“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (L.M. Montgomery)

October in Vermont…we may have beautiful warm weather or cold rain and snow. High winds are common, and our daylight hours diminish rapidly. It is definitely a transitional season, starting as summer ends, and ending with Stick Season, marked by leafless trees and cool grey days. However, it is a wonderful month! We did not have radiant foliage colors this year, but we did enjoy the muted shades of red and orange. The dogs get re-energized when cool weather arrives, and we head out for cool fall hikes and we start bikejoring to prep for winter season.

Paddling season is drawing to a close…perhaps a week or two remain, as it all depends on when the lakes become iced over. My Mythic Gear Dry Suit has proven to be a great investment, as it allows me to safely extend paddling season. We have yet to find dry suits for dogs, but a neoprene vest under their life jacket provides an extra level of thermal protection for the pups.

The Tubbs snowshoes are on deck—just waiting to be called out to attack the first real snowfall! We hope that it will be a quick changeover from paddling season to snowshoeing season!

This short video sums up our October activities…hiking,camping, paddling, and enjoying all that Vermont has to offer. Our next Blog Post? Snowshoeing! ( If Mother Nature cooperates of course) Enjoy, and get out there with your dogs to have safe and fun adventures!

 

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To Digby Neck and Schoodic Woods…our Ocean Adventures Continue!

With the ocean breezes blowing us along, we traveled from Kejimkujik Seaside heading along the shoreline route on our way to Digby Neck, NS. Since we had to board the ferry from Digby in a few days, we decided to camp on Digby Neck and explore a section of Nova Scotia we had never previously visited. Campground options near the ferry were a bit limited, so we had chosen Whale Cove Campground, about 40 minutes south of the town of Digby, and not too far from trails we wanted to hike, and islands we wanted to visit.

One of our targeted activities in Digby was Doing Laundry! We located a few options within the town, so planned to check them out after we had gotten set up at the campground.

Whale Cove was located in the perfect spot for us…it is a rather funky little campground, with some open sites, some with water view ( none available), and small sites with hedgerows providing privacy.  Definitely not an upscale spot, but it served our needs as a base of operation for our explorations. We were thrilled to discover, upon our check-in at 4pm, that there is an on-site laundry room. But, unfortunately, we were told there was a planned power outage for the campground starting at 6pm. Since the laundry facilities were in use at that time, we said we could do laundry first thing in the morning, or up in Digby while were were getting dinner.

Sure enough, when we arrived in Digby at 5:30, we discovered that the town was also subject to the outage, so the restaurants were all closing, except for one, which has a generator. We did enjoy a fantastic dinner of famous Digby Scallops, and then a nice stroll around the harbor town.

We never did have a campfire at the campground…we really did not spend much time just sitting around our site, and the fire pits were…well, let’s just say “unique”. Each site had a lawnmower base, upon which was located a metal ring ( washing machine drum?). This is what folks use to have a campfire…apparently, the inherent mobility of such a fire ring is efficient when RVs, pup-up campers, and tents of various sizes use a site. We just found it less than attractive!

whale cove fire pit 3

  Do you want a delicate or heavy duty fire?

Our full day on Digby Neck was definitely a busy one…we took two ferries to get to Brier Island, a small ( 5 miles long) island at the southern tip of Digby Neck. Short quick ferry rides ( 7.00 CDN each RT ride) brought us to the village of Westport on Brier Island. One small “we carry everything” general store provided us with a lunch to go, a few groceries we needed, and some gas for the car. Then we drove a few miles to Seal Cove, where a network of trails is located right along the ocean. Beautiful! The dogs loved hiking the trails, the sea breeze was blowing, and we watched the numerous sea birds and Harbour Seals.

Rocky shores and endless views!

Marine Life!

