at two different location because I couldn’t get a single 10 day block at one campsite. I had never done that before. I spent the first 7 days at one location and then I packed up and moved to a different campground in the Adirondacks. Check out time at the first campground was 11:00 AM but check in time at the next campground wasn’t until 3:00 PM. So after relaxing some and then packing up the campsite I decided to amuse myself by hiking up a mountain. Seriously, who does that.
Baxter Mountain was listed in my guide book as an easy hike with a 2 mile round trip and 700 feet of elevation. That was exactly what I was looking for. Something that would not be very strenuous. Just a nice relaxing hike to pass the time and enjoy some nature before moving on to my next camp site. This mountain was reported to have some of the best views of the Adirondack high peaks relative to the amount of effort required to summit the mountain to enjoy them. I’d say that information was accurate. The views were great.
One funny thing happened on this hike. When you are unfamiliar with a trail you often may not know where the trail starts or where the trail ends for that matter and thus you may not know where the summit of the mountain actually is. AS I hiked the trail and began to get to where more of the vertical gain was I expected to reach the summit soon because I knew the hike was not particularly long. So when I reached an area with exposed rock and nice views and a family sitting there enjoying a picnic I assumed that I was at the summit so I found a nice quiet spot and sat down to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.
The views were quite nice there. However, it turns out that assumption I made turned out to make an ass out of me after all. As I headed back to a trail to retrace my steps and head back down the mountain I realized there was more trail going away from the way I had hiked up. Turns out I had not summitted the mountain, yet. I followed this trail farther up the mountain, not too far fortunately, and I reached what is actually the summit where the trail actually ends. And I made sure it ended there and did not continue farther. So I stopped here and enjoyed some more excellent views of the Adirondacks. That is one part that never gets old. The views are always stunning. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have otherwise at the true summit because I had already spent so much time where I first stopped and I had to head on out to my next campground. It was still a great time and an enjoyable hike and I learned something new. Do not assume you are at the summit just because you see someone stopped there.
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