The 5799.6 mile loop is complete! Part 4, our Journey Home from Banff

Part 4 of 4

Our final morning in Banff National Park was cold (29 degrees)and frosty, but beautiful.  We walked down to Two Jack Lake for a farewell view…sad to be leaving such an amazing location, but a bit excited about new adventures on the trip home.

We drove east through the Kananaskis area, just to get a different perspective on this section of the Canadian Rockies. We thought about taking a short hike, but when we got to the trailhead, it was quite crowded, since it was a beautiful sunny Saturday. So eastward we went, towards Medicine Hat. We had no reservations for camping on the trip home, as our schedule was a bit less pre-determined.  Our plans included a few paddling stops, so we had earmarked possible camping spots along the way.  We enjoyed the sunny driving weather, and were a bit dismayed that we had not had such glorious weather during our previous week!  We spotted many antelope, and coyotes along the way, and arrived earlier than planned in Medicine Hat. So we decided to head further along our route into southeastern Alberta, toward Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. We arrived at the nearly empty campground late afternoon, and had plenty of time to set up the GO, and explore the lakeshore and hiking trails.

The night in Cypress was windy, and cool ( down to 36 degrees) , but we awoke to a beautiful sunrise. Our next border crossing awaited us, in Wild Horse , where we would cross back into the states into Montana.  Our timing was good, since that crossing is not a 24 our serviced border crossing; we arrived at the rather desolate station a short while after they had opened for the day.

Into Montana we went! I was excited to make note of more birds and animals, some of which I had never before seen. A Golden Eagle was had been perched in the dense fog that morning, and we also saw Western Grebes, Western Meadowlarks, Mule deer, white-tailed deer, and Partridge.  What we did not see was very many other vehicles! We stopped in a few small Montana towns for food and gas ( had to get the dogs a creemee at DQ!), and encountered another boat inspection station near the humongous Fort Peck Dam.

The drive south from Fort Peck, towards Makashika State Park was about as desolate as any stretch on our trip! The moon-like landscape, huge expanses of rock formations, hills, and hoodoos admittedly made me a bit nervous….we were fortunate to have no mechanical issues, but having such in this area would have been frightful. No cell coverage, of course, and we rarely saw another vehicle . That 90 minute drive was almost as nerve-wracking as driving through heavy city traffic.

Makashika State Park was beautiful, and certainly unlike any campground we had previously visited. We arrived late in the afternoon, and self-selected a nice easily accessible site. The terrain was fascinating, but we really did not have much time to explore.  The dogs did make note of the hundreds of rabbits in the area!

We headed into town for a great Pizza, to recognize our achievement for surviving a very long travel day. The night was peaceful and calm, with a full starry sky above us.

It was “load and go” in the morning, as we were off to transverse North Dakota that day, targeting a campsite in Minnesota for the evening. We were not sure of our exact destination, but we wanted to be near the Tamarac National Wildlife refuge in Rochert, MN. If the weather was good, we hoped to paddle in one of the refuge ‘s  ponds.

Buffalo. We encountered so many different camping areas with this name. Buffalo Pound , Buffalo Lake, and Buffalo River were some of our options. In Minnesota, we selected Buffalo River State Park, and we arrived to find it seemingly deserted. Well, this self-registration policy required us to call the Minnesota Department of Parks, and choose a site and pay by phone. There were actually a few other campers in this lovely park, and we were situated in a nice flat wooded spot, adjacent to their trail network. It was nice to get the dogs out for some hiking.

 

We did answer quite a few questions about the GO, and provide a tour to one family. Most of the 5 camping groups were quiet and respectful. There was one camper who let his dog run loose, despite posted rules prohibiting it. I did nicely ask him if he had seen the signs, and he indicate yes, but he just chose to ignore them. One of only a small number of rude people we met in the entire 3 weeks. And he was a New Englander, too (from Maine)!

A gorgeous sleeping night, 50 degrees and windy!  We were up early, to head over to the Wildlife Refuge, but as we drove easterly, the rain and wind began. A few missed turns, and we arrived at the Refuge; the wind was still blowing pretty gustily, and we noted whitecaps on many of the lakes alongside the road. At last the rain had stopped, so we were able to have a nice drive through the refuge. What a beautiful spot, and what great birdwatching! We saw Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, Pie-billed grebes, and an assortment of ducks and cormorants.  We opted not to paddle, since the wind was pretty strong, and the access area was very mucky..and of course, rain was in the forecast!