Of course, Brier Island has lighthouses, so we had to pay a quick visit to at least one…had to get the iconic lighthouse photos!

keji trip 175

Our next stop was a wildlife preserve, designated as a protected birding site. We saw hawks, gulls, many small birds, herons, and even made a skeletal discovery. Gryphon stopped to sniff what looked like a skeletal arm with fingers…but the fingers had remnants of fur on them. Locating some additional skeletal parts resulted in our conclusion that this was a seal skeleton. Definitely a fascinating first!

In this area, we had a great chat with a few local residents who were collecting Rose Hips…we had seen these ocean side plants on all the seaside trails, and we were informed that they are collected to make Rose Hip jelly. Prior to boarding the ferry to return north, we managed to find a jar of home made Rose Hip Jelly in a little shop; bringing home a piece of Brier Island tradition!

On our way back to the campground, we stopped to hike to Balancing Rock. This geological curiosity is mentioned in all the tourist guides, and the hike is dog-friendly. Though the hike is only about 1.5 miles, it meanders through different types of environments, from sandy scrub, marshy areas, and wooded pines. There is a set of 235 steps that lead down through the woods to a viewing platform; amazing, overlooking the ocean, a basalt column 37 feet high, balanced on two points on a rocky ledge. Incredible to see, and so glad we hiked along this tourist trail. Once again, we received many complements on our dogs’ trail etiquette from other hikers.

Our long day finished, we made a quick-n-easy dinner at the campsite, and prepped for our morning bug-out before heading to the ferry dock. Early in the morning we heard rain pelting the roof of the GO…damn, we really hate to break camp in the rain. Thankfully, by 7am, the rain had dissipated to a light mist, and we were able to head out by 8am, remaining fairly dry. A stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast, then off to wait in line for our placement in the ferry to St. John. The dogs made a final “pit stop”, and we bade farewell to Nova Scotia!

A rainy but uneventful ferry crossing brought us back to St.John, NB, and soon after, a return to the USA. This was a designated travel day, so the steady rain did not bother us, and we knew that this portion of the country had also suffered drought and needed the rain. We took some scenic options along the coast, on our way to the Schoodic Peninsula.

When we originally planned this trip, we discussed driving home via Umbagog State Park in northern NH, a beautiful paddling location. However, in 2018, the park was closed as of  September 3 for renovations. This was actually not bad thing, as our 3 days at Schoodic were wonderful.

We have each been to Acadia National Park many times…it is one of the busiest national parks, and visitors to Mt. Desert Island face crowds, traffic tie-ups, and limited parking at popular sites. However, the Schoodic Woods portion of the park, about a hour north/east is much quieter and less crowded. The campground is in only its second full year of operation, and is designed for privacy,  quiet, and in a way to preserve the dark sky location. We arrived at this modern, beautiful campground early evening, as the rain was stopping, and a foggy mist was settling in. As we set up, we encountered the first of curious onlookers, fascinated by our GO camper!

keji trip 195

The campsites are arranged to provide maximum privacy and quiet. We noticed a path to an adjacent ( behind our site) campsite; cool, since that was the site that Martha and Steve, relatives who live nearby would be using for our second two nights.

We paddled two different lakes located in the general area of Schoodic, and also did a hike up to Schoodic Head, and also along the rocky coastline.  Great campsites at night, in the huge circular fire pits, beautiful star-filled skies ( no external camper lights allowed in the campground), and critters and birds visiting our site. We spent hours around the campfire catching up with Martha and Steve. What a great few days to wind down as we neared the end of our vacation!

Schoodic Woods Campground, Acadia National Park

Paddling Donnell Pond and Jones Pond

 

Hiking, hot and muggy, but great views!

Salty Dogs!

So our trip came to a close, 13 days after it began. Only 1700 miles this year, which I think the dog’s appreciated!  Nova Scotia was fantastic, Schoodic was wonderful, the weather was outstanding, and we had no glitches in our travel plans. Our well-traveled adventure dogs are home, looking forward to canoe camping and cabin camping this fall.

Summer is over, and fall is upon us. Before we know it, we will be digging out the snowshoes and skis for cold weather adventures ( but not yet, still another month or so of paddling!)

