North, South, East, and West…Heading to Where the Snow’s the Best!

Well, in reality, it is not as though we have had to go very far to find awesomely impressive snow conditions. This year, the snow pack has remained deep and solid into March. Other than only a few days of rain, warm weather,and some subsequent icy trail conditions, this snowshoeing season has been epic. As we approach Spring ( and we will hit our 100th day of snowshoeing this weekend), we present a photo essay on some of our travels, near and a bit farther, in our constant quest to explore new and exciting trails.

Part 1: To the East! In early February, we headed off to the Northeast Kingdom to stay at the Nulhegan Confluence Hut, located in an area close to many different snowshoeing trails. We had stopped by to check out the hut on a visit last fall, and decided that it looked very nice, and in a superb location to access winter trails. We had then booked an overnight stay, hoping that winter would bring us deep snow and moderate temperatures.

We stopped along the way to snowshoe at Perry Holbrook State Park, a new, unimproved park in Glover ,VT. We encountered thigh deep unbroken snow, so we slogged our way in just past the first pond, took a nice rest stop, and slogged our way back to the car…what a lot of snow!

After a lunch stop at the very  inviting Visitor Center of the Silvia Conte National Wildlife Refuge ( in Ferdinand, VT), we drove down the road a short way to the roadside trail access for the hut.

We knew that we would have to use pulks and sleds to bring our gear across the snowy field (300 yards) to access the hut, which is hidden on the edge of woods alongside the river. Check-in time is 1pm, so we loaded the sleds and headed out just before 1 o’clock. The going was slow, as the snow was deep and un-tracked. It was curious because we had seen two Quebec registered cars at the winter parking area up the road, but there were no signs of anyone walking to the hut.

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Well, as we approached the hut, we heard a dog bark, and realized the prior users had not checked out at the designated 1pm time…in fact,  the plentiful used TP along the trail 10 feet from the steps,  the food and dog waste right outside the sliding door, and the scrambling we heard inside, it was obvious they had not even started to pack up. We nicely informed them that they were supposed to be out by 1pm, so they hurried along, cleaned up their mess outside, packed up their belongings in storage tubs, cleaned up and swept out the interior of the hut, and post-holed their way back to their cars, along a route not the designated trail.Only one of the fourhad snowshoes, and they were dragging the storage tubs along the snow.  Well, at least they kept their dog under control, and had kept the hut warm for us! It was a bit cold outside, and was starting to snow, but our dogs patiently waited outside with us.

Once we had gained access to the hut, we were comforted by the wood stove, and the welcoming interior of the hut. A sleeping loft would remain unused, since the dogs cannot climb the ladder. The hut is equipped with a propane cook stove, utensils, and cookware for six…so we had brought only food, water, and a backpacking stove for quick heating of beverages. A lovely, cozy hideaway!

We took an afternoon hike on the River Trail, in woods, and fields with more deep snow.

As the snow fell, night also fell, and the quiet, dark evening could not have been more peaceful! The dogs were tired, and fell asleep easily on the floor by the wood stove. We used the couch and sleeping pads as our beds, and it was a very comfortable night. Heading out at midnight to use the privy can be a daunting practice…but here, the privy is well designed, not too far away, and I even saw snowshoe bunnies in the nearby woods , illuminated by my headlamp.

The next morning we enjoyed a nice sunrise, then after a light breakfast, packed up to head out. Though we had stayed only overnight, and we still love Hadsel Mares camp at Wheeler Pond, we decided that we will return to Nulhegan, in the summer for paddling, and in the winter for more snowshoeing.  Thanks to the Vermont River Conservancy and Vermont Huts Association for sharing this great resource!    See more at  https://vermonthuts.org/

Our next snowshoeing was to be at the Moose Bog trail, located just west of the hut. We have visited this trail many times, in all seasons, and have seen great bird sightings. On this day, we found great snow, but no Spruce Grouse. In fact, only Woodpeckers were seen, until I was swarmed by Red Breasted Nuthatches and Chickadees, accustomed to hikers feeding them by hand.  On prior outings, I had brought nothing to offer them, but this time, I had a bit of birdseed….apparently, that was to their liking!

After a stop for brunch at our favorite parson’s Corner restaurant in Barton, we headed home…satisfied and pleased that we had found a great new hut destination!

