“For the rain it raineth every day” (almost!) Part 2, Our Time in Lake Louise

Alberta…The most westerly province we would explore, the one where we would find the primary target of our trip, Banff National Park.

We crossed into Alberta , adjusted our clocks, and stopped at a rest area for a dog-stop and photo op. It was warm and windy, and we were welcomed by the sight of bison on a hillside. Definitely not yet into the mountains, but we knew we were getting closer.

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The dreariness of a long prairie drive was broken up when encountered our first ever highway boat inspection station. Since signs indicated all watercraft had to stop for inspection, we pulled into the station alongside big powerboats. Our canoe and kayak received a very thorough inspection, and we learned about invasive species in Alberta from the inspector. We received our “passing score”, and after 20 minutes or so, headed towards the mountains.

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Our GPS thankfully routed us around downtown Calgary…we had nice views of the Olympic Complex, but noted the immense number of huge housing developments seemingly on every bit of (formerly) open space.

A quick stop for gas in Medicine Hat (we did not stop at the world’s largest teepee), and then Banff was in our sights! We arrived in Banff NP late afternoon; though we were still about 30 miles from Lake Louise Campground, we just had to stop and set foot in the town of Banff! We took a few “We made it!” Photos on Main Street, and then headed west to Lake Louise.

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Our site at Lake Louise Campground was located in a small loop of sites, well-spaced, and which permitted us to forget that we were actually located within a large campground. The Bow River was just beyond our site ( on the other side of the electrified bear fence). The site was extremely quiet, and the only noise we ever heard was the sound of the rushing river, or the rumble of the trains along the Canadian railways tracks. We had no animal visitors, other than the Black-billed Magpies, who frequented the area.

Our first full day began in the dark, as we were up and out at 0630, planning to head up to Lake Louise for paddling. As we headed up the mountain, we saw that the road to Moraine Lake was closed, since that parking lot was full. We had hoped to also paddle Moraine, but the logistics were to make a morning paddle there a bit problematic.

We found a nice parking space at Lake Louise, and carted our boats to the boathouse access by 0800.  There were some early bird tourists, but we took a few pics, and headed off into the turquoise waters, as the sun was just starting to peek over the mountains.

Yes, the water really is that blue! We could not decide if it was like paddling in windshield washer fluid or on tidy-bowl cleaner, but it was awesome! As the sun rose, the water’s color became lighter, and the views were amazing. On one shoreline we were cautious because of the rock slide warning signs.  At the far end, we could hear the rush of water entering the lake, from the impressive glacial snowfield above us.

 

As the sun rose, we could really detect increased air warmth in the sunny side of the lake, so that is where we headed! The water temperature was in the upper 40’s ( we wore our woolies, but I should have worn my dry suit!), so we paddled close to shore.

This actually created a rather unique paddling situation…by the time we were paddling along the sunny shoreline, the throngs of tourists had arrived. Hundreds of them could be seen walking along the lakeside trail, within conversational distance from us in our boats. Apparently, for many of these folks, the sight of a paddling dog is unique. We must have been photographed a hundred times, by tourists pointing at our dogs, and calling out to them. We obliged many, and turned our boats so they could see the dogs…and our dogs were very well behaved hams!

We had the entire lake to ourselves while we were paddling, since we concluded prior to the canoe rental center’s opening. What a morning!, certainly memorable among all our paddling outings.

 

We then took a short hike to an overlook, getting a good view of the lake we had just paddled. On the hike, our dogs were complimented as “such sweet well- trained trail dogs” . This was nice to hear, since we were aware that many of our tourists hikes would require our pups to interact with lots of people. I was able to take a picture of a Clark’s Nutcracker, one of the many life birds I would see on this trip.

After heading back to the GO for lunch and a quick nap, we ventured out for a hike along the Bow River Trail. We carried bear spray “just in case” , since we were outside the protected campground area, and a different section of the trail had been closed due to bear activity. It was a beautiful hike, and the dogs enjoyed splashing in the cold river water, a well as sniffing out all the animal smells along the trail.

