Roller Coaster Weather..what a ride!

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

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

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

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

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

In summary, the highlights of 2021 are as follows!

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

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

Mature: 114 total   51 while canoeing

Immature  72 total   36 while canoeing 

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

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

Summer…sizzling,citizen science, and surgery!

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

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

*Canoeing 78 days

*Remote canoe camping 4 trips

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

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

*Participating as Board Members for 2 local lake advocacy groups

*Reviewing a dog hiking book for Trailspace.com

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

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

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

Paddling!

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

Gryphon’s first paddles of 2021….

And Edgar’s first outings….

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

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

Muddy March Musings

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

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

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

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

Think Spring!

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!