So our trip was now to take us back towards Wisconsin and Michigan, for one of the few “repeat” sections from our trip west. We wanted to get back into Ontario, to head down to Algonquin Provincial Park. We had not paddled there in nearly 25 years, and how can you do a cross-Canada canoe trip without at least putting your boats into the Algonquin waters?

So easterly we drove, along the Lake Superior shoreline once more. Our calculations allowed us to plan ahead, and we made a reservation for one night in Algonquin, at one of the campgrounds with late vacancies.  Our stop in Ashland ,Wisconsin was brief, but permitted us a nice relaxing stop at a small city campground. For the first time ever, our GO was set up on pavement! There as quite the T-storm during the night, so Griff and I went to the car for a few hours, since he tends to get nervous, and want to pace during storms.  But we survived. One nice benefit of camping in a city? It allowed us to re-stock our cooler and food boxes for the long days ahead.

 

Our goal for the next day was to travel as far east as our backsides, and the dogs’ patience, would allow. The closer to Algonquin we could go, the more time we would have to paddle there!

Back to EDT time, and we settled on Serpent River Campground in Spragge, Ontario. Mostly an RV campground, we were permitted to camp in the back fields, alongside the river…no other campers in sight. It was a bit buggy, and we had another T-storm,  but it was a relaxing stop, with a great sunset and sunrise. And they had a laundry! We were able to finally get all our wet towels dry!

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Next stop,  Algonquin Provincial Park.  Since we had a campsite reservation, we could take a relaxing drive, enjoying the fall foliage, and making a few stops along the way.  We entered the park area from the west, and stopped first at Algonquin Outfitters. Everything you could ever want for paddling or camping is here! We hoped to speak with the person who maintains their social media sites…our postings often get positive feedback and comments from them,  and we certainly appreciate that. The fellow, Randy, was not in that particular store, so we left him a nice note on a Vermont Paddle Pups sticker. The Swift Canoe folks are located adjacent to Algonquin Outfitters; Scott Way of Swift has been very helpful over the past few years, but he was not in that day. We did have a nice chat with Jeff, who suggested some canoe routes for our quick stopover. A sticker and note were also left for Scott, who subsequently sent us a photo of it applied to a Swift canoe!

We did not have time to complete the suggested Smoke/Tea/Canoe Lake loop, but we did get out onto Smoke Lake.  There was some pretty foliage appearing, and we were glad that we were there on a weekday, avoiding the massive weekend crowds. Our paddling was a bit different from in Banff…air temperature was in the high 80’s,and water temp was 72!

 

After a stop at Canoe Lake to get ice cream, for all of us, we checked in at the Canisbay Lake campground. Though we did not have a waterfront site, the canoe access was a short, easy drive from our site. After setting up the GO, it was time for Griff and I to get out for some early evening paddling on Cansibay Lake. Peaceful, calm, and beautiful!

 

The campground was nearly full, but it was very tolerable for our one night quickie trip. There were LOTS of dogs, some more quiet than others, but all in all, a very nice spot. There were a few bugs, not a surprise given the temperature, but it was a lovely evening to sit by the fire. Our plan? Up for a sunrise paddle, before we hit the road for the final stretch home.

A spectacular morning, with some fun bird sightings, too!

We had a lovely, if brief stay at the iconic Algonquin Park. We know there are other fantastic paddling destinations among the Ontario Provincial Parks, and maybe some day, we will get to check them out!

 

After paddling, we stopped at the Visitor Center, and checked out the exhibit of painted canoe paddles. These paddles were painted to raise funds for a charity online auction, and wow, there were some amazing works of art! A quite nice visitor center, but we were glad to head out just as the throngs of buses began to arrive.

We were approximately 420 miles from home. We knew we could stop along the way for an overnight, to break up the trip, but we opted to play it by ear, and see how the travel went. Road conditions and weather were favorable, so we just kept on plugging along. At our final ( 6th of 6) border crossing, I had a bit of trouble sorting out my answer to the border agent’s  question  “ so how long have you been in Canada?”.  He seemed very understanding, and waved us through quickly!

At 5:25 pm we were back in Vermont, and in 90 minutes, home in our own driveway. The dogs were sooo excited to get out and run into their yard. Edgar quickly raided his toy box for all his familiar favorites, and Griff immediately went to the dog food bin. They then settled in as if they had never been away. Home, home safe and sound….what a trip it had been! Unpacking? That waited until the next day. Thank you all for following along on our journey. Who knows what 2018 has in store?

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“If I wished to see a mountain or other scenery under the most favorable auspices, I would go to it in foul weather so as to be there when it cleared up.” Henry D. Thoreau

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Part 3 of 4

Well, apparently Thoreau would have enjoyed our time in Banff, since we saw some amazing peaks ,often obscured or veiled by clouds, but also were privileged to see them as the skies cleared, and the sunlight shone brightly on their sharp rocky surfaces.