Part 2: To the South! Our recent southern expedition was a day trip, to an area in Middlebury Gap where we have snowshoed a few times previously. The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area contains a section of the Catamount Trail than we usually don’t travel, and we have found it to be very pretty, especially on a sunny day.  We had a very satisfying morning, even though there was considerably less snow than at home.

This area makes for a nice day trip; it is only about 90 minutes from home, and the drive to reach the trailhead is through some of the prettiest winter scenery in Vermont.

Part 3; West Across the Lake! For our annual Town Meeting week 3-day getaway, we decided this year to head back to the Adirondacks. We have been to the Old Forge area and Tupper Lake for winter vacations in the past, so this year we opted for Saranac Lake. We were not looking for mountains to climb, but rather, we wanted to explore new snowshoeing trails, and hoped to get in some skijoring as well. Our route took us right past the Crown Point Fort historical site. We often stop here, for birding, or to stretch our legs, but we had never actually been on the 2.4 miles of trails. There was enough snow for snowshoeing, so off we went….it was fun getting out to the lake access, the old orchards, and fort remnants.

The sun actually came out and warmed the snow to mush; it was a bit different snowshoeing around an old fort. Exploring history while on snowshoes is something we really love!

After our morning snowshoe at Crown Point, we headed off to Saranac Lake; as we passed through Lake Placid, we realized we were ahead of schedule for check-in at the motel. Using our new Snowshoe and Ski Trail map, we found a small network of trails located just outside of Lake Placid. The Brewster Peninsula Trails provided a very nice nature trail alongside the lake shore and through woods full of Hemlock trees.

So then, it was off to the motel..yes, a motel! No cabins, huts, or tents on this trip…I had a gift card for Best Western, so we actually stayed in a motel! Luxury! Very nice, dog-friendly, and even though the pool was out of commission,we had a nice stay. On a prior winter trip, years ago, we had visited the Ice Castle, and hoped to once again see this magnificent annual structure.  However, it had been knocked down after the Winter Carnival ended, so we saw only the remnant piles of huge blue ice blocks!

The next morning, we loaded up our skijoring equipment, and drove a bit beyond downtown Saranac Lake to Paul Smith’s College. I had seen social media postings about the VIC, the center with many miles of XC ski and snowshoeing trails…trails where we were allowed to skijor with the dogs! It was cold and snowy when we arrived and obtained our self-service tickets and maps. The trail grooming fellow had just arrived, and suggested a nice loop for us to ski. On to the trails we went, with 2 inches of new powder on top of recently groomed skate and classical tracks.  The dogs had a blast!  Edgar kept up his nice pace, and Griff maintained his steady trot. A few curvy and hilly sections, with trees close to the trail edge, provided some excitement, but we all survived and had a great time.  We decided that we would return later in the day for some snowshoeing.

Here is a short video of some of our outing.we even had a bit of sun as we crossed the marsh! It includes a bit from our snowshoeing later in the day.

https://vimeo.com/manage/322033876/general

Our next stop was a return trip to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge. We had discovered this facility on a winter trip a few years ago, and it definitely deserved a return trip. This facility provides a safe haven for birds and other animals that have been injured, abandoned, or surrendered by other facilities. Some of the animals are being rehabilitated for a return to the wild. Here, you are provided an up close, safe look at some of our local wildlife, and have the opportunity to make a donation to support the facility. The only animals that I missed seeing were the black bears ( since they were still hibernating in their enclosure).

One of the Wolves

Other animals we saw included eagles, vultures, saw whet owls, bobcat, fishers, western coyotes, red fox, and turtles…so much to see!

After our wildlife visit, we trekked back to VIC for some snowshoeing on a trail that leads through the woods and across a fens/marsh. Our one day at VIC made us vow to return again, both in summer and winter. As we plan our September ADK trip, we will be looking at camping in this area.

We wrapped up our trip the next morning with another snowshoe outing. We couldn’t find the access to our original planned trail so we went to the trailhead for a section of the JackRabbit Trail; this trail winds from Keene to Paul Smith’s, so we were just checking out the section closest to to Saranac Lake.  This is a very nice trail, winding through woods , with gradual grades.

