Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Allegany 18 Challenge - Three Sisters - Trail 3 of 18

For today's challenge we are heading back to the Quaker Run area of ASP.   The hikes that we have completed up until this time have all been short and easy.  Three Sisters is a step up in both distance and difficulty.

Three Sisters Trailhead Kiosk

Trail Name: Three Sisters
Trail Length: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: more difficult
Time Needed:. 1.5 hours

Three Sisters trail is located next to the Quaker Run administration building.  Park in the lot next to the general store and walk across the street to the trail head. It is notoriously muddy and several structures have been built to help with navigating the wettest areas.


When you enter the trail you have a short walk to the start of the loop.   If you want to have the easier ascent take the trail on the right when you come to the split.   The uphill climb is longer but you will be going uphill for the first 3/4 of the hike.   However if you want to climb the 500 elevation change quickly and at the start of the hike, head to the left.


I chose to take the right path.   Watch the wet and mud as you walk but all of the wet spots are fairly easy to navigate.   On the day of my hike there were a number of fallen trees blocking the trails both high and low (which have since been reported to the trail crews).

Be sure to let the appropriate people know when you come across this sort of thing.

Keep following the path uphill and you will find a bridge that has been built over the wettest area of the trail.   I used this as my resting place on the trail.  You are halfway done if you have made it here (going counter clockwise on) the trail.  Enjoy the quiet and listen for the woodpeckers that sound like they are everywhere around you.


The trail narrows after the bridge and is a wet uphill climb. From here the trail levels out and turns back toward the trail head.   As I reached the ridge to start my descent I found another group of fallen trees. 


I carefully made my way through the tangle of brush to find the another example of why we practice Leave no Trace.



Trees on both sides of the trail in this section have been carved over the years by visitors.  Stop and take a look around here trust me you don't want to miss something.


Start your descent and at the bottom you will cross over the power line trail and back to the split in the trail.  After you cross over the power line row the trail becomes a bit more difficult to track.  Keep an eye out for the trail markers on the trees.


Three trails complete, 15 more to go.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A "How To" Video - Never Lose Your "Go Pro" Camera

Here's a great tutorial video from Mike on how to keep your "Go Pro" secured to your person on your next adventure!






Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My Mountain Biking Journey.

Ride to live, live to ride.. 
My wife always tells me that I back up 5 miles to tell a one-mile story. As you move along you will probably understand this a little more, but as in Mountain Biking, it is never about the destination. The journey and those that you meet along the way are what it is all about. I hope you enjoy the journey as seen by my eyes.

As I shared before, I was about 3 1/2 when I got my first bicycle and started to ride. It was in modern terms a single speed fixie, which means there was no coaster. If you wanted to slow down, you either pedaled slower or locked your legs up to break into a skid. By 4 1/2, I was able to venture to the bottom of my Street and turn right until the end of the block and turn back around. This was quite a routine until this young boy (about the same age as me) appeared with a very similar bike, only his bike was in much worse shape. We will call him Tom Petty, as he had long blonde hair, and a very similar dental structure as the late Tom Petty. Seriously, he looks like Tom Petty! The handlebars on his bike were completely broken off, it just had the little piece of a 90 degree bar that the handlebars had previously welded to, only turned around like a handle, this is how he rode. Like a Cowboy on a bull, he rode one-handed, and rode with total reckless abandoned. On his side he had much more of a block than I did, but this is where the friendship began. We would start at the furthest point of our boundaries and drag race until I got to the next block. He had more to go so he would always go the end of his block, turn around and come back, and do it over until one of us were called to his mother. At one point we would yell across the street, "hey come over here", and both of our responses were, "I am not allowed to cross the street!" I don't think I ever won any of those drag races, as I always was mesmerized by the fact that he could ride that thing with holding on to so little, meanwhile babbling off in 4 1/2-year-old tongue. He was literally saying something to me the whole way down “Hee Hay Hee Hah, Hee Hay Hee Hah!!! “, and usually laughing too.
The essence of "cool" back in the day; the Schwin Stringray!
It was several years later “Tom Petty” and I met back up, now about 10 years old, coincidentally, it was the same summer both of us got our very first Schwinn Stingrays, with the infamous “Banana Seat”. This began a brotherhood that lasted the summer long, if it was not raining the two of us were riding from early am ‘til supper time. “Tom Petty” was a very high-strung young man. I would hear him in the morning as jumped his bicycle off his porch. He would yell out "Tommy Baby", pronounced TAAAWW-MEEE-BAHH-BAHH, and continue with “Tommy Baby" for a block and a half until he arrived at my front steps, and then I knew it was time for my day to begin, as my brother and I were usually still in bed, and laughing our butts off at this daily routine. We were lucky, my mom was an early riser so after a great breakfast, on the road we went.  On dry days we would ride all day, on rainy days we would spend time in the garage disassembling our Hot Rods; putting grease and oil where necessary, and reassembling ready for the next day’s ride, or visiting our local bike shop to terrorize whoever was behind the desk. We bought some silly little gadget that we maybe we would find useful or not.  We would laugh the whole way home, and I am sure the shop keeper also had a good laugh about our shopping spree experiences too.

