“Admiral, there be whales here!”

     Well, actually just loon wails…and tremelos, yodels, and hoots!

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The many loons were extremely vocal, filling the air with their haunting calls, echoing around the 650 acre reservoir. Our vantage point? A peninsula campsite, surrounded nearly by water, with a great view of nearby islands and loon nesting areas. We were unsuccessful in getting good audio of their amazing evening symphony, but here is a taste of their early morning chorus….

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Our second favorite site at GRRSP… pretty nice for a second best!

We had made the reservations for this trip the Green River Reservoir State Park last winter, while we were blanketed with snow, and bitter cold persisted. This is one of our favorite camping spots…it is only 30 minute from our home, has only 30 campsites, and is a designated “quiet water lake”, meaning the peace and serenity are not disrupted by power boats.

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This trip was a “family” trip. We were accompanied by my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law. Both are avid outdoors-women, and it is always fun when the can join us on an adventure. I will not disclose my mother-in-law’s age, but I can say, she is a proud member of the 90+ ski club….

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Gram was willing to try out one of our Bending Branches bent shaft paddles….

Our weather was wonderful, the best day of the week…sunny and 75 degree temperatures, with light winds. We made camp, and after a dinner by the water’s edge,w e headed out for an evening paddle.

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Now, our dogs have seen quite a variety of bird and animal life on our paddles, and they tend to be very interested, watch acutely, but rarely make any sound…we just will not tolerate their harassing of any wildlife. However, this time, we were harassed…by a very angry beaver, who thought we had paddled too close to his lodge. We were in a narrow channel, and certainly were not pursuing him, but when he started motoring near our boats, and splashing his tail, Edgar became quite frenetic. Thankfully, since Edgar is in the stern compartment, I was able to grab a hold of his collar/Quick Draw Leash, and keep him from climbing up onto the gunwales. I sincerely do not believe he would have jumped into the water, but it would have been an unsteady moment if he had been “free” in the boat! We have encountered beaver before, without this reaction…just something about that beaver’s look, I guess (perhaps he looked like a floating kitty-cat to Edgar!)

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This guy was actually from a previous trip….but this one stayed cool and calm!

It was a cool, calm, and nearly full-moon night at the site…quiet except for the sounds of frogs, geese, and our loon neighbors…it is amazing how peaceful camping can be!

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We managed to get out early the next morning , arriving at the take-out area just as a few sprinkles began to fall. We did manage to get a photo of “Team Vermont Paddle Pup” the only photo in existence of 3 people wearing our VPP shirts (because we own all 3 shirts, and this is the first time we paddled together in them!)

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Earlier in the week, we had gone out to Wolcott Pond, so that we could give the new kayak a test run…I paddled my solo boat with Gryphon, while Edgar assumed a very alert forward position in the kayak. At first, the dogs seemed a bit bemused by seeing each other in a separate boat, but they soon each settled down, and seemed to enjoy the individual attention.

two boats 11 goodThis trip was a great bird-watching expedition. A pair of loons, and a solitary loon were present, and as much as we tried to get away from the solitary loon, he kept popping up near our boats. He even photo-bombed a photo I was taking of Edgar in his kayak!

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We also paddle by an American Bittern standing in the marshes …not a rare bird, but one which we have never seen before while paddling. Any doubts we may have had about his identification from visual cues was quickly dismissed, as we heard the distinctive sound of his call.

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Our Wolcott Pond trip was a great success; we are now working on ways to adapt our roof rack to carry two boats! Being able to carry two boats, on one vehicle, will greatly increase our paddling options.

Between paddling activities, we got out for a few local hikes. There was a long holiday weekend, which tends to result in crowded trails, so we utilized some local “hidden gems” which do not get nearly the use of the well-known trails. Even though we are now fully embedded in paddling season, we still try to get the dogs out for hikes or climbs 3-4 times per week, to give them the additional physical activity.

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We have a few more canoe camping trips upcoming, including a river trip, which will involve using a shuttle bus service. I am sure the dogs will do just dandy…they are always excited and eager to go, once they see us start gathering the gear!

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Where are we going this week?

And now June arrives…with 3 days of temperatures topping out near 55 (f), rainy and windy weather conditions. But the good new is…we have a WINNER!

The winner of the Kurgo collapsa-bowl, and the Kurgo Mud Dog towel, is Mitch C. We thank Mitch,and all the other folks who checked out our blog, and left a comment!

A Great Getaway…and our first Giveaway!

How about we call it a celebration? A celebration of paddling season’s solid return? Or our acquisition of a new member of the fleet? Or a successful spur of the moment canoe camping trip? Or our first Bald Eagle sighting of the year ( while paddling)?

Whatever the reason, we’ve decided to share some of our winnings with our blog followers. Additional information on how to enter is at the end of this post.

Last weekend, on a lovely, cool, and sunny morning, we decided to head out to one of our favorite local paddling spots, Green River Reservoir. The park had not officially opened, so we had a 1/4 mile carry down to the launch site, proving once again that our canoe cart was one of our best investments.

