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Puffball Dream

I just woke up from a dream:

We were in a large homey apartment in NYC, or perhaps some foreign city. I went to the cupboard and grabbed a berry pint of "puffballs". There were a dozen or so people in the room including Herb, O, CR, and B. Carro. Each puffball was the size and shape of a small ice cream cone, the cone having a meringeuy interior and an almost tree barky exterior (like the stem of a mushroom that grew out of a tree) with a sugary coating not unlike that of frosted flakes. The round ball top of the ice cream cone was almost a bit doughey, like the giant puffball, and transitioned gradually into the meringuey cone. I pulled out the pint and offered them to the dozen or so people in the room.

Everybody took one, in fact there weren't enough so we had to split a few of them to go around. All agreed that they were delicious.

In the next moment, we had gone out to a Korea Townish area of the city, in fact at this point we could have been in an actual Asian city. Herb was leading us around to have us try different things. First, a few of us bought and shared a bag of large individually-wrapped Doritos, like maybe you were supposed to have just one (as if you could). Underneath red neon words stood the puffball ice cream cone counter. Ambient music surrounded the neon-pierced darkness and set the mood, a simple happy looping high-pitched electronic Asian ditty:

puffball_dream_song.mp3

Colonie Reservoir

Nearly 1,000 acres of land surrounds the Colonie Reservoir (also known as the Stony Creek Reservoir). The reservoir serves as a backup water supply for the town of Colonie. Clifton Park was in negotiations with Colonie in 2009 to purchase the area, although it doesn't appear that any deal was made. When looking at satellite imagery of Clifton Park, the area stands out as Clifton Park's largest body of water and one of the largest areas of undeveloped land. Currently any recreational use of the land including hiking, kayaking, (etc.) is prohibited. It is unfortunate that this area is unused (as far as I can tell) and remains off-limits, when it has so much to offer.

It certainly begs the question, why is it off-limits?

I read that some states have laws against people visiting water that is used for drinking, for fear of contamination. Perhaps that could be why it is so aggressively posted. However, it seems odd because the Stony Creek runs through multiple golf courses just upstream of the reservoir, and the garbage dump (or "transfer station" as it is more gently known) is basically directly on top of the reservoir. The dump is the large grassy mound, clearly visible in the upper left corner of the reservoir in the above satellite image.

Related Links

* Colonie should sell reservoir to Clifton Park
* Times Union Article
* Shen Environmental Science Discussion

Hiked Plotter Kill

I hiked along the Plotter Kill, a small creek in Rotterdam that flows in the bottom of a very tall and steep ravine.

The ravine formed only 10,000 years ago as the area emerged from the ice age. I started at the Rotterdam Kiwanis Park (I highly recommend starting at the Plotter Kill Nature Preserve parking lot instead to avoid certain obstacles).

The trek involved going under a train track and the NYS thruway through tunnels. Fortunately the water level was low enough to allow reasonably easy passage. Two options were available for underpassing the train tracks.

The first set of tunnels lead to Drago's Cove, from which three tunnels bypass the Thruway traffic.

After the tunnels it was a relief to find a trail. There is a really nice loop trail that runs along the edge of both sides of the ravine covering several long miles.

I never saw them, but the park is home to several large waterfalls. I only managed to see some nice smaller ones along the way up the ravine.

Steep ravine walls and interesting rocky overhangs loomed overhead as I walked.

Frozen trickles collect into large ice sculptures.

Best not to look down while scrambling out of the ravine.

After a few hours of hiking, I followed a trail back into the ravine and across the creek and up the other side along a power line access road. The rough road was taking me in the wrong direction, but thankfully eventually crossed paths with the South Rim Trail, which I could take back to Drago's Cove.

The powerline access roads could provide miles and miles of walking, but not today.

The powerlines make for an ideal place to put a trail marker.

The ground was clear of ice and snow, except for the trail. Previous hikers packed the snow into a slippery Iceman wake. At one point as I walked, my feet slipped out from under me over the edge of a steep hill. I suddenly found myself butt-sliding down a hill for 15 feet or so before stopping my decent. Whoopsie!