Bike riding has bonded us together and has given us a friendship that spanned nearly 5 decades. We still to this day talk about those bikes and the ones we have now.  We discuss our next project and the rides we will take. Oh, yes, moving on to the “rest of the story” …  sorry about that while I reminisce.
Sprague Brook Park Bike Trail 
This past Monday I finally got to Sprague Brook Park, in Colden NY, for the first time this year. In proximity to my home, it is my favorite place to ride, as it has many options. From the main parking lot, you can ride the Main Loop, which can range from 6-8 miles depending on which way you want to go. You finish up around 6 miles, and then add on accordingly depending on how much daylight is left or how much energy you have left in the tank. In the past, I have ridden a down and back, which can amount to 10-12 miles depending on the starting point. There are many different combinations given the time you have, and again how much you feel like doing, but it is nice to have options. Sprague Brook can accommodate many skill levels too, making it is very rider friendly. I would call it beginner, and even wife friendly too. Today, I opted to do my favorite loop, which was a loop once used for their Wednesday Night racing series and is somewhere around 3,5 miles with varied terrain. It has some fun long climbs mixed with some nice, cool, flowy downhills and towards the end has one of my favorite pin it (wide opened) to the bottom downhills that you can reach 30 mph if you manage to miss all the trees along the way. I had my dog with me this time, so when I do this I will walk about a 2-mile loop first to observe the trail. It allows me to look for different lines that I can’t as I am speeding by. It also a good way to observe the beautiful forest and take some pictures along the way. Me and my pup, Maddy, took the usual path, everything looked the same, the mud was at a minimum for this time of the year, which is a good thing.  I must admit, it has been a while since this I walked this loop, so it was good to see it was in good shape. As we progressed on our journey, things were not quite the same, but I pushed on to try to get my bearings. Not lost, feeling as though I missed a turn along the way, I pushed on for a bit, realizing I was not on the loop I wanted, and we turned around. As we started back I heard some bikes coming our way and thought this would be a great photo opportunity. As they got closer I could see that this would indeed be a great photo, as it was a father with his young son (Matt and his son Gavin) cruising along the trail. Too cool!!! As they approached I slowed them up and asked if I could get a pic, which they were totally opened too. We chatted briefly as I did not want to interrupt this awesome Father and son time. Matt shared with me that his son Gavin had some brand-new tires and was going to miss one opportunity to try them out on the next patch of mud. You could see the excitement in Matt's eyes as he shared with me that as a young boy, he was on his bike all the time. Hmm, now where have we heard that before??? LOL. Now Matt and his son are sharing the experience together that could last a lifetime. So cool!!!

My favorite trail to ride.
Maddy (my Mini Aussie Pom mix) and I made our way back to the truck, she had a little bonus, as my detour got her some extra time in the woods. The rest of the loop looked dry for April until we got to the high-speed downhill. Pretty much the entire length of it had wet slippery stuff, especially the spot where you could be going close to 30 mph.
We kicked up a nice doe along the way, but now it was time for me.

My Fat Bike
Today my weapon of choice was my Fat Bike. I like the Fat Bike all the time, but especially in the Spring, as the larger wider tires, tend to be less evasive on the terrain. If you do happen to get in the softer stuff, you can usually ease your way through as the big tires tend to not spin so much. I have an assortment of bikes because it always good to have the right bike for the terrain. My Fat Bike is fairly custom. It is a Framed Minnesota, which is a really inexpensive Fat Bike, but mine is like no other. It is converted to a 1X9, which refers to no front derailleur, and a slightly larger front cog than the stock small one, and a rear 9 speed cassettes that has a much larger low gear to give a wider range for steeps. I updated the rims also, that is much narrower than stock to give a narrower print which is a little more versatile for snow, mud and hard packed, along with light weight inner tubes to reduce rotating.. weight. I updated the bars with some Renthal Gold Fat Bars, for a Fat Bike, LOL. The brakes are updated to Shimano Hydraulic, and a much shorter Race Face stem to make the rider position more upright. I find that this also helps to keep weight on the rear tire in tricky, technical situations.


