Well, in reality, it is not as though we have had to go very far to find awesomely impressive snow conditions. This year, the snow pack has remained deep and solid into March. Other than only a few days of rain, warm weather,and some subsequent icy trail conditions, this snowshoeing season has been epic. As we approach Spring ( and we will hit our 100th day of snowshoeing this weekend), we present a photo essay on some of our travels, near and a bit farther, in our constant quest to explore new and exciting trails.
Part 1: To the East! In early February, we headed off to the Northeast Kingdom to stay at the Nulhegan Confluence Hut, located in an area close to many different snowshoeing trails. We had stopped by to check out the hut on a visit last fall, and decided that it looked very nice, and in a superb location to access winter trails. We had then booked an overnight stay, hoping that winter would bring us deep snow and moderate temperatures.
We stopped along the way to snowshoe at Perry Holbrook State Park, a new, unimproved park in Glover ,VT. We encountered thigh deep unbroken snow, so we slogged our way in just past the first pond, took a nice rest stop, and slogged our way back to the car…what a lot of snow!
After a lunch stop at the very inviting Visitor Center of the Silvia Conte National Wildlife Refuge ( in Ferdinand, VT), we drove down the road a short way to the roadside trail access for the hut.
We knew that we would have to use pulks and sleds to bring our gear across the snowy field (300 yards) to access the hut, which is hidden on the edge of woods alongside the river. Check-in time is 1pm, so we loaded the sleds and headed out just before 1 o’clock. The going was slow, as the snow was deep and un-tracked. It was curious because we had seen two Quebec registered cars at the winter parking area up the road, but there were no signs of anyone walking to the hut.
Well, as we approached the hut, we heard a dog bark, and realized the prior users had not checked out at the designated 1pm time…in fact, the plentiful used TP along the trail 10 feet from the steps, the food and dog waste right outside the sliding door, and the scrambling we heard inside, it was obvious they had not even started to pack up. We nicely informed them that they were supposed to be out by 1pm, so they hurried along, cleaned up their mess outside, packed up their belongings in storage tubs, cleaned up and swept out the interior of the hut, and post-holed their way back to their cars, along a route not the designated trail.Only one of the fourhad snowshoes, and they were dragging the storage tubs along the snow. Well, at least they kept their dog under control, and had kept the hut warm for us! It was a bit cold outside, and was starting to snow, but our dogs patiently waited outside with us.
Once we had gained access to the hut, we were comforted by the wood stove, and the welcoming interior of the hut. A sleeping loft would remain unused, since the dogs cannot climb the ladder. The hut is equipped with a propane cook stove, utensils, and cookware for six…so we had brought only food, water, and a backpacking stove for quick heating of beverages. A lovely, cozy hideaway!
We took an afternoon hike on the River Trail, in woods, and fields with more deep snow.
As the snow fell, night also fell, and the quiet, dark evening could not have been more peaceful! The dogs were tired, and fell asleep easily on the floor by the wood stove. We used the couch and sleeping pads as our beds, and it was a very comfortable night. Heading out at midnight to use the privy can be a daunting practice…but here, the privy is well designed, not too far away, and I even saw snowshoe bunnies in the nearby woods , illuminated by my headlamp.
The next morning we enjoyed a nice sunrise, then after a light breakfast, packed up to head out. Though we had stayed only overnight, and we still love Hadsel Mares camp at Wheeler Pond, we decided that we will return to Nulhegan, in the summer for paddling, and in the winter for more snowshoeing. Thanks to the Vermont River Conservancy and Vermont Huts Association for sharing this great resource! See more at https://vermonthuts.org/
Our next snowshoeing was to be at the Moose Bog trail, located just west of the hut. We have visited this trail many times, in all seasons, and have seen great bird sightings. On this day, we found great snow, but no Spruce Grouse. In fact, only Woodpeckers were seen, until I was swarmed by Red Breasted Nuthatches and Chickadees, accustomed to hikers feeding them by hand. On prior outings, I had brought nothing to offer them, but this time, I had a bit of birdseed….apparently, that was to their liking!
After a stop for brunch at our favorite parson’s Corner restaurant in Barton, we headed home…satisfied and pleased that we had found a great new hut destination!
Part 2: To the South! Our recent southern expedition was a day trip, to an area in Middlebury Gap where we have snowshoed a few times previously. The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area contains a section of the Catamount Trail than we usually don’t travel, and we have found it to be very pretty, especially on a sunny day. We had a very satisfying morning, even though there was considerably less snow than at home.
This area makes for a nice day trip; it is only about 90 minutes from home, and the drive to reach the trailhead is through some of the prettiest winter scenery in Vermont.