A less than ideal tree bridge over the creek...

...gets me to the side I need to be on.

I work my way back through the tunnels to where the Plotter Kill confluences with the Mohawk River.

Nearby the Autumn Tree displays it's name gruesomely carved into it's severed thumb.

Related Links

* Plotter Kill Nature Preserve Brochure - Trail Map
* Norockingchairforme Hikes the Plotter Kill - A retired guy aggressively exploring the area

Old Faithful of the East

Did you know...?!

Saratoga Springs is home to the only active spouting geysers east of the Missisippi. As soon as I heard the news I had to go and see it with my own eyes. It is totally awesome, if you're into that kind of thing. The geyser water is safe to drink, too, but it tastes just awful. But it's good for you. It's minerally. Oh yeah, and it's naturally sparkling, too!

Click on the map for an interactive version:

On my way from the parking lot to Geyser Creek, I unexpectedly found myself in a familiar place. Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) - I haven't been here since Lallapalooza '92. It looks a lot smaller without Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and a million excited fans.

Back in '92 there was a big hole in the fence through which a mass of 10 ticketless gypsies were hoping to sneak into the concert. Despite having legitimately paid to get into the show, I recall getting too close to the hole and security came by and pushed me through it, turning me into a gypsy for a few short minutes. We gypsies agreed that if all of us ran at once through the hole past the guards and into the crowd, we wouldn't get caught. I led the charge and never looked back. Until now, that is. They have since closed the hole.

After arriving at Geyser Creek, I soon discovered that Kayaking down this beast to the Kayaderosseras Creek might be nearly impossible on account of the swampy mess in between. "Nearly impossible" pretty much means it's possible, right? Anyway, note to self:

Don't go down this hole near the northwest end of the park:

Otherwise you will have this to deal with on the other end:

A short distance down the path is huge tufa mound made up of mineral deposits from Orenda Spring. It was impossible to get a good picture that shows the size, so I guess you'll just have to go and see it for yourself. It's like a little piece of Yellowstone National Park right here in Upstate NY.

At the source of the spring is a nice spot where you can fill up a water bottle with the naturally carbonated stinky water.

Further down the trail is Island Spouter (also seen in the first picture at the top of this page).

I proceeded further along the creek. I came across ping pong balls that had washed up on both sides of the creek, three total. It seems like there is some kind of ping pong ball mystery to solve.

Beavers in the area are busy whittling down trees.

The beavers kindly built a bridge for me to cross a small tributary.

There is a long section of hiking that is getting censored from this entry. It was really rough going through a big boggy marsh. Eventually I cursed and crashed and splashed through to the other side and reached the Kayaderosseras.

After arriving at the main creek I popped out of the woods at Driscoll Road and made my way back to the car via busy roadways having seen enough of the wilderness for one day.

Walked the Cooley Kill

I explored a section of the Cooley Kill, a creek too small for kayaking.

I started out on a tributary of the Cooley Kill. Most of the first section was frozen over.

Ice bridges allowed for precarious stream crossings.

When the creek met with the Cooley Kill, the water was no longer icy, begging the question, why is the one creek frozen and the other is not?

I headed upstream in search of the answer.

The stream eventually disappeared into a pipe.

A long pipe.

Eventually I worked my way around through the Van Patten Golf Course where several small ponds perforate the Cooley Kill. The way I see it, the water is warmer because the ponds serve as large insulated storage chambers. Perhaps the nutrient-rich runoff from the fertilized golf course gives rise to biologic activity which would then generate additional warmth.

Cross-country ski tracks indicate that I'm not alone using the golf course for recreational purposes.

People were sledding down a long hill.

I reached a small confluence and chose to leave the Cooley Kill and follow the tributary.

The tributary quickly lead to a small pond.

I followed 20 turkeys as they scampered away. After they tired of my game, one-by-one the birds reluctantly spread their wings and hauled their large mass high up into the trees, perched for a moment, then flew off.

