Building The Perfect Beast

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A Little Bit of Snowshoeing

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Great day today. After a couple of small storms that have created a good solid snow base, today we got a really wet, heavy snow. It’s been snowing hard since about 7:00 AM today and it’s not supposed to stop until sometime late tomorrow afternoon.

As is often the case, we try to get ourselves out into the snow as soon as we can after a good snow falls. Today was just about the best day we’ve had in a couple of years.

After a little work around the house we were able to spend about an hour walking out behind our house in the freshly fallen snow.

The House in Snow

The Tank Behind Our House

Up The Trail Behind Our House

Written by Jeffery Battersby

February 25th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Wanders

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Save The Environment, Save The World?

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alt textBlog Action Day—October 15, 2007

Today, for those of you not yet in the know, is Blog Action Day. A day where tens of thousands of bloggers (over 15,800 as of today) focus the day’s post on one subject. This year’s theme? The environment.

I’ve considered myself a part of the Earth Day Everyday, land conservation, be-wise-about-the-environment crowd for nearly as long as I can remember. In the 70′s, when I was a kid, I was running around with a “Save the River” t-shirt on trying to encourage people to stop California from damming a portion of the Stanilaus River. (A failed effort, as that section of the Stanislaus is now known as the Melones Reservoir.) We recycled, composted, raised chickens for eggs, and tried to conserve water at every opportunity. We had a huge organic garden long before “organic” was a buzz word, and, in my neighborhood at that time, we were the crazies on the block. There was nobody doing what we were doing.

My parents certainly influenced my environmental point of view, but my personal reasons for being conservation minded were simple; I loved the outdoors.

My parents certainly influenced my environmental point of view, but my personal reasons for being conservation minded were simple; I loved the outdoors. I backpacked, rock climbed, rode horses, tide-pooled, body-surfed, swam in outdoor lakes and streams, and as a kid spent almost my entire summer in the Sierra where my grandparents had a cabin. My attachment to the the environment came as the result of my experience with the world around me. The world was mine, I loved it, and I thought it was important to preserve what I/we could.

Which brings me to the present day…

While I still love the outdoors and seek to preserve it and while I financially support conservation-minded organizations—Scenic Hudson, an excellent local conservation group being one of them—I find myself more and more removed from what I consider to be the mind-numbed-robots of the current environmental (emphasis on “MENTAL”) movement. Especially when it comes to the wholesale adherence to a recently crowned Nobel Laureate’s thinly documented “documentary,” An Inconvenient Truth.

From where I sit, the hoopla surrounding An Inconvenient Truth has more to do with a kind of, you-shoulda-been-president, fan-boy boosterism than any kind of scientific or environmental reality.

From where I sit, the hoopla surrounding An Inconvenient Truth has more to do with a kind of, you-shoulda-been-president, fan-boy boosterism than any kind of scientific or environmental reality. Are there tid-bits of truth in the Gore video? You betcha. But not enough to satisfy my curious (and questioning) nature. (Have a look at “The Science” behind the Gore video and you’ll discover a very weak set of pseudo-scientific references. The kind of stuff that would have gotten you a “D” in any high school report containing the same information.) And there’s enough contradictory evidence to suggest that the “scientific consensus” may have more to do with a political agenda than any kind of real science. Especially when scientists who hold beliefs contrary to the “consensus” are marginalized and accused of being “paid off” for their opinions, even when the opinions they hold stand up to scientific scrutiny. (See Juliet Elperin’s Outside Magazine article An Inconvenient Expert about MIT climatologist Richard Lindzen.) By the same token, it would be equally possible to accuse Al Gore of benefitting from his position on global warming and the environment since he makes money off of both the sales of his movie and related products and the sale of carbon credits. In other words, making money as a result of an opinion is neither an argument in favor of or against the validity of either side’s argument.

The danger we face if we tie our legitimate environmental concerns to specious science is that when the science gets outed as being bad, the legitimate environmental issues may get thrown out with the illegitimate science.