We encountered one XC skier, who immediately corralled her loose dog, and they proceeded by us without incident. However, as we were returning to the trailhead, an unleashed large Spaniel type dog started running towards us, dragging a leash. The dog’s owner was bare-booting the trail, ( a violation of the winter rules), and seemed unable to control her dog. We asked her to call her dog, then to leash her dog, then to not let her dog run up to ours…each time the dog would run close to ours, she would call it back, but it would then just turn around and run back to us. She said her dog wanted to play, then he’s just a puppy,  then he’s friendly, and said ‘ “Why do you want to be that way?” Yes, we were irritated, and waited until she finally leashed her dog in her control. After she took her dog off trail, and we passed, I told her that we were asking only that she exhibit some common trail etiquette! Grrrrr!

That one rude woman could not put a damper on our trip, which was a great success! We even found a bike that is large enough for my husband!

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Part 4: North to the Border!

Snowshoeing Day #100…off on a morning with a forecast for blue skies ,sun, and temperatures near 30. We have visited this trail section before ( Catamount Trail section 31), and have found it to be a scenic, rolling, very pleasant trail for a few hours of snowshoeing. We stop at the obelisk marking the border with Canada, then retrace our route for half a mile, and head down through rolling woods until we reach a marshy turn around spot.  Even the noisy snow machines racing on a half-mile of shared trail did not diminish the fun today!

So now as we enter mid–March, even with the arrival of more snow this week, we start to think of paddling…on the water in 6 weeks? We have five presentations this Spring, 3 in Vermont, and two at the New England PaddleSports Show. The dogs and we will continue to be busy as winter winds down and Spring arrives for real!

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The ABCs of Snowshoeing!

During a rather nasty mid-winter freeze and thaw cycle, our tremendous snowshoeing conditions are being challenged. But we will persevere, and come out of this weather cycle ready for another 2-3 months of snowshoeing, which will overlap with the beginning of paddle season! So we offer a lightweight blog entry, with a few tweaks and updates from a similar one posted a few years ago! Think Snow! Think Spring!

The ABC’s of Snowshoeing

“Now I know my ABC’s, aren’t you very proud of me” So goes the rhyme we all learned as little children…and learning the alphabet opened the door to a world of endless opportunities! Well, getting involved in snowshoeing opens many doors as well, doors to experiences in the outdoors that are always changing, exhilarating, and allow you to be a part of a winter wonderland. Here are just a few “ABC’s” of snowshoeing…a fun way to share some of the lingo that winter outdoors folks may toss around!

Avalanche   A large amount of snow that slides down a slope or mountain, burying anything in its path. Avalanches are extremely dangerous, and anyone who snowshoes in mountainous terrain should be aware of avalanche dangers

Binding   Bindings attach your boots to the snowshoes; Tubbs provides several binding options, designed for a snug and comfortable fit.

binding 2

 

Crampon  Sharp metal traction devices on the base of snowshoes, to aid in traction on slick surfaces; they may be integrated along the frame, or may be attached to the base of the binding or rear decking of the snowshoe.

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Decking The surface of the snowshoe which provides the support and flotation above the snow surface. In traditional wooden snowshoes these are made of woven, lacquered rawhide strips. Modern snowshoe decks are made of a variety of synthetic materials, which may be contained within a frame, or may be a molded surface without a frame. The Tubbs Snowshoes snowshoe selector tool describes the wide variety of snowshoe decking material available. http://tubbssnowshoes.com/snowshoe-finder

Elevation Gain    Indicates the strenuousness of a hike or climb, essentially, how much climbing is involved; many trail guidebooks provide this information, as elevation gain is important to know, along with trail distance.

Frame   The outer edge of the snowshoe, to which the decking is attached; it provides the shape and structure for the snowshoe.

Gaiters  Water-resistant fabric “sleeves” that  covers the lower leg and ankle, to keep snow out of your boots.

gaiters ice

 

Heel lift   A metal bar at the heel area of the binding, which can be raised and lowered; Raising the heel lift reduces calf fatigue on steeper ascents.

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Incline   What you go up…and then you come down!

Jerky  A high-energy snack popular with many outdoors folks

Kiosk   An open, usually wooden, structure found at many trail heads, upon which may be posted trail maps, regulations, registration books, and other useful information.

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Leave No Trace  Refers to a set of ethical principles, which promote conservation, and minimizing recreational impact on nature ( i.e. pack it in, pack it out!) For snowshoers, the nastiest violations we usually encounter are dog poop ( yuk!) and the dreaded post-hole!

griff april babcock 17 posthole c

 

Mountains   The geological formations which call to us, and where we must go!

