Tag Archives: New York

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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FLT Danby State Forest

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.

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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.

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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.

Exploring More of the FLT

I had the opportunity to get out for a nice long exploration run today. I just had to decide where I wanted to run. I have really been enjoying exploring the Finger Lakes Trail and I decided I wanted to explore more of it. I wanted to run on a section that would be new to me. The question is where. There are so many options. I decided I wanted to go up to the Ithaca area and make a day of it. I was thinking about either starting in Danby State Forest or at the outlet of Robert Treman State Park and go up to Sweedler Preserve. I wanted to run about 8 miles out and back for a total of 16 miles. I decided that I would pick up where I have ended on the farthest out I have run in that direction, which is where the trail leaves Robert Treman State Park.

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I wanted to make this a nice casual run and enjoy some nature. I took my phone and my GoPro so I could capture some images of the trails. That is part of what I love about trail running, it has allowed me to experience and capture nature where I never would have been able to before. This trail run did not go as I had hoped especially in the beginning. I continuously tripped and stumbled along the path. Just not picking up my feet. I don’t know if I was stumbling along the path because I wasn’t running hard and focused or what. It was just not going smoothly. At one point I tripped so hard that I just about peeled the sole of the shoe off of the upper. I ripped a big split in the shoes along the seam of the upper and the sole. Thankfully these were an old pair of trail shoes. They were actually the first pair of trail shoes I had ever had, but I loved them and I liked running in them occasionally. They had served me well but now their time had come. I will miss you my super light weight, minimalist, do it all Teva Sphere trail shoes.

Then there is the other aspect that didn’t go so well, and that is the exploring a new section of trail. There was a long stretch on the road where I didn’t see any trail blazes along the road or on signs or anywhere. Maybe I just missed them. But it was a long section of road where you begin to doubt yourself and think that you should have gotten off the road by now. I have in the past missed turns to get off the road. My friends that have gone on trail adventures with me will tell you all about it. Luckily I had bought the downloadable maps and was using them with the Avenza app so I had GPS telling me if I was on the trail or not, and I was on the trail the whole time I was on the road and eventually came to the area where I left the road. Eventually I came to another section that was confusing. I emerged from the woods into a large field that was mostly overgrown except for a few areas. Once again I did not see any obvious blazes; maybe I just missed them again. I headed out in one of the two different directions where the field had been cleared figuring one of them had to be the trail. Turns out I chose wrong, but after a short time I was able to meet back up with the trail without having to backtrack. It just meant some bushwhacking through an overgrown field. As I trudged along through this field I was watching the map on the Avenza app and I could see that I was going in the same direction of the trail but I was slowly getting farther and farther away from it. I was basically tracking parallel to the FLT. I must have missed something. I started to back track and figured I must have been supposed to turn out of the field and into the woods at some point, but I never saw a place to do that. Where I was at the time there was a thick hedge row where you couldn’t see the woods. Eventually I found a thinning in the brush and pushed through into the woods. Now just navigating by GPS on the map looking for trail blazes and watching as my dot on the map got closer and closer to the trail. Eventually I found it and was back on the FLT. This was at about mile 5 and I was about to give up and turn back because I was so frustrated with not being able to find the trail. I would have had to turn back without the Avenza app.

Thankfully I found the trail and I was off and running again. I finished out that 8 miles almost reaching Danby State Forest which I would have liked to get to but it wasn’t really worth adding any extra miles at that point. I turned and began the run back to my car. The run back turned out to be much less eventful. No getting lost. No tripping and falling. It felt much more enjoyable. Maybe it was due to the fact that the return trip was essentially a nice meandering 8 mile assent while the way out was an 8 mile climb. That could have something to do with it. Especially since I much prefer going down than up. The only event occurred when at one point I emerged from the woods and heard a loud buzzing. It was like there could be a bee hive nearby. I looked around and didn’t see anything. I figured there just must be bees out in the field of flowers that I hear. Then all of a sudden something stung me. I took off at a sprint. Not so fun when you have already gone over 10 miles and have 3 or 4 still to go, but I wanted to get away from whatever the hell had just stung me. As I ran I determined that I think it was a huge horsefly that had bitten me as it continued to chase me down the trail trying to bite me. I even swatted it out of the sky once but that did not stop it. Eventually it gave up the chase as I reentered a wooded area.

As I began to feel better about the run my creative juices began to flow. I recorded several videos of the return trip using my GoPro and I also took some still photos using both my GoPro and my phone. The downhills were nice. I could have run faster but this run wasn’t about speed or hard effort, it was about fun and enjoying nature. I never actually felt like I was pushing too hard at any point during the run, except when I was trying to escape that horsefly. I figured that since I never really felt like I was struggling either on the uphills or downhills that there must not have been too much climbing. I figured I would be below 2000 ft elevation gain. I was surprised when I checked my Strava and saw that I was at almost exactly 2000 ft. So I am happy to have gotten out for a run exploring a new section of trail and enjoying myself and still getting in a decent amount of climbing which is where I really need to work anyway when I train. So all in all it was a good day.