Who knows where we will venture on our next big adventure!

Schoodic 47

Kejimkujik…”The wilderness will welcome you, and teach you, and take you to it’s heart.”

Our trip to Kejimkujik National Park was planned based on input from our Winnipeg friends Kev and Andre ( and their dogs Burger, Belle, and River), social media contacts from Nova Scotia, and a fellow board member of Friends of Green River Reservoir. How to pronounce it? Well, the best I have been able to determine is Kedgie-ma-KOO-jik ; hence, we will refer to the park as Keji!

NS Map

 

Plans were made in January 2018, so that we could reserve the back country sites we desired, and have front country sites reserved as “back-up”, in case we encountered stormy weather,injuries, or illness. We had to pack and plan for both front country camping with the GO, as well as back country remote camping…this meant different gear,cooking stoves,and food. We also had camping at Digby Neck on our Nova Scotia itinerary,and our trip was scheduled to finish up with a few days camping at Acadia National Park ( Schoodic Woods). Organization through the use of gear checklists, graphic organizers, and meal planning charts all helped us  have very successful camping in all the locations we chose.

Off to Keji! I downloaded a free copy of “The Tent Dwellers” book to bring, based on recommendation of Andrew, an outdoor educator from Nova Scotia who has frequented Keji for 30 years…he actually reached out by phone, and he was able to answer a few questions we had ( i.e re: the need/not need for bear canisters), and also suggested trails, and this particular book, the story of two adventurers exploring the wilds of the Keji area in 1906. Thank you Andrew!

We left on a sunny day…would this be an omen of sunny weather for this year’s trip? It was, as we had glorious weather for two weeks ( except for one travel day, so that was okay). We stopped in Maine for our first night, and camped at a campground alongside a large lake. It was quite windy, but we were able to get in a sunrise paddle before we headed north to St. John, NB.

Our trip to St. John NB was uneventful; border crossing was without a hitch, and we were able to stop at a beautiful provincial park beach for lunch. The helpful park staff pointed us in the direction of the dog friendly beach, where we walked in the fog ( and reminded the dogs that they could not drink this water).

We arrived in St. John NB, a city we have visited before ( for youth fencing tournaments, bicycling trips, and taking our daughter to university in Nova Scotia), but which was really just a stop-over for us. Since we had to be at the ferry dock very early the next morning, we opted to stay in a motel! This turned out to be a fortuitous decision, since there was an overnight thunderstorm and heavy rain. The ferry dock was encased in fog, but we lined up alongside the tractor trailers, RVs, and other cars waiting to find our place on the MV Fundy Rose.

We carried the boats on the roof of the car,since the price for crossing is calculated by length, not height…we saved some money by keeping our total length to 26 feet. The dogs had to remain in the car for the 2.5 hour crossing….temperature and ventilation were not an issue, and they are quite used to spending long hours sleeping in the car. We did leave our cell phone number on the dash, should deck hands need to contact us.

The ferry crossing was foggy, but uneventful, and we arrived in Nova Scotia late morning. Our GPS wanted to route us on a 4 hour journey, up and around NS, to get to Keji…silly, since RT 8 crosses NS, and brings you to Keji in 90 minutes or so. I had a very good Nova Scotia map, so we decided that we would use old-school navigation.

We arrived at Keji, and recalled that about 35 years ago, we had bicycled into the park entrance roadway….no paddling on that trip!

keji trip 21

At the visitor center, an extremely helpful Parcs Canada ranger helped us check in—a bit convoluted, since we had reservations for  back country sites, and front country sites on some overlapping days. She efficiently got us all checked in, issued us our permits, took our information about emergency contacts, and we were all set! We made camp at our site at Jeremy’s Bay, within 100 years of the water, and headed off to explore some of the many trails in the park. Being a mid-week, after Labor Day, the park was not busy…a good thing, since the sites at this particular campground loop were very scenic, but do not offer much privacy between sites.

