Saturday, January 01, 2011

In Lieu of Cycling, A New Year's Day Ski

All pics by Jen Benepe (c)
January 1, 2011 
It snowed about 40 inches on the west side of the Hudson River five days ago: snow still lingered in big piles on both sides of the roads. Even drivers had difficulty manuevering around the leftover snow, and this was enough for me to decide that riding my bike would not be safe.

Pic: Ana at the beginning of the Tallman Mountain State Park Trail

So what is a cyclist to do when there is snow, and possibly ice on the roads? To mark New Year's day mother earth blessed New Yorkers and New Jerseyans with 49-degree weather and sunshine.  Like religious converts flocking to the temple of the sun, cyclists were out on the roads, on their usual jaunt from the George Washington Bridge, to Piermont and Nyack, NY.

But the question is how safe is it to ride when there is melting snow and the accompanying icy patches so difficult to see, often forcing riders even further out into the roadway. Drivers seldom understand the need for cyclists to move over the white markings separating the shoulders from the roadway on major thoroughfares such as Route 9W that stretches from Palisades Ave. in Englewood Cliffs, NJ,  to Nyack, NY and points north.

And that is what I witnessed today on my drive up to go cross country skiing at Tallman Park: cyclists riding in the middle of 9W, a move that is not likely to be interpreted well by most drivers. 

Camille Savoy was 54 when he was hit and killed by a female driver on Route 9W in November 2008. Poor weather and a heavy fallen leaves condition that day may have contributed to the driver smashing into him from behind.

It's for reasons like these that I chose to ski when there is a lot of snow narrowing the roads, melting snow, the possibility of ice, or other factors that could lead to an accident.

So Ana Banana and myself suited ourselves up for a nice jaunt through Tallman Mountain State Park in Palisades, NY, one town south of Piermont, NY which is a mecca for cyclists in the summertime.

Ana wore her purple Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater which I bought on sale last year. It's part of her distinctive collection of apparel which not only keeps her warm but allows me to find her at a distance.

It's always difficult predicting how long a small, 20-lb dog will last on a snowy trail, so I brought along a carrying bag in case she got too cold. But we also put on her red latex snow boots which help prevent her paws from becoming embedded with snow, and make running and walking a lot easier for long periods of time. 

I wore a cycling jacket and a layer underneath which was too warm and made my torso way too hot for the rest of the two- hour ski. I wore no hat or gloves and was comfortable on my extremities. Interestingly enough, you can wear less clothing when you ski than when you ride a bike even though the two sports tend to require some of the same clothing layer weights. 

We started from the southern parking lot which is not marked, but is about 20 feet north of the newly revamped gas station cum snack shack on the right side of the road as you travel north from Palisades, NY: Unfortunately the rest stop has been closed since early fall due to fumes from the old gas station overwhelming workers inside the small building.

Pic: A snow biker on the top of Piermont Overlook, Tallman Park 
The park entrance is reachable both by automobile and by Coach USA bus service, either the 9A or the 9T which can be caught every hour each from either the 177th George Washington Bridge bus station or the 42nd St. Port Authority bus station. All you need to do is ask the driver to drop you at the intersection of Oak Tree Road and Route 9W and then walk the quarter mile north to the park entrance.

Since I have never tried taking skis on the bus, I would suggest skiers wrap theirs in garbage bags or other unidentifiable bags and wrappers so as not to be asked to use the bus company's expensive carrying boxes which are only available at the bus station on 42nd st--a huge inconvenience if you happen to be boarding the bus and the driver tells you to go four flights down to buy a box.

And so we started out: Five miles of packed snow, interspersed by pleasant conversation with other skiers, walkers, and dogs.

We saw big dogs, little dogs, medium dogs and all kinds of owners. A small girl who could not have been more than 10-years-old was holding onto a 200-lb dog who was pulling her in all directions.  We even saw a guy mountain biking with fat tires on the snowy path.

Another couple was skiing with their Saint Bernard who was totally in his element, grinning and slobbering from ear to ear and stumbling playfully in the snow with his heavy body.

For the first time in a long time Ana Banana was able to do the entire 5-mile course that runs from the parking lot to the access road of the northern parking lot, and then up the hill to the Piermont Overlook (and back).  This was probably due to the warmer weather. She also took to bathing in the snow, snurgling her nose into the wet, white drifts, then rubbing her whole body in them.

On the way out, Ana lost one of her red boots. Every person we ran into from then on mentioned she was missing a boot. One person even offered to help us find it.  We saw it on the way back, a nice glossy little bootie in the middle of the track.

On the way back we decided to take one of the marked back paths that runs past the dried up waterways where ducks and other wildlife often converge in the spring and fall when they are filled with water. Other than avoiding some rocks and tree stumps, this was one of the highlights of the trip.

Afterwards we drove into Piermont, NY for a cup of tea and some conversation at Bunberry's which was one of two establishments open in town. While there we ran into many cycling friends including Jim Skelley, owner of Nyack Bicycle shop and Alyssa Rashish, long time rider and graphic artist.  We also got a chance to read the New York Times (Ana only reads the sports section.)

Pic:  the top of Tallman Park (Piermont Outlook)

Since we returned home, Ana has been sleeping like a log: she is even snoring now, dreaming of her big adventure in the snow-filled Tallman Park.

It was definitely a day of wonderful adventure. Maybe tomorrow we will tackle the Alpine Golf Course in Alpine, NJ!


Anonymous said...

40 inches? No way.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jen, what a wonderful way to spend New Year's Day at the Tallman Park with Ana. Glad to hear that she and you have such fun in the snow! Sally

Jenny B and Ana Banana said...

Yes way. You'll see our photos of Dec. 27th in the next posting. There was less snow fall in parts of New York CIty and in Piermont and other points north, but most of Bergen County was hit very hard.

Andy B from Jersey said...

You were skiing. I was snowshoeing and backpacking just up the road from you in Harriman. Wish we could have done the trip on skis but my one friend (the best skier out of all of use oddly enough) didn't have X-Country skis!

Andy B from Jersey said...

BTW, I just found out that there is XC Skiing at State Line Lookout in the Palisades. Info from the PIP says there is a total of 9 miles of trails there. Jen, have you ever skied it with Ana Banana? What's it like?

Anonymous said...

No way was it 40 inches. I looked at weather reporting from NOAA afte the fact and also at your photos. And drove in Bergen a bit.

There may have been drifts that were 40 inches, but it is simply not true that it snowed 40 inches. The maximum reported that I could find was just over 29 inches.