I ended the day with a nice soak in the creek. I really needed that. Despite not pushing myself very hard on this run I have been battling some issues with hip pain and ankle pain and that cold water felt soooooo good. IT was amazing. I think I have another opportunity to go explore some trails again soon. So it is either pick up where I left off here and start at Danby State Forest or go the opposite direction and start at the farthest point that direction I have been at Birdseye Hollow Park. Oh the hard choices one has to make.

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Osprey Series

I was sitting at the lake doing some writing and I heard osprey calling off in the distance. I looked around but didn’t see anything. Eventually I saw this osprey perched in a tree across the park. I was able to walk over and capture a series of photos of the osprey perched and then as the osprey took took off and flew away over the trees. The photographs are nice and sharp unfortunately the background is drab. It was overcast and cloudy most of the time. I do really like how the light shines through the tail feathers.

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27 Miles on FLT with Friends

I have written often about how running has really been this synergy for me that has allowed me to combine many of the things I enjoy together in new ways. I have always loved getting out into nature, but previously I did not know very many people that loved getting out into nature the same way I did. Now that I have connected with and made friends with so many runners who enjoy nature the way I do it has opened up a whole new world of experiences for me. I can now spend hours and hours outside moving through nature with friends.

Previously I decided I wanted to challenge myself to go out on the trails for a long trail run that ended up being 31 miles (For that story you can link here Finger Lakes Trail Run/Hike). I went alone, because I didn’t know anyone else who I thought would enjoy that. After spending more time getting to know other runners. I decided I wanted to go out and try it again and invited some friends for a 26-mile adventure. It went from a solo adventure to a party of three.

 

This year I was already planning to run a trail marathon and a 50k so I hadn’t really thought about planning any independent adventures. Then my friends who accompanied me on the last suggested that I should plan another long run for us. I want to make this very clear for the record. I was asked to plan a long run for us to adventure on. It was Not my idea. Somehow, I always get the “blame” for these crazy running things that people in my orbit tend to be sucked into. So, I undertook the task of developing a plan for a run.

 

We wanted to run about 26miles. No Further. I was warned. I also wanted this to be a new adventure. We are fortunate to live near the Finger Lakes Trail that traverses most of the southern area of NY. We wanted to explore a new section of the FLT since we had explored one section last time. Part of the challenge of planning this run was the distance and the way the maps are laid out. I am not great at using maps and measuring distances and orienteering etc. On the FLT website, each map section shows its total distance. We knew where we wanted to end so we only had to plot the distance back to where we would start. The problem arose from the fact that the end point was just off of one map section and in the beginning of another map section and not right along the trail. So I had to estimate the distance we would travel on that new map section. Then subtract that from the beginning. If we had been able to stay only on one map section, we would have been able to know exactly how much we would run. Therefore, I subtracted the amount I thought we would run over onto the new map section from the beginning of the map section where we planned most of the run to be. I figured it would be a safe bet if we stated at Birdseye Hollow Park, It was right on the FLT, and we would end in the Sugar Hill State Forest area. Turns out my map skills were off a little bit, about 4 miles, and I would never hear the end of it.

 

I asked some more of our friends that we knew liked to do some trail running if they would be interested in an adventure that would be part run, part hike and likely take all day traversing 26 miles of the FLT. It turns out there are more people out there that want to explore 26 miles on the Finger Lakes Trail. Our number grew from 3 people last year to 5 people this year.

I am the kind of person who enjoys time alone on the trails be it running, hiking, or photographing nature, but there is something to be said for spending an extended period of time out in nature with friends. My wife and I have always enjoyed camping and hiking together, but now I was becoming part of an expanding group of friends that I can explore the wonders of nature with.

 

The beginning heading out of Birds Eye Hollow Park was a nice long relatively flat runnable section. We loved finding a really nice lean-to and camping spot during the early portion of the run. We were all anxious to reach the “Food Truck” at the halfway point. Then the never ending climbing started. When we reached the Sugar Hill area, we started to be ready to be done, some of us more than others. Then we eventually found the road and called it the finish line.

 

Combine running; nature, laughing, talking, and friendship with time, physical challenge, and exhaustion and you are in for a good time. Running, talking, and laughing with your friends while passing through great natural scenery is really a part of life everyone should experience. We weren’t out there to race; we were out there to just have fun and enjoy nature and enjoy each other’s company. I think that this is an aspect that gets lost sometimes in our overly competitive society. Have fun, enjoy the things you enjoy, and find some friends to share it with. I have been very fortunate to meet these friends.

Some of us have a tendency to have some sort of new unfortunate incident on every trail. Some of us get mad at the never-ending trails. Some of us we learned have never-ending song lyrics and dance moves that they let out on the trails. Some of us carry around a camera and photograph it all. Some of us are perfect steady companionship and put up with all the nonsense.

10 Days of Freedom

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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