Hardwoods and Hemlocks Trail..hiking a beautiful trail amidst 400 year old hemlocks!

We walked along the shores of Kejimukujik Lake ( not where we were heading for backcountry), beginning to get a sense of the enormity of this park. We relaxed at the campsite, knowing we were heading off to the Big Dam/Frozen Ocean Loop in the morning.

The next morning, we packed up our gear into the GO storage crates, placed them in the GO, and with our car loaded up with our back country gear, headed off to the parking for Big Dam Lake. We do not have to portage very often, and we knew that most of our portages would be suitable for use with our canoe and kayak carts. We had chosen this particular loop because it was recommended as an introduction to paddling at Keji…and there are only 3 portages each way, important information when our boats are not lightweight Kevlar! We each had an enlarged sectional map of our route in a dry bag,and I had the entire Keji park map as well. Since we saw only a few other paddlers the entire trip, and we were definitely newbies to this location, we really did not want to get lost!

Our loop in relation to entire Keji NP…

Off we went, only to discover that the fist put-in was a bit mucky ( to say the least). The famous Keji boulders ( rocks everywhere!) also presented another obstacle, but this was a challenge we were up to, and were soon paddling on mirror-calm waters of Big Dam lake.

We had been warned about the dark water, and rocks just below the surface, a characteristic of many Keji paddling locations; we knew we would have to negotiate ‘the Narrows” , a 200 yards stretch of lake that can be tricky to paddle. Since water levels are even lower than normal, we did not feel too incompetent when we each got stuck. Can’t go forward, can’t go backwards, can’t go sideways….hmmm, really a paddling puzzle, trying  to paddle and pole our way through the rocky water. This was when we first saw varying colors of paint, left by canoe hulls, on the submersed rocks. ( no portage or lining options) We contributed a bit of green and orange to the kaleidoscope!

Alas, the other side ( the northern end of Big Dam Lake ) was beautiful! Our first campsite was located a short ways along the second portage trail…when we realized the prior occupants had yet to break camp, we dropped of our camp gear, and took back to Big Dam, exploring the beautiful lake, marveling at huge rock formations, many of which looked like pyramids.

After providing ample time for the prior occupants to exit, we portaged the canoes and gear down to the site. The remote sites here are quite well equipped, especially for being in the middle of nowhere! There are two large tent pads on each site, an outhouse ( furnished with TP, no less), a picnic table, a small metal firebox, and a effective bear hang system, allowing for safe storage of food and other smelly items. There is even a woodshed with firewood located ear each site! Though this may seem a bit too close to “glamping” for some, it certainly helps preserve the natural environment, and protects the sites from being damaged or changed.

This was a very nice site, and we were able to talk with a nice couple that we had seen camping on site 2. They were heading up the portage trail for a day paddle on Still Brook, the pathway to our next site. They said they would give us a report on the water level in the brook when they returned.  Their report? Good news and bad news. The river paddle was said to be beautiful, but they told us about a particularly rocky and nasty section in the river, equal to or worse than the narrows. Also, the next portage, though short, was so rocky and rooty that we would not be able to cart the boats. Oh, jolly, something to look forward to! But we enjoyed our stay at this site, particularly since we had managed to bring along a large 4-person tent which provides much more room and comfort than out small camping tent. I guess we really were Canoe Glamping! ( and confession…there is cell service in this area, due to a tall tower at the park. We were able to access wi-fi through use of a hot spot, but we really did not use the internet much)

The next morning, we re-loaded our boats,which were on canoe carts, and headed down the portage trail. Though there were a few tricky areas, we were able to roll the boats to the next put-in, using a dock/boardwalk for the last 100 feet. A sunny and warm morning awaited us as we paddled along Still Brook, which really was more of a small river. Very mild current exists, good since we were planning on a return paddle on the same route. We paddled through very different environments…marshy areas, large piney woods, and scrub brush areas. We did find the rocky section, and after a few cuss words and a few futile attempts before we found a passable route, we continued on to the next portage.