Part 3; West Across the Lake! For our annual Town Meeting week 3-day getaway, we decided this year to head back to the Adirondacks. We have been to the Old Forge area and Tupper Lake for winter vacations in the past, so this year we opted for Saranac Lake. We were not looking for mountains to climb, but rather, we wanted to explore new snowshoeing trails, and hoped to get in some skijoring as well. Our route took us right past the Crown Point Fort historical site. We often stop here, for birding, or to stretch our legs, but we had never actually been on the 2.4 miles of trails. There was enough snow for snowshoeing, so off we went….it was fun getting out to the lake access, the old orchards, and fort remnants.
The sun actually came out and warmed the snow to mush; it was a bit different snowshoeing around an old fort. Exploring history while on snowshoes is something we really love!
After our morning snowshoe at Crown Point, we headed off to Saranac Lake; as we passed through Lake Placid, we realized we were ahead of schedule for check-in at the motel. Using our new Snowshoe and Ski Trail map, we found a small network of trails located just outside of Lake Placid. The Brewster Peninsula Trails provided a very nice nature trail alongside the lake shore and through woods full of Hemlock trees.
So then, it was off to the motel..yes, a motel! No cabins, huts, or tents on this trip…I had a gift card for Best Western, so we actually stayed in a motel! Luxury! Very nice, dog-friendly, and even though the pool was out of commission,we had a nice stay. On a prior winter trip, years ago, we had visited the Ice Castle, and hoped to once again see this magnificent annual structure. However, it had been knocked down after the Winter Carnival ended, so we saw only the remnant piles of huge blue ice blocks!
The next morning, we loaded up our skijoring equipment, and drove a bit beyond downtown Saranac Lake to Paul Smith’s College. I had seen social media postings about the VIC, the center with many miles of XC ski and snowshoeing trails…trails where we were allowed to skijor with the dogs! It was cold and snowy when we arrived and obtained our self-service tickets and maps. The trail grooming fellow had just arrived, and suggested a nice loop for us to ski. On to the trails we went, with 2 inches of new powder on top of recently groomed skate and classical tracks. The dogs had a blast! Edgar kept up his nice pace, and Griff maintained his steady trot. A few curvy and hilly sections, with trees close to the trail edge, provided some excitement, but we all survived and had a great time. We decided that we would return later in the day for some snowshoeing.
Here is a short video of some of our outing.we even had a bit of sun as we crossed the marsh! It includes a bit from our snowshoeing later in the day.
Our next stop was a return trip to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge. We had discovered this facility on a winter trip a few years ago, and it definitely deserved a return trip. This facility provides a safe haven for birds and other animals that have been injured, abandoned, or surrendered by other facilities. Some of the animals are being rehabilitated for a return to the wild. Here, you are provided an up close, safe look at some of our local wildlife, and have the opportunity to make a donation to support the facility. The only animals that I missed seeing were the black bears ( since they were still hibernating in their enclosure).
One of the Wolves
Other animals we saw included eagles, vultures, saw whet owls, bobcat, fishers, western coyotes, red fox, and turtles…so much to see!
After our wildlife visit, we trekked back to VIC for some snowshoeing on a trail that leads through the woods and across a fens/marsh. Our one day at VIC made us vow to return again, both in summer and winter. As we plan our September ADK trip, we will be looking at camping in this area.
We wrapped up our trip the next morning with another snowshoe outing. We couldn’t find the access to our original planned trail so we went to the trailhead for a section of the JackRabbit Trail; this trail winds from Keene to Paul Smith’s, so we were just checking out the section closest to to Saranac Lake. This is a very nice trail, winding through woods , with gradual grades.
We encountered one XC skier, who immediately corralled her loose dog, and they proceeded by us without incident. However, as we were returning to the trailhead, an unleashed large Spaniel type dog started running towards us, dragging a leash. The dog’s owner was bare-booting the trail, ( a violation of the winter rules), and seemed unable to control her dog. We asked her to call her dog, then to leash her dog, then to not let her dog run up to ours…each time the dog would run close to ours, she would call it back, but it would then just turn around and run back to us. She said her dog wanted to play, then he’s just a puppy, then he’s friendly, and said ‘ “Why do you want to be that way?” Yes, we were irritated, and waited until she finally leashed her dog in her control. After she took her dog off trail, and we passed, I told her that we were asking only that she exhibit some common trail etiquette! Grrrrr!
That one rude woman could not put a damper on our trip, which was a great success! We even found a bike that is large enough for my husband!
Part 4: North to the Border!
Snowshoeing Day #100…off on a morning with a forecast for blue skies ,sun, and temperatures near 30. We have visited this trail section before ( Catamount Trail section 31), and have found it to be a scenic, rolling, very pleasant trail for a few hours of snowshoeing. We stop at the obelisk marking the border with Canada, then retrace our route for half a mile, and head down through rolling woods until we reach a marshy turn around spot. Even the noisy snow machines racing on a half-mile of shared trail did not diminish the fun today!
So now as we enter mid–March, even with the arrival of more snow this week, we start to think of paddling…on the water in 6 weeks? We have five presentations this Spring, 3 in Vermont, and two at the New England PaddleSports Show. The dogs and we will continue to be busy as winter winds down and Spring arrives for real!