Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Few More Windmill Pics From Cy

Hi Leonard

On Friday night and Saturday I was out and about and I took some pictures for you.
Picture one and two were taken at Boyndie old aerodrome Friday evening. The windmills operate at nearly at sea level. These windmills are 15 minutes from my home. Picture one shows the seven windmills from a distance and picture two shows a single windmill at sunset with the cattle being totally unaffected by its presence.

I travelled to Aberdeen yesterday, one and a half hour drive, (to pick up my German niece, who is staying with us this weekend). Pictures three, four show a similar windmill layout proposed for Mt Tom ridge,. They were photographed on my southward trip. Picture five and six are of the same windmills on my northern return trip. This hill ridge is at the highest point of Banffshire, The Braes of Foundland.

All of the windmills (and there are more) are in agreed designated sites and by and large are accepted as necessary, however, there is a spot of controversy at the moment regarding a new site, as the power companies want to put some deep in a valley which relies on tourism, on the Whisky Trail.

Cy Pirie

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mt.Tom In The Near Future?

An excerpt of a recent e-mail from my dear friend Cy in Moray, Scotland.
The pictures give us a glimpse of what Mt.Tom may look like in the future.

" Hi Leonard
Kath and I are back from our holiday in the English Lakes/Scottish Borders. I thought of you as I drove northwards through a valley and stopped the car to take the attached pics. The windmills are on an isolated hillside near Kendal in England. They show the type of windmill favoured by the Power Companies in this country to generate electricity which is added to the National Grid. I walked from the car and struck up a conversation with a man who had parked his camper van and who was drying his sodden walking gear. We commented on the silence of the wilderness all around us. The windmills were eerily quiet and to be frank were strangely beautiful. I thought you might be interested in them, as something along similar lines is proposed for your Mt Tom? "

Monday, September 14, 2009

Birds Of Prey Exhibition At Mt.Tom State Reservation

Elder Field at the Mt. Tom State Reservation was the site of a Birds Of Prey exhibition by Tom Ricardi who has had a lifetime career in wildlife law enforcement and education and a vocation helping injured raptors recover, return to the wild, or live out their lives in comfort in captivity.

Ricardi, who retired from the Massachusetts Department Of Fish and Wildlife in 2001,
operates the non-profit Massachusetts Birds Of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway Ma., where he cares for more than a dozen varieties of raptors, including owls, hawks, and falcons, and breeding bald eagles in captivity so their chicks can be released into the wild.

Here are a few varieties of birds and owls on display Sunday:

Peregrine Falcon

Barn Owl

Turkey Vulture

Golden Eagle

Ricardi does most of the work himself, feeding, cleaning cages, collecting sticks for the birds to build nests, and bringing birds to local schools for educational talks.

"There are a lot of rules and regulations, and it is quite a bit of work, but I love it," Ricardi says. "The best thing is, when I go to a school, I usually get letters back from the kids. That's exciting, especially when I go to a school in a big city. A lot of the kids have never been in contact with wildlife at all, let alone a bald eagle. I love to share this with the kids."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Holyoke's Gas & Electric's Plan To Install Wind Turbines Along The Mt.Tom Range.

Area where the HG&E plans to install wind towers

(From The Daily Hampshire Gazette by Dan Crowley)

THE ISSUE: Holyoke's Gas & Electric's plan to install wind turbines along the Mt. Tom Range.
The project was made public in March when the municipally owned utility
bought 207 acres of land on the Holyoke side of the range. The project comes amid calls from the state and Washington to expand renewable energy generation. The effort is backed by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a state entity charged with promoting the development of renewable energy. Will it fly?

STORY SO FAR: HG&E acquired the mountainside property for a reported $1.9 million from Springfield Towers LLC, a company owned by John Gormally Jr. of Gormally Broadcasting LLC, which owns ABC affiliate WGGB Channel 40.
The land extends along the eastern slope of Mt. Tom on the Holyoke side, which includes a piece of an historic trail.
Of the 207 acres, 200 are being protected. The utility plans to install wind towers along the ridge line, which borders and is visible from Easthampton and beyond. But Holyoke Gas & Electric must determine whether wind power is feasible on the mountain. Some environmentalists have raised concerns about the project, including it's impact on rare plant and animal species. If wind power is feasible, the utility's preliminary plans call for installing four wind turbines along the ridge, according to James M. Lavalle, the general manager. If the project does not unfold, the state has agreed to reimburse the utility for a significant share of it's purchase price of the land.

WHAT'S HAPPENING: Holyoke Gas & Electric is conducting environmental assessments of the mountainside property it acquired, including a survey of rare animal and plant species and work to outline wetlands. This work will continue through the fall, when the company will compile its data for state regulators to review, and eventually apply for various permits. At the same time, the company is determining how it would get wind turbines to the ridge without disturbing the environment, It also plans to take more in-depth measurements on the quality and characteristics of the wind on Mt. Tom.

