A Winter Wildlife Collection

A bit of a different post today. We are aware that some of our followers do not use Facebook, twitter, or other social media. We share many of our nature videos on those sites, so to accommodate those folks, we present a video of our nature sightings since mid-November ( basically, after paddling season ended). The clips were taken while snowshoeing, or traveling to/from trailheads, or on dedicated trips to birding hot posts. I apologize for the shakiness; they are all taken handheld, often in rather challenging weather conditions!

If you want to skip to highlights of the 14-minute compilation, our favorites are at 1:08, 5:33, 9:36, and at 13:10 .

There are over 15 different animals in the clips. Can you identify them all?

Enjoy. Soon we’ll be back wildlife watching from the canoe….only 45 more days

..and on to February!

Just a quick posting, with a short video of our January snowshoeing. It turned out to be a pretty fine snowy month, and even though it finished with bitter cold wind-chill days, were able to snowshoe on 28/31 days in the month. February is beginning with a nice snowstorm, so lots more snowshoeing, along with some skijoring and sledding, awaits!

Ten weeks until Paddling Season!

We made it! 2020 is in the trash heap!

What a strange December we had….no snow, crazy weather, and we won’t even go into the political and COVID situations. Christmas was rather subdued in 2020; we could not visit family, family could not visit us, and we could not gather for church or choral events. It really did seem as though December 2020 was just something to “ get through”, and on to a better year in 2021.

Late November and into December: not much snow, but we continued our daily hikes and outdoor activities! We did a lot of birding, and found some winter eagles, hawks, and even a snowy owl!

We traveled south to a different part of Vermont, when they received a nice snowstorm (and we got rain). When we needed to get out on snowshoes, we headed to the areas where snow is more resilient. So we kept quite active, waiting patiently for a real snow dump!

And when we got a bit of snow:

Our annual Christmas tree-joring expedition was hampered by low snow amounts, so it was more of a mud-pull than normal. Edgar needed a bit of help, but it was still fun to continue this annual tradition. Oh, and of course we used Duncan’s new canoe for our annual Christmas Canoe photo!

We had our fingers crossed for most of December, hoping that COVID restrictions would not cancel our plans to spend New Years Eve at Nulhegan Hut in our Northeast Kingdom.  The Vermont Huts system had closed huts in the spring, and only gradually re-opened then in the summer and fall. Since COVID cases were rising sharply in Vermont as the fall progressed, we feared another closure would ruin our plans. However, all was good, and though the dogs’ Aunt Jackie could not join us due to restrictions, we welcomed 2021 from the cozy confines of the hut.

The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont normally has more snow that even here in north central Vermont, but not this year. It became clear as we packed that we would need our micro-spikes more than snowshoes, at least for the first 2 days of our 3 day outing. No matter, we love this hut, and knew that we would have a great time no matter what the weather or trail conditions. And again, with fingers crossed, we saw that some real snow was forecast for our final day at the hut!

We stopped for a nice spike-hike at Northwoods on the way to the hut, had a great lunch in Island Pond, and arrived at the hut mid-afternoon.

We took advantage of the new parking area, and easily loaded our pulks…no deep snow to drag them across the trail this year! The dogs have stayed at this hut many times, so felt right at home. We relaxed by the fire, kept the bubbly chilled in a shoveled pile of snow, and waiting for the arrival of the new year. A full moon outside, hot fondue on the table, and great company meant we could ignore the lack of snow on the ground. For two days we explored many of our favorite local trails and fed the hungry birds at Moose Bog.

And then, on our second evening, it began to snow! After packing up the sleds, and loading up the car, we headed through mostly un-plowed roads to a state park that has a fun trail loop, perfect for snowshoeing. It was glorious in all the fresh fluffy snow! It was a great way to end our adventure in the kingdom, and to welcome 2021.

So far January has proven to be a nice snowy month, allowing us to catch up on our snowshoeing outings. We’ve been out nearly every day since January 3rd, and have had some primo conditions! We’ll try to update this blog at the end of the month, and show off the dogs’ deep snow skills, and hopefully, a bit of skijoring action!

Keep well , Happy New Year!

A Peculiar End to our Pandemic Paddling Season!

As October came to close, we had typical fall stick season weather…grey, raw, windy and cool. Water temperatures began to drop, and it became clear it was nearing dry suit season. Duncan was able to get out and paddle his new canoe a few times before packing it in for the season due to cold water, but I continued on paddling, at times even having to break through a bit of ice at the access areas.