Night   A great time to get out on your snowshoes! Bring a headlamp, a hot beverage, and listen to the amazing sounds of darkness….it is especially amazing during a full moon.

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Outdoor Preparedness   Being ready for whatever you may encounter during your snowshoeing expeditions…dress appropriately, know first aid, have your maps, keep hydrated, watch the weather…stay safe!

Poles   Snowshoe poles can aid in your stability, especially on difficult terrain. The poling action also helps your workout include more upper body exercise.

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Quinzee   A snow shelter made by hollowing out a large pile of snow. The quinzee can provide warmth and protection as an emergency shelter.

Register  Signing in at a trailhead; helpful should you require assistance, as it may indicate your destination, companions, and time of departure and estimated return.

trail register

Sunscreen  It is important to protect yourself from the sun, even in winter!

Traverse   Travelling across a slope; secure the edge of the snowshoe into the slope before stepping. Poles and crampons are helpful for a safe traverse.

Uphill   Climbing direction which can result in your becoming sweaty, even in cold temperatures. Be sure to wear a wicking base layer to help keep you dry. Avoid cotton!

Views One of the best benefits of snowshoeing! Amazing vistas, across mountains and valleys, rivers, and fields….You may be amazed at the wildlife you see in a winter environment.

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Winter Fitness  Snowshoeing is a great activity for improving overall fitness, and may burn 400-1000 calories per hour, depending on the intensity of your travels across the snow.

Xanthocomic  The kind of snow you do not want to eat!

Yield   The snowshoer going down the hill should yield to the snowshoer coming up the hill…a standard of trail etiquette.

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Zipper Pull   You can get attachments to your jacket zipper that can make it easier to adjust zipper while wearing gloves; some have thermometers, lights, or whistles on them.

So that’s the snowshoeing alphabet…the most important letters? F-U-N !

 

 

Bubbly in the Kingdom…Welcome 2019!

 

The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is a term “used passionately throughout Vermont and beyond when referring to the corner of the state against the Canadian Border and the upper Connecticut River” (Vermont.com) This rural corner of the state is definitely one of our favorite areas in Vermont, with remote and often undisturbed land, fantastic recreational opportunities, and cabin rentals with snowshoe trails located right out the door. For the past few years, we have been fortunate enough to rent the Hadsel Mares cabin at Wheeler Pond ( though the Green Mountain Club) for the site of our year’s end, and New Year’s Eve celebrations. For reports of prior such celebratory stays, please check out our blog posts from Jan, 31, 2017, and Jan. 6, 2018. In these postings, you can clearly see that the winter weather can be quite variable, and we always wonder, right up until the day we depart for the cabin, what Mother Nature will hold for us.

This year turned out to be pretty fine! Our November and December weather had been marked with lots of snow, great snowshoeing conditions, and not too much oppressive cold. The week before we left for Hadsel, we saw a bit of fluctuation…some warming weather, rain, and icing…but our experience had told us that in the NEK the snowpack is pretty durable.  So we packed our microspikes, a few different pairs of our Tubbs snowshoes, and dog and human gear and attire suitable for a range of temperatures and conditions.

Since check-in time at the cabin is after lunch, we stopped along the way to spike hike a local trail network; trails had crusty snow and ice, were a bit firm, and it was chilly…but we enjoyed exploring the trails through the sugaring operation, adjacent to a lake we paddle in the summer.

 

 

After a few hours on the trails, we headed off to the Kingdom. The winding, narrow road up to the cabin was a bit slick, but we saw that the woods had good snow cover. The dogs have been to this cabin quite a few times, and seemed to recognize our destination, as they were getting quite excited when we pulled into the small parking space. Our homemade pulk was used to haul much of our gear; backpacks and portage packs went on our backs.

Inside, it was time to get the fire going; the cabin had been used the previous night, so the temperature inside was balmy, in the 40’s. Our settling in consisted also, as usual, of unloading gear, making up bunks, getting the dogs settled in, and checking log entries from those who have stayed here since our last visit ( which had been in October). This rather rustic and rough around the edges cabin, was in fine shape; the Green Mountain Club insures it stays clean, safe, and welcoming!

