“Look around, Look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now….”

Amidst the current  turmoil and discord in the world,  in is wonderful to have an escape…yes escape. The troubles in the world, the nonsensical political climate, and the hatred between factions do not disappear when we head off into the woods or lakes.  However, for a few days we can focus on the beauty of nature, the amazing ability of wildlife to bring new life into the world each year, and enjoy the peace and quiet of being “unplugged”.

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We did encounter a sad situation on a local pond, when we discovered a dead loon in the water, something we had never before seen. Even though the loon population is robust in Vermont, it was still unsettling to discover one of these majestic birds in his final resting place. We coordinated with the Game Warden and folks from the Loon Recovery Project to collect the bird, so that the reason for its demise can be determined.

It has been a very busy month. Some family estate business has finally been resolved, and the weather has been pretty nice for most activities. We have had a few HHH days (hazy,hot,humid) , requiring us to either head out very early in the morning, or limit our dogs’ activities to splashing in the local streams.

We’ve been out quite a few nights for camping, primarily at our favorite spot, Green River Reservoir State Park.  We continue to support the Green Mountain Club, the Friends of Green River Reservoir, and the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir. This past month has included some very friendly social gatherings of these groups, which are so critical to preserving this special place called Vermont.

I am excited to begin my tenure as a L.L. Bean Gear Tester. It will be fun to see what they provide to me, and I am sure that whatever it is, I will give it a good workout for a fair assessment! I have another Brand Ambassadorship in the wings, but I will hold off on that announcement, until confirmation is received.

So, enough of text content…Here is a short video of our July activities. We have exciting upcoming trips planned, to the Adirondacks and to Quebec, for lots of hiking and paddling.

Paddle Safe and Have Fun!

 

 

And the mists had all solemnly risen now, and the world lay spread before me…..

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Mist. Mist and Fog….Along with the rising sun and the glorious sunrise colors, getting out early in the canoe or kayak is a special time. We have been fortunate in the month of June to have had multiple opportunities for early paddling. We’ve been camping ( both solo and as a family) a few times, and have also headed out early to some of our local favorites.

 

The camping weather has been wonderful! Clear skies, mostly moderate temperatures, lots of sun…though it seems that the afternoons have been marked by a few hours of very high winds. We have managed to avoid some of our less than ideal weather, and have been lucky for the most part ( except for those high winds!) Our rough water paddling skills are getting a good chance to improve…should be helpful on our trips to the Adirondacks and Quebec later in the season.

 

Edgar especially enjoyed our trip to Green River Reservoir State Park, since he and Griff could run freely together, on the rocky Picnic Island!

 

In addition to our “real” canoe camping, we also did some “condo camping”…that is, sleeping on the floor of my Dad’s empty ,soon to be sold, condo in NH….we decided to hit some of our favorite Upper Valley of NH/VT lakes, since our frequent visits to that are are ending. We have plenty more “new”spots to hit up, and look forward to paddling in some different areas of New England and New York.

McDaniel’s Marsh and Kezar Lake

When we haven’t been paddling, we have tried to keep up the dogs’ hiking routine…we have had some very hot and muggy days, along with rain that has made for some very muddy trails. We try to head out in the cool of the morning, and also select trails that are wooded, and have plentiful water sources. We also prefer to avoid crowded, popular trails….the idea of participating in a conga line up a mountain has no appeal for us!

 

Our outing this month have provided us with some pretty neat wildlife sightings…baby loon chicks, juvenile owl, deer splashing along the water’s edge…and those beavers! Dam Beavers! Edgar really does not like beavers, and gets quite agitated when they are near our boats. He never used to react in this manner, so we are attempting to train him to “keep cool” when beavers are in the vicinity. No other wildlife elicits this response,but as I understand from others, certain dogs just have a “thing” about nature’s engineers.

 

So that’s it for this month…not a lot of written content, since I would much rather be spending my time out in nature than composing blog entries on the computer. We will be heading out for the holiday weekend for canoe camping at GRRSP, and the weather forecast looks great.

During the holiday weekend, I plan on getting quite a few surveys completed for the National Safe Boating Council. My anecdotal counts show that less than 10% of paddlers at Green River and at Waterbury Reservoir are wearing PFDs. These observations were made as I watched paddlers in high winds, with overloaded canoes, and with children and dogs in their boats…If you won’t wear a PFD for yourself, please wear one so that you will be more able to assist your child or dog in an emergency!

Happy Canada Day, and Happy 4th of July…Paddle Safe,and paddle smart!