AS we entered November, we even had a few days of snow, making for some interesting paddling…the herons, loons and eagles did not mind the snow, and it was fascinating to watch them dive and feed in the wintry conditions.

The, the snow melted, and we receive a week of unseasonably warm and sunny conditions. Freakishly warm air, but the water remained very cold, so I paddled early in the day, before I got too hot in my dry suit.

The warm weather ended, but since the water remained free of ice, I was able to paddle a few more days. Each dog was able to paddle a favorite location for his final paddle of the season, and Edgar and I wrapped up the season on a cold grey day, 11/13/20, our paddle day #180. Our season began on 4/8/20, so we paddled 82% of the days between our start and finish date, on 39 different lakes. Our assortment of lakes paddled was diminished due to travel restrictions, but certainly I cannot complain!

Interspersed with our paddling, the dogs enjoyed hiking many of our local trails…with ongoing hunting seasons, we stick to trails where we are not likely to encounter hunters, and festoon ourselves with orange or neon.

During our 3 day “winter”, before the warm weather returned, Gryphon was able to get out hiking in 3-4 inches of snow, and really loved it! We are fortunate to have true snow-loving dogs!

Edgar even got to go snowshoeing! With a foot or more of soft snow, in cold and blustery conditions, it was a moment of true winter. Hard to believe, but a few days layer, we were paddling in 65 degree temperatures!

On days when it was too windy or cold to paddle, and hiking trails were likely to be slippery, we had the option of taking Edgar bikejoring. Gryphon does not jor any more, but enjoys going along as a spectator! Edgar will be ready for skijor season, and for his annual task of pulling out our Christmas tree.

So I finish up this rather lengthy post with a video compilation of some of our wildlife sightings this year…more eagles and green heron than ever before, lots of otters, mink, deer, and one bear seen while paddling.

Who knows what the next few months will bring? Vermont has seen a steady rise in Covid cases, after leading the nation in low counts for 7 months. Just too many folks disregarding protocols, selfishly gathering in large groups, not distancing, not wearing masks, and not abiding by travel restrictions.

We cannot plan next year’s trips, as we don’t even know if we will be allowed to leave Vermont. We have our fingers tightly crossed that our New Year’s hut camping trip can happen, as it will be the perfect way to bid adieu to this annus horribilis !

Stuck in a Soggy Stick Season

As the rain continues to fall, so does the likelihood of my getting any more canoe camping trips this season. Edgar was promised one more solo trip, but the weather has not been cooperating!

After 6 month of paddling in drought conditions, we entered October not really knowing what to expect in terms of foliage, but looking forward to ending this very challenging paddling year on an “up” note. In early October we found some pretty spectacular foliage, but then suddenly, stick season was upon us…in our northern paddling areas, the leaves dropped quickly, leaving muted tones of yellow and rust.

Daily paddling has become problematic, since we have entered a period of rainy weather,with wind and often cold temperatures. We’ve even had some thunderstorms, unusual for us this late in the season.

We have been lucky enough to have some nice late-season paddling, though, especially if we head out early in the morning.

After morning paddling,we like to get the dogs out for a hike…usually on local trails, scoping out some of our favorite snowshoeing trails in anticipation of the upcoming winter! We will once again be serving as Tubbs Snowshoe Ambassadors…all the indications are that this will be a crazy busy winter for back country winter activities, given the new restrictions at ski areas.

We did manage to get out for our annual Closing Weekend canoe camping trip, at Green River Reservoir State Park. Closing weekend used to be a quiet one at the park…leaves are usually past peak, and the weather is iffy, so the park is not booked to its usual capacity. However, this year the park has seen incredible usage, breaking all records…so I feared it might be too busy for the pure enjoyment of October solitude. However, apparently the cool fall forecast kept a lot of campers away.

We did actually delay our departure for one day, since the forecast for our planned fist night was for high winds, thunderstorms, heavy rain,and hail.

Instead, we headed out early Sunday morning, in brisk and sunny conditions. Edgar and my husband paddled out with us, to join us for breakfast while we set up camp.

After Edgar and his Dad left, Griff and I went for a nice paddle, had a hot lunch at the campsite, and then enjoyed a drop in the wind so we could paddle up the far end of the lake.

