2019 in the Rear View Mirror

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                                             Objects may be closer than they appear !

Off we go, with a forward looking 2020 vision! A new year of adventures awaits, with new knees, repaired knees, and plans for adventures near and far.

app maps 1

January is the best time to plan a canoeing adventure!

The roller-coaster  temperatures of the winter of 2019-20 continue, with below zero frigid conditions one day, and rainy days of 30 and 40 degrees following…despite the variable conditions, and no major snowstorms, we have been able to get out regularly for snowshoeing. In our neck of the woods, there are certain trails that seem to get, and hold, the most snow…so other than a few icy spike-hike days, our daily outings have been exploring on our new Tubbs Snowshoes, updated Flex Alps and Tubbs Panoramics.  Adding these new snowshoes to our quiver has meant more choices depending on conditions, and also more loaners to share with others on some of our outings. I continue to serve as a Tubbs Ambassador this year, and also as part of the trailspace.com review corps.

 

We started the year off right…with our annual outing to Hadsel Mares Camp in the Northeast Kingdom. No frozen outhouse seat this year, as we had the warmest temperatures and softest snow of any of our prior New Year’s trips here. With my husband still recovering from knee replacement, his treks were limited, as were Gryphon’s…so Edgar and I, and Aunt Jackie, were able to take advantage of the great trail conditions.

 

Since then, my husband has increased his outings in length and duration; Gryphon is ow up to 2 hours per hike, in snow that is not too deep or resistant.  Their steady progress has been remarkable, and they each should be “good to go” for paddle season in less than 4 months!

During a low-snow week, Edgar was able to hit up a local mountain with me…nothing too challenging, but definitely a change of pace for January, since we usually snowshoe here!

                                      Spikes necessary on this hike up Snake Mountain!

We have already planned numerous local canoe camping trips, camping trips in the GO trailer, and are working on deciding our itinerary and paddling excursions for a September trip to Algonquin Provincial Park.

We currently have no presentations planned for this spring, but that can change. We each have some new paddling gear, and are looking forward to a return to our favorite lakes and rivers. I will be making an adjustment to the configuration of my solo canoe (moving the forward thwart towards the bow a bit) to give Griff and his bionic knee more room in the canoe, and each dog needs life jacket replacement this year. Their current life jackets are great pieces of gear, but after 5 years of nearly daily wear, they should be replaced. We’re looking forward to our REI dividend!

We will be taking our annual snowshoeing trip this year, up to the Northeast Kingdom, and a return to Nulhegan Hut. Here’s hoping for lots of snow, moderate temperatures, and busy birds at the wildlife refuge!

Happy 2020! Here’s a look at our wildlife sightings from last year’s paddling season…will 2020 be as amazing?

https://vimeo.com/manage/379808053/general

 

 

Raising a Raquette on New Year’s Eve!

A bit of Throwback Thursday….

In the current ( Winter 2019) edition of Long Trail News, the quarterly publication of the Green Mountain Club, there is a brief article I wrote about our celebrations at Hadsel Mares Camp. We will continue this end of year/beginning of year tradition again this season, and we are looking forward to more cozy, and brisk, adventures!

Long trail hadsel article

So we present an article about one of our earlier New Year’s Eve trips to the Kingdom, when we welcomed in the year 2017!

                                        Raising a Raquette on New Year’s Eve!

Well, actually we were pretty mellow, enjoying the peace and quiet of the woods of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, as the new snow fell gently upon the existing foot of fresh powder. So why have I suggested in the title of the blog article that we “raised a raquette” ?  We did raise a raquette, but not in the usual sense. We took our raquettes into the wooded trails of the local mountains and ponds, to welcome in 2017 with an outdoor adventure.

Living as close to the Canadian ( Quebec) border as we do, we frequently  participate in outdoor activities north of the border, and follow many outdoor sites based in Quebec. From these sites we learned that in the French language of Quebec, snowshoes are known as raquettes….hence, our appropriation of the term!