The conservation and preservation of our natural resources is, no doubt, an important issue. And to our credit, the pursuit of wiser environmental decisions has resulted in cleaner oceans and rivers, cleaner air, more efficient fuel consumption, and a variety of other benefits that will be passed on for many generations. But the danger we face if we tie our legitimate environmental concerns to specious science or a specific political agenda is that when the science gets outed as being bad or the political agenda doesn’t fit the agenda of the listener, the legitimate environmental issues may get thrown out with the illegitimate science and the political agenda.

Save the environment, save the world? No doubt that’s true. But it’s time that we tied our star to something other than the latest political superstar or science designed to fit our political, social, and economic needs. Otherwise we’re doomed to fail.

Written by Jeffery Battersby

October 15th, 2007 at 4:19 pm

Marcy Plans and Algonquin Dreams

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Lead us to the Wright stuff

We’re just back from the high peaks region of the Adirondacks putting a period on a two week long vacation that has taken us from Washington D.C. to Weirton, WV, Niagara Falls, Canada, and finally Lake Placid, NY. Sounds like a crazy trip but it’s been quite good with no more than six hours of car travel between each of our destinations, great family visits—my dad met us in DC and we spent several days with Kathy’s family in Weirton—and excellent sightseeing of the sort that we don’t usually undertake on vacation.

The high peaks were the planned highlight of our trip as we’d hoped to hike to the top of Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in New York. But after checking the weather for the day that we planned to hike it became clear that Marcy was not going to be possible. Friday morning, it appeared, was going to bring rain and thunderstorms and we didn’t want to get caught on a ten hour hike to the highest peak in the state with that kind of storm looming. So, on the advice of a waitress at Lisa G’s restaurant—a primo local joint that beats the pants off of any other restaurant in town—we decided to attempt Algonquin Peak—the Adirondack’s second highest peak—on Thursday instead.

As Thursday was originally planned as a light day, we slept in, had breakfast at the hotel, grabbed some sandwiches for the trail (again from Lisa G’s) and headed out to the Adirondack Loj trailhead which was about 15 minutes down the road from our hotel. We ended up hitting the trail at just after 1:00 PM, which was much later than we should have started. not dangerously late, just hot afternoon, middle of the day late. The kind of late that has you drinking all of your water much sooner than is reasonable. The “I didn’t bring a water filter” kind of late the leaves you parched—or giardic—by the end of the hike.

We had two books in hand to help us along as we hiked. Barbara McMartin’s 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondack Trails High Peaks Region trail guide. The ADK’s book is excellent and includes a topo map in the back with clear markings for all the trails in the region, but 50 Hikes was the book we used as our guide to select the trail we’d hike for the day. McMartin’s book stated that Algonquin Peak was a moderate hike that would take us about 6 hours to hike out and back.

The Adirondack Loj trailhead was as wide as a super hi-way and nearly as crowded, although most of the people we saw were walking in the opposite direction. In all Kathy and I figure that we saw about 50 people on the trail, including two groups of 10+ kids that were part of a local camp. Even with the crowds the trail was beautiful. The evergreens gave it both the smell and the feel of Twain Harte, where I spent all of my summers as a kid, and every turn revealed a different vista, from stone steps to a slow-running but beautiful waterfall.

Algonquin Trail

Algonquin Trail

Algonquin Trail

About three hours into the journey we were no where near the top of Algonquin Peak and the kids (and I admit it the adults too) were feeling pretty toasty. We’d finished drinking about 1/2 our water, hadn’t eaten our late lunch and weren’t certain how much further we could afford to go forward before we’d end up hiking the return trip in the dark with the aid of headlamps. About 30 minutes earlier we’d met a ranger on the trail who suggested that we forgo Algonquin and head for Wright Peak. “Same view,” he said, “but you’ll be able to get out and back again before dark. The last 9/10 of a mile on Algonquin Peak is going to take you at least an hour to get up.” I wasn’t buying that until about 15 minutes later when I met a 10-year-old girl coming back on the trail who looked at me like I was crazy when I told her father where we were headed. 10 years old, and much wiser, she said, “You’ll never make that today.”