Late season paddle camping is marked by darkness arriving quite early, especially when the sun sets behind the woods of your campsite. A nice fire kept us warm, dinner was hot and filling, and our tent provided a cozy escape from the dropping temperatures.

And,we have news…a new arrival to our fleet!

Duncan was able to find a beautiful used 2020 Souris River Tranquility solo Kevlar canoe, priced at a very reasonable cost, from a northern NY outfitter. Lucky for us,the outfitter is located in a “green Covid zone” county, so we were able to take a day trip over to pick it up.

Of course, we had to take it out for a maiden voyage…it performed beautifully, and I may just consider it for my next canoe. We will have the forward thwart moved forward next spring, to permit more room for Edgar, and for Griff when I decide to use this canoe. But it has been fun to try out a Kevlar canoe..so light, and a delight to paddle!

So now we are dodging a spell of crappy weather…wind, rain, and unsettled temperatures. I hope to break my record of 166 days paddled in a year, and it is looking quite possible. It may mean paddling in some rainy conditions, on grey days, but I hope the sun makes a few more appearances!

And so October wanes…with a forecast for more rain next week, and then dropping temperatures, it seems unlikely Edgar will get his final camping trip. We’ll have to stick to day paddle trips, as we transition into November, and the soon-to-arrive winter season.

“And All At Once Summer Collapsed Into Fall” (Oscar Wilde)

A quickie post, since we are definitely overdue!

Two months…two months that have flown by, or have dragged on for an eternity depending upon our mindset. Since our last posting, we have continued to paddle daily, enjoying remote and infrequently used lakes that create perfect social distancing opportunities. And now we face stick season, and the wind-down of the paddling season!

In this summer of extreme heat and drought, we have managed to encounter rain on almost all of our camping trips…farmers should reach out to us, to see when we are scheduled to go camping, because that is when the rains will fall!

The dogs will be gearing up the length, intensity, and frequency of their hikes soon, as we are prepping for snowshoe season. Yes, in only 2 months, we’ll be out on the snow!

Our Algonquin Trip was canceled, since we cannot cross the border into Canada, and our cross-state travel has been limited by COVID restrictions. But we really cannot complain. Local camping has been pretty fine, foliage season was brilliant, and we managed to find a Kevlar solo canoe for my husband (I am sick of lugging that 65 lb. beast of a kayak around with him).

In another 4 weeks, the canoes and kayak will be packed away for the winter, but until then, get out the dry suit, neoprene vest, thick booties, and paddle on!

Here are some photos from the past 2 months of our outings….we’ll update again once paddling season ends.

When is it ever going to rain?

Drought conditions, and the hottest July on record…facing these conditions, we have made sure we get out paddling early in the morning, and we avoid the lakes where the low water levels are making paddling problematic. But wait…we have had some rain.  In fact, some pretty torrential downpours.  When? Whenever I have been camping! Yes, as I test out a Big Agnes tent for Trailspace.com, I have encountered perfect conditions to evaluate its weather-resistance.

Dogs staying out of the rain!

Our camping plans, as those of many others, were tossed upside down due to the pandemic. Our scheduled trip to Algonquin Provincial Park in September is all but cancelled, due to border closures…we are keeping paddles crossed that we will still be able to take part in Plan B, a week in the Adirondacks. Our local camping area  trips have been limited by record breaking attendance; gone are the days when you could just show up and get a spot. We tend to avoid crowds, so lots of sunrise day paddling has taken the place of early mornings at a campsite. We have managed to get in a few GO camper trips, and a few overnight canoe camping outings, but not nearly as many as in a “normal” season.

We continue to test gear for Trailspace, serve on two boards for lake advocacy groups, participate in Vermont Loon watch activities, and monitor water quality for the state DEC. Our social media presence is growing, and our Instagram page is getting more and more followers each week. People love dog photos…put a human in the picture, and the number of likes drops!

Our nature watching has been quite productive…for us, a record number of eagle sightings (26 to date), and also the highest number of green herons seen. There are fewer loon chicks this year on the lakes we frequent, and we have seen ( and recovered) some abandoned eggs. No moose yet this year, but a bear was seen on the shore as I paddled out to a campsite.