Rather than spend the holiday weekend surrounded by noisy,  robust, and loud partiers, my husband and I decided to head to the mountains for the weekend. We were fortunate enough to be able to rent an off-grid Wheeler Pond cabin owned by the Green Mountain Club, located on the pond at the base of mountains with an endless variety of hiking and snowshoeing terrain. We are members of the GMC, Northeast Kingdom Section, and have stayed here many times before. Unfortunately, last winter, our attempts at snowshoeing weekends were major “fails”…the snow-less winter of 2015-16 had us do lots of ice-spiking and hiking around the cabin, but our snowshoe never left our vehicle. This year was different! December 2016 has been marked by nearly normal snowfall, and in the Kingdom, about 90 minutes northeast of us, there is always more snow. We also relish the chance to get out to some more remote ,less frequented, hiking destinations than are found in other areas of Vermont.

In addition to all our camping  gear, we each packed up two pair of Tubbs snowshoes, not exactly sure of what conditions we may find. We knew there would be snow, but we wanted to be prepared for any trail conditions, from packed and icy, to deep and fluffy. Our Tubbs framed snowshoes ( Wilderness 36’s  and Mountaineer 25’s) would provide us with a bit more flotation if needed, while still giving us a solid traction base.  Our Flex Alps are excellent for the often varied, and difficult, Vermont conditions we encounter on some of the area trails, so they came along, too. It was a pleasant addition to have my sister-in-law join us, with her more vintage Tubbs snowshoes. And of course, our two lab mutts, our regular adventure partners, were also with us. We arrived at the cabin’s location, in Barton, VT, early morning, ready to hit the trails before worsening conditions predicted by a winter weather advisory kicked in. We had a nice chat with the folks who were staying in the cabin before us, and they assured us they would vacate the cabin by noon, and that it would be left clean and spiffy for us. Nice folks!

Parking ¼ mile from the cabin, we geared up and headed up one of the many trails that are literally right out the door of the cabin. We headed up the newly rerouted Wheeler Mt. trail and found deep untracked powder, the perfect chance for my husband to initiate his Tubbs Wilderness 36’s. I used my Mountaineer 25’s, and they worked out great in these conditions.  The narrow wooded trail wound through the trees, and around snow covered boulders that looked like giant marshmallows. The dogs picked up on lots of wildlife sign, but the only living animal we saw was a partridge, flushed from a low pine bush by Gryphon…it flew away in quite a huff! The predicted overcast and snowy weather did not materialize, and we enjoyed blue skies, bright sun, and fabulous views.

 

My husband had no trouble negotiating the winding narrow trail with his large edition snowshoes…he even found some open areas to stomp through, much to the delight of his snow dog Edgar. Each of us found that our Tubbs provided nice flotation on the powder, yet provided great traction on the steep sections we had to climb.

We traveled for a few hours, and then took a break for hot lunch on the trail. We decided to skip the planned big lunch, and have just hot beverages and snacks instead, perfect energy boosts for the return trip.

By early afternoon, we were ready to get to the cabin. Now, each of us has a lot of experience in winter tent camping and backpacking, and there is a special attraction to that outdoor pursuit. However, as we get a bit older, the appeal of a cabin, however rustic it may be, increases. In fact, winter hut, yurt, and cabin camping has become quite popular with many folks. Some locations require backpacking, or hauling gear by pulk, while others have short equipment carries to the enclosures. Our delightful little cabin is only a few hundred yards from the parking area.  This makes it especially attractive for families, older folks, or those without the desire to really “rough it”.

We loaded our gear into our homemade pulk, and hauled it off to the cabin. Our five pairs of Tubbs snowshoes were placed outside the cabin, near the frozen lake, ready to go; there are 4 trails that are accessible right from the cabin.  My husband got the wood stove fired up, since that is the only source of heat. There is no electricity, running water, internet, or cell phone coverage here, and the bunks are nice flat plywood. The cabin is a bit rough, but it feels like a second home to us, and to our dogs, who settled right in. Some hut/cabin camping locations prohibit dogs…since our dogs accompany us on all our adventures, the dog friendly nature of this cabin makes it just right for us.