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The mid-point of our three week trip! After our morning of tourist shopping, wandering, and getting laundry finished, we headed off to the Two Jack Lakeside campground.  Social media contacts who frequent the Banff NP area had suggested this as probably the best campground in the area…IF you can get a site. My efforts of last January to get to the front of the computer line for campground reservations definitely paid off. This is an amazing location, and even though it was reported to be “full”, the weather apparently had discouraged folks from showing up, so we enjoyed a very non-crowded few days.

Our site was located adjacent to a short path leading right down to the lake, and an easy canoe access point.  The turquoise water was visible from our spot, though we initially did not appreciate that, since it was raining as we set up the GO.   The weather precluded our paddling that afternoon, but when the precipitation lightened, we were able to hike around the lake area. Our tent trailer was close to the water, but here are some incredible tent sites practically on the shoreline. We certainly received some great advice from Karen Ung (http://www.playoutsideguide.com/) and Tyler Dixon (http://getmeoutdoors.blogspot.ca/)  !


 

The next day arrived with some improved weather conditions (some clouds, mist, cool temperatures, but no rain), so we hauled the boats down to the access area. What a spot!

Given the water temperatures, and  the variable conditions, I decided that wearing the dry suit would be wise…we made an incorrect assumptions about how cold the water would be, so we also put the dogs in their neoprene vests under their life jackets. The water actually was warmer than Lake Louise (50-52 degrees), but given the low air temperature,  it was probably wise to err on the side of caution.

We had a beautiful paddle that morning, and I can say that I really enjoyed this lake. We rarely saw anyone else on the water, and the shoreline is mostly undeveloped ( you can see some campsites, and a tourist parking area).  We saw osprey, and lots of ducks!

 

My husband took a photo of me, in which it can clearly be seen that I am wearing a dry suit.  Since it was taken with his iPhone, we could post it to social media that day. I had tagged Mythic Gear (the great dry suit folks) in the photo. We soon received an email from Bob Holtzman of Mythic, asking if he could use the photo for a meme…sure, we said!  After all, we are dedicated to sharing practices for safe canoeing with dogs, and what a great example!

That afternoon, we returned to the town of Banff, for some “tourist time”. The rain had stopped, so we were able to take the dogs for a nice walk around the town and along the river.  They were so well behaved, walking among all the other people, in an environment that is very strange for them. We checked out a few interesting museums, and of course, picked up a few souvenirs.

 

I don’t think those are TUBBS snowshoes!

We returned to the campground, and went out for another beautiful  paddle.  We had hoped to paddle in Johnson Lake (near the campground), but the entire lake was closed for treatment of an invasive aquatic species. During our trip planning, Parcs Canada had advised us that the lake was planned to be open by September, but apparently the need to eradicate the organism that causes  “whirling disease”  required extended time.

 

We made delicious quesadillas for dinner ( warm meals on a rainy,cold night), and wished we could have made a campfire. The Campfire Ban was critical, though, due to fire risk, so we accepted it as just another glitch in our plans.  We did actually see some sun late in the day, so our level of optimism increased for the next day’s plans. The overnight was very cold, and very wet, but we kept cozy in the GO. A neighboring camper was not so fortunate. The poor fellow and his girlfriend had ended up sleeping in their compact car, after they became too cold and wet in their small pup tent.  We consoled him by giving him a small bottle of Vermont Maple Syrup, telling him he will feel better if he puts it on his pancakes!

And then suddenly, we were in our last full day in Banff NP…despite the sometimes sketchy weather, we had manage to accomplish quite a bit of what we had planned. This day we were heading out to Vermillion Lakes, though we were not sure which of the three lakes we would end up paddling.

We drove along Vermillion Lake Drive, and of course, it started to rain! So we made a scouting trip out of it…determined that First Lake was very shallow ( 6 inches of water or less)for at least 100 years from shore. Second Lake was not much better, though the hundreds of shore birds ( Wilson’ snipe? )    thought that the conditions were ideal. Ah, Third Lake, smallest of the three looked promising! We decided to wait out the showers in town, at Timmy’s, and within an hour or so, the rain had stopped.

The Vermillion Lakes were wonderful. We saw elk along the shoreline, and eagles flying overhead, and herons and ducks in the marshy areas. No one else was on the water ,so we enjoyed a bit of solitude. There was a bit of wind blowing about, but on this small lake it was not a deterrent.  Mt. Rundle was partly obscured, but we had great views of what we believe is the Sundance Range.

