Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GROC Mobile Trail Maps

Lost on a trail?
Download the GROC Mobile Trail Maps app from iTunes for your iPhone or iPod!
Or download it for your Android!

As seen above, it's got maps for:
  • Irondequoit Bay Park West (BPW)
  • Tryon Park
  • Dryer Road Park in Victor
  • Ontario County Park (OCP)
  • Letchworth State Park
Pretty slick and it's free!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

FWT Leaf Blowing

Being the nice guy that I am, I volunteered to do some leaf blowing for the Friends of Webster Trails.  As far as I know the group hasn't been leaf blowing every year, but there was a desire this year.

Clearing the trails of leaves has a number of benefits.
- Trails covered in leaves don't get airflow or sun, so they stay wet.
- Leaves act like sponges, holding more moisture on the trail.
- Low spots with preexisting water/mud issues get worse when spongy organic material collects in them.
- Trail users are more likely to trip on roots, stumps, and rocks when they are hidden by leaves.
- Leaves can be slippery.
- Trail users can stray off the trail and get lost when leaves hide them.
- Trail maintenance can continue because we can see the trail surface.

The most important aspect to me is allowing the trails to dry out.  Last spring was very wet, and the trails took forever to become usable.
So I volunteered to clear the trails at the Whiting Road Nature Preserve, and the Midnight trail.  Frank, a friend, and friend of Webster trails, let me borrow his seriously powerful Stihl BR 600 backpack leaf blower.
It's the same on he uses for his rocket-man rig. I didn't use a bike, just hiked.  Frank met me at the trails this morning at 8:30 and set me up.  After a few minutes I was on my own.

I had planned and memorized my route yesterday evening to minimize backtracking, but in some cases it is unavoidable.  The leaf blower was a beast and in most cases I could walk quickly.  Some places were naturally clear, and others could be cleared just with the blower idling. In other places with big oaks or maples the leaves were seriously thick.  In these cases I had to slow down and found myself persuading bigger piles of leaves off to the side, especially at the bottom of hills.

In many areas, with the top leaves removed, it became obvious how much moisture was being trapped underneath.  The trail surface was sometimes slick if not muddy, and I tried to blow off any caked-on leaves when possible.  It felt a little wrong removing what seemed to be a more appealing layer of leaves and leaving a wetter trail.  But with the actual trail exposed, it should dry up quickly.

I was getting tired by about half-way through the Whiting trails.  I don't hike much and carrying about 25 lbs of equipment and fuel didn't help.  But I persisted.
After finishing Whiting, I stopped for a granola bar at my car and heading towards the Midnight Trail across the street through Webster Park.  The snack break didn't help my sore feet, legs, back, and shoulders, but I pressed on.

Technically the county owns Webster Park, but FWT maintains the trails connecting Whiting to the Midnight Trail.  The Midnight Trail had some long stretches with thick leaves.  Two years ago when I was experiencing my first fall muni riding, I cleared the Midnight Trail.  I was hoping not to have to deal with the angry leaf woman (aka stick woman), and thankfully I didn't.

On that matter, I do understand than some people actually prefer to walk on leaf covered trails.  But at some point, clearing the trail becomes more important.  Last spring was very wet and many trails got destroyed.  People show up and use trails even if they're still wet, and then they become mud pits.  Many volunteer hours went towards fixing these.  If we can avoid wet trails, we must.

After I finished with the Midnight Trail, I was done with my FWT duties.  I took my FWT hat off and put on my MuniOrBust hat, both figuratively of course.  Instead of heading out the way I came, I decided to head further into Webster Park on the route I typically take.  I was already tired and sore, but what the heck, it was now or never.  In Webster Park, there are a number of places that have so many leaves it's insane, and they take forever to dry out in the spring.  There are hills, one shaped like a water slide, that funnel leaves down in huge quantities.  Even the mighty BR 600 couldn't clear these in a single pass... more like 5.