Late afternoon, as the skies began to cloud up and darken a bit, we made a nice fire in the outside fire pit. The snow then began to fall, gently upon us, as the temperatures hovered around a very acceptable 20 degrees (f).  Who needs Times Square, when you can be sitting around a fire, miles from the nearest civilization, enjoying the peace and quiet of northern Vermont?

 

Our evening celebratory meal was fondue, heated up on a camp stove. Of course we had the obligatory toast, from a bottle of champagne that had been kept chilled in the snow. We had brought only two camping “fancy” glasses, so my Tubbs camping mug became the third entry into the toast…how delightful it was, to raise a glass of bubbly among close family, in that setting. We did not, however, make it until midnight; early to bed were we, as we had more snowshoeing planned for the morning.

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Outside, the snow continued to fall, and by looking upward, my headlamp illuminated a kaleidoscope of flakes…and not a sound other than my feet on the soft snow. I knew that the next day, the first of 2017, would bring us more great snowshoeing conditions.

Indeed, 2017 greeted us with a few more inches of snow, and moderate temperatures. Our dogs awoke at their usual 6 am time, well before any light was visible in the eastern sky.  The early rising time left us plenty of opportunity to make a nice breakfast to have on this holiday morning…not the usual quickie oatmeal and dried fruit we have while tent camping, but rather a nice spread of scrambled eggs, bacon, and maple donuts. Fully energized, we were ready to take advantage of the new snow, and head out on the short trail that goes around the lake. My sister in law decided to spend the morning drinking hot coffee and catching up on some reading, so it was my husband and me, and our two dogs, that went out to welcome the new year with a snowshoe trek. Having hiked this trail previously on wet leaves, rock, and ice, we knew it had a few tricky spots to negotiate…nothing steep or really challenging, but we decided our Flex Alps would be the best choice for this trip. And they were…we had deep un-tracked snow, often 20 inches deep, but also some narrow and windy passages around rocks and trees. We encountered a log bridge, 25 feet long, covered in snow, making determining the location of the log a bit uncertain. Our snowshoes provide a good stable base, and solid traction, as we slowly worked our way across. The rest of the trail obstacles were no match for our snowshoes, and we reached the end of the trail, with our cabin in sight.  One last challenge…this trail has a sometimes sketchy brook crossing at one end, consisting of ice covered rocks, with a foot of snow on top; neither of us wanted to start the new year with a dip in the frigid water. We opted to cross what is essentially an old beaver dam; unhooking our pack straps, we slowly stepped across the 20 foot distance, feeling secure with the base of support provided by our snowshoes. The dogs led the way, and once across, they received a nice doggie treat!

We took advantage of the snowy trails around the cabin to let my sister-in-law try out our newer version Tubbs Snowshoes. She absolutely loved the Flex Alps, and will most likely own a new pair before our next joint outing!

This trip was an exceptional way to ring in the New Year! I wish that every holiday celebration could be as peaceful and relaxing…maybe next year, we can get our adult children to join us. After all, the cabin does sleep 6.

If you are interested in hiking the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the Green Mountain Club  https://www.greenmountainclub.org/    has all the information you need, from guidebooks, maps, and information on renting the Wheeler Pond cabins. In March, we will be back here, hoping to take advantage of some spring conditions up on Moose Mountain, another trail that begins near the cabin. There is a great variety of trails in this section of Vermont, many within 30 minutes or so from Wheeler Pond. The winter of 2016-17 appears to have the potential to be one of the best snowshoeing seasons in a long time!

 

 

Progress…One Step at a Time!

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In the two weeks since our last post, Gryphon has progressed well in his recovery and rehabilitation. He has progressed from a week of 20 minute flat hikes 2x/day, to 25 minute flat hikes 2x/day, and is now in week 3, of 30 minute hikes 2x/day, with increasing elevation and hills. The arrival of early snow has been a bit of a challenge. I still walk him around to his dog yard, to prevent him from running up or down the ramp and hill that leads from the usual door. He is feeling pretty good, so we have to continue to monitor him carefully to prevent aggravating his knee.  We help him in and out of the car, and do not let him jump up onto the bed. And, as we rehab Gryphon, my husband is recovering from his knee replacement surgery. Rather a busy Knee-vember!