We did have to break out the Adventure Medical first aid kit, for some bandaging supplies after my husband sliced his finger. Thankfully, the injury did not require a trip to the Lake Louise medical center!

As a special treat, we decided to skip the campground cooking, and opted for Pizza! We picked up the pizza and brought it back to the campsite…the dogs reverted to “home mode”, and anxiously awaited each piece of discarded crust.
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The weather forecast for the next day was not looking good, so we decided to skip a 0600 trip to Moraine. A helpful parking attendant (omnipresent in Lake Louise) had told us that after 0630, the only way to get to Moraine was via shuttle bus…which of course ruled out the dogs and our boats. A paddle at 6 pm or so was another option, so we decided that we would head up the Icefields Parkway in the morning. We planned to paddle Herbert Lake as long as it was not pouring rain, explore up towards Jasper, and go to Moraine early evening if weather permitted. Well, the day was a bit dreary, but not raining, as we found Herbert Lake.

It is a small lake, and no one was in the area…we found a water access trail where we could bring the boats to the water. Even with overcast skies obscuring some of the peaks, it was a fun little paddle. Clear green 56 degree water, many ducks, mountain views, and no one else around contributed to a successful paddling outing.

 

We then drove westerly on the Icefields Parkway, awed by the tremendous peaks that seemed to extend from the roadside up into the clouds. When the overcast skies broke, we could see the glaciers and the jagged mountaintops. Lots of stops for photos of course, and we were fortunate to be ahead of many caravans of buses and rental RVs.

We made the obligatory stop to walk up to the Peyto Lake overlook, certainly an iconic photo spot in the area. The path was not too crowded, and we were treated to the sight of a pair of Spruce Grouse only 10 feet off trail.

But, as the rains began to once again arrive, so did a busload of tourists who swarmed the overlook area from an upper parking lot, reinforcing every stereotype of rude,selfie-snapping, “oblivious to others” annoying bus tour folks.

The dogs behaved very well as we assertively plowed through this mess, and onto a trail below the observation platform, permitting us an unobstructed lake view. The view is amazing, but it would have been nice with a bit more solitude, and a bit less rain!

Our explorations continued, dodging frequent showers, with breaks of sun and partly cloudy conditions. We were really tempted to drop our boats into Bow Lake… what a magnificent spot!

 

But very threatening clouds dissuaded us, so we wimped out. We did get enough clearing in the weather to hike the Waterfowl Lakes area trails. At this point we were getting optimistic that an evening paddle at Moraine Lake might be possible.

 

However, the nasty rains returned, and we spent the afternoon reading, napping, and re-organizing gear in the GO.  We did make a trip up the mountain road to Moraine, in gloom, fog, and pouring rain, to at least lay eyes on this spectacular location. It was raining so hard we left the dogs in the car, and took a few token photos to prove we actually were there.

Since the next day was to be our transition day, when we relocated to the Banff campsite, there remained the slim chance that we could get up and be at Moraine at 0630 the next morning.  However, the canoeing gods were ignoring us, and the next day was the wettest of our whole trip. Packed up, organized, and fairly dry in the early morning darkness, we headed off to Banff.  First stop, a coffee shop for warm beverages, where we could relax while we did laundry!  With our only regret being that we missed out on paddling at Moraine, we urgently hoped that the rest of the week would permit more of our planned paddling and hiking outings.

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To Be Continued….

 

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Paddling to Banff 2017 Part 1 The Journey Begins!

Well, we really were not going to actually Paddle to Banff, but it has been a good title for our adventure. We planned to drive the nearly 3000 miles to Banff National park, stopping to camp and paddle at various iconic ( and some a bit less well known) paddling locations along the way. Our Sylvan Sport GO tent trailer had undergone some shake-down camping tests, and we were confident that it would keep us comfortable for the three week trip.

The itinerary for our trip westward was pretty well set, though the only campsites for which we had actual dated reservations were at the Boundary Waters, and at Banff. That left us a bit of flexibility to vary from our planned schedule, which was good, since most campgrounds after Labor Day are on a first come/first served status.

We headed out on a rainy Sunday morning,  asking the dogs if they wanted to go for a ride in the car…little did they know, they would not return home for three weeks!

 

Our first destination was Rideau River Provincial Park, south of Ottawa.  We had originally hoped to paddle the Rideau Canal, through Canada’s beautiful capital city. However, the logistics of parking, a busy holiday weekend, and the canal’s locks made us decide to settle on a river paddle south of the city.

We arrived on a rainy afternoon, which became a familiar status. Our border crossing into Canada had been uneventful. We had been well prepared with inventory lists, the legal amount of dog food and liquor, extra documentation on our gear and our dogs…but none of that was requested, and we breezed right through. Rideau River is a lovely little provincial park, and we were within sight of the wide expanse of river.  As it was drizzly all afternoon, we opted to put our paddle off until sunrise.  We were able to take a lovely short hike along the river, allowing the dogs to stretch their legs.

Of course, in the morning, we faced very high winds and rough water. We discovered that it is a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise.  The decision was made to cancel the first paddle of the trip…though in retrospect, we really should have given it a short go!

Westward Ho! Our first of many stops at Tim Horton’s for coffee, and to check a malfunctioning trailer light ( that actually was fine; the connection of the plug to the car was just loose, an easy fix!)

In the torrential rains, we stopped for a break at Samuel De Champlain Provincial Park. We found a great little visitor center, with fascinating artifacts and canoes from the Voyageur era.  The host was very helpful, and provided helpful information on paddling opportunities in the area. In fact, she leads tours in a large Voyageur canoe…on dry days, of course.

The skies actually cleared, which was nice, as we approached out next planned stop, at Chutes Provincial Park in Ontario. We were busy chatting, checking out activity on a community field, and following our ( not so) trusty GPS, which we call T’Pau…well, she led us right past the entrance and onto Crown land, for at least 4 miles. A lovely ride, but not the campground.   We felt rather foolish when we turned around and discovered we had missed a very large sign at the entrance.

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We had to self-register, using a credit card kiosk, and without a good campground map. Thankfully, the ranger came out of the nearby office, and directed us to sites alongside the falls. We were fortunate to get a great site, and listened to the amazing falls as we relaxed through the night. A full moon illuminated the area, and the falls were impressive under that night sky. The dogs enjoyed a hike to the upper falls, and we had a great stay, even though it was a quick stop-over, without any paddling planned.

 

Our next day was going to bring us back into the US, crossing the border at Sault Ste. Marie. We got a moderately early start (0815), and headed off in weather that alternated between rain and sun. We were lucky to arrive at Little Beaver lake Campground, on Lake Superior National Forest lands in Michigan, in time to secure one of the 8 spots at this tiny, off-the beaten-track campground.  Kimberly, a fellow Tubbs Snowshoe Ambassador from Michigan had told us we really stop at the National Lakeshore…and a little research led us to this lakeside campground.

Our GO trailer was quite the attraction! We gave some tours, and answered lots of questions from the other campers. And we finally got to paddle! The small lake provided an early morning opportunity to dip our paddles in Michigan waters. As we paddled, we realized that the roar we heard was not a train, or jet, but rather the crashing waves of Lake Superior, which was just beyond the trees lining the small lake.

We also had a bit of time to explore the impressive Superior lakeshore, and take the dogs to a dog-friendly beach. It really did feel as though were at the ocean, with powerful large waves crashing, and the wind howling. The dogs had a great time, and we would certainly consider returning here for more explorations.

 

Next, our road trip took us along the shores of Lake Superior, into Wisconsin, and then into Minnesota…north, towards the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We had breakfast at a nice local restaurant in Michigan, which was a change from our usual “cereal as we pack” breakfast. As we passed through Ironwood Michigan, I noticed the Giant Stormy Kromer Hat alongside the road! I love my Stormy Kromer, but most people in the east are unfamiliar with this headgear. Of course we had to do the tourist thing, and stop for a photo…which of course was posted on the Facebook page for the Giant Hat! (My husband had obtained a personal Hot Spot on his phone for the duration of our trip…allowing us access