 

 

After lunch, we decided to head up to the Moose Mountain Trail, which has a nice overlook above the Wheeler Pond and the cabin. A ¼ mile road walk, and we were at the trailhead. The trail was packed out and firm, despite a good deep snow pack, so we used out spikes. It was cold ( teens), but sunny, with little wind. The trail has a few scrambles, and as I stepped a few feet off the trail to photograph Edgar and his dad heading up this area, I sank into 3 feet of snow….at least I was stable when taking the photos!

 

The trail above the lookout was unpacked; it was firm, but as Griff and I climbed further up, I did begin to sink a bit. As we were beginning to lose the sun as it lowered over the nearby mountains, I opted not to stop to put on my snowshoes. Instead, turned around  to rejoin Edgar and his dad as they had headed down the trial after the overlook.

So back to the cabin; bringing in more wood, shoveling out the outside fire ring ( full to the brim with frozen snow, ice, and unburned wood), and getting our dinner prep started. Easy dinner prep for this first night…the second night we would have Aunt Jackie join us, so a New Year’s Eve feast was planned! The dogs settled in for the night, and in our toasty cabin, sleep came easily.

 

The final day of 2018 was sunny, with temperatures in the 20’s. We headed ½ mile up the road, and up Wheeler Mountain trail, using spikes as we negotiated up the trail. The snow began to soften up, and was getting a bit clumpier, so I opted to switch over to my Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes; great traction, and security on loose snow as well as a few icy spots. I was able to bushwack around a few tricky spots, enjoying the deep soft snow in the woods.

 

Knowing that we would be heading off to a different hike that afternoon, we turned around after about 90 minutes…have to save some energy for the next hike!

While back at the cabin preparing lunch, the dogs suddenly alerted, excitedly running around  and looking out the window of the cabin, thrilled that…..Their beloved Aunt Jackie had arrived!

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Once Jackie had unloaded her gear and settled in, we had lunch, and decided to take a short (30 minute) road trip to get to our next hike. We had stumbled upon Sentinel Rock State Park in October, impressed by the expansive views. At that time we had not explored the developing trail network, but in December we had snowshoed in this new state park, guessing our way around the freshly blazed trails. The snow had been 3 feet deep in places, marked only by lots of moose sign…it was apparent that no one else had recently trekked on these trails! So we thought Jackie might enjoy these trails, as they are not too difficult, rarely used, and have lots of wildlife spotting opportunities. We arrived, to discover that the exposed field (leading to the trails) was now windblown, mostly devoid of snow, but with open marshy areas and icy patches. Spikes got us safely to the trail’s entrance to the adjacent wooded area…alas, lots of snow in here! Snowshoes on, and time to explore!  We found beautiful conditions, and look forward to more snowshoeing on these trails, as we have been told moose do frequent this area, (confirming our belief after all the scat we saw in December.)

 

After returning to the cabin, it was time to prep our New Year’s Eve feast; we would not be waiting until midnight, but rather celebrate a bit earlier in the evening. A nice fire was started outside, and as a light snow began to fall , we cooked up some filet mignon and chicken. Inside, the lobster meat was being thawed, and the rice boiled up. A little melted butter, and some sparkling and cool champagne, and our feast was ready! Surf and Turf, winter cabin camping style…does it get any better?

 

A late evening trip to the “House de Potte ” (privy) revealed that a steady snow was falling; however, the temperatures were rising, and by morning, the rain and sleet had arrived. We had enjoyed 4 delightful hikes so far, so rather than get soaked while hiking the trail around the pond ( our planned morning excursion), we decide to have a nice slow paced bug-out, and then head off for a nice breakfast.

Our favorite local restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, so we would not be enjoying our breakfast there. Plan B worked out just fine, and we had a nice hot morning repast, bringing in 2019 in culinary style (at a great Vermont diner).

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So now it is 2019! The new year has seen a return to nice snowfall, and more fantastic snowshoeing conditions.  I hit 50 days snowshoeing on January 9th; last season, it was mid-February before that number was attained. We hope that some of the local dog-friendly x-c trail networks are groomed soon, so that we can get in a little skijoring. We will have some more cabin camping trips, as well as our annual early March snowshoeing trip to Maine or the Adirondacks. Though winter is firmly entrenched ( it is -12 degrees today) , we remind ourselves that we will be paddling again in less than 4 months!  Happy New Year!

Welcoming Winter…Windy, Wet, and Woebegone!