Out of the mouth of babes…

At the split for Algonquin and Wright we went left, which was Wright, and hustled the last half mile to the top. It was steep and challenging but the ranger was correct, the view from Wright was beautiful. A complete panorama of the entire High Peaks region. And, while the trip up had seemed like a super hi-way, we enjoyed the top of the mountain all alone. Not a soul in sight for miles.

Going back was rough but good. The downhill trudge wreaked havoc with Kathy’s knees, but seven hours after we started we were back at the Loj and ready to head to dinner.

Back in the hotel and ready for bed I fired up my MacBook to see why a six hour hike was going to end up taking us about nine hours. Well… if you look closely at the link above you’ll note that Algonquin Peak is listed as a NINE HOUR hike. So either this is one ugly typo in 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks or Barbara McMartin is a serious mountain goat. (Just in case you’re wondering… I’m not going to go the other direction here and say that I’m a wuss…) The seven hours listed on this web page for the Wright hike, by the way, was right on target.

Lovely hike to be sure. We all had a great time and Wright Peak put a perfect period on our high peaks vacation.

Wright Peak

Written by Jeffery Battersby

August 6th, 2007 at 11:53 am

Highland Wanderer—Walking in a Winter Wonderland

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Snowshoeing in and around Beacon

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb ’06 issue of the Beacon Dispatch

snowshoes_shadow.jpgAs I sit here writing it’s November 28th. Several days past the Thanksgiving feast but still a couple of days before the beginning of December. And a day that, like the ghost of my California Christmases past, I’m sitting in shirtsleeves in 60º weather. This, of course, does not keep me from dreaming of what bright hope the ghost of Christmas future might bring—namely, two feet of fresh powder and a pair of snowshoe’s strapped to the bottom of my feet.

Last year I had hoped to write here about snowshoeing locally but unfortunately there wasn’t more than a day or two worth of snow to tromp around in. This year, instead of waiting and wishing, I’m sending this month’s column out as a bright (white!) hope for the future.

Stand in the middle of Beacon, point your finger in any direction and you’ll find that you’re anywhere from two to twenty minutes from great snowshoeing country. Mount Beacon, Stony Kill Farm, and Fahnestock Memorial State Park all provide snowshoeing opportunities for everyone from hikers with the most basic of skills to hardcore snowshoeing enthusiasts.

Fahnestock Memorial State Park
845-225-3998 (Ski Center)
845-265-3773 (Main Office)
Directions: Route 9D South to Route 301. East on 301 appx. 8 mi.
Weekdays 10:00-5:00 pm, Weekends 9:00 am-4:30 pm
Equipment rentals available on a first come first served basis.

Fahnestock offers more than nine miles of groomed and mapped snowshoeing trails for all levels of experience. For those seeking a “wilder” experience, you also have access to the park’s many un-groomed wilderness trails.

Fahnestock also hosts a Winter Festival the first Sunday in February where you can demo gear and walk the trails in a new pair of snowshoes. So be sure to mark your calendar for February 4th, 2007.

Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center
845-831-8780
Directions: Route 9D North. Entrance is 1/10 mile past light at Red Schoolhouse Road
Grounds open daily (including state holidays) from sunrise to sunset.
No rental equipment available.

Stony Kill offers approximately 9 miles of un-groomed trails, all of which are easy enough for beginners and the longest of which is 2.5 miles. Stony Kill typically has a snowshoeing day sometime during the winter, but you’ll need to call for times and details.

Mount Beacon Trails and Surrounds
Get a copy of NYNJ Trail maps for trailhead information, available at either of the shops mentioned below.

While not for the faint of heart (or the beginner) all the trails leading to the top of Mount Beacon offer the opportunity to enjoy trails that are almost untouched by human feet and winter views of the Hudson Valley that are absolutely breathtaking. But beware, these trails are un-groomed and unmonitored and depending on when you go, potentially icy. If you hike these trails be sure to bring a buddy along.