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Heading down to the launch site….

There were quite a few early season paddlers about, and everyone seemed in great spirits, happy to once again be taking advantage of this beautiful resource. We saw loons, from a distance…they were in a clearly marked loon nesting area, so we studiously avoided that part of the lake.

We checked out a few of our previous camping spots, excited to realize that in a few weeks we’ll be back here, tenting on one of the best spots in the park…making reservations in January is definitely worth it!

The dogs were relaxed, and demonstrated how much they really enjoy canoeing. We got a bit of a workout, though, as the winds picked up, and we began to see small whitecaps. We adjusted our course a bit, laughed as we rode the swells, and had a great time with some early season wind practice.

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A very relaxed paddle pup….

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So happy to be back in the canoe!

Gryphon was able to try out his new Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat, which we are testing this month, for http://backcountryk9.com/ He seems very comfortable in this life jacket, and I am very impressed with its workmanship. We will continue to test it out, including having Griff swim while wearing it…a review will follow in a few weeks.

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On the way home, we stopped by our local outfitters, so that my husband could try out a used kayak. Due to his height, a standard single kayak does not have the leg room, or cockpit space suitable for he and Edgar to paddle comfortably. The solution was found, in a Necky Sky 2 tandem kayak, with the front seat moved back as far as possible, and the rear seat base left in for structural reasons only. They gave it a whirl on the pond behind the shop….Edgar had a great time, and seemed to love being the figurehead of the boat! So our fleet now consists of two canoes, and a kayak.

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Edgar, looking ahead!

Last fall, we had scoped out a few remote camping sites on the Waterbury Reservoir, which seemed to be good possibilities for a quick overnight trip, on the spur of the moment. These sites do not require reservations, and are often filled up on weekends. However, we happened to have 2 midweek days available, it was still early season…so we decided to head out and camp out!

Our gear is organized in a gear room—we have a checklist we follow, so we were quickly able to gather our gear, load up, and go. We decided to attempt a launch from the Cotton Brook canoe access.

Unfortunately, this launch site suffers a bit from the vagaries of seasonal erosion, low water levels, paddle-choking invasive weeds, shallow mud flats, and unpleasant grime and slime on the water surface. .. but it is only 5 miles from our home, so if conditions are favorable, it is a convenient option. The parking area was unusually empty, and there was only one other paddler in the area, a fellow on an SUP, who we let head out before us.

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Paddling conditions were sweet, the sun was shining, and though winds were variable, they did not hinder our progress. We arrived at our destination, a campsite on a piney bluff, 40 feet above a beach area. The dogs loved to get a chance to run along the beach.

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At the campsite, we immediately realized that prior occupants did not follow the principles of Leave No Trace. We found garbage in the fire pit, shiny metal screws in the side of a large tree, and scraps of paper, plastic, and clothing left about. We did our part, cleaned it up ( and recorded the data on the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir Project Data Collection card)…we then had a great campsite, overlooking the water.

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We were able to explore the rocky shoreline, finding a great swimming area for later in the season, when the water is a bit less cold. As we walked along the beach, a loon suddenly popped up, 25 feet off shore. We had seen a solitary loon as we paddled in, but that had been quite a ways north, so this was probably a different bird. Loons have faced challenges on this lake, since the water levels vary greatly, and their nests (and eggs) are especially vulnerable to water level fluctuations.

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The weather stayed delightful, cool but not cold, and minimal invasion by bugs. Gryphon, as usual, could not wait to get into the tent! We had not brought his dog tent this trip, so I gave in, and permitted him to go inside the tent around 8pm. It was a great feeling to once again be sitting by a crackling fire, with the calm waters beyond…we saw no other people, and heard only barred owls, loons, and numerous chirping critters.

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The next morning, we made a nice hot breakfast, and headed out on the calm early morning waters. We encountered a pair of loons; from a distance we could see them taking off and landing on the water—quite a sight! As we neared the channel back to the launch, the loons were hanging out on the starboard side of our boat…they seemed oblivious to us, and we kept our distance the best we could.

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As we approached the launch, we observed the distinctive flight of a bald eagle, swooping over us, as he headed out to the river ( and his own breakfast). It was great to see an eagle once again!

So we head into the Memorial Day Weekend, wondering what our plans will be. We will seek to avoid the popular tourist areas, and hopefully head into some more isolated parts of Vermont, for paddling and hiking. Oh, and of course, we need to take that new kayak out for a spin!

GIVEAWAY!
We have been fortunate enough to reap the rewards of winning a few blog giveaways, so now it is our turn to share the wealth. This is our first giveaway, so we are limiting it to legal resident of the U.S., at least 18 years of age. Sincerest apologize to our friends in Canada, and we hope that our next giveaway will include you folks as well!
Our giveaway prize is a Kurgo Mud Dog Travel Towel, along with a Kurgo Collaps A Bowl (red).

dog prize

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post, telling us your favorite dog paddling location…if you don’t paddle with your dog (yet!), tell us where you might like to take your dog for an adventure. The winner will be selected at random, from comments made between 6pm EDT on May 22, 2015, and 6pm EDT on May 31, 2015.