 

We saw, and heard, many trains on this trip…including while we paddled on Vermilion Third Lake.

 

After lunch, we decided that the dog really needed to get out and hike for a bit. The weather had cleared up nicely, so conditions were favorable for a change. We knew of many local hikes, but also knew that many of them are magnets for large groups of tourists.  During our stay in Banff, we had been admiring the impressive falls down Cascade Mountain; a little research and we learned that there is a short ( I mile or so) trail up to the base of the cascade. This turned out to be a great little uphill hike, which afforded some nice views and it was not until we were leaving that we saw other hikers heading up.  We practiced our Bear Smart practices, just in case…the dogs were alert and focused, and we had no issues.

 

Taking advantage of the sunny skies, we drove west on the Bow Valley Parkway. No wildlife sightings, but it was great to actually see some of the mountain tops. We also decided that if we have to wait for an electric sign to tell us if there are parking spaces at a trailhead, that is probably not our kind of hiking trail!

 

The sun remained shining until we returned to the campsite…and continued to brighten the afternoon. So, once more into Two Jack Lake!

 

And news! On our final night in Banff NP, the Campfire Ban was lifted!  The firewood pile was located very near our site, and it was “help yourself”, so we did!  A warm, relaxing fire…the perfect way to end our stay.

 

We awoke on “move-out day” to 29 degree temperatures, and frost…the elevating poles on the GO, which had become wet from all the rain, were frozen. However, with a little warmth from hands and breath, we were able to solve that mini-crisis easily.  We departed the campground to see the sun rising over peaks freshly frosted with new snow. The sun was shining as we headed east, through the Kananaskis area, and homeward bound. That part of the trip became quite the adventure, too..more to come!

“For the rain it raineth every day” (almost!) Part 2, Our Time in Lake Louise

Part 2 of 4

Alberta…The most westerly province we would explore, the one where we would find the primary target of our trip, Banff National Park.

We crossed into Alberta , adjusted our clocks, and stopped at a rest area for a dog-stop and photo op. It was warm and windy, and we were welcomed by the sight of bison on a hillside. Definitely not yet into the mountains, but we knew we were getting closer.

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The dreariness of a long prairie drive was broken up when encountered our first ever highway boat inspection station. Since signs indicated all watercraft had to stop for inspection, we pulled into the station alongside big powerboats. Our canoe and kayak received a very thorough inspection, and we learned about invasive species in Alberta from the inspector. We received our “passing score”, and after 20 minutes or so, headed towards the mountains.

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A quick stop for gas in Medicine Hat (we did not stop at the world’s largest teepee), and we knew Banff would soon be in our sights. Our GPS thankfully routed us around downtown Calgary…we had nice views of the Olympic Complex, but noted the immense number of huge housing developments seemingly on every bit of (formerly) open space.

We arrived in Banff NP late afternoon; though we were still about 30 miles from Lake Louise Campground, we just had to stop and set foot in the town of Banff! We took a few “We made it!” Photos on Main Street, and then headed west to Lake Louise.

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Our site at Lake Louise Campground was located in a small loop of sites, well-spaced, and which permitted us to forget that we were actually located within a large campground. The Bow River was just beyond our site ( on the other side of the electrified bear fence). The site was extremely quiet, and the only noise we ever heard was the sound of the rushing river, or the rumble of the trains along the Canadian railways tracks. We had no animal visitors, other than the Black-billed Magpies, who frequented the area.

Our first full day began in the dark, as we were up and out at 0630, planning to head up to Lake Louise for paddling. As we headed up the mountain, we saw that the road to Moraine Lake was closed, since that parking lot was full. We had hoped to also paddle Moraine, but the logistics were to make a morning paddle there a bit problematic.

We found a nice parking space at Lake Louise, and carted our boats to the boathouse access by 0800.  There were some early bird tourists, but we took a few pics, and headed off into the turquoise waters, as the sun was just starting to peek over the mountains.

Yes, the water really is that blue! We could not decide if it was like paddling in windshield washer fluid or on tidy-bowl cleaner, but it was awesome! As the sun rose, the water’s color became lighter, and the views were amazing. On one shoreline we were cautious because of the rock slide warning signs.  At the far end, we could hear the rush of water entering the lake, from the impressive glacial snowfield above us.

 

As the sun rose, we could really detect increased air warmth in the sunny side of the lake, so that is where we headed! The water temperature was in the upper 40’s ( we wore our woolies, but I should have worn my dry suit!), so we paddled close to shore.