 

Our final portage going out was a few hundred yards long, but we had to carry each boat, and then make numerous trips to carry the gear. Oh, and getting the boats and gear across the exposed rocks, and up to where we could begin the carry was tough. The dogs were very well behaved, but were a bit confused as to why we kept going back and forth on the same trail! The put-in at the end of the portage trail was rocky, but a  pretty easy access point. By now, of course, the wind had picked up, and thankfully, we did not have too long a paddle on Frozen Ocean Lake to get to our next campsite, home for 3 days.

Our site was pretty spectacular! Along with the amenities of the first site, it was well over an acre in size, with lots of open wooded area, large boulders, and waterfront access. And we appeared to be the only folks on the lake! We were able to get out an paddle multiple times each day, exploring this wonderful and scenic lake.  The quiet was impressive,and the sky was filled with stars each evening. There were nearby hiking trails we could access, but we never saw another soul.

Filtering water, fungus on tree stumps, and frogging on the shoreline…

Life at Frozen Ocean Site 6

 

On our final morning, we were hoping for cool temperatures, since we had to paddle two lakes, a river, and make 3 portages all in one morning. We knew this would be a challenge, but we were able to compete the task in less than 5 hours ( below our target times!) We took it easy, took breaks, kept the dogs hydrated and plied them with snacks. The rocky crossings seemed less intimidating, and we managed to cross with less difficulty in both the river and the Narrows. Big Dam Lake was glorious, with sun shining and the water sparkling..we even exited at the mucky access point without issue…and we did have a feeling of accomplishment as we concluded that last final Portage Q!

Porcupine in a tree..as we paddled out Still Brook

We loaded up our gear and boats on the car,and headed off to get an ice cream cone for us and the dogs. Best tasting ice cream of the season!

After reclaiming our Jeremy’s Bay campsite, happy to see our GO waiting for us, we took advantage of the park’s hot showers, and then drove around to different areas of the park, impressed by the diversity of natural settings. We relaxed around the fire, and put up with the increased activity and noise of weekend campers. We were able to live stream our son’s choral concert from Alexandria Virginia…while sitting in the GO, in the middle of Keji in Nova Scotia,Canada. Sometimes technology is just amazing!

We packed up early the next morning, a bit sad to leave such a beautiful spot. But we had further Nova Scotia and Maine adventures waiting for us, and we were not actually finished with Keji quite yet.

Kejimkujik National Park also has a separate section located on the ocean, on the south shore area of Nova Scotia. So on our way to Digby Neck, we stopped off there on a fabulous bluebird sky sunny morning. There are many hiking trails, and we enjoyed hiking along the seaside trails, watching for birds (and bears…a bear was spotted on the beach the day after we were there). We encountered a few other dogs hiking, and other hikers enjoying the trails. We received many complements on how well our dogs were behaving.

I would return to Keji Seaside any time! What a gem, and so glad that Parcs Canada is preserving this special place.

So we left Kejimkujik….and drove around the south shore of Nova Scotia enroute to Digby Neck, where we were going to camp in the GO for a few nights before heading back to the states. Our Keji trip was great fun! We had fabulous weather, great paddling, well behaved dogs, and challenging adventures. The remainder of our vacation was also wonderful, but that will be reported in a future blog post.

We’re Baaaaack!

Summer is ending in just a few days, and wow, have we been busy! Opting for a “blog hiatus” was definitely the correct choice, but now we have so much to share. Presently, we are at over 100 days of paddling, LOTS of camping, and hiking and fun adventuring. We just returned from a two week adventure, paddling and camping in Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, and then paddling and camping in Maine for a few days. A trip report will be forthcoming, but for now, here is a short summary of our two week trip…a full trip reports and summer summary will be published within the next week!