The easiest access to the top of the mountain is via Mount Beacon Monument Road—aka the Fire Road—which begins at the intersection of Mountain Lane/East Main Street and Mount Beacon Monument Road. But it’s possible to snowshoe on any of the trails maintained by Scenic Hudson and the NY/NJ Trail Association.

Equipment Rental/Purchase
You need go no further than Beacon’s own Hudson Valley Pack and Paddle or Mountain Tops to rent or buy snowshoeing equipment.

Hudson Valley Pack and Paddle, 45 Beekman Street—845-831-1300—HVPackandpaddle.com
HVP&P sells and rents Tubbs Snowshoes. (www.tubbssnowshoes.com).
Rentals are $20 per day with discounts for multi-day rentals.
You can purchase snowshoes with prices beginning at $109 for adult snowshoes and $60 for children’s shoes.

Mountain Tops Outdoors, 143 Main Street—845-831-1997—mountaintopsonline.com
Mountain Tops sells Redfeather Snowshoes (www.redfeather.com).
You can purchase snowshoes with prices beginning at $90 for adult snowshoes and $50 for children’s shoes.
Mountain Tops does not currently offer snowshoe rentals.

Now, strap those shoes on and get yourself out there!

Written by Jeffery Battersby

December 3rd, 2006 at 12:24 pm

This Old House

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Probably can’t be repaired…

Been working on a new series for the Beacon Dispatch called The Highland Wanderer, which is going to be a monthly feature about the outdoors in and around the Hudson Highlands. For the first piece I took a kayaking trip down the Hudson, with Hudson Valley Pack and Paddle to a place called Bannerman Castle which sits on Pollopel Island. Presently the property is State Park land that’s only legal to land on if you’re on a tour. But, even though the old castle is literally falling into the ground, the architecture is still quite interesting. Even more interesting is the fact that this place is quite literally held together by Civil War garbage. Instead of the 19th century equivalent of rebar, there are old Civil War cots holding the concrete together. No wonder then that this place is falling into the ground.

The island is covered with trails and gardens that were created by the Bannerman family and which the Bannerman Castle Trust is now restoring. Most of the trails had names and markers and it’s clear that it was once an absolutely gorgeous place. While the castle seems beyond repair, the old homestead, which itself seems to be a small castle, is likely to be the only building that can be restored.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a couple of photos of the place. If you want some more detailed information on the Castle and the attempt to revive the old buildings on the island, check out the Bannerman Castle Trust’s official web site. For more info and history you can check out Lenore Person’s article on the Hudson River dot com web site, which includes some Quicktime panoramas of the island or you can also have a look at the the Hudson Valley Ruins web site.

A real renovator’s dreamhouse, no?

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Written by Jeffery Battersby

August 12th, 2005 at 8:18 am

Stunt Doubles

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With real footlights…
So now there’s lighting you can actually turn on! Pendants have been hung over the kitchen counter and where the dining room table will go. All the recessed lighting is electrified and have cheesy little light bulbs installed.

As to the stunt double reference, someday we’re going to have Hudson Beach Glass fashion us some uniquely beautiful outdoorsy looking pendants. (We’re thinking something along the lines of Oak, Maple, and Elm leaves.) In the mean time, since we’re on a pretty strict budget, we picked up a couple of $13 pendants from Lowe’s. They’ll do the job until we find something better that suits us, but for now at least we’ll be able to eat and prepare some food in the light.

Cabinet hanging has been delayed slightly, but rumor has it that the little buggers will all be hung tomorrow. Floors will get finished on Thursday and Friday. Lots to do between now and then, but thankfully, we’ll survive.

Oh, can you see the light shining out of the cans in the family room? Cool huh?
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Written by Jeffery Battersby

May 3rd, 2005 at 5:04 pm

Posted in HousePosts

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