This actually created a rather unique paddling situation…by the time we were paddling along the sunny shoreline, the throngs of tourists had arrived. Hundreds of them could be seen walking along the lakeside trail, within conversational distance from us in our boats. Apparently, for many of these folks, the sight of a paddling dog is unique. We must have been photographed a hundred times, by tourists pointing at our dogs, and calling out to them. We obliged many, and turned our boats so they could see the dogs…and our dogs were very well behaved hams!

We had the entire lake to ourselves while we were paddling, since we concluded prior to the canoe rental center’s opening. What a morning!, certainly memorable among all our paddling outings.

 

We then took a short hike to an overlook, getting a good view of the lake we had just paddled. On the hike, our dogs were complimented as “such sweet well- trained trail dogs” . This was nice to hear, since we were aware that many of our tourists hikes would require our pups to interact with lots of people. I was able to take a picture of a Clark’s Nutcracker, one of the many life birds I would see on this trip.

After heading back to the GO for lunch and a quick nap, we ventured out for a hike along the Bow River Trail. We carried bear spray “just in case” , since we were outside the protected campground area, and a different section of the trail had been closed due to bear activity. It was a beautiful hike, and the dogs enjoyed splashing in the cold river water, a well as sniffing out all the animal smells along the trail.

We did have to break out the Adventure Medical first aid kit, for some bandaging supplies after my husband sliced his finger. Thankfully, the injury did not require a trip to the Lake Louise medical center!

As a special treat, we decided to skip the campground cooking, and opted for Pizza! We picked up the pizza and brought it back to the campsite…the dogs reverted to “home mode”, and anxiously awaited each piece of discarded crust.
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The weather forecast for the next day was not looking good, so we decided to skip a 0600 trip to Moraine. A helpful parking attendant (omnipresent in Lake Louise) had told us that after 0630, the only way to get to Moraine was via shuttle bus…which of course ruled out the dogs and our boats. A paddle at 6 pm or so was another option, so we decided that we would head up the Icefields Parkway in the morning. We planned to paddle Herbert Lake as long as it was not pouring rain, explore up towards Jasper, and go to Moraine early evening if weather permitted. Well, the day was a bit dreary, but not raining, as we found Herbert Lake.

It is a small lake, and no one was in the area…we found a water access trail where we could bring the boats to the water. Even with overcast skies obscuring some of the peaks, it was a fun little paddle. Clear green 56 degree water, many ducks, mountain views, and no one else around contributed to a successful paddling outing.

 

We then drove westerly on the Icefields Parkway, awed by the tremendous peaks that seemed to extend from the roadside up into the clouds. When the overcast skies broke, we could see the glaciers and the jagged mountaintops. Lots of stops for photos of course, and we were fortunate to be ahead of many caravans of buses and rental RVs.

We made the obligatory stop to walk up to the Peyto Lake overlook, certainly an iconic photo spot in the area. The path was not too crowded, and we were treated to the sight of a pair of Spruce Grouse only 10 feet off trail.

But, as the rains began to once again arrive, so did a busload of tourists who swarmed the overlook area from an upper parking lot, reinforcing every stereotype of rude,selfie-snapping, “oblivious to others” annoying bus tour folks.

The dogs behaved very well as we assertively plowed through this mess, and onto a trail below the observation platform, permitting us an unobstructed lake view. The view is amazing, but it would have been nice with a bit more solitude, and a bit less rain!

Our explorations continued, dodging frequent showers, with breaks of sun and partly cloudy conditions. We were really tempted to drop our boats into Bow Lake… what a magnificent spot!

 

But very threatening clouds dissuaded us, so we wimped out. We did get enough clearing in the weather to hike the Waterfowl Lakes area trails. At this point we were getting optimistic that an evening paddle at Moraine Lake might be possible.

 

However, the nasty rains returned, and we spent the afternoon reading, napping, and re-organizing gear in the GO.  We did make a trip up the mountain road to Moraine, in gloom, fog, and pouring rain, to at least lay eyes on this spectacular location. It was raining so hard we left the dogs in the car, and took a few token photos to prove we actually were there.

Since the next day was to be our transition day, when we relocated to the Banff campsite, there remained the slim chance that we could get up and be at Moraine at 0630 the next morning.  However, the canoeing gods were ignoring us, and the next day was the wettest of our whole trip. Packed up, organized, and fairly dry in the early morning darkness, we headed off to Banff.  A rainy, but scenic trip on the Bow Valley Parkway brought us in to downtown Banff, where we had a few hours to kill before checking it at Two Jack Lakeside campground. First stop, a coffee shop for warm beverages, where we could relax while we did laundry!  With our only regret being that we missed out on paddling at Moraine, we urgently hoped that the rest of the week would permit more of our planned paddling and hiking outings.