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Boys in recovery!

Paddling season ended on November 11th. I had tried to get out on the 9th, but the thick ice at the nearby access prevented a very long outing. With a forecast for a snowstorm on the 12th, we found some open water on the 11th, and had a nice, calm, relaxed final paddle! With Gryphon’s restriction on activity, Edgar received extra time in the canoe…he hit 103 days this year ( the same number as Gryphon), and I actually had 166 days on the water. It is always bittersweet to put the canoe away for the season, but we were able to get out snowshoeing the next day. A quick transition between activities makes this time of year more tolerable!

Paddling favorite posts from November 6th to 8th

And the end…flurries, ice, but calm waters…we’ve already begun making plans for next season’s canoe camping trips!

Gryphon has not been able to take advantage of our snowshoeing snow conditions; he must remain on packed trails, quiet roads, and rec paths.and cannot plow through snow ( as he usually enjoys doing). But he has seemed just so happy to be out and about!

 

Edgar has been the truly lucky one..he has been out for a number of snowshoeing outings, and we have found some pretty fine early season conditions!

So off we go, into the second half of November…with dark arriving at 4:30 pm, and light not arriving until 7 am. Temperatures have dropped to record lows, and as usual, we have the assortment of snow,wind, cold, and freezing rain events. As both Gryphon and my husband recover, we anticipate a great winter of outdoor fun! We just have to take it ones step at a time….

Never let a Stumble in the Road be the End of a Journey

Gryphon has stumbled…my snowshoeing mountain masher, my confident paddling buddy, my straight-line skijoring steed, my slow and steady hiking partner, my wildlife spotter,  has suffered a knee injury that has put him on the disabled list.  Without suffering any apparent injury or trauma, in late August he began limping after getting up from his bed; we thought it was because he is just “getting old”, but the limping persisted for over a week. A trip to our local veterinarian and diagnostic x-rays indicated he had noticeable arthritis in one knee, and would be a candidate for arthroscopy.  This did not sound too bad; after all, both my husband and I have had our knees scoped, and we then returned to normal activity. An appointment was made at PEAK Veterinary Referral hospital, with high recommendations for their medical staff made by many of our dog owner friends. Griff happily went into the hospital, and was seen by Dr. Schultz, who has performed successful surgery on many dogs we know.

Our hopes for a “simple” arthroscopy quickly faded, as the doctor detected a noticeable “click” in the knee, indicating a cruciate tear.  Poor Griff…he did not understand why he could not run and hike, nor did he know that a more intense surgical procedure was in his future.

Off to PEAK we go!

In the month between surgical consult and the day of surgery, we were able to take Gryphon on two previously scheduled camping trips. One trip was for closing weekend at Green River Reservoir State Park, a canoe camping trip with no portages.  The second was a GO trailer trip to another state park in Vermont, also one which required no long walks or portages. This was great, since he loves camping, and by eliminating hikes from our plans, he was able to fully participate in the trips. He was able to camp and canoe right up until the day before his surgery, oblivious to my concern and sadness over what awaited him. Of course, Gryphon’s  facing surgery was not enough to worry about…my husband is also facing knee surgery ( knee replacement)  2 weeks after Griff has his surgery!

 

The camping trip to Gifford Woods State Park was special for both dogs, since their Aunt Jackie came along; they love spending time with her, and doing so at a campsite was extra special. We did only one short hike, to a local waterfall, on an accessible boardwalk.  The nights were cold ( 30 degrees), but the days were sunny, and the paddling was quite fine for late foliage season.