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The first day of winter is here…along with a very rainy and windy change in our weather. All our beautiful snow is at risk! Being Vermonters, we recognize that we will have fluctuations in our weather, and have learned to live with whatever is thrown at us. However, this storm action seems particularly cruel, since we have enjoyed some of the best early season snowshoeing ever. 36 Days snowshoeing so far…last year at this time we were still in single digits! Our deep snow base probably will result in our still having a White Christmas, though the snow may be a bit crusted over and frozen after the temperatures drop again in a few days.  More snowstorms will be arriving, and we shall return to our winter explorations, near and far.

Here is a short video of our December…stick with it to the end, if you want to see our dogs on their annual “earn your keep” trip, helping us select, cut, and then pull out the Christmas Tree. Merry Christmas to all our readers, and we will see you after we return from our New Year’s winter camping and snowshoeing trip. On to 2019!

 

Five Below, but There’s New Snow!

 

Five inches of new fluffy snow, on top of a deep, weather-resistant (we had a few days of rain) snowpack…but with the temperatures at 5 below zero, we will wait until later today to get the dogs out for their hike.  We will utilize dog booties, paw wax, dog coats…all the necessary accoutrements , plus these are the final days of having to wear orange for hunting season safety. If it becomes a short snowshoe outing, no matter, since the dogs have been busily taking advantage of all our early season snow and we have over 20 days snowshoeing already!

Snowvember. That is what they were calling it. November 2018. It began as a pretty typical month, with drizzly, grey, wet weather ,with maybe an occasional dusting of short-lasting snow. Our stick season hikes were tolerable (the dogs just enjoy getting out in any weather), but not particularly noteworthy.

 

 

We paddled until November 13th (our 131st day on the water), and had to stop paddling once the snow made access to the launch sites impassible. The water had begun to show some icing in,  but this year we did not have to actually break through ice to paddle.

Some late season paddling ( safely ensconced in dry suit, neoprene booties, and the dogs in neoprene vests under their life jackets)

 

 

There were a few days overlap between paddling and snowshoeing seasons…paddle one day, snowshoe the next, then paddle again. However, early snowshoeing required heading up to the mountain and higher elevations. However, by November 16th, we were back snowshoeing our regular winter trails! And in the most amazing conditions! Deep snow! Heavy snow! Soft snow!  We have been working hard, plowing through the beautiful white stuff, dealing with a few very cold days, and a few rainy days, but so far the season seems to be one for the record books. Once hunting season is over, and the XC ski trails are groomed, we hope to have epic skijoring conditions, too. The quick onslaught of winter really resulted in an abbreviated bikejor season, but the dogs should be in great shape from all their hard work in the snow so far.

 

We are once again serving as Tubbs Snowshoe Ambassadors! We love our selection of Tubbs snowshoes, and they carry us through whatever conditions we may face. Check out our information, and lots of other helpful snowshoe tips, on the tubbssnowshoes.com site! We are also going to be testing out and reviewing some new dog gear for trailspace.com, the best site for honest and helpful gear reviews for all outdoor activities!

 

One of the really cool things we monitor each winter is the development of the ice falls on one of our favorite local trails….This is what we have so far. Since we hit up this trail a few times a month, check our facebook page ( Vermont Paddle Pups) for the ongoing photo report!

 

 

News Flashes!

#1  Gryphon and Edgar were both brought to Vermont from South Carolina kill shelters, by our local animal shelter the North Country Animal League. Last summer, NCAL asked if we could share our story for a PETCO company Holiday Wishes Contest, in hopes of winning a financial grant for NCAL. Well, proud to announce that Gryphon was selected, and we earned a $5000.00 grant for NCAL!  Gryphon also was able to go to the local PETCO store to receive his own shopping spree, and get lots of the publicity photos taken. He was initially a bit unnerved by all the attention, bright lights, and slippery floor in the store…but walking all the treat aisles, with all the accompanying odors, really made him happy! Here is a link to the PETCO site and Gryphon’s contribution.

https://www.petcofoundation.org/love-story/adopted-dog-jumps-into-a-life-of-outdoor-adventures

#2  Edgar and Gryphon are featured as the “Dogs of August” in the fund-raising calendar for our Veterinary Clinic.  They proudly grace the calendar, which is sold to raise money for a veterinary care assistance fund. And, our former Agility instructor has her dog in the calendar too!