As I began, the first climb was as I remembered. Not too long, but enough to remind me of what was to come. You get a quick break and then a fun little downhill semi switchback and you begin to climb again. And climb. And climb. Not severe but steady. You get a short break, and then a quick little steep and now I know why I missed my turn on foot. When you get to the top of the climb, you can turn right, or turn left and get a break on some flowy semi flat switchbacks. Today, on the bike, I am looking forward to a break. Easy to just keep going up on foot, not so much on the bike. The trail is very narrow, with a narrow path of trees on either side. You have enough room for your bars to get through on either side and get airborne and jump over some roots if you decide, which brings to a tree that gives you just enough room on either side with your bars to fit through (for a visual, this tree is a V, and there is enough room to ride through). You are climbing already and need to give an extra shot of leg boost to negotiate up through and a quick left. The trail flattens out a bit and leads to a squirrely downhill with mud, wet, and rocks at the bottom, which has a very narrow escape way, followed by a not so bad climb, into a semi-flat traverse, which leads to a very fun downhill. Today it is just way to wet to hit it with any speed, but still fun to blast over rocks and roots, and try to keep momentum through challenging terrain. On to a creek crossing and long uphill with a fun downhill with a switchback and down to a flat, followed by a short steep off camber with a little twist. On a good day I can make this lap in around 18 minutes. Today, not so much, my legs are still in Ski Mode, and my lungs are in hibernation. Fun ride and hike, can’t wait to get back again and workout those legs and lungs, and maybe even pin it down the downhill fun!!! 

Get out and ride!!!

Tom











Friday, September 20, 2019

Allegany 18 Challenge - Flagg Trail - Attempt #1 - A Teachable Moment

So for my final trek before heading home from vacation I decided to do Flagg trail which is another trail that is not a loop.

You can enter at either the trail head by Quaker Beach or from the trail head by Cain Hollow.

Before attempting Flagg trail there are a few things you should know.

1.  The Allegany 18 Challenge packet lists the trail as 1.3 miles but both trail heads list the distance as 3 miles.   Believe the trail head signage and not the packet.

2.  Flagg trail is notorious as the muddiest trail in the park even in the best of conditions.   Be prepared for the mud.

3.  Have a plan for how to get from one end of the trail to the other.

Let me start off by saying that you should always plan and prepare for any trek you do.  This includes taking the proper equipment, checking weather and letting someone know where you are, what your itinerary is and when you plan to return.

For today's hike I want to show you what can happen when you fail to do the above.

Flagg Trail Head Kiosk

Trail Name: Flagg
Trail Length: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Time Needed: ???

Do not try this on your own and if you find yourself in a similar situation plan for it in advance.

Before heading out on today's hike I talked with my wife and let her know what trail I was hiking and How long I would take a on my trip (I gave myself 4 hours to complete the trail).

I then proceeded to take extra water and food and set out on my journey.  I left my vehicle parked at Quaker Beach and had my wife drop me off at the Cain Hollow trail head.

That's when the rain started. 

Mistake #1 - I knew based on the radar and forecast that the rain would last for at least another hour (until 3:00 PM) but it didn't look that bad.   I decided to proceed with the hike anyway and thought that the rain might just cool me down.

What I Should Have Done....

1. Cancel my hike and return to my car and back to camp to hike another day.
2. Brought proper rain gear for my hike.
3. Ask my wife to wait at the trail head for a period of time to ensure this was a good idea and I was still proceeding with the hike.

Mistake #2 - I told my wife I was going to hike on as planned and she should return to camp.  I would meet back up with her when done. I then proceeded to check out the trail maps on the trail head sign and off into the woods I went.

Remember, this is the muddiest of all trails even in good conditions.  This day was just the opposite. It had been a rainy week and it was now raining.   I started my ascent uphill and immediately ran into the mud.

My first thought, this is going to be a miserable day....

That's when the torrential downpour started. 

At this point I was about 0.5 miles into the hike and still have another 2.5 miles to go.

I intentionally started at the Cain Hollow side for a few reasons. 

1. If I had to abandon the hike early the Cain Hollow trail head is right next to the registration and check-in office for the Cain Hollow area of the park.  If needed I could return here for assistance.

2. There are are a couple of animal trails and social trails that come off from the Cain Hollow end of the trail.

3. There is a powerline trail the runs down the hill less than halfway into the hike from the Cain Hollow trail head.

4. If I had started from the Quaker Beach area I have the beach house close by and the Quaker Beach parking lot which gets a lot of traffic but no quick exits from the trail without turning around.