We used our tandem canoe one weekend, and the dogs seemed to enjoy the change of pace…they do have a bit more room in the Swift “big boat”, especially during day paddles w/o any camping gear.  Edgar has become quite the accomplished canoeist ( vs. riding in his kayak) from all his outings in my solo boat.

However, I still think they each prefer to be in a solo boat!

On our outings, we have been able to take the dogs on hikes, seeking out cool,shaded trails with lots of water. We have also visited state historical sites, providing the dogs with some interesting locations to explore.

 

So we are off  into August, with 2 camping trips planned, one a local canoe camping trip, and one a GO trip to a state park in the Northeast Kingdom. More canoeing adventures await, and we anticipate even more eagle sightings! Nearly 100 days on the water so far this season, so I guess we cannot complain too much about weather and camping difficulties!

                                           Eagles of Vermont….(though one was banded in MA)

 

Summer Solstice…after a Spring to Forget !

Two months have passed since our last post…and this will be a brief post, trying to catch up on what has happened with the pups since mid-April.

Paddling has continued on a regular basis, and I am up to 57 days to far this season ( ahead of last year’s pace). I have taken each of the dogs on a solo canoe camping trip, at the unregulated campsites at our closest lake.  They each had a great time, and I was able to begin testing the new Big Agnes Black Tail Hotel 3 tent that we are evaluating for Trailspace.

 

 

We have had 3 camping reservations at Vermont State Parks cancelled, since the parks have delayed opening until June 26th. Though many folks are camping at the sites on Green River Reservoir, despite the closures, I cannot in good conscience do so…as a member of the Board of Directors at FGRR, I feel I should abide by the state rules. For now, I am paddling Green River bright and early, day paddles only. However, we are planning to use the GO for camping soon, and I do have canoe camping reservations for later this month.

Our September trip to Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada is up in the air, since the border will remain closed until at least July 21st. Also, Vermont retains a 14 day quarantine requirement upon return, after visiting certain locations. We would not want to have to stay in our house for 14 days upon return from the trip! We are permitted to visit nearby locations in NH and NY state, so we have been able to visit a few favorite paddling spots.

 

Our wildlife watching has been quite satisfactory so far, though we have yet to see a moose. Bears,eagles,loons,herons of all shapes and sizes, and many more are featured on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

I have completed a review for Trailspace on a pair of Keen hiking boots, which are getting a workout on our hikes. Each afternoon, after paddling, I try to get the dogs out for a local hike.  Edgar is also testing out a Kurgo Air Journey harness…the review for that will be posted in July. Though we had a small May snowfall, the early season bugs, and then high humidity and heat, have reminded me why I really prefer winter hiking/snowshoeing!

https://www.trailspace.com/gear/keen/terradora-ii-waterproof-boot/#review40659

 

We are continuing to volunteer as lay monitors for our state DEC, monitoring water quality at Wolcott Pond. It is fun to get out to that little pond, since it is usually very empty, except for loons and chicks!

The pups are also enjoying their roomy  new PaddlePupMobile…a Subaru Ascent. It is a bit more of a “reach” to get the boats on the roof, but so far,so good.

So that’s it for our update. We wear our masks, keep our social distance, and use our hand sanitizers, hoping that summer is a bit more peaceful that this past forgettable Spring!

Stickin’ Close to Home!

In this time of uncertainty, we are adjusting to the “new normal”….such as ordering TP from amazon, because for 3 weeks there was none on our local store shelves. Our first such order , of 40 rolls, was stolen during shipment, so we had to re-order. We have almost extinguished our supply of hand sanitizer, including the stock from our camping gear. Our family gatherings are on ZOOM, and if we do see another human being, it is behind plexiglass during our infrequent shopping excursions. But we cannot complain. My husband is still working ( from a new home office), and our extended family has remained healthy. And, given our location, we have multiple options for getting outside and exercising with the dogs, all local, requiring only a short drive, and with no interaction with others.

  Gryphon enjoying mud/end of snow/closed state park season!

Edgar, the great wildlife finder!

And, yes paddling has returned! With dry suit, woollies, and neoprene, we have dressed for the water temperature, and have begun exploring our very local lakes and ponds. Many of our favorite birds have returned, and we have enjoyed complete solitude and isolation on the water.

Griff has really enjoyed the extra room in his canoe!

 

Edgar will be glad to get back in his kayak, once the water warms…but he loves going out in the canoe with me!