 

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So, our winter begins in earnest. We will once again spend the New Year celebrating in an off-grid cabin in the wilds of the Northeast Kingdom, snowshoeing right out the door. This year, we certainly are hoping for temperatures a bit more welcoming that we had last year (over 20 below). We are also planning on trying out a different remote hut in the Kingdom, later in the winter, with access to some of our favorite trails in the more northeastern part of the state.

We are so fortunate to live in a part of the country that provides us with endless recreational opportunities. Winter here can be very looooong, and if we did not go out and play in the weather, it would be an intolerable wait for spring.  So while the canoes and kayaks hibernate, and the paddles decorate our walls, we hit the trails and mountains for a Vermonters ideal winter!

Merry Chrismas and Happy New Year…On to 2019!

2018 xmas canoe 3

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (L.M. Montgomery)

October in Vermont…we may have beautiful warm weather or cold rain and snow. High winds are common, and our daylight hours diminish rapidly. It is definitely a transitional season, starting as summer ends, and ending with Stick Season, marked by leafless trees and cool grey days. However, it is a wonderful month! We did not have radiant foliage colors this year, but we did enjoy the muted shades of red and orange. The dogs get re-energized when cool weather arrives, and we head out for cool fall hikes and we start bikejoring to prep for winter season.

Paddling season is drawing to a close…perhaps a week or two remain, as it all depends on when the lakes become iced over. My Mythic Gear Dry Suit has proven to be a great investment, as it allows me to safely extend paddling season. We have yet to find dry suits for dogs, but a neoprene vest under their life jacket provides an extra level of thermal protection for the pups.

The Tubbs snowshoes are on deck—just waiting to be called out to attack the first real snowfall! We hope that it will be a quick changeover from paddling season to snowshoeing season!

This short video sums up our October activities…hiking,camping, paddling, and enjoying all that Vermont has to offer. Our next Blog Post? Snowshoeing! ( If Mother Nature cooperates of course) Enjoy, and get out there with your dogs to have safe and fun adventures!

 

To Digby Neck and Schoodic Woods…our Ocean Adventures Continue!

With the ocean breezes blowing us along, we traveled from Kejimkujik Seaside heading along the shoreline route on our way to Digby Neck, NS. Since we had to board the ferry from Digby in a few days, we decided to camp on Digby Neck and explore a section of Nova Scotia we had never previously visited. Campground options near the ferry were a bit limited, so we had chosen Whale Cove Campground, about 40 minutes south of the town of Digby, and not too far from trails we wanted to hike, and islands we wanted to visit.

One of our targeted activities in Digby was Doing Laundry! We located a few options within the town, so planned to check them out after we had gotten set up at the campground.

Whale Cove was located in the perfect spot for us…it is a rather funky little campground, with some open sites, some with water view ( none available), and small sites with hedgerows providing privacy.  Definitely not an upscale spot, but it served our needs as a base of operation for our explorations. We were thrilled to discover, upon our check-in at 4pm, that there is an on-site laundry room. But, unfortunately, we were told there was a planned power outage for the campground starting at 6pm. Since the laundry facilities were in use at that time, we said we could do laundry first thing in the morning, or up in Digby while were were getting dinner.

Sure enough, when we arrived in Digby at 5:30, we discovered that the town was also subject to the outage, so the restaurants were all closing, except for one, which has a generator. We did enjoy a fantastic dinner of famous Digby Scallops, and then a nice stroll around the harbor town.

We never did have a campfire at the campground…we really did not spend much time just sitting around our site, and the fire pits were…well, let’s just say “unique”. Each site had a lawnmower base, upon which was located a metal ring ( washing machine drum?). This is what folks use to have a campfire…apparently, the inherent mobility of such a fire ring is efficient when RVs, pup-up campers, and tents of various sizes use a site. We just found it less than attractive!

whale cove fire pit 3

  Do you want a delicate or heavy duty fire?

Our full day on Digby Neck was definitely a busy one…we took two ferries to get to Brier Island, a small ( 5 miles long) island at the southern tip of Digby Neck. Short quick ferry rides ( 7.00 CDN each RT ride) brought us to the village of Westport on Brier Island. One small “we carry everything” general store provided us with a lunch to go, a few groceries we needed, and some gas for the car. Then we drove a few miles to Seal Cove, where a network of trails is located right along the ocean. Beautiful! The dogs loved hiking the trails, the sea breeze was blowing, and we watched the numerous sea birds and Harbour Seals.