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To Be Continued….

 

Paddling to Banff 2017 Part 1 The Journey Begins!

Part 1 of 4

Well, we really were not going to actually Paddle to Banff, but it has been a good title for our adventure. We planned to drive the nearly 3000 miles to Banff National park, stopping to camp and paddle at various iconic ( and some a bit less well known) paddling locations along the way. Our Sylvan Sport GO tent trailer had undergone some shake-down camping tests, and we were confident that it would keep us comfortable for the three week trip.

The itinerary for our trip westward was pretty well set, though the only campsites for which we had actual dated reservations were at the Boundary Waters, and at Banff. That left us a bit of flexibility to vary from our planned schedule, which was good, since most campgrounds after Labor Day are on a first come/first served status.

We headed out on a rainy Sunday morning,  asking the dogs if they wanted to go for a ride in the car…little did they know, they would not return home for three weeks!

 

Our first destination was Rideau River Provincial Park, south of Ottawa.  We had originally hoped to paddle the Rideau Canal, through Canada’s beautiful capital city. However, the logistics of parking, a busy holiday weekend, and the canal’s locks made us decide to settle on a river paddle south of the city.

We arrived on a rainy afternoon, which became a familiar status. Our border crossing into Canada had been uneventful. We had been well prepared with inventory lists, the legal amount of dog food and liquor, extra documentation on our gear and our dogs…but none of that was requested, and we breezed right through. Rideau River is a lovely little provincial park, and we were within sight of the wide expanse of river.  As it was drizzly all afternoon, we opted to put our paddle off until sunrise.  We were able to take a lovely short hike along the river, allowing the dogs to stretch their legs.

Of course, in the morning, we faced very high winds and rough water. We discovered that it is a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise.  The decision was made to cancel the first paddle of the trip…though in retrospect, we really should have given it a short go!

Westward Ho! Our first of many stops at Tim Horton’s for coffee, and to check a malfunctioning trailer light ( that actually was fine; the connection of the plug to the car was just loose, an easy fix!)

In the torrential rains, we stopped for a break at Samuel De Champlain Provincial Park. We found a great little visitor center, with fascinating artifacts and canoes from the Voyageur era.  The host was very helpful, and provided helpful information on paddling opportunities in the area. In fact, she leads tours in a large Voyageur canoe…on dry days, of course.

The skies actually cleared, which was nice, as we approached out next planned stop, at Chutes Provincial Park in Ontario. We were busy chatting, checking out activity on a community field, and following our ( not so) trusty GPS, which we call T’Pau…well, she led us right past the entrance and onto Crown land, for at least 4 miles. A lovely ride, but not the campground.   We felt rather foolish when we turned around and discovered we had missed a very large sign at the entrance.

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We had to self-register, using a credit card kiosk, and without a good campground map. Thankfully, the ranger came out of the nearby office, and directed us to sites alongside the falls. We were fortunate to get a great site, and listened to the amazing falls as we relaxed through the night. A full moon illuminated the area, and the falls were impressive under that night sky. The dogs enjoyed a hike to the upper falls, and we had a great stay, even though it was a quick stop-over, without any paddling planned.

 

Our next day was going to bring us back into the US, crossing the border at Sault Ste. Marie. We got a moderately early start (0815), and headed off in weather that alternated between rain and sun. We were lucky to arrive at Little Beaver lake Campground, on Lake Superior National Forest lands in Michigan, in time to secure one of the 8 spots at this tiny, off-the beaten-track campground.  Kimberly, a fellow Tubbs Snowshoe Ambassador from Michigan had told us we really stop at the National Lakeshore…and a little research led us to this lakeside campground.

Our GO trailer was quite the attraction! We gave some tours, and answered lots of questions from the other campers. And we finally got to paddle! The small lake provided an early morning opportunity to dip our paddles in Michigan waters. As we paddled, we realized that the roar we heard was not a train, or jet, but rather the crashing waves of Lake Superior, which was just beyond the trees lining the small lake.

We also had a bit of time to explore the impressive Superior lakeshore, and take the dogs to a dog-friendly beach. It really did feel as though were at the ocean, with powerful large waves crashing, and the wind howling. The dogs had a great time, and we would certainly consider returning here for more explorations.