“…Even children get older, and I’m getting older too”

 

Those lyrics to the great Stevie Nicks song  “Landslide” may reflect what I’ve been feeling a bit lately. Yup, getting older, but given the alternative, I think I’ll take it! The past month has seen our son graduate from University, and he will soon be heading 600 miles away to start his engineering career.  Two weeks after the trip to see his graduation, we attended our daughter’s wedding…a great, happy occasion! It has been a rather hectic month, but after another week of busy-time, we should be able to catch our breath and get on with summer.

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Edgar is so happy to be back in his kayak!

During the crazy season that was May, we have managed to keep busy with the dogs, since getting out for a hike or canoe trip provided some much needed respite.  The canoes and kayak have been in the water quite a bit, and I even managed to squeeze in two overnight solo canoe camping trips. We are fortunate to live very close to a few places where we can just “load up and go” on the spur of the moment.

Canoe camping is very relaxing for Gryphon!

Over the past few years, we have developed an easy and reliable system which makes it possible for us to just decide to head off for a few nights of canoe camping.  The key?  Organization, Planning, and Routine.  Granted, our longer trips require a bit more forethought and preparation, but even on those trips, we use the same basic system. Nothing we do is unusual, spectacular, or particularly clever, but this is what works for us.

  1. Choose destination: Based upon weather forecasts, time of year, how much time we have to be out, or our interest in revisiting favorites, or trying new spots, availability of campsites ( reservations required, or first come-first served). We are constantly perusing guide books, websites, paddling.net, and social media, to find new and exciting paddling destinations.

 

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A few of our sources…..

  1. Decide which boat(s)…for solo trips, the choice is obvious, but when we are going as a couple, with the 2 dogs, we may choose the solo canoe and kayak, or we may want the tandem canoe. Much depends on paddling distances required, portaging challenges , and if shuttling ( as on a river trip) is required.
  2. Use our checklist! Our trip preparation checklist is a laminated graphic organizer (used with white-board marker) which allows us to be sure we bring all necessary gear, and also indicates where it will be packed. This organizer is written “to the max” and many times, we will cross-off items that we do not need for shorter or solo trips. Since we initiated the use of this chart, we have yet to forget anything that we needed! The tent selection may also vary, depending on whether it is a solo trip or couples trip.
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A place for everything, and everything in its place….

 

  1. We keep our gear organized in our “gear room”, and always have a supply of camping foods on hand, ready to grab and go. We usually bring along some fresh fruit and other favorite items from the kitchen. We also keep a supply of kindling wood and fire starters; if we are camping locally, we also are able to use a few stick of local firewood that we keep on hand. Some sites we frequent have adequate downed wood to use for campfires, but other times, what we bring is all that we will have available to us.

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  1. We generally load the boats the same way each trip, and the dogs maintain their designated positions in the boat(s). By knowing where each dry bag is placed, and how much we put in each section of the boat, loading at the launch sites is quick and easy.
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Typical amount of dog gear we bring for canoe camping—-Quickdraw collars,sleeping bags,dog tent, bowls,tie-outs,FA kit,food, trowel,tick spray,water bottle, chewie toy,extra floor mat

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The canoe gear that goes with us on our trips..whether a day trip, or an overnight trip…and the PFDs and life jackets are ALWAYS worn while on the water!

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Our essential for camping…we also, of course,add the tent,sleeping bags for us, a few warm clothes,food, and sleeping pads

 

 

Each camping trip, whether it is 24 hours  or a week, presents us with the opportunity to try new lakes and campsites, check out some new gear or foods, see  great wildlife,  and take advantage of the peace and solitude that canoe camping offers.  We love it, and the dog certainly get excited whenever they see us collect the gear.

More canoe camping, for 3-4 day stretches,  is upcoming….So nice to see the trees  bursting with green color, and our favorite wildlife making return appearances!

Paddle Safe!

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Lakes also seem to know that it is worth the wait, as we were finally able to get out on the Waterbury Reservoir this past week!  Recently, hiking to the water’s edge had increased our anxiousness to get out paddling…but temperature probes had shown that the water was still too cold. Until last Friday! Wearing spring paddling gear (neoprene booties over my Astrals, neoprene gloves, woolies under paddling shorts, Kokotat paddle jacket) , we finally hit the water on Friday and Saturday. Since this has been Vermont Green Up weekend, we were able to do our annual community service, and help clean up the shorelines and remote sites on the reservoir. We also received word that as a result of an Instagram Contest, UCO ( ucogear.com) had awarded the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir a nice financial prize for trash cleanup efforts.Very appropriate to be notified on this Green Up Day weekend.