Good Luck, look forward to hearing from you!

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The loons are back on the water… and so are the Paddle Pups!

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                     What a great way to start the paddling season! Edgar, stylin’ in his new Astral life jacket…..

What a quick transformation! One week ago, I was using microspikes to negotiate ice and snow while hiking up the Notch….today, we had our second canoeing journey of the year. Amazing what a week of 80 degree temperatures can do to bring on green grass, budding trees, and warming water temperatures. The microspikes have gone back to Kahtoola for “repair or replacement”…maybe I am optimistic, since we have been know to have snow in late May!

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                              The snow was persistent this spring…especially at higher elevations….

The past few weeks have been busy ones for us…one of us ( not me) had knee arthroscopy, so our family long hikes have been a bit limited. However, each of the dogs has had quite a great few weeks of hiking with me, exploring all the new smells of spring, splashing in the water in the streams, and having the opportunity to try out some new lower elevation hikes .

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               We actually began to see open water, and running water ( though still some ice in cold gorges)

We have been very antsy for paddling season to begin…the canoe flag was put out on the deck, a little dryland training took place, the canoes were spruced up and treated to get ready for the season, and we were excited to receive our new Astral gear from Get: Outdoors. We tried out the new MSR Pocket Rocket on a breakfast hike, and are pleased to report it was a great success, and we know it will be great for our canoe camping trips!

Recently, we participated once again in Vermont’s annual “Green Up Day”…Griff and I checked around those remote canoe camping sites on Waterbury Reservoir which can be accessed by land trail, and removed the trash that we found. Edgar did “Poo Crew” duty at Kirchner Woods, and was pleased to report that debris (and dog poo) was nearly nonexistent…maybe we can make a difference!

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    Green Up Day 2015

Best best of all…and the most anticipated day of the year…the first time in 2015 that we dip the paddle in the water!

Gryphon and I took the new solo Wenonah out on Friday morning…80 degrees , calm winds, and bluebird skies…I knew this was the day for the maiden voyage. I managed to load the boat onto the car roof (by myself), and secure it to the racks. Once at the parking area, it was unloaded successfully, and placed on the canoe dolly, for the one-third mile carry to the water’s edge. All went well , except for one near land-capsizing when we encountered a small sinkhole, but generally, I was quite pleased.

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                                              Gryphon was very anxious to hop right into the boat….

Griff remembered exactly what to do, and he happily went into the boat on command. I managed to push off, and off we went, startling a few mallards in the nearby marshes. The canoe handled beautifully! I experimented with both my Bending Branches bent-shaft paddle, as well as a double-bladed kayak paddle. Both paddles seem to have positive features, and I suspect for a while yet, I will continue to keep both paddles as an option…then I may make a decision as to my preference.

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We had a lovely time, paddling around our familiar reservoir…which until recently, was ice and snow-covered. I am convinced that Griff and I ( and of course, Edgar,too) will have some great paddling trips, and camping expeditions, using this little canoe. Of course, now my husband is considering that maybe he should get a kayak, to allow him to solo boat with Edgar.
Saturday was also predicted to be warm, so we decided to take a short trip to Wolcott Pond, a small quiet pond which seemed the perfect place to make our first tandem foray of the season. As we drove towards the launch site, we could see that it had recently rained…and we could see falling rain off in the distance. The wind was heading right down the lake, kicking up some small waves.…nothing terrible ,but this was our first trip of the year, and we wanted it to be a smooth one. We decided to head out, and are we ever glad we did! The rain showers moved away, the sun came out, and the wind dropped to negligible force….

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It was a great first paddle of the year. The dogs behaved like the seasoned pros they are, the paddling was smooth and easy, and we had the lake to ourselves. We saw quite a few ducks, some geese, a raven..and off in the distance, some curious splashing in the water. We suspected it may be beavers, but as we paddled around the east side of the lake, we saw a beautiful pair of loons, our first sightings of the year. A third loon was also seen, but we do not know if he is solitary, or we just did not see his mate. It was great to see out paddling companions once again!

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I think I see a loon…..

We are now in full “where can we paddle next?” mode…anticipating trying out lots of new paddling locations this year, and having more great canoe camping adventures. We’ll be getting more gear from Backcountryk9.com to test and review…in addition, a basic primer on Paddling with Your Dogs that I wrote for the Backcountry k-9 blog should be released soon.

So we close today’s blog entry with a portion of the prayer of St. Brendan, patron saint of canoeists….for us, in our little canoes on little waters, as well as for others, who may be engaged in greater challenges on the water.

Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean?

                                    O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?

                                                            O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?

st. brendan