Winter ends ( sort of) and Canoeing Begins!

Winter is fizzling out…warm days, then snow days, then warm days, then icy days. Horrific muddy road conditions limit access to trailheads, and we have to travel an hour south to find open water. But we’ve been getting out every day, either paddling early season spots or spike-hiking and a bit of late season snowshoeing to mark our transition into spring.

As we start the canoe season, a dry suit and neoprene vests for the dogs ( in addition to PFDs of course) are necessary! Our favorite birds are just beginning to return to the waters, and the shoreline is still pretty drab grey and brown. The pups are taking turns for canoe outings, alternating with turns for hiking…soon we hope to be back into a daily canoeing routine.

And here is a short video of the two pups on each of their first outings for 2022…the 13th season for Gryphon, and the 10th for Edgar. They each seem quite happy to be back in the canoe! Edgar is certainly looking forward to getting back out in HIS canoe with his dad…gotta wait for warmer water before that happens. Happy Spring!

The ABCs of Dog Paddling!

 Lessons learned by the Vermont Paddle Pups!

A   Attitude: Important to have a positive attitude with an emphasis on fun for all involved!

B   Ballast: a well-trained dog can add stability to your boat. Dogs don’t do well holding a paddle, but they can be helpful especially on windy days!

C   CanoeDog:  aka PaddlePup, Kayaking K9, or SupPup…whatever you call your dog, be sure you have a great time on the water!

D   Dogs: Pups of all shapes and sizes can enjoy paddling with you; some folks even have cats that are trained to ride along in the canoe!

E   Exercise: If your dog is a high energy pup, let it run around, play fetch, or go for a walk before heading out in the canoe

F   First Aid kit:  Be sure to carry a first aid kit with vet wrap, tick removal tool, peroxide (for poisoning), and bandages. We also carry fleece or cordura mushers booties, which can help keep a bandaged paw from being chewed by the dog

G   Gunwales:  A convenient place to rest a heavy dog head while checking out the scenery

H   Have a plan B: If your planned paddling area is too busy, or the weather is not cooperative, go somewhere else, or take your dog for a hike instead. We are responsible for our dogs’ safety, so we need to keep that as a priority.

I   In and Out of the boat: You should decide when it is safe for your dog to enter or exit the boat. Have a set command that you use each time, and the dog will learn to wait for that command (remember, most capsizings happen within 10 feet of shore)

J  Journal:  It is fun to keep track of the locations and trips you take with your dog…you can look back some day and realize how many spots your dog has explored, recall your wildlife sightings, and document favorite campsites.

K  Kids’ size sleeping bag: These are often available at thrift shops, can make a great sleeping bag for your dog on camping trips. For smaller dogs, they can be cut down to size.

L  Life jacket: Wearing a well-fitted dog life jacket is a really good idea for your dog; a dog life jacket provides thermal protection, visibility, a handle to assist him in and out of the canoe, and a swimming assist…even experienced swimmer dogs can get tired out in a long, cold, or panicked swim. Be sure that YOU are wearing your PFD, for your safety and to better be able to assist your dog in an emergency.

M  Mat: A non-slip pad should be on the floor of the canoe or kayak; a dog who is slipping around will be unsettled, uncomfortable, and cannot really enjoy the ride

N  No Leashes in the canoe or kayak:  Leashes can safely be used while getting in and out of the boat in a busy area or at launch sites, but not while underway. To keep your dog safely in your boat, see O, for Obedience!

O  Obedience:  Before taking your dog in the canoe or kayak, be sure it is well versed in sit/stay/down/come/no barking. Practice in your boat on dry land, and then in shallow water before heading out for longer paddles.

P   Portaging: Carrying a canoe with a dog accompanying you can be tricky. You don’t want the dog tripping you up, nor do you want it off chasing wildlife or getting lost. Follow local rules re: leashes or be sure that your dog has 100% accurate recall skill. A trekking line attached to your belt is one option, if you can safely carry/cart your canoe with the dog attached to you.

Q  Quiet! Your dog should be trained and rewarded for not barking at wildlife, other paddlers, dogs, or other distractions.

R  Rules: Rules and regulations are meant to be followed for the benefit of all paddlers! If dogs are supposed to be on a leash (i.e. at access areas and on trails), keep them on a leash…just never use a leash on your dog in the canoe or kayak, as it presents a dangerous entanglement hazard

S  Swimming: if your dog is not an experienced or enthusiastic swimmer, let them practice swimming in their life jacket a few times a year; it builds confidence, and may help them not freak out in event of capsizing

T  Thwarts: Otherwise known as doggy pillows (or as a change of pace from using the gunwales)

U  Use Poop Bags: If you use poop bags, carry them out!  You may opt to use cat holes, though your dog may be insulted by that term. Just be sure that your dog never leaves any souvenirs behind for other paddlers or dogs to encounter.

V  Video: If you can, take video and lots of photos of your expeditions; you can share with others, and you can see how far your dog has progressed from his first tentative canoe outings.