 

 

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” ― William Shakespeare

We are not yet into summer; in fact, we have really just begun to acclimate to Spring weather! The snow lingers on the mountaintops, but our snowshoeing season has ended…late in April, when for the 107th day this season, the Tubbs were strapped on, and the dogs and we went plodding through the snow. It was a tremendous season, and except for a brief period in the end of January, we had pretty fine conditions all winter.

As much as we enjoyed our late season snowshoeing outings, we anxiously were awaiting the return of paddle season. It was obviously from our April treks that the lakes had a thick coating of ice, and some warming temperatures would be necessary if we were to paddle before June!

We dealt with the frustration of waiting for ice-out and warm weather by traveling to Maine, where we once again presented at the New England PaddleSports Show.  This year we had great weather and fine turn-out.  We had a chance to socialize and exchange ideas with some Coats Guard Auxilliary officers, and met up with nice folks from other paddle clubs and the Wenonah Canoe company. The dogs loved their beach visits, and the birding was very satisfying.

 

The paddle show got the juices flowing…we were all getting antsy, and wanting to get out and paddle. But late season snowstorms, cold temperatures, and overcast days were working against us.  We do get the dogs out for hikes nearly every day, so at least we all kept active….

By May 10, we finally could dispense with our microspikes on hikes…mud season means hiking lower elevation trails, where the ice and snow have finally left us.

April 27th, with a one day overlap with the end of snowshoeing season, the solo boat went into the water! There was still some ice remaining, but enough open water was present to make the paddle worthwhile. The water was cold ( 40f), but with my drysuit I felt safe and secure.

The next weekend, we spent an afternoon at the Saratoga (NY) paddle Fest, meeting with folks at the GO trailer exhibit. We had lots of interaction with folks, and also had a chance to paddle in the Fish Creek. The water was cold, but Edgar had the opportunity to try out the solo canoe, staying close to shore, “just in case”. He really appeared to enjoy it ( though I think he prefers his familiar kayak).

Since ice-out has been at least a week later than average, and he water remains cold in most lakes, Edgar has not had much chance to get out…but that should change this week. If his dad had a dry suit, they could join Gryphon and me, but until they, they remain safely on shore. Gryphon and I have had a great time, especially with our early birding success!

So now we are in full summer mode…paddling, pedaling mountain and road bikes, and perambulating on our trails and mountains. Camping begins next week! We will be camping, both GO camping and canoe camping, a few times each month, as we look forward to our September trip to Nova Scotia. Day paddling will continue 4-5 days a week, depending upon weather. Hiking will happen nearly daily, sometimes for short hikes, and sometimes for longer outings. We will certainly be busy!

So, we are now taking a summer break from blogging…a hiatus, if you will, just as popular TV shows used to do, so they could return refreshed and invigorated for a new season each fall. We will continue to be active on social media, but primarily with photo reports of our trips. Instagram ( @vermontpaddlepups) and facebook ( Vermont Paddle Pups) will be utilized, and we will also be writing more reviews for http://www.trailspace.com.

Otherwise, we anticipate resuming narrative blogging in conjunction with our 2018 Canada trip to Kejimkujik National Park this fall. Enjoy your summer, keep safe, and check us out on social media.

Safe Paddling!

https://vimeo.com/269392737

 

April showers bring…more snowshoeing!

Lots of snowshoeing ( approaching 100 days this season), and we even got in some nice skijoring recently.  The lakes are holding firmly on to their coating of ice and snow, but we are getting antsy for upcoming paddling season. We will soon be off to the coast of Maine, presenting at the New England PaddleSports show once more…this is traditionally our only ocean trip of the year, but this year we will also be going to Nova Scotia. More to follow on those trip plans, but in the meantime, we welcome April with a look back at the second half of our amazing snowshoeing season.  I am sure we will get out again, probably at least 5 or 6 more days…but our minds have definitely shifted towards canoeing and kayaking. We hope to be on the water in 2 or 3 weeks, but Mother Nature will determine our start date!

 

Special Thanks to Tubbs Snowshoes for equipping us with the best snowshoes for getting out into nature!