During my work, it occurred to me that by clearing a select loop through Webster Park there would be a tendency for trail users to follow it, possibly changing the usual traffic flow.  Good or bad, I don't know... just an observation.  I'm also a bit worried someone associated with the park might take issue with my donation of free trail maintenance, but hopefully they'll understand the benefits.

I finished my Webster Park loop and headed back to the Whiting parking lot.

I saw a number of people throughout my hike.  Some smiled, some looked confused, and some looked like their anti-depressants were working well.  In other words, people looked at me like I was riding a unicycle through the woods... nothing new.  I didn't want to interact with people and explain and justify what I was doing.  I had to allow people to get past me, so I had to stop, leaf blower idling, and let them go. But thankful only one woman actually talked to me.  She asked me "Why are you doing this?", and I thought, "Oh great, here we go."  I told her, "We do this to help the trails dry out faster in the spring." To my surprise, she said, "And the leaves can be slippery too."  So I guess she approved!

I noticed about 4 or 5 runners out there.  Man, you've got to be crazy running through some of these trails with all those leaf-covered roots.  It's like running through a mine field but instead of dying you roll your ankle.  I have a feeling they were also appreciative of my work today.

Based on the previous GPS maps, I estimate I hiked about 8 miles, leaf blowing except where I had to back-track.  On the map below, I cleared all the trails in Whiting, and the purple and pink lines in Webster Park.
I got in my car just shy of 1:00pm, 4 1/2 hours of trail leaf blowing.  I think I may have broken a record.
Based on the length of this blog post, obviously I don't feel like moving from my chair. ;-)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Great Black Friday Deal

Today is Black Friday and I think I got the best deal of all... 55+°F weather!

I rode at Whiting and Webster Park. Aside from getting a good ride in, I was also scouting out the trails for leaves. The Friends of Webster Trails would like the trails cleared before the snow falls for good. I'd like to help soon. There are tons of leaves in some places.

There was an abnormally large number of visitors at the parks today. Everyone must be taking advantage of the holiday and the last of the mild weather. It's good to see people enjoying the trails.

I pushed myself to ride farther than normal to test my left knee problem. My last few rides at Bay Park West were pain free, but I don't ride a long time or distance there, due to its hilly nature. I rode close to 15 miles today, and although I thought I felt hints of irritation to my knee, I had no pain! But in the past, I've had pain show up hours after riding. So I'm still waiting to see.

My GPS said 13.5 miles and my cycle computer said 14.8 miles.
Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2011-11-25

Monday, November 21, 2011

FWT Member at Large

I am officially a Member at Large on the Friends of Webster Trails board!  The vote was going to be at the December meeting, but that got cancelled so the board voted by email and let me know.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

OCP Work and Ride

It has been a long time since I rode at Ontario County Park (OCP), June of last year in fact.
I've also been meaning to get out there for trail work, especially because Rick, a leader of trail work at OCP, comes out quite often to the Friends of Webster Trails work days.

So today I joined the crew and helped out. There were only four of us. Not a big turn-out. We filled and graded a handful of low spots on a new section of the Purple trail.

After the work, I went for a muni ride. From my past experience, I remembered it was difficult with its hilly and rocky terrain. I confirmed this today. While I'm better than a year ago, I still run of of steam on the never-ending hill climbs.  I think next time I'll avoid the Brown trail, or at least the west half. I was told the east half was easier, but I mistakenly started on the west and never got back to it.  And the other trails are still challenging but more manageable.

I took a few pics:

I rode about 4.5 miles.
Muni at Ontario County Park- 2011-11-20

Monday, November 14, 2011

Member At Large

I attended the monthly Friends of Webster Trails board meeting tonight.  There's a "Member at Large" position open on the board and I asked if I could fill it.  In that position I'll help out with whatever I can.
The motion was raised to have me fill that position, and it was seconded.

But it won't be official until next month, after the board members make a decision.