Since we are doing no presentations this spring, we were excited to be asked to participate in a webinar series sponsored by the Seacoast Paddleboard Club of NH….here is a You Tube version of our event. It was unusual not to have the physical interaction with the audience ( i.e. we could not throw out swag!), but it was fun!

Keep the faith, keep healthy, and lets all look forward to better days…

 

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was a time of innocence, a time of confidence…. (Paul Simon)

snowshoe102 35

Was it only a month ago? The virus had not yet gone viral, and our end of winter activities were proceeding as normal…snowshoeing daily, making reservations for canoe camping trips and travel adventures, ordering some new paddling gear, and prepping equipment for a spring and summer of fun. Little did we know what awaited all of us.

How quickly it all changed! On March 15th we took some family members from Maine out snowshoeing on a favorite trail; at the time, there was just beginning to be talk about cancellations of St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

The trail leads to the remote campsite where we were scheduled for camping during opening weekend of GRRSP, May 15-17th….maybe next year!

At the time, I was speaking to our son who lives in Washington DC area, about deciding when I should come down in April for an annual spring visit. I had checked for events at the Kennedy Center, and looked into booking a kayak tour of the Washington DC monuments, anticipating a few warm spring days in our nation’s capital. Nope, not gonna happen. Our daughter in Canada said she would be trying to get down for a spring visit; of course, once the borders closed, that became impossible.

When the situation became obviously quite severe, we foolishly assumed that our “Vermont Bubble” would protect us…deep down, we knew that the social, economic, and recreational effects would reach us eventually, but it seemed so surreal. The dogs are, of course, oblivious to the situation, and have provided welcome comfort and consistency in these uncertain times.

 

Though we have had to make adjustments, we consider ourselves fortunate. We live very close to a number of trail options, where we are confident that we will not encounter any other hikers. Snowshoeing ended a bit earlier than usual ( 103 days total, I think), since the mountains and many of the larger trail networks all closed as a preventative action; no need for people getting hurt, when rescue personnel are also dealing with the Covid-19 situation!  We did manage to get in some end-of-season  snowshoeing in local state parks and on local trails seldom used, where the snow hangs on a bit longer than other trails. We are pretty much now into mud season hiking, enjoying a taste of bare ground whenever it is encountered.

 

My husband has set up an office and can work from home, so he is sticking to a “normal” schedule.  The dogs get out for their daily hike each morning, but the hikes are more local, and are a bit shorter in duration. Though I tend to prefer solo hiking, the enforced social isolation has seemed a bit strange.

I did manage to get the modification to my canoe taken care of…I moved the forward thwart ahead a bit, to provide Griff a bit more room to turn around and lie down, better accommodating his surgically repaired knee.  We actually got out on the water last week, and he seemed to enjoy the extra room. The water was cold, but the sun was shining, and the sky was bright blue…neoprene for Griff under his life jacket, and dry suit gear for me, so we kept safe and comfortable.

 

Now snow and cold have returned, at least for a few days, so we are not sure we will get out for our Easter Sunrise paddle.  We are able to access a few local lakes with open water, where we will not see anyone else, so are able to follow the guidelines in our state.

The Stay at Home conditions here in Vermont have allowed outdoor recreation; however, camping will probably not happen until mid-June at the earliest. The cancellation of traditional early season camping trips is frustrating, but we cannot dwell on that. We are fortunate to be healthy, still employed (and retired) and living in an area of great community support.  I love watching the birds return to our area, and though I am not taking any birding road trips, locally we have had some lovely bird and wildlife sightings!

 

Our local camping trips will be in a flux for a while, and we will have to be tolerant…everyone who has had their scheduled trips cancelled will be attempting to get out as soon as they are able. We will reserve our camping spots for September in Algonquin (last we checked, we could still do that), keep active locally, re-schedule all the cancelled doctor, dentist, and vet appointments as soon as possible, and look forward to re-connecting with friends and family in the real world, instead of on Zoom.

Keep healthy, safe, and keep connected…our social media connections to others in the outdoor recreation world have been invaluable in the past…now, they are essential. All paddle shows and presentations have obviously been cancelled, but through our paddle show connections, we were asked to do a webinar  on Paddling with your Pups, via the Seacoast Paddleboard Club.  That should be fun, and is happening on April 19th. Paddle On, Hike On, Camp on…all in this new sense of reality!