W  Water:  Bring fresh drinking water for your dog, and keep them hydrated, especially on long hot days in the canoe. If paddling in swampy areas, or areas where beavers or cyanobacteria may be present, you certainly do not want your dog drinking that water!

X  Xylitol: A sweetener often used in low sugar candies, gums, peanut butter, and other foods. It is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs and can kill a dog within hours. Be sure that when you pack your camping foods, you avoid any foods dangerous to dogs.

Y  Yoke:  A portage yoke maybe present, in your canoe. Be sure that your dog has enough room in its compartment to sit/lie down/turn around…it can be tough when fully packed, but you want to keep the canoe stable and the dog comfortable. With larger dogs, you can speak to your canoe shop and see about moving a thwart to provide a bit more room for your dog.

Z   Zero Day: We all need an occasional day to just chill out, hang around the campsite, or hike and explore the neighboring areas. As much as most dogs love being in a canoe or kayak, they also appreciate an occasional day off, especially on longer trips.

Roller Coaster Weather..what a ride!

January 2022 in Vermont, when the temps swing 50 degrees in 24 hours! We may be hiking on slush in 30 degrees, then it is minus 20 the next day, and we are hunkered down. The only thing that has been (unfortunately) consistent this month is the lack of any real snowstorms. We’ve had a few inches here and there, and one 10 inch storm followed by deep freeze warnings, so we have been able to get out snowshoeing nearly every day. The dogs do well in their musher’s booties from Nooksack Racing Supply, and they tolerate their jackets without any issues, but they are both senior dogs…as such, we need to protect them and keep them safe from the elements. They have each had surgery in the past few months, too, so we really work hard to keep them safe and happy. So we’ll share a few photos from our outings, all in Northern Vermont, on trails we frequent and the dogs enjoy. We’ve also had a few winter birding trips, when we get the dogs out of the car for at least a little walk—such activity is good for days when it is too cold for real hikes. Let’s bring on more snow please!

Oh, and only TWO more months until Spring…and Canoeing Season Begins!

2021…a slight upgrade over 2020, but still a bit capricious!

We began 2021 while enjoying a few days’ stay at the Nulhegan Hut in the Northeast Kingdom, continuing our tradition of spending New Year’s Eve at an off-grid cabin. This hut is a bit more “luxurious” than the one we have visited for NYE the past few years, and we thought it would be a great start to a year of recovery from the horrendousness of COVID  2020.

Bu alas, Covid stuck around, and the optimism of the arrival of vaccines was soon dulled by the arrival of additional variants which kept the Canadian border closed, once again limiting our travel plans. However, we cannot complain, as we have escaped the pandemic relatively unscathed, and a disruption of travel and trips is a small price compared to that paid by others. It has been and up and down year in terms of what we can do, where we can do it, and what precautions need to be taken! So, vaxxed x 3, fully masked, and socially distant, we enter 2022with a cautious sense of optimism.

In summary, the highlights of 2021 are as follows!

  1. Paddling season began on March 23, and ended on November 21…206 days on the water! The early paddling season was welcomed, since snowshoeing season ended abruptly in March. Due to a low snowpack, and the ski areas closing uphill traffic, we were unable to reach our target of 125 days snowshoeing.
Paddle Day #1
Paddle Day #206

  • Lots of great wildlife and bird sightings, though no moose or bears while paddling this year. We joined VINS, and are training to be volunteer wild bird rescuers/transporters. We have enjoyed visiting the Vermont Institute for Natural Sciences, especially of the opportunity to tweak our amateur bird photography skills.
  • No big canoe trip this year, but we did have some extended time in the Adirondacks and in the Northeast Kingdom, paddling some new to us lakes, and enjoying a nice foliage season.
  • Gryphon had unexpected TPLO surgery on his right knee in August but recovered in time for some end of season canoeing. He is doing quite well, and has enjoyed a return to snowy trails.
  • Edgar had minor eye surgery, to remove a lump from his eyelid, back in October, but he has also recovered nicely, and is back to his enthusiastic, puppy-like 10 year old self!
  • We had a record number of eagle sightings this year:

Mature: 114 total   51 while canoeing

Immature  72 total   36 while canoeing 

  • The winter of 2021-2022 has been off to a sluggish start; a little snow in November then weeks of thawing, frozen ground, mud, and rain. Remnant snow and occasional light snowfalls have meant we continue to snowshoe whenever possible, but our microspikes have also proven essential.
  1. No hut camping this New Year’s Eve…Vermont Huts Association altered their reservation policies so, even though we are VHA members, we did not even have the chance to reserve the hut for any holiday periods. In the past, if we got lucky, we could snag a reservation in the members-only, hope to get lucky, early reservation system. However, now, certain “member partners” of VHA get to reserve dates even before the general member’s opening reservation dates. We do have the Nulhegan Hut for a Town Meeting Day weekend getaway in March, and will probably reserve again for fall paddling.
  1. This year’s paddling plans are not very exciting, as once again, we are not assured of easy access to Canada. COVID is running rampant again, and border closure issues persist. We may return to Western Maine, where we have not camped in a few years.