 

The morning of Griff’s surgery was tough for him…since he could not get fed his breakfast! Edgar and I took him to the PEAK facility, and then I brought him in for his surgical check-in. He seemed in good spirits, but was not appreciative of having the muzzle put on prior to examination. Though he is a mellow dog, a hurt dog can be unpredictable, so for the staff’s safety, I suggested the muzzle.  I think that was the point when he realized that’s “something” was happening. He looked forlorn as he was led away by the surgical techs, but I was thinking positive thoughts, and hoping that this surgery can return him to at least a semblance of his active lifestyle.  So as to not dwell on the situation, I took Edgar for a paddle in a nearby lake…one I had not paddled since 2010, the first time we put Griff in the canoe! That was not planned, but a coincidence based on this lake’s being the closest to the PEAK  facility.

 

The veterinary surgeon had told me that Griff’s surgery would not be until later in the afternoon, so around 3pm I started to anxiously await the  call. The call was received, and it was all good news— a successful operation, torn cruciate discovered, and repairs made . Anesthesia had been no problem, and he had woken up without any issues; hungry, of course, and eating the baby food they had offered him. I knew he would be staying overnight, and satisfied that he was in good hands and recovering well, I prepped the house for his return.

  • Obtained a used ramp, for use in the car and our small steps
  • Brought out the puppy pen, thinking it might be nice for Griff to sleep on his bed without being bothered by Edgar
  • Set out the GO dog beds on the floor, for Griff to have a large flat comfortable area
  • Washed the dogs’ car seat cover—can’t have a nice clean surgical wound sitting on a dirty cover!
  • Bought cheap hot dogs…for dispensing of pills.

 

The next day, I arrived at PEAK, and received all the post-operative instructions, and medications. I knew that Griff’s activity would be severely limited for the next 2 weeks,  but felt we would do the best we could to keep him happy and comfortable during this phase of his recovery. He came out to me, assisted by a vet tech, a bit wobbly, and confused by the silly “hat” he was wearing, but so happy to see me!

When we entered the house, Edgar was behind the room divider…I feared he would try to jump on Griff in their usual “welcome home, brother” greeting. I need not have worried…Edgar was terrified of Gryphon, who was festooned in the “Cone of Shame”. Edgar kept his distance, as Griff went  to his padded bed in the large enclosure we had placed in the room. All was looking good, and we look forward to the return check-up in 2 weeks. The toughest part of this period for Gryphon will be his not being allowed to run down the ramp to the dog yard. Thankfully, we have a new side gate, so I can walk him around and monitor him in the yard while he takes care of his business. Puzzle-toys, lots of physical contact, and supervised couch time have helped him in this tough time. Onward we go, into this new phase of a return (we hope) to normalcy! Edgar, who has been getting out daily for paddling and hiking, will also have to adjust to once again sharing me with Griff!

 

It has been incredible to us that we have received so many supportive greetings and well–wishes on our social media platforms…we are extremely appreciative of this encouragement! A fellow Green River Reservoir fan even offered to loan us a soft collar for Griff. Thanks to all of you!

In 2 weeks, we will be updating with easy-peasy  hike reports, and end of season paddling photos….what a great way to spend stick season!

Farewell summer, welcome fall…and catching up!

A quick and short post…may take a while to get back into the whole blogging thing!

Fall has arrived, and we enter our favorite paddling season,. Today was paddle day #130, so it looks as though we will easily attain at least 150 days on the water in 2019. Here is a brief video compilation of our first 100 days….

https://vimeo.com/362073198

 

We have upcoming canoe camping trips, and we certainly hope that some of our colorful leaves hang around for a few more weeks! It will be a rather out-of-the-ordinary fall season for us…we normally use fall to ramp up our hiking activities in the cool weather, preparing and getting in shape for winter’s snowshoeing and skijoring fun. However, Gryphon has developed arthritis and bone spurs in one knee, so he is on exercise restriction. He is facing arthroscopic surgery, and will be limited in the intensity of his winter excursions this year. We will adjust, and work to keep him safe and healthy!