 

Next, our road trip took us along the shores of Lake Superior, into Wisconsin, and then into Minnesota…north, towards the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We had breakfast at a nice local restaurant in Michigan, which was a change from our usual “cereal as we pack” breakfast. As we passed through Ironwood Michigan, I noticed the Giant Stormy Kromer Hat alongside the road! I love my Stormy Kromer, but most people in the east are unfamiliar with this headgear. Of course we had to do the tourist thing, and stop for a photo…which of course was posted on the Facebook page for the Giant Hat! (My husband had obtained a personal Hot Spot on his phone for the duration of our trip…allowing us access to the internet in locations where we had a good cell signal.)

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The Shore Drive along the lake was beautiful, and we were awed by the size and beauty of Superior. We saw many eagles flying overhead, and perched on tall trees. The weather was good, but it seemed like a long day. We finally saw the sign for Sawbill Outfitters in Tofte,  MN , and after a 23 mile drive from the main road, we arrived at the Sawbill Lake Campground.

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Though our schedule meant that our stay at the BWCA would be brief, but we did have two nights to stay over, giving us an entire day to paddle and explore the lay of the land. A contact from social media had suggested this lake for our exploratory visit, and it was perfect. The weather was a bit variable, but the paddling conditions were fine, and the lake was ideal for dipping our paddles into the Boundary Waters. At the Outfitters office, we checked out the regional map, showing the impressive number of possible canoe tripping routes. We were at one tiny corner of the entire BWCA, but it certainly was inviting to think of possible outings…darn, if it were only a bit closer!

 

Thankfully there was no fire ban at this campground. Our site was high above the water,  with easy walking access to the canoe launch area. However, we were also a bit downwind of the pit privy building, and when the wind was just right ( wrong), well, let’s just say that the campfire smoke was often welcomed!

We had more inquiries about the GO, and nice conversations with folks from Minnesota and the Campground staff about our trip, and about various paddling destinations. This was a very welcoming and comfortable break in our pattern of long travel days, and I think the dogs enjoyed the opportunity to hike around the lake, and explore in the woods.

 

After a photo op in the early morning fog at Sawbill Lake, we loaded up, and headed towards Manitoba.

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A long day ensued, but we were excited that we would finally have the chance to actually meet, in person, some of our Facebook friends that we have known for years.  Kev and Andre live in Winnipeg, and when I realized we would be passing their area on our westward trip, I suggested we really needed to at least meet for a cup of coffee.  When Kev heard that we would be camping at Falcon Beach Campground, only an hour or so from their home, he decided they would camp with us!  We really looked forward to meeting these folks and their 3 amazing dogs…they also skijor (at a much higher level than we do!), snowshoe, camp and canoe with their dogs.   (http://www.oxforddogsgear.com/)

After successfully negotiating what was probably the least attractive border crossing into Canada (   International Falls, MN to Fort Frances,ON ) we passed from Ontario into Manitoba. One of the weirdest sightings that day was the plethora of salt lakes ( sodium sulphide, I believe), from very small, to large white lakes. Apparently this salt is harvested for commercial laundry use, but it made for some odd looking bodies of water.

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We arrived at Falcon Beach, MB, in time to set up the GO, and make dinner before Kev and his pack arrived. We had communicated during our travel that day, via Facebook messages ( thanks for the wi-fi, Timmy’s), so we knew they would probably arrive after we did, destined to camp at the site right next to ours!

We had also received a Facebook message from Jessica, who is the amazing blogger behind http://www.youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com . Her stories of adventures with her dachsunds , and her great advice to all dog owners, have made for fascinating reading for years. She had planned in being in Banff on the day we were to arrive; however, in the Banff she had encountered heavy smoke from recent wildfires, and had opted to return to Seattle. We were sorry to have missed the chance to see her, and were also getting a bit concerned about the wildfire activity in Alberta. It would have really been a bummer to arrive in Banff NP and not be able to see anything due to smoke!

That was a really fun overnight stop. We chatted over a campfire, sharing camping and dog stories. We showed off the GO, and they were quite impressed by the roominess. In the morning, we all went for a brief paddle on Falcon Lake. Though this campground, and the adjacent lake, are not our “usual” type of camping and paddling destination, it was a wonderful part of our journey. Meeting Kev, Andre, Belle, River, and Burger was definitely a highlight of our trip!

After enjoying a delicious crepe breakfast prepared by the guys, we took off for the prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Our destination was not specific for that evening…basically, go as far as we can tolerate! We knew of campgrounds in the Moosejaw area, and hoped to drive at least that far.