Rocky shores and endless views!

Marine Life!

Of course, Brier Island has lighthouses, so we had to pay a quick visit to at least one…had to get the iconic lighthouse photos!

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Our next stop was a wildlife preserve, designated as a protected birding site. We saw hawks, gulls, many small birds, herons, and even made a skeletal discovery. Gryphon stopped to sniff what looked like a skeletal arm with fingers…but the fingers had remnants of fur on them. Locating some additional skeletal parts resulted in our conclusion that this was a seal skeleton. Definitely a fascinating first!

In this area, we had a great chat with a few local residents who were collecting Rose Hips…we had seen these ocean side plants on all the seaside trails, and we were informed that they are collected to make Rose Hip jelly. Prior to boarding the ferry to return north, we managed to find a jar of home made Rose Hip Jelly in a little shop; bringing home a piece of Brier Island tradition!

On our way back to the campground, we stopped to hike to Balancing Rock. This geological curiosity is mentioned in all the tourist guides, and the hike is dog-friendly. Though the hike is only about 1.5 miles, it meanders through different types of environments, from sandy scrub, marshy areas, and wooded pines. There is a set of 235 steps that lead down through the woods to a viewing platform; amazing, overlooking the ocean, a basalt column 37 feet high, balanced on two points on a rocky ledge. Incredible to see, and so glad we hiked along this tourist trail. Once again, we received many complements on our dogs’ trail etiquette from other hikers.

Our long day finished, we made a quick-n-easy dinner at the campsite, and prepped for our morning bug-out before heading to the ferry dock. Early in the morning we heard rain pelting the roof of the GO…damn, we really hate to break camp in the rain. Thankfully, by 7am, the rain had dissipated to a light mist, and we were able to head out by 8am, remaining fairly dry. A stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast, then off to wait in line for our placement in the ferry to St. John. The dogs made a final “pit stop”, and we bade farewell to Nova Scotia!

A rainy but uneventful ferry crossing brought us back to St.John, NB, and soon after, a return to the USA. This was a designated travel day, so the steady rain did not bother us, and we knew that this portion of the country had also suffered drought and needed the rain. We took some scenic options along the coast, on our way to the Schoodic Peninsula.

When we originally planned this trip, we discussed driving home via Umbagog State Park in northern NH, a beautiful paddling location. However, in 2018, the park was closed as of  September 3 for renovations. This was actually not bad thing, as our 3 days at Schoodic were wonderful.

We have each been to Acadia National Park many times…it is one of the busiest national parks, and visitors to Mt. Desert Island face crowds, traffic tie-ups, and limited parking at popular sites. However, the Schoodic Woods portion of the park, about a hour north/east is much quieter and less crowded. The campground is in only its second full year of operation, and is designed for privacy,  quiet, and in a way to preserve the dark sky location. We arrived at this modern, beautiful campground early evening, as the rain was stopping, and a foggy mist was settling in. As we set up, we encountered the first of curious onlookers, fascinated by our GO camper!

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The campsites are arranged to provide maximum privacy and quiet. We noticed a path to an adjacent ( behind our site) campsite; cool, since that was the site that Martha and Steve, relatives who live nearby would be using for our second two nights.

We paddled two different lakes located in the general area of Schoodic, and also did a hike up to Schoodic Head, and also along the rocky coastline.  Great campsites at night, in the huge circular fire pits, beautiful star-filled skies ( no external camper lights allowed in the campground), and critters and birds visiting our site. We spent hours around the campfire catching up with Martha and Steve. What a great few days to wind down as we neared the end of our vacation!

Schoodic Woods Campground, Acadia National Park

Paddling Donnell Pond and Jones Pond

 

Hiking, hot and muggy, but great views!

Salty Dogs!

So our trip came to a close, 13 days after it began. Only 1700 miles this year, which I think the dog’s appreciated!  Nova Scotia was fantastic, Schoodic was wonderful, the weather was outstanding, and we had no glitches in our travel plans. Our well-traveled adventure dogs are home, looking forward to canoe camping and cabin camping this fall.

Summer is over, and fall is upon us. Before we know it, we will be digging out the snowshoes and skis for cold weather adventures ( but not yet, still another month or so of paddling!)

Who knows where we will venture on our next big adventure!

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