February has been left in the dust…well, left behind in a mixture of rain, sleet,and ice. The month provided us with some wonderful days on the trails, highlighted by above average temperatures, sunny skies, and deep soft snow.
The warm weather also brought us rain, which then froze many trails rock hard…but which also opened up the previously frozen streams and brooks.
And warm temperatures…so welcome!
We explored some new to us sections of the Catamount Trail. On a beautiful sunny day, we headed north, and snowshoed along section 31, the northernmost section of the trail. After parking the car, we headed north, a half-mile, right up to the border with Canada. We carefully stayed on our side of the border cairn! We then turned around and headed south on the trail…well, we were on the trail until we accidentally veered off onto a multi-use trail. But the snowmobile riders were considerate, and it was a great day on the trail. We will definitely be returning again.
We decided to take our mid-winter trip to Rangeley Maine this year. We have not been there for a few years, as we have gone to the Adirondacks for the past few winter trips. We love western Maine, and it affords a plethora of opportunities for snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, and paddling and camping in the summer. In the days before we left, we received a few days of rain, sleet, and hail…but Maine had received snow, so we felt confident we would be able to enjoy lots of snowshoeing, and maybe skijoring.
Muddy and icy lower elevation trails…looking forward to our Maine trip the next day!
Since we were driving to western Maine, our route took us right through one of our favorite area of Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom. We decided to stop and snowshoe a wooded and bog trail that we have hiked before, usually in the very buggy summer! I know that Spruce Grouse hang out in this area, but had never found one. That is,until we hit the jackpot on this day. Our dogs, while leashed, alert to the presence of birds silently…we saw Grouse on the ground, and in the trees over our heads. They even posed nicely for photos!
The very friendly Grey Jays were apparently expecting some goodies…I did not have any trail mix or nuts, but if I held out my hand, they would fly down to check it out. Sorry guys, maybe next time!
We hiked out to the bog, and onto a nearby winter use trail. Though it was overcast, it was warm, and a very enjoyable break in our travels.
The dog friendly motel that we use is located right on the lake…a few “frozen in place” boats provided an opportunity to get some photos of the dogs anticipating spring paddling….
We were finally able to climb Bald Mt. in Oquossoc, a little peak that for one reason or another, we had never managed to previously fit in our schedules. It is not a challenging climb, but on the steep approach, the trail was covered with solid grey and yellow ice, frozen, slick, and sometimes tricky. We safely managed the ascent ( and even more amazingly, the descent) , and enjoyed the windy and snowy summit. Neither of us are fans of fire towers, but I did manage to get up 2 levels, for a photo or two!
The only negative part of our Bald Mt. trip was the post-holes…those annoying and dangerous deep boot holes left behind by rude hikers who do not use snowshoes. Griff actually fell into a few, but thankfully was not injured. It is a shame that a popular, well-marked and fun trail can be scarred by such ignorance and lack of respect!
If my dog hurts his leg in one of your post holes, I will find you, I will seek you out, there will be no place to hide! Please Leave No Trace! ( take photos but do not leave boot prints)
Our afternoon snowshoe outing was along a bog stream…a beautiful little area. Our journey was cut a bit short, since one of us ( won’t say who) is due for knee replacement.
We then drove to the Height of Land, a spectacular overlook above the Androscoggin watershed, looking out towards Mooselookmeguntic Lake. The sun came out, the skies were blue…reminding us how special this part of Maine can be.
The lake surface was pretty crunchy and icy, without much snow cover, so skijoring was no longer an option. We opted to head up to Saddleback Mountain, a large ski area that has been closed for a few years. This means there are miles of trails, beautiful views, lots of snow…and no people. We did find a cool bird, a White Winged Cross-bill, a life bird for me! Nice time, up-hilling, traversing, and then coming down in the untracked soft snow. What a great location, and a shame that the area no longer operates.
So we headed home in the warming temperatures and sunny skies. It was a great trip for wildlife sightings—we saw eagles flying, foxes running in fields, gazillions of deer, a snowshoe hare, wonderful birds, and on the way out of town, Mrs. Bullwinkle bid us adieu!
March will continue to see us out on the trails, hopefully snowshoeing right up until we put the canoe in the water. A snowstorm is predicted to bring us 8-10 inches this week so we hope to get out and explore more sections of the Catamount Trail. My guided snowshoe hikes and clinics for the recreation department have ended, and we have some new converts to snowshoeing!
We will soon be presenting at the New England Paddlesports Show, once again sharing our love for safe paddling and camping with dogs. The excitement for upcoming paddling season is building, and I calculate only 5 more weeks until open water and canoeing! Yes!