She turned to the sunlight, And shook her yellow head, And whispered to her neighbour: “Winter is dead.” (A.A. Milne)

Well, I suspect this past winter has delusions of immortality…because it seems as though it will never die! As I prepare to head out for yet another hike with a wind chill reading below zero ( yes, this is late March in Vermont), I can at least feel that Paddling Season is on the horizon…

I picked up a new member of the VPP family last week. After searching Craigslist and paddling.net on a daily basis for the past 5 months, I finally found a suitable solo canoe for sale. And it was located only 2 hours from here!

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Well, she’s on water…except it is still a bit frozen!

We are now the proud owners of a Wenonah Fusion solo boat…one of the last of the Royalex models. It will be great fun to experiment with this boat, and hopefully, Griff and I can have some great adventures. Of course, Edgar will also get his turn, too! I have been looking at paddle options, and in addition to our straight and bent-shaft paddles, I will pick up a kayak style paddle for use with this canoe. It is so encouraging to be ordering paddling gear!

The Swift is off to the canoe shop, for a yoke replacement…a bit of rot was evident when we bought the boat, and now we feel it is time to replace the yoke, to retain the structural integrity of the canoe. Wow, twice in a week I had to tie down a boat on the roof…maybe spring really is here.

swift on car march

But back to winter activities….

One of our local trail networks has been logged over the winter, inhibiting our use of those trails. Well, now the big trucks and skidders are gone, so a whole new section of sledding and skijoring trails has re-opened for us. With all the snow we have, and with the temperatures not getting too warm, we should be able to have fun here for a few weeks.

I took Edgar out for a solo sledding jaunt, and he had a blast! He really has improved on his ability to run straight, and on-trail…I finally made him turn around, when the snow got a bit soft and sloggy for him. He has also had a bit more skijoring…while I was playing in an ice hockey tournament weekend, Edgar and his “dad” went out for a nice long skijor, up and down the hills of Ryder Brook. Griff and I went out there to have a ski, but the trails were solid frozen crust, and windblown with “styrofoam” snow…so we snowshoed, instead!

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There is still a whole lot of snow in our area…..

A few days later, we took the “team” back out…firmer snow, and slightly cooler temperatures, made for a nice run for both dogs. Gryphon actually kept up with Edgar , and certainly got his exercise for the day.

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Hiking has been very interesting lately…we had a brief thaw/freeze cycle, resulting in some frozen crust, very slick trails, and those dreaded frozen post-holes. Unfortunately, my trusty Microspikes had one chain link rip out of the eyelet. This time of year, and until late April, trail traction is essential for safe hiking in Vermont. They are warrantied by Kahtoola, and I hope to hear from the company soon about a replacement pair. In the meantime, some coated wire has worked to hold the spikes in place.

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The cold has also necessitated a return to the booties! The dogs really thought our short span of above 20 degree temperatures signaled the end…but no, lately we have hiked a lot in very cold temperatures, and the booties are essential.

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Actually had temps in the 20’s….nice to not need booties!

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Cold…booties necessary!

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Edgar…practicing his canoe entry!

We headed to NH, on a bitterly cold and windy Sunday, for a family visit…enroute, we stopped at a small trail network where we had never hiked. We found the trailhead, and after a short, crunchy,crusty,post-hole laden trail, we came to a small steep pitch in the heavier woods. The trail was glazed ice, with breakable crust on the sides, where we could guide the dogs. Our trail traction allowed us to negotiate the icy climb, and we were rewarded with a lovely view.

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Winds blowing 30-40 mph made for a chilly, but enjoyable stay at the overlook.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Encouraged by our success in the wind at the Ledges trail, Griff and I headed out the next morning to hike up into Smugglers’ Notch…again, extremely gust winds, wind-chill well below zero…but how can you not hike on a beautiful bluebird sky day?

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What a sky!

Our recent activities have provided us with the opportunity to try out some of the gear we are reviewing for http://backcountryk9.com/  Check out our first review, of the OllyDog OllyBottle https://trailsnailmud.wordpress.com/insightful-informative-intelligent-gear-reviews/

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So, lots of excitement coming up…the Paddlesports show in a few weeks, more gear to use and review, new paddle gear arriving, Game of Thrones in 20 days, WooHoo! As much as we love the snow, and winter fun…we are ready to move on to spring.

“May the sun shine warm upon your face”

As the Irish Blessing indicates, we all love the feel of the warm sun on our faces…our days of sun have begun to appear with greater frequency, and we’ve even had some warmth! Maybe we’ll have a super warm and sunny St. Patrick’s day hike! We started off the month of March with a 3-day trip to Rangeley Maine. Thankfully, the temperatures ranged from 2 below to 25 above…quite an improvement over last winter. Here is a short video journal of that trip….

Back home, we continue to feel that cold, and very windy can be nice…if there is a shining sun. On such days, we visit one of our favorite paddling locations, and do an data collection hike, for our Poo Crew duties, at our local trail network.

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At Waterbury Reservoir….beautiful, and cold. Unfortunately, lots of dog hikers did not follow LNT principles on the trails!

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Edgar will definitely miss the snow when it is gone!

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But the snow will be here for a while…still 3 feet or more in Kirchner Woods!