We encountered quite a bit of traffic in Regina, SK, which delayed our arrival at the campground a bit. It was hot, muggy, with heavy air when we found Buffalo Pound  Provincial Park, just north of Moosejaw. As this was a very quick overnight stop, we set up the GO in “minimalist mode”. No vestibule, no interior table, no sleeping bags for dogs, and quick snacks for meals. We discovered beautiful muted fall colors on the rolling hills, and hiked up one trail to overlook the large lake. Griff alerted to a few mule deer, which agreeably posed for some photos. It remained light until nearly 9pm, but we were pretty exhausted, and slept well, even with the howling of nearby coyotes. The dogs were oblivious!

 

We were up at 0630, while it was still pretty dark out….a quick load and go, and off we went, watching the flaming red prairie sun rise, headed towards the Alberta border, and the adventures that awaited!

 

 

Stay tuned…more to come in Part 2!

September Song? “On the Road Again” !

Soon we will be heading off west-bound! Our gear is ready to go, the pups are enjoying the cool weather and looking forward to more adventures, our itinerary is set ( in pencil), the house-sitters are ready, and we will soon be packing up the GO.

 

We have plans to meet up with Kev and Andre from Skijor Oxford Dogs in Manitoba, and if things work out, we may be able to see Dawn in Minnesota, and Jessica  ( from Seattle) in Banff!  Our social media contacts have provided us with invaluable information and ideas, so we are sure that our adventure will be memorable. As in any long trip, there will be hiccups, but we will hold our breath, and get past them….our goal is to be safe, keep the dogs happy and active, and maybe even scout out some locations for trips in the future ( i.e. in the Boundary Waters and Algonquin).

If you check our page that keeps a journal of our preparations, you can see that we have had some great shake-down trips. We feel confident in the GO, and are ready to take it to some wonderful sites.

The last month has seen us hiking and paddling a lot…cooler weather mean foggy mornings on the water, and some chilly nights when camping. We went canoe camping for the 60% solar eclipse, and enjoyed the best few days of camping weather all season!

 

 

The loons chicks are huge! And fall colors are beginning to show on the hillsides!We have paddled a few new lakes, and have found a few gems…and continue to enjoy our local favorites.

 

When we return, we will continue paddling locally, and have a few short overnight trips planned. So off we go! We will be posting periodic updates on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and hope you will enjoy following along with our adventures ( and misadventures)

 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” (Shakespeare)

This months blog entry is a video presentation, displaying photos of some of the many observations we have made this year (and a few from last year).

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One of the many pleasures that we derive from paddling is our immersion in the natural environment…the boats give us the ability to observe the natural world “up close”, while still maintaining a respectful and safe distance from the many critters and birds that we may see. Getting out bright and early in the morning has multiple benefits for us…1)we avoid the heat of the later day, which may be unpleasant or unsafe for the dogs, 2) the water tends to be calm and quiet,without wind,  allowing us to hear the many sounds of the world coming awake 3) Calm waters make for clearer photos!  4) We may paddle even popular ponds and lakes before the access sites and waters get busy with other boaters, and 5) Wildlife tends to be active and visible in the early mornings.

I am a very amateur wildlife photographer, and definitely a novice birder…but we enjoy seeing and hearing the amazing birds and animals that share the Vermont environment with us.  Our dogs are not allowed to harass, bark at, or chase wildlife, and they often assist us by silently alerting to the presence of an animal that we may not yet see. I think that they actually enjoy seeing the wildlife!

We feel protective of our wildlife, and do participate in programs to help them out. We submit observations and data to inaturalist.org and ebird.org, and take part in the annual Loon Watch census of loons on Vermont lakes.  It is fun to share our photos, and we often use social media to help us with identification, habitat questions, or identifying hot spots for wildlife viewing.

So enjoy our short video, and see if you can identify each of the photos!

 

June…not great weather, but some nice paddling!

June 2017 has continued the pattern of very wet weather that we have experienced this spring. Over 50% of our days have seen rain, and it has been rare to have two “nice” days in a row. This has restricted my spontaneous overnight canoe trips a bit, but early morning paddling has been pretty fine. We have seen lots of neat birds ( and loon babies!), and have been able to get in one camping trip with the GO trailer. Hiking has been a bit of a challenge, due to the very wet ( and slick) trails.Our involvement with the Friends of Green River Reservoir and Friends of Waterbury Reservoir have also kept us busy.  This weekend, we are taking part in a presentation at the Green Mountain Club about Hiking With Dogs…a fellow GMC member suggested us to their outreach team, and we agreed to participate, thinking it a good opportunity to share our philosophy of safe and responsible outdoor adventure with dogs.

So here is a photographic summary of our activities for the past few weeks….more canoe camping is planned, if Mother Nature would please cooperate!

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