So here are just a few photos…definitely more to come, and a camping trip might just be in the works for this week!

A nice sunny day, a bit breezy, but 65 degrees for first day out…

Then on Saturday, a bit cooler, and definitely more of a grey day, but nice to get both dogs out on the water….

 

So that’s it for our quick blog post…just wanted to get a paddling post up before we enter the craziness that is the month ahead! We’ll be updating, with trip reports, write-up on the gear we use, and more about our efforts to support the Wear It campaign, and our local lake advocacy groups.  Paddle Safe!

“Sometimes it Snows in April”

That classic song by the late artist Prince provides the most suitable title for this rather brief blog entry….the past few weeks have seen temperatures ranging from the 20’s, up to the 70’s, with sunny days followed by windy, rainy, or snowy days. We get through, though, and are excited by seeing ice-free lakes at last.  The fleet is out of storage, prepped for the season,and ready to go….

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Well, we thought it was spring!

We have done quite a bit of hiking, on lower elevation trails, to allow the upper trails to dry out after the winter weather. The odd weather actually provided us with enough snow cover for a bit more snowshoeing, even though we thought the season had ended in March. But we are ready for canoeing and kayaking season to officially begin. Though we have seen increasing amounts of open water, the water temperature is still hovering around 41-42 degrees….still too cold for safe paddling.  We estimate that within 2 weeks, we will be once again on the water!

Here is a short video that visually demonstrates the various conditions we have encountered since we returned from our Maine trip….

 

The next month will be a rather hectic one for us….we have our son’s graduation from university, which requires a 3-4 day trip to western NY. Two weeks after that, we will be thrilled to be attending our daughter’s wedding! Lots of changes in our family, as the birds have officially flown from the nest!

I anticipate that our next blog post will document our “first paddle” of 2016; I also hope to do an explanatory narrative, with photo illustration, of the gear we have used successfully when canoeing, and canoe camping with our dogs. Please check out our newest review, of the Ruffwear Headwater waterproof collar and leash…just click under the “Check our Reviews” section of the blog headings. Thanks!

Think Spring, and paddle safely!

 

A Marvelous Maine (and NH) Odyssey

The dogs have crashed, exhausted from their weekend of travel, public events, beach wanderings, and adjusting to a new dog-friendly motel. Our annual weekend at the Maine/NH coast has been deemed a success by all of us!

 

Once we arrived in Kittery, ME, after a trip which took place mostly during torrential rains, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our dog-friendly motel, the Coachman, was actually a pretty nice place…the dog rooms ( very nicely outfitted) were at one end of the facility, near a nice dog-walking area along a marshy river. It is always a relief to find that as travelers with dogs, we can spend a few nights in some very decent lodging. Our Friday evening trip to the beach began as the weather broke, but ended just moments after we hit the sand, as the skies once again opened with a very cold rain. Oh well, I guess that meant it was  time to hit the outlet shops!  The Kittery Trading Post ( sponsors of the Paddlesports Show) was minutes from or motel, and we were able to pick up some camping food, supplies, and a nice dry case for my husband’s new iPhone.

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I don’t think this is the bear who visited our deck while we were away!

This year, our focus for the weekend was on our two seminars at the New England Paddlesports Show, held at the University of New Hampshire Field House.  Our goal was to share our experiences, and a few tips, to encourage others to safely get out on the water with their dogs! In addition to our presentations, we were given the opportunity to have a display table in the front lobby….quite an honor to be sharing space with representatives  from the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Maine Island Trail, Maine Kayak Tours, and the UNH Family Boat Building program. Since our seminar presentation on Saturday was not until 4pm ( last one of the day), we decided to hit the beach in the morning, and then set up our display table mid-day, to interact with folks who may not stay until our late presentation.

So Saturday morning was spent running and walking the dogs along Jeness beach (maybe getting them a bit tuckered out before their big afternoon). Though it was an overcast morning, it was 65 degrees, so a very nice time to explore a beach we last visited a few years ago.