FINE PRINT: Right now, the utility is looking at installing four towers that would produce 1.65 megawatts per tower, according to the company. Those towers could be as high as 70 meters or 210 feet and cost more than $20 million, based on today's estimates for such technology and the energy they are designed to produce. However, the design of turbines for Mt. Tom will greatly depend on the wind data compiled by the company.

VERBATIM: "Generally, the thought is, if turbines are going up, they're going up on the ridge," said James M. Lavalle, general manager of the Holyoke Gas & Electric. "Right now, we're really focused on the environmental studies. We have to be conscious of any disturbance that may be made trying to get equipment up to the top. That's part of the review here".

WHAT'S AHEAD: Later this year, when Holyoke Gas & Electric and state regulators have a better grasp of the environmental issues involved with harnessing wind power on Mt. Tom, the utility plans to conduct further wind studies on the mountain and fine tune its wind data, according to Lavalle. The environmental studies are expected to play a key role in determining what path the utility takes regarding permitting.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Latest Preparations For The Opening Of The Mountain Park Amphitheater

There's been lots of activity at Mountain Park the past few days as the park is set to open in August for outdoor concerts.

I recently spoke to workers on the grounds and rumor has it
that in addition to the scheduled August 16th performance of The Decemberists, there's been talk
of a free festival to kick off the opening on the grounds of what will be the Mountain Park Amphitheater.

The free festival will include five local bands, the exact date has not been announced, but the concert will probably be a test run for the the Decemberists show on August 16th.

Gas & Electric crews have been busy activating the electric lines that will power the stage and musicians area, they have also been busy cutting off the old circuits that powered the former midway. The original power source is the grid located on the Ski Area Road that also powers the Ski Area and feeds electricity to the Mt. Tom summit radio antenna complex.

The G&E has also been busy digging a trench near the old pavilion area to lay electrical wire and piping plus a transformer that will replace the overhead electrical transformer.

Meanwhile crews have been cleaning up the old midway area, where they are using a crushing machine to grind all the concrete that were once sidewalks, golf course, and foundations of the old Mountain Park.

Also, the old picnic grove and parking area is taking shape, the grounds have been recently cut of weeds and debris and a temporary fence has been added, this area looks beautiful!!!

Picnic And Parking Areas Looking Good!!!

Clean Up Of Concrete Debris On The Former Midway

Activating and Deactivating existing lines Midway Area

Electrical Work Around The Old Pavilion And Trolley Road Area

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More Vandalism At The Mt.Tom Ski Area

Vandals have struck again at the former Mt. Tom Ski Area, this time burning down one of the small ski huts that was located on top of the mountain near the Tote Road hiking trail.

All that remains is the electrical boxes and switches and some wiring.
The fire also scorched some of the surrounding area, luckily no further damage occurred.
Vandalism has been a problem lately at the former ski area, back in March a fire damaged the old Ski Patrol building at the base of the mountain.

This photo shows the size of the area damaged by the fire.

The fire also burnt a 20 foot patch of land east of the hut.

Electrical boxes and switches lie among the charred remains of the hut.

The knoll where the hut once stood.

Here's a picture that was taken last year of the ski hut located near the old Upper Vista ski trail
on top of the mountain off of the Tote Road hiking trail. The hut burnt to the ground this past week.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mount Beacon - Beacon, New York

Here are some pics of my trip to Mt. Beacon in Beacon, New York. 

I left Holyoke at 6:40 a.m. and arrived at Mount Beacon Park at 9:05 a.m.
To get there i traveled I 91 south to Hartford, Ct. then headed west on I 84 through Connecticut then into New York to exit 11, then headed south on NY Rt 9D to Beacon.

I was about an hour early for the hike so i headed to the Incline Railroad Lower Station area and took some pictures (these photos can be seen in the previous post) i then headed back to the parking area and waited for the hiking group to arrive.

About 9;30 the hikers were beginning to arrive, and a few of the guides for the hike arrived and introduced themselves, me being bad with names, forgot theirs within minutes, anyway, they had some interesting stories to tell not only about the Mountain, but the city of Beacon itself (i didn't know it but their most famous resident is Pete Seeger!).

One of the guides, (and yes, i can't remember his name) had recently returned to Beacon from California and was a cameraman in the film industry, and had also worked for ESPN, he talked
to me about someone who had compiled quite a collection of 16mm film footage on the Mt. Beacon Incline Railway that he was looking to transfer digitally to create a documentary on the Incline Railway, i told him that would be a great way to finance the restoration project, and being a history nut of the inclines, would love someday to see that footage.