So it's looking like I'll soon be a Member at Large for both FWT and GROC, since I was asked to joined them too.  I look forward to contributing where I can.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Typical Ride at BPW

I enjoyed the mild weather today at Bay Park West.
Nothing too exciting, just a good ride.

I rode about 5 miles.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2011-11-13

Mountain Bike Leaf Blowing

I recently mentioned that a few local superheroes have been leaf blowing the trails for the rest of us mortals to ride.  This makes the trails less slick, much easier to follow, and they'll dry up faster in the spring.

It's a big job to clear miles of trails, but thanks to Mark's invention and GROC's support, it's not so bad.

Here's a video of Frank operating one of the "Rocket Man Zamboni" machines at Bay Park West:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Muni with Roland

Roland, a muni rider from Albany, is in town for a business conference.   He's the guy who has put together the Muni Only Race in Schenectady for the past two years. This afternoon we rode together at Bay Park West.

BPW was the obvious choice of riding locations because the trails were leaf blown. Thanks again to the few great mountain bikers who've been doing this!  It's great to be able to ride one wheel without slipping on the leaves.

Riding with Roland at BPW was an eye opening experience.  He's such a good rider and could climb all the hills and pass all log and rock obstacles.  I need to learn to do rolling hops like him.   In one rock garden, when the going got tough, he was able to hop the final half.  He's put a lot of time into his riding and his hard work has paid off.

I stretched my knee extra today and had a chiropractic adjustment to try to avoid the lateral knee pain I've been having. We rode 5 miles, and at a place like BPW, that's more than enough to give me knee trouble, before and after the ride.  My knee was fine during the ride, and afterwards it has been feeling ok.  I've been stretching extra to hopefully prevent the usual pain.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2011-11-07

Jamie Starts Learning

Jamie Lissow, from The Wease Show, stopped over this weekend to borrow a unicycle from me.  He seems to have the necessary drive to learn.

He practiced at his home and already made some good progress.  It might not seem like much but it really is huge.

Here's his first day:

This morning he mentioned it on the radio.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Multiflora Rose

Today I joined the Friends of Webster Trails at Finn Park to help with trail work.
The expectation was to do some digging and install a culvert in a wet section.  Unfortunately the town had not dropped off a load of gravel needed for the job, so we went to Plan B.

Plan B was to remove a whole bunch of Multiflora Rose.  This plant is a shrub that, at least where we were, is 8 feet and has approximately 10 billion thorns.  It's nasty stuff and is an invasive species in this area, originating in Japan, China, and Korea.  According to National Park Service, "it has been planted in highway median strips to serve as crash barriers."  Seriously, this stuff is strong and dense.

If I didn't have work gloves on, I would have been useless.  But if I do that work again, I think I'll should get some thicker gloves.

If you were being chased by a psycho with a chainsaw and Multiflora Rose was in your way, your best bet would be to turn around and ask to borrow the chainsaw.

This was the last official FWT trail work day for the year.  After the work, we gathered in the Liberty Lodge there in Finn Park and enjoyed cider and donuts.  Some of the crew had also put together display tables showing things like how the wooden trail signs are made, samples of plants in the area, and maps of present and future trails.  Good stuff.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I was recently invited to become a board member of GROC, the Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists.

GROC is an organization of volunteers that has brought the Rochester area so many shared-use trails.  They are the stewards of four parks in our region:
Dryer Road Park in Victor
Ontario County Park in South Bristol
Tryon Park in Rochester
Irondequoit Bay Park West in Rochester

Because of GROC’s efforts, Tryon and Bay Park West are the first two out of the 21 Monroe County Parks to allow legal off-road cycling under a shared-use pilot program.

Two years ago I started working with the Friends of Webster Trails.  Just over a year ago, GROC got the go ahead to start working in Bay Park West and I began helping them.

I expect to officially become a board member at the next GROC meeting.  Hopefully as a board member I can contribute to GROC in a bigger way.