These orthopedic issues arose a few weeks before our planned September canoe camping trips; thankfully, this year we decided to go easy, and did not have any long portages in our canoeing plans. We first had a 5 day return trip to Parc Regional du Poisson Bland in Quebec. We did not have a beach site this year, but an amazing high rocky site, with 180 degree views of this huge lake. This spectacular large island camping area, on a lake north of Ottawa, is clean, well-run, and a true delight ( except for when we get wind-bound). We encountered only one negative…a truly idiotic jerk who decided it would be funny to intentionally drive his powerboat within 6-10 feet of the bow of our canoe. Even if he does not speak English, I think he understood what we said to him! Otherwise, it was a great canoe camping trip!

 

 

We opted to rent a larger, heavier canoe in order to deal with the often large waves on this lake…even so, we had a bit of a tight fit with all our gear! It was much more stable, however, than our little solo boats.

 

After a few days at home ( well, for me and the dogs…my husband flew to DC for a few day to visit our son), we were off to the Adirondacks. We planned to paddle at least 5 new lakes, and try out two new campgrounds; we accomplished all that and more! The weather was perfect, perfect, perfect! The entire album, and captions, can be found on our Facebook page.

 

 

So we enter fall facing uncertainty for Gryphon and his future activities…so glad that he is comfortable in the canoe, so he is able to continue his outdoor adventuring! Soon the lakes will ice over, and the paddles and boats will be put away…stick season will be upon us, and then it is just a matter of waiting for snow.  Paddle On ( at least for another 6 weeks or so)!

Paddling it Forward (or paying it forward)…sharing the fun!

As this very wet and rainy and cold Spring finally comes to a close ( with flood watches issued today, of course!), we have time to check the content on our blog, update a few posts, and clear out some of the outdated information.

  June 2019…New Pics!

We love sharing our passion for outdoor adventuring with dogs, and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to give presentations for various community groups. We do not charge any fee for these presentations, and we tweak and update the material frequently. Most presentations happen in the spring, but it might be fun to expand into other seasons…maybe, for example, hints for snowshoeing with your dog, to be offered in the fall? Anyway, to help organize our site, here is a description of each of the presentations we have done in the past few years. We are always open to suggestions for improvement! We certainly hope you will get a chance to explore with your pups this summer!

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Get out in your canoe! Wildlife Watching from the Water

This presentation will provide descriptions, photos and videos of 5 of our favorite local lakes and ponds, and how you can enjoy the amazing wildlife while paddling your canoe or kayak.  Want to take your dog with you?  We will offer hints and tips to prepare your dog to be a silent wildlife spotter. This will be a fun and informative session, with lots of time for audience interaction.

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Dog Paddling 101

We will offer tips and suggestions to help your dog become a true paddle pup.  There will be a demonstration of useful gear and equipment, presentation of training ideas, and a sharing of our experiences , both educational and humorous! This seminar will help you best prepare for safe and responsible dog canoeing and kayaking on our amazing lakes and ponds.

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K9 Trail Adventures

Discussions about the training, trail etiquette, and gear that can help make outdoor adventuring with your dog safe and fun!  We will have an exchange of ideas , and provide hints and suggestions for ensuring the safety of your dog when he explores our trails and mountains year-round,  as you become a top-notch,  responsible dog hiking team.

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Canoe Camping with Dogs 

Hints and Tips for taking your paddling pup on overnight camping adventures, while canoeing and kayaking to remote and paddle-in campsites. We discuss how to prepare your pup, safety considerations, gear options, and provide  destination ideas.

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Paddling to Banff

A cross country trip ( 5799 miles across Canada and the northern US), GO camping  with the dogs, paddling the Boundary Waters, Algonquin, and iconic lakes in Banff National Park. We discuss trip planning,  gear selection, paddling destinations, and dealing with speed bumps along the road.

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Travels with Pup….Canine Paddling Adventures!

Hit the road, and explore new and varied locations for paddling and camping with your dog. We will offer helpful hints for having a successful and safe canoeing vacation with your dog, and share our enthusiasm for widening your paddling horizons. This presentation focuses on Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, and the opportunities it provides for some amazing paddling adventures.