As the stream diminished it's way out of the pond-strewn golf course, the surface became solid ice again.

I tried to find the stream again, but by now it was very small and surrounded by homes. On my way back to the car I came across the Long Kill, and started following it through a Jonesville Cemetery.

Parts of the creek were freshly eroded, reminding me of Irene's recent impact on the area.

Jumbles of logs ward off would-be kayakers.

On the way home, I found Wonder Woman missing a leg. I thought she was pretty much invincible, but I guess not.

It doesn't seem right.

Food Processor

I picked up a used food processor and spent the day trying some different recipes for Pâté, Borscht, Potato Pancakes, and Sorbet. The Pâté and Potato Pancakes came out absolutely delicious. The other recipes were not bad, but could use a little refinement.

Chicken Liver Pâté with Caviar

The Chicken Liver Pâté was made using a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Food Processor Cookbook. A tub of chicken livers was cooked with a diced onion at high temperature in a small amount of butter.

The cooked liver and onion was processed smooth with butter, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, then terrined with caviar and chilled. The result was delicious. I'm not sure I would do it any differently if I were to make it again.

Borscht

The Borscht recipes I found called for using a lot of meat. The best Borscht I have ever eaten was made by the nice folks at Muza in Troy, NY. It was absolutely spectacular, and did not have meat in it as I recall. I took several liberties with the recipes and tried to make it without most of the meat. The flavor ended up lacking a little bit, but the result was not too bad.

Beets and other vegetables were simmered with beef marrow bones and herbs.

The stock was then boiled with cabbage, onion, and another beet with salt, pepper, tomato paste, and a small amount of white wine vinegar.

Potato Pancakes

The Potato Pancakes were made using a recipe from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. The potatoes were shredded in the food processor, squeezed dry, and mixed with beaten eggs, onion, flour, salt, and pepper.

The mixture was dolloped into a bit of oil, flattened with a spatula, and flipped before they were served with apple sauce and sour cream.

Strawberry, Banana, Kiwi Sorbet

The sorbet was made using winter fruits from the supermarket.

The fruits were puréed and frozen in a shallow pan.

Once frozen, the fruit was again processed and re-frozen.

The winter strawberries and kiwis were not very flavorful. It would have been better with perfect summer fruits. The sorbet was a bit ice-crystally. Perhaps using an ice-cream maker to chill the fruit would do a better job of making a smooth sorbet.

Wells Fargo at HSBC

I went to my local HSBC bank and noticed a sticker on the door for "Wells Fargo Alarm Services".

You can see the sticker on the lower-left corner of the following picture:

While I was waiting to have my check cashed, I asked the teller if HSBC is affiliated with Wells Fargo Bank. She said, "no". I looked up Wells Fargo Alarm Services, and they are indeed an Alarm Services company. I find it funny, like finding a "Burger King Alarm Services" sign at McDonalds. Personally if I were in charge as HSBC I would have chosen a different Alarm Services company based on the name alone, but that's just me.

Found: Shadow Benny

I have been on the search for the Trinidad herb called Shadow Benny for a long time. I have finally found it wonderfully fresh and available in large quantities at an appropriately named Asian Supermarket, "Asian Supermarket" on Central Ave. in Albany. Shadow Benny is sold here under the name, "Viet Nam Ngo Kai". I don't find much reference to this name online, although a slightly different spelling, "Ngo Gai" is a common name for Shadow Benny. The herb goes by many names, in fact in Trinidad alone it seems to go by several different spellings (Chadon Beni, Shado Beni, Culantro, etc.). With this curiously strong herb, Shadow Benny sauce can be made. The taste could be best described as super-concentrated cilantro flavor. Delicious on doubles, this sauce is also great on all kinds of other foods like chicken, burgers, pizza, egg sandwiches, you name it.

A recipe for Shadow Benny Sauce can be found here.

Related Links

* Times Union Article about the Asian Supermarket