5. On the day I did this hike Quaker Beach was closed so traffic was very light.

I decided to abandon the hike at this time and used one of the social trails to return to the Cain Hollow end of the trail.

Mistake #3 - Instead of returning to the Cain Hollow registration office, I decided that I had gotten myself into this mess and I would get myself out.

What I should have done...

1. Return to the Cain Hollow registration office and ask for assistance or at least a ride to my vehicle at Quaker Beach.
2. Use one of the courtesy phones to contact my wife or someone else to come get me.
3. Gone inside at the registration building or somewhere similar to wait out the storm.

What I did...

I proceeded to walk along the road from Cain Hollow to Quaker Beach.    I'm already drenched so it can't get much worse....

The walk along the road was miserable.   Each step felt heavier and heavier and my clothes felt like they were adding another 100lbs of weight.

I made it about halfway to the beach before giving in and realizing I had taken the lesson far enough.

Self reflection of a valuable lesson learned.

NOTE:  The shirt in the picture above started out as a light grey at the beginning of the day and this picture was taken after I had a chance to dry out some...

I want to say thank you to the Quaker Beach Snack Shop employee that stopped on his way out of work to ask if I needed a ride.

I gladly accepted and was given a ride back to my vehicle.  I returned to camp and quickly changed into dry clothes.

Disclaimer: I started today's hike planning to use it as a teachable moment and kept a number of safegaurds in place where I could stop the lesson if things became to dangerous. 


None of us are immune to not planning and preparing for every potential outcome.    Always take the extra time to prepare and ensure that you have thought of as many possibilities as you can and be prepared for each of those outcomes.


I will be back to try Flagg again but next time it will be in idea conditions and with a plan for success and not failure.

Trails completed 4, 14 more to go.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Allegany 18 Challenge - Red Jacket and Bridal Falls - Trail 2 of 18

For my second hike on the Allegany 18 Challenge I chose Red Jacket, but on the way I took a detour to stop and explore Bridal Falls.  Bridal Falls isn't part of the Allegany 18 Challenge and technically isn't listed as a hiking trail.  Instead it is listed in the park documentation as a program site.

Bridal Falls is located on ASP 1 between the Red House and Quaker Run sections of the park.  It is another trail that isn't a loop but instead is a hike down the trail to the destination and back up.

Bridal Falls Trailhead Kiosk

Trail Name: Bridal Falls
Trail Length:  <0.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Time Needed: 30 minutes

Park next in the lot next to the sign for Bridal Falls program area.   The path is all downhill from the trail head.   It's a muddy and rocky trail but take your time and you can navigate around much of the mud by using the rocks on the trail.



After a short walk down the hill you will see Bridal Falls directly in front of you.   Take a few photos enjoy the views and head back up the hill to the trail head and parking lot.


Trail 2 of 18 - Red Jacket

Red Jacket is located directly behind the Red House administration building.   If you can't wait to get started on the Allegany 18 challenge this is also a great choice for the first trail to complete.


Trail Name: Red Jacket
Trail Length: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Time Needed: 45 minutes

On the walk to the trail head stop by and check-out the remains of the Outdoor Museum (ASP's zoo) that was operated from opening day in 1933 until it closed in 1944. The museum featured a number of animals and plants that could be found in the area. 



After checking out the remains of the outdoor museum continue past the trail head and onto Red Jacket trail to the right.   Going left will take you on Conservation (which we will tackle later).




This trail is a loop and I chose to take the counterclockwise route.    The trail is narrow but easily walk-able.  Continue on the trail for about 1/2 mile and you will see the judging towers for the ski jumps that were created by the Civilian Conservation Corps Company 249 between 1933 and 1935.  The ski jumps were used for competitions from 1935 until 1979.


When you get to the stone ski jump follow the trail around the bend and back up the hill.  If you continue straight on the trail you will be on a "trail to nowhere".   Luckily the park has added signage to indicate that the straight path is not a trail and a small stone wall has been erected to keep unsuspecting hikers from taking the incorrect route.



The walk back up the hill is short and you'll soon be heading back down to the trail head.


Two trails down.   16 more to complete.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Allegany 18 Challenge - Bear Springs - Trail 1 of 18


I recently decided to take on the Allegany 18 Challenge. What is the Allegany 18 Challenge you ask?  It is a challenge where you hike 18 of the original hiking trails in Allegany State Park. .


To start the challenge stop by the Red House administration building and pay $20 for the packet and materials you will need to participate. The packet consists of a folder, welcome letter and trail maps for each of the hikes that you will need to complete.