 

We did have one negative experience with 2 unleashed dogs, though most of the other dogs were either leashed, or under good voice control of their owners.  By now, we are used to dealing with unleashed dogs running up to ours, and apparently, one of these dogs, a wild Aussie that harassed Edgar is a known problem  ( according to a nice fellow we were chatting with, who had some very nice, in-control unleashed dogs). I think what got me most irritated was that darn little Yorkie-type dog, who, while dragging a leash behind, barked very aggressively, trying to get  at Edgar for at least 2 minutes, while the owner ran to catch up. This was while Edgar was being held/walked 2 feet in the air, held by his harness handle.  Once the owner got control of her dog, she began to laugh, as if it was a very funny incident. I told her in no uncertain terms that it really was not funny. But that was the only blemish on an otherwise great weekend.

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Once we arrived at the UNH field house, we set up our display table, showing off some of the gear we use, some videos from our blog, and handouts from various safety and advocacy groups that we promote.  While one dog sat at the booth, the other dog “worked the crowd” in the field house.  This was a challenge for our country dogs…lots of people, noises, and a very hot and stuffy environment. We provided outside breaks periodically, and they were rewarded for their very nice behavior.

 

While manning the table, we spoke with lots of folks, and provided resources and information to those inquiring about how to get started in paddling with their dogs. We met a very cute 4 month old Goldendoodle, who was quite the ball of wiggle, and who was showing off his new life jacket.  A very enthusiastic young woman tried to encourage us to try SUP…despite my protestations, that no, we are really not interested in another outdoor activity! She has just started skijoring with her dog, however, so we had quite a nice chat about pulling sports.  A fellow from Maine, who has opened an island campsite off the Maine coast (floodscove.com) also spoke with us…nice guy, and he grew up in Vermont, less than an hour from us. A representative from a PFD company promoted their dog life jacket, which is an interesting design. I will forward this information to my contacts at backcountryk9.com.

 

During the day on Saturday, in addition to the show, there was a middle school robotics competition occurring in the UNH pool…so there were TONS of young kids running up and down the hallway by us, always stopping to say hi to the dogs. Apparently the organizers  over-ordered the pizza lunch, so one of the young guys gave us some of the leftover  pizza ; still hot, tasty, and the dogs got some of their favorite snack, pizza crust.

My brother and sister-in law showed up (they live in Maine), so we were able to catch up a bit, before we all went to our seminars. That was really special!

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Our Saturday seminar went very well, in our opinion! It was quite well attended (at least 35 people, higher than most seminars).  Folks appeared interested in our material, we had no major technical snags, and though we began late because the previous speaker went over time, we finished up right on time. A nice dog named Tide won our first raffle basket, and his owner seemed quite pleased! Gryphon was at the front of the room ( Edgar sat this one out), and actually was interacting with the audience, even letting the nice man in the front row put his arm around him.  This is very unusual for Gryphon, who is usually intimidated, scared, or unsure of people he does not know.  I was extremely proud of my pup! After the presentation, we spoke with quite a few people, and they shared some wonderful photos of their own paddle pups. We are very thankful to Kev, Andre,Roger,Mary,Laurie, Zoltan,and John who permitted us to share photos of their paddlepups to use in our slide show.

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After our Saturday seminar, we headed out to the ocean, for a seafood dinner at a restaurant we found last year. Eating our fried clams and scallops overlooking the ocean is quite a delight for we mountain residents. Then it was back to the motel, to get settled in before the predicted overnight snowfall began.

 

Yup, snowfall! We awoke to steady, wet, large flake snow. We returned to the nearest beach, where on Friday night it had poured rain. Sunday morning, our beach hike was in a blowing, windy snowstorm.  The dogs were squinting from the blowing snow in their eyes, and I actually used my goggles. It was only about 25 degrees with wind-chill nearing 8 degrees. But we got to the ocean!

Our Sunday presentation was scheduled for early afternoon, though once again it was the final presentation of the day. We opted not to set up our table, and instead spent more time walking the floor with both dogs, and talking with different people. We had a few “woofs”, as there were other dogs present, but no incidents or problems, and the dogs actually seemed relaxed in this unfamiliar environment.

 

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We decided that Sunday we would give Edgar top-billing, and have him be our fellow presenter at this seminar. Before we entered the seminar room, we let him run around a bit in the nearby “green room”. We also made sure we had at least 3 different chewy toys available in the seminar room.

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Edgar did a very nice job! He stayed on his sleeping bag, and only got a bit fidgety once…when he was given the third, and new, toy, he was quite content, and chomped away for most of the presentation.  Once again, we had a very good turnout , and the raffle prize went to a woman who also seemed very happy to have won.  We again made connections with quite a few fellow paddlers,and hope to see them on our facebook pages and other social media.