I told him about our Mt. Tom Railroad history and how i wished we had film footage of the railway operating during it's heyday. As i was speaking of Mt. Tom, a hiker from Valley Stream, New York came up to me and told me he had visited the Mt. Tom Range a few times but wasn't aware of it's railroad history, (at this point i wish i had Bob Schwobe with me) and i explained that we actually had history of three inclines on the mountain.

As for the hike up the mountain, i felt very confident that i could possibly out-hike these people up their mountain, i figured what the heck, this is only 300ft. higher than Mt. Tom, and i've done the Roaring Brook Trail at Mt. Greylock which is around 2600ft. This would be no problem. BOY WAS I WRONG!!! I should have known better when i read that their incline railway had an average grade of 65%.

Though the hike was challenging, it was very rewarding,
the views and vistas from both peaks were breathtaking, these pictures don't do them justice,
I came here to learn a little about the history of the Beacon Incline Railway, and came away with much more. If you can find the time, please visit, it will be worth your while.

Daughters Of The American Revolution

The two Mt. Beacon peaks provided a key vantage point over West Point and the Hudson River,
lending it historic roles in the American Revolution.

Signal fires on the mountain gave both it and the city their name. In 1901 the local chapter of the Daughters Of The American Revolution erected this monument at the site of the original signal fire near the summit of North Beacon Peak.

A plaque commemorating the rededication of the memorial on it's centennial July 4, 2000.

Repair/Rebuilt plaque. 

Here's the main T.V. transmission complex, next to the D.A.R. I asked Roberta if the building on the right was once a private home, but she said it was always part of the T.V. property. 

One last look at the tower before heading to the D.A.R. monument.

Mt. Beacon South Peak

Another spectacular view of the Newburgh Bridge looking northwest.

I asked Roberta about this peninsula and she said it was once an island but had been filled to join the shoreline, i also forgot the name of it, but it's located in Fishkill, New York just south of Beacon.

This picture is interesting because before i took it, i looked through my binoculars and to the right of the Hudson River in the middle of the picture, i could make out the New York City skyline through the haze. On clearer days you can see the skyline perfectly, which is 59 miles south of Beacon. Helen joked how people from New York City refer to Beacon as "Upstate New York"

These are the main T.V. towers just southwest of the Northern summit.

Looking Northeast from near the Fire Tower.

The Fire Tower

The Fire Tower was built in 1931 on the site of an earlier, possibly wooden structure and was used by the State of New York to spot to spot fires for five decades. The tower stands on Mt. Beacon's south summit. The tower stands 60 feet high and given the summit's elevation of 1650 ft., must boast spectacular views of the Hudson River Valley. Unfortunately, the tower is closed due to restoration, for more info, here's a link:

Fire Tower Here We Come!

When the hiking party broke up at the north summit, this group embarked on an eight mile hike of the Fishkill Ridge, but somehow got sidetracked after two miles. here they are getting directions from Roberta.

This flower seemed out of place in a sea of rock. Does anyone know what it could be?

Tanya probably joking to Roberta "you're too slow...hurry up!" Roberta kept telling everyone that she was too slow, but i don't know... she was always right there, with the rest of the pack.

The last leg of the trail to the tower was made up of glacier rock, in fact the south summit was just that.

The Road To The Tower

The boundary of the Hudson Highlands State Park where the Fire Tower is located.

This area reminded me of the Quarry Trail.

The road leading to the Fire Tower at the outer edges of Fishkill Ridge.

Where Have I Seen This Before?

Mountain Park junkyard immediately came to mind.

Now i was confused, how in the world did these cars get here? Late model ones too!!!
Well the mountain has it's share of T.V. and radio towers and there is a road that is used to maintain the transmitters and buildings. (There is also a road that leads to Beacon Reservoir, another area i wished i could have visited, Jim told me of an interesting tale of what happened there a while back, but it was getting late and the party was tired, perhaps on another visit.) I was told the cars didn't get up there on their own, but were towed up there by heavy duty tow trucks.

The road to the Fire Tower passes the old cottages that were in use when the hotel and casino
were operating in the summit's heyday. Roberta told me that one of them was still standing, a sort of Victorian styled cottage. On our way back we were going to visit the cottage, but the girls were kind of tired (my legs at that point were heavy as lead too). The next time i visit, i'll make it a point to check it out.

On To The Fire Tower

The Fire Tower located on the South summit of Mt. Beacon.

The hike to the north summit was where the original hike was to end, but i overheard that Roberta, the gal on the left, was taking Helen, Pat and Tanya to the South summit for a view of the Fire Tower. I figured i came a long way, so why not make it worthwhile. Roberta by the way has lived in Beacon since the late sixties, and hikes the mountain frequently, she told me she hikes the trails alone, which she says is a little unnerving at times (geez, i wish i lived closer, she would make a great hiking companion) she had a lot of interesting information to share, i thought she was a guide, but she's just another hiker, who happens to know the Beacon like the back of her hand!!! Thanks for a wonderful hike Roberta.