After receiving your packet you will need to fill out your information for the packet number you have been provided.   Once you've completed the paperwork you can begin your quest to complete the trails. Trails can be completed in any order and you must either make an etching of the Allegany 18 trail markers on each trail or take a picture of the trail.

In this series I will walk through each of the trails and detail what I find on the trails and the conditions on the days that I hiked them.   For difficulty, I will be using the ratings that the park provides for each trail. I will not be posting pictures of the trail markers, you will need to find these on your own adventure.

My goal is to share my quest with you and provide any insights into each trail.   I will be attempting to complete the trails in what I believe to be the easiest to hardest. 

If you decide to take on the challenge good luck and please share your experiences with us. Always remember to let someone know when and where you will be hiking, how long you expect to be gone and when you plan to return.

When hiking it is important to check the local weather forecast, have food and water with you, and bring essential items like a small first aid kit.   The packet provided will also give you a list of recommended items and dangers you may encounter.


Trail 1 of 18 - Bear Springs

Every journey begins with that first step.


After talking with a number of staff at the park and hikers in the area I learned that Bear Springs is the easiest trail to start with.   I haven't done a ton of intense hiking over the last few years so lets start slow.

Trail Name:  Bear Springs
Trail Length:  0.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Time Needed:. 30 minutes


Bear Springs is located along ASP 1 approx. 2.5 miles north of the Quaker Run admin building. Park in the lot on the side of the road next to the trail head and head over to the trail head marker for more information.  It is a short straight trail that is not a loop.  It is the shortest Trail in the park and is a mostly flat walk.


On the day that I hiked the trail is was wet and muddy so proper footwear is a must.   While walking along the trail there is a switchback that will make the slight change in elevation easy to navigate.


After a short walk you will find a long abandoned picnic area where I imagine visitors enjoying the natural spring and a family outing in days long gone.

Past the picnic area you will find the destination of this trail, the covered natural spring.  Do not drink the water from the spring as it contains iron and iron eating bacteria.

As tempting as it might be don't drink the water!

At this point turn around and head back to the trail head.   Do not continue on the trail going past the covered spring as this is a social path that has developed from curious adventures over the years and is a trail to nowhere.

First trail complete, 17 more to go.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Adventures at Allegany State Park


Welcome to Allegany State Park!
Since becoming a raft Guide at Adventure Calls Outfitters I have spent countless hours in and around Letchworth State Park but, today I'd like to share another of my favorite New York State parks with you. Allegany State Park is located in southwestern New York and offers year- round adventures and something for everyone. 

Every year I spend at least a week camping with my family in Allegany State Park.  ASP offers multiple options Tent/RV sites, cabins (ranging from four walls to cabins with multiple rooms and heat/electric) and finally cottages (full home away from home accomodations) at both the Red House and Quaker Run sides of the park.   Each side of the park also has a beach and waterfront boating and rental options.

This year we chose to stay on the Quaker Run side of the park in a single room cabin.   Since we are on vacation the idea is to relax so we try not to have any hard and fast schedules for each day but we also don't try to sit just at the cabin either.

Thunder Rocks
Our first outing for the week was a trip to Thunder Rocks.  Thunder Rocks is a series or large granite boulders left behind by glaciers during the last ice age.

As a kid I admit that I spent far too much time climbing on and around the rocks.  Unfortunately over time a number of visitors have forgotten the rules of Leave No Trace and have left graffitti and others markings on both the boulders and the trees. 

That stick guy is always getting into trouble!
Thankfully efforts over the last few years have helped to limit further damage to the formations.  Signs have been added advising visitors to not climb on the rocks and nature is retaking the rocks with vibrant miss and other plants growing on the formations.

If you plan to visit Thunder Rocks and you want to see everything I recommend spending at least a couple of hours here.

Who doesn't love fireworks?
Our next adventure was to be the beach but heavy rains during the week closed both of the beaches.  On the bright side we were still able to enjoy the fireworks over Quaker Lake for the Fourth of July.

No kid of any age can resist playing in a stream on a hot day.

While my family enjoyed the downtown around the cabin and my kids were running off playing in the streams and woods with other campers I decided to embark on a new adventure.   Thanks to fellow guide and outdoor enthusiast, Mike Radomski (Outside Chronicles) I had head about the Allegany 18 challenge.

The goal is to hike all of the original 18 hiking trails in ASP. A task covering 70 miles of trails through the woods of ASP. To see how this turns out follow my posts chronicling each trail as I complete them.

Allegany 18 Challenge - Three Sisters - Trail 3 of 18

For today's challenge we are heading back to the Quaker Run area of ASP.   The hikes that we have completed up until this time have all...