We are appreciative to Jason at Backcountryk9.com, for providing discount cards that we encouraged folks to utilize. The people at KTP ( thanks, Nick!)  really seem to know their stuff, as we had no issues at all with our schedules, equipment they provided, or any other aspects of our participation in this major event.

Our presentation had at its core an article I wrote for the backcountryk9.com blog a while back…for the show, it was tweaked, updated a bit, and kayaking aspects were added, but here is a link to that original article:

A Beginner’s Guide to Canoeing with Dogs

Of course, we could not face all those vendor displays without making at least a few purchases! We came home with some foam kayak paddle grips, and most important, a Malone cross bar/Downloader rack system, so we can easily place the kayak and a canoe on the roof of my car. No more improvised rack made of 2x4s…thanks to Rachel at Malone for all her help.

One of the consequences of attending the Paddlesports show is the increasing urge to get out and paddle! But we returned home to temperatures  in the teens, snow flurries, and a dismal forecast for the upcoming week. Such is life in New England, so we will continue to plan out summer trips, clean and check our paddling gear, and get ready to once again hit the water. Safe paddling, and thanks again to all the folks who attended our presentations. We had a great  time, and hope you did too.

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PADDLE SAFE and HAVE FUN!

 

Mud Season Meanderings….

Yes, Mud Season. In Vermont, that is the period between winter ( or what passed as winter this year!) and spring…or, the time when you risk going out on dirt roads, since your vehicle may sink in mud up to the axles, and you may be stuck until the Fourth of July. Since our snow pack is minimal this year, we are hoping that mud season is briefer than normal. The road conditions restrict access to many hiking trails, and the higher elevation trails are closed until Memorial Day, per order of the Green Mountain Club. So, we get creative!

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We have spent many days hiking on rail trails, closed ski area trails, state park areas, and local low elevation trail networks. On the same hike,we may encounter dry ground, muck, ice, slush, slippery leaves. Our MicroSpikes have been essential to allow us to continue to hike during this strange season. I did get out on my Tubbs snowshoes 24 days…about half of my average. I am really enjoying my role as a Tubbs Ambassador,and hope that next winter will see a return to more suitable conditions! Our favorite late-season snowshoeing trail, the Notch road,  will probably open to cars much earlier than the average date, since even up there the snow cover is minimal. We definitely are getting the itch to go paddling, since may of our expeditions have taken us to some our our favorite canoeing locales…though there is still quite a bit of ice, our warming temperatures and rain are helping thaw the lakes. However, it will be at least mid to late April before the water temperature is high enough to safely paddle.

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We have some new gear to test for Backcountryk9.com. Each dog has a new Headwater waterproof collar, by Ruffwear…you may notice them in the photos above ( Griff’s is blue,and Edgar’s is lime green). So far I am really impressed with the collars, and the Headwater leash as well. Mud Season is a great time to test them, since our dogs are constantly getting wet from rain, muddy trails, and slush falling from the sky! Of course, when paddling, the dogs often get their gear wet, too.

We also purchased a Ruffwear Web master harness for Edgar, from our friends at Backcountryk9.com…in his favorite color, red, of course. The harness is quite substantial, and has a solid handle, which may come in very handy.

I also splurged on my annual “silly item”, using my REI.com dividend ( I have been a member of REI since 1979). I now have a cool Seattle Sports Firewater bottle…I think the illumination will be a nice touch on those canoe campsites.

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Paddling is on our brains….We are getting quite excited for the upcoming New England Paddlesports Show! We certainly hope that the attendees enjoy our tales of adventure and misadventure while paddling with our dogs. Our summer plans are developing as I write…probably at least a week in the Adirondacks canoe camping, and another week in a Quebec location TBD. I have begun transitioning the gear room from snowshoeing and winter camping gear to Paddling Gear. The old Necky Sky 2 kayak will be posted For Sale on Craigslist, as we reduce our fleet to 2 canoes and one kayak. I am also having our local paddle shop, Umiak Outfitters, replace the carry handles on our Swift 16’6″ Kipawa. We were able to fabricate a makeshift remedy last fall, and as much as I love hockey, I would rather have official carry handles in my boat!

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Re-purposing an old wooden hockey stick….

So off we go to the ocean, as we head to Maine and Southeastern NH for the Paddlesports Show. Our dogs will get to run on an ocean beach, and be reminded once more that they cannot drink that water! We are hoping for a respectable turnout for our seminars, and we are grateful to Kittery Trading Post staff for allowing us to share our love of canoeing and kayaking with dogs.