As the temperatures rise, the plentiful snow cover begins to soften, and we check out a few potential skijor locations….We head to Cricket Hill Trails, a local network of trails open for XC skiing and snowshoeing. Hurrah, dogs must be on a leash here! ( But of course, the only other dog we see is free range….) The snow is fine, but the trails are hilly and wooded, so we opt to use our Tubbs.

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Fun times!

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Great views on the upper field….

We finally get out to the NEK trails we had tried to visit earlier in the year, but never did, due to sub-zero temperatures. We knew there were suitable XC trails for skijoring, but since we had never been there before, and since there is a 1/2 mile climb up to the trails, we decided snowshoeing was the better option.

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Heading up towards Mt. Hor and Bartlett Mt. That is Mt. Pisgah in the background. There were lots of (crazy!) ice climbers way up on the icy cliffs

We had a great climb up to the summit loop, with some trail breaking…mild temperatures, and though the sun was not shining, it was a very nice workout. We will certainly return, and attempt some skijoring on the various loops. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This week, the thermometer actually climbed above 40(f) for the first time in over 3 months….it felt delightful and encouraged us to get out and play, soaking in the first real sensations of spring…. Griff and I climbed up Elmore Mt, which we climb often in the summer ( always at sunrise, to avoid the crowds!) Microspike clumping was noted, as the temperature was in that narrow range that results in very sticky, glue-like snow…on the return down, the snow had softened up, and I was able to continue to use the spikes for the descent. Though I carried my trusty snowshoes on my pack, I never had to rely on them.

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Of course, I never noticed the smudge on the camera lens…it was not bluebird skies, but the sun was shining bright, so it was a great hike!

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It was warm, so frequent water breaks were essential. Griff tried out his new OllyBottle for the first time ( so far so good!)…we’ll be reviewing it after we use it a bit more….

And our news of the week…Edgar won the dog paddling photo contest! Thank you so much, https://www.facebook.com/GETOUTDOORSNC. The judges obviously saw the spontaneous joy and humor in his photo…he is not great at posing for photos, but sometimes we get lucky, and catch his goofy personality! He will no longer have to use a hand – me – down doggy PFD, but will have his own sparklin’ new Astral jacket!  We have also just received our first batch of dog gear to use ( Thank you Backcountry K-9 ! ), and review. It will be fun to try new gear with Griff, and Edgar may also get to share as well. First reviews will be forthcoming in next blog post. And now we look forward to colder temperatures, and more snow over the weekend…our deck is clear for the first time in months, but we still have a ton of snow in the woods…lots of time for more snowy adventures!

Farewell Frigid February Frolics…..

Well we survived February…the second coldest February on record here, with most hiking days requiring boots and parkas on the dogs. They are SO SICK of wearing booties, and we are SO SICK of putting them on. Alas, March has arrived, and with it, the anticipation that we have for an upcoming return trip to Rangeley Maine.
But let’s not put February away so easily…we had great snow all month, and even some bluebird sunny days. We were able to hike every day except one, and even got in some additional skijoring during the second half of the month. No one was injured or got sick, and we explored some new local areas.

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WIndchill well below zero…but with the right gear, even tender-footed Griff can enjoy the snow!

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One of the rare days when the temperature hit 20 (f)…perfect for skijoring before the snowstorm arrived.

Back to back weekend days with temperatures around 20 (f)…what a delight. The day after skijoring, we headed our for a long snowshoe excursion in some fresh snow. It was a good thing we had our compass and map with us, as we ended up negotiating some spur trails that are not clearly marked on the map….we kept our orientation, and only had to retrace our steps once ( after 15 minutes of thigh-deep snow bushwacking…we decided that the more used trail was a better option!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGriff and I made a 3 day trip to New London NH, for a family visit….the bitter cold had returned, so we only did some short hikes, but it was nice to get a change of scenery. We got out for a sunset hike, overlooking Lake Sunapee, which was very nice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way back from NH, we stopped off at Millstone trails, for a sunny, but cold, jaunt on the trails around the old granite quarries. Beautiful views, and we had the trails to ourselves!

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We are looking forward to our responsibilities as Backcountry K-9 Gear reviewers….we are fair, and honest reviewers, and feel our varied activities provide a good platform to assess outdoor gear for dogs. Reviews and gear comments should be starting in late March.

March…bringing us closer to canoeing season! Do you think Edgar is ready for paddling?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, I know that Gryphon is ready…we hiked out to Elephant Rock, and I think he is starting to wonder when we will be canoeing there again…I know that I am!

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Our involvement with Friends of Waterbury Reservoir has continued…we are working on planning logistics for the April meeting, and we are so fortunate that Willem Lange has agreed to be our keynote speaker ( https://www.eventbrite.com/e/willem-lange-the-best-worst-canoe-trip-i-ever-was-on-tickets-15864254412)  We have contributed some of our doggie goodies towards the fundraising raffle, as we feel this organization, still in its infancy, deserves all the support we can offer.

So onward we tread, into March. and all the weather inconsistencies that it is sure to bring…as the days get longer, and the sun shines brighter, we are definitely feeling ready for Spring. Thanks for reading!