Another beautiful view looking south-west from the casino ruins.

Mt. Beacon North Peak

A view of the Hudson River Valley Northward.

These hikers are enjoying the view near the site where the Casino once stood. Those bikers had to come up the maintenance roads.

The city on the other side of the river is Newburgh, New York. That's the Newburgh Bridge Interstate I 84 looking west.

A view of Beacon, New York. The mountain range way in the background are the Catskills.

We're Here!!!

Helen and Pat getting ready to take a break, don't that walkway remind you of Mt. Tom?
This was the hiking party that was behind me.
The Power House is the first thing you see before reaching the north summit.

Almost To The Top

Like i said before, these pictures though beautiful, don't do this place justice.

Now they wait for me!

The trail at this point is steep and rocky

Three Quarters Up

When i saw this view, it reminded me of Quabbin.

This guy who was with the party that was about ten minutes behind me came out of nowhere to over take me. See you at the summit.


Come On The Rising Wind, We're Going Up Around The Bend

Where did they go? Huffa Puffa...

The only reason i got in shouting distance to them was because while i was huffing and puffing
they took a break!

This is where the trail starts to gets challenging.

The Ski Area

The ski area cuts across the Red Trail at almost the half-way point, there are several trails that branch out, i don't think the concrete foundations were for the chairlift, i was told that the skiers actually used the incline bed for a chairlift, so these could have been for lights or a second lift, i should have asked some more questions, but by this time the guide was no where in sight.

About A Quarter Of The Way

At this point the guide felt sorry for me, i had been about 200 feet ahead of the lady to his left, but after a huff and puff episode she overtook me.

Hey! Wait for me!

The trail now ascends in a zig-zag stairway climb to the abandoned ski area trails (sound familiar) 

First Views Of The Hudson River Valley

After climbing the stairway, you get your first views of the Hudson River Valley.

Stairway To Beacon

This picture, as you can see in the background, gives you a good idea of the railway grade.

I was told that the stairs had to be constructed twice, the first time they used concrete, but they began to crumble after a short time and were replaced by steel.

That's Tanya and her dog Finora leading the way (i'm sure i have the dog's name wrong, anyway Finora loves turkey & cheese sandwiches, i shared mine with her)  Tanya lives in Manhattan and is originally from Spain, she told me Mount Beacon is her escape from New York City madness.

This is the 300 ft. stairway that's the start of the Red Trail. This stairway was built over very steep and rocky terrain, to the right of the stairway is where the incline railway started it's steep ascent to the summit.

It is also the closest the Red Trail comes to the incline bed until you get to the Power House on the summit. (The Red Trail loops around the incline rail bed unlike Mt. Tom's incline bed which is it's trail, i asked Jim Bopp if many people take the "short cut" up the incline bed instead of the Red Trail, he looked at me with this grin on his face. Then i remembered the average grade of 65% and the 74% grade the last 800 ft. of the incline, some "short cut")

There is a road further up the Red Trail that appears to be a dead end, when i asked Jim about this he said it lead to an area where there was debris of the two cable cars that were destroyed in the fire of 1983.

Pathway To The Red Trail

A few hikers begin their journey, the guy in the black shirt was a guide, as you can see i started out with him around the same time, but after about ten minutes of hiking, i wouldn't see him again till i got to the summit about 50 minutes later. I did manage to see him ahead of me throughout the hike to the summit, but i had to stop every once in a while to huff & puff, so i never could catch up.

The two girls were Pat and Helen, Pat was from Boston and Helen lived in town though she had lived in Somerville Ma. Helen asked me if i was the guy who owned the red truck with the Patriots stickers, i replied yes, am i going to be shot? (thinking she was a Giants or Jets fan)
she said she hated the Giants, was a Buffalo Bills fan. What a relief!!!

The bridges cross a brook and are actually an optional route (short cut) to get to the Red Trail.

The trolley rode to Lower station and the beginning of the Red Trail.

The entrance to the old trolley road to Lower Station and the pathway to the Red Trail.

Hey!!! I Remembered His Name!!!

Pictured is Jim Bopp. Jim is a trustee of the Mt. Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society
and is also the Property Manager of the Mountain. He also holds the distinction of being the last man to operate the Incline Railway in 1978. He's looking forward to operating the railway once again when it's restored. A big thanks to Jim for sharing his expert knowledge of the railway.

Mt. Beacon Park Entrance

The kiosks had some interesting information on the history of the mountain and railway,
click on the photos for a better look.