So, 2021 ends with a foggy, slushy, and wet snowshoe outing close to home. We hope that this winter does not turn out to be a total bust, but if so, there are only 90 days until canoe season, so that is something to look forward to! We are probably archiving this blog, since most of our followers take advantage of our posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook; we have just started to share some videos on Vermont Paddle Pups on YouTube. However,the blog posts will be scarce, and probably be mostly trip reports or links to our other activities. Happy New Year, and keep safe!

Summer…sizzling,citizen science, and surgery!

Very brief post…we actually consider ourselves on hiatus from blogging, since we are having too much fun paddling and camping to actually sit inside at the computer!

In summary, it has been very hot! Record breaking temps, so we’ve been getting out early so the dogs can keep cool. So far, we have been:

*Canoeing 78 days

*Remote canoe camping 4 trips

*Front Country GO camping 2 trips ( one of which had the pups’ Aunt Jackie join us)

*Continuing our Citizen Science activities of building loon rafts, monitoring loons and eagles, and taking weekly water quality measurement for our state DEC.

*Participating as Board Members for 2 local lake advocacy groups

*Reviewing a dog hiking book for Trailspace.com

We are also facing some unpleasantness with Gryphon; he recently blew out the knee ligament on his right leg, and so will be having TPLO surgery in early August. This has greatly restricted his activity, but he can still get out in the canoe for short, portage-free outings. The TPLO on his left knee, 18 months ago, was highly successful, so we are hoping for similar results this time.

He did the final trauma to his knee romping after coming home from this great camping trip…

We’ll leave you with a few photos; for nearly daily updates and photos, be sure to check out our Facebook page Vermont Paddle Pups, or our Instagram page @VermontPaddlePups. Have a great summer!

Paddling!

Our winter weather ended quickly, and suddenly we were no longer snowshoeing…we had temperatures in the 70’s in March, so we knew it would be an early ice-out this year. Gryphon and I traveled an hour south to find open water on March 23, the first time ever we’ve been canoeing that early! One of our local paddling lakes had open water for paddling on March 30, so our paddling truly began in earnest on that date. We’ve actually been able to paddle 8 different lakes by April 15th, and at 12 days on the water so far, the 2021 paddling season is off to a roaring start.  We hope to have Duncan out in his new canoe this weekend, once the water temperature gets to a safe temperature for paddling without a dry suit.

Gryphon’s first paddles of 2021….

And Edgar’s first outings….

Oh, but wet snow arrived overnight, so we may have a brief hiatus…we have been continuing to hike regularly with the dogs, though our last on-snow hike was on April 3rd, when we had a nice sunny hike on a few inches of fresh fluff.

Wildlife sightings have been great, with eagles, otters, osprey and loons among the highlights! So, we are just about ready for some canoe camping, though I think we’ll wait until this most recent snow has melted! Paddle On!

Muddy March Musings

Spring officially arrives in two days, and with it, a glimmer of hope for warm Spring activities! We have had a few teaser days of sun and temperatures in the 50’s, but we have also had below zero days, cold wind chills, and rock-hard frozen trails. The back road that thawed and rutted on the warm days become then become frozen adventures, so we have eliminated a few trailheads from our hiking options for this season! The late start to the winter weather and snow, and frequent thaw/freeze cycles has resulted in my snowshoeing only 70 days so far; this means I am unlikely to reach even 100 days, and definitely not our average of 125 days/season. We have spike-hiked at east 30 days. But that’s okay, since paddling season should begin in 26 days!

Our annual town meeting day snowshoeing trip was not out of state or the Northeast Kingdom this year; instead we luxuried it up at a posh dog hotel in the southern part of Vermont. Just a 3-day getaway, but nice to explore a part of the state that is new to us ( even though we have a combined 106 years living in Vermont) and get out on Section 4 of the Catamount Trail. We spiked tow trails due to low snow and frozen conditions, but we had a good soft snowshoe (in the wind, rain and drizzle) on Catamount.

Our spring nature outings, usually combined with a hike, have been productive this year. I am considering getting a basic DSLR camera with a better lens, for land-based photography only. I remain hesitant about bringing an expensive camera set-up in the canoe with the dogs, and am usually satisfied with the quality of water-based photos provided by my bridge camera. At present, from a longer distance, my best option is using the video capacity of my camera; hence, I offer two videos of nature sightings this shoulder/mud season.

So we are actively beginning our prep for paddling season. Duncan’s new canoe should go to the canoe shop on April 1st for installation of skid plates, and the moving of the forward thwart. A new wind-sock graces our deck, giving us early morning hints about weather/paddling conditions. New wider rack load bars have arrived, allowing us to place the 2 canoes side by side on our vehicle’s roof. The canoe bag has been organized, and its contents checked, cleaned, and replaced ( i.e FA kit contents) as necessary. We’ll be ready to go as soon as some local lakes have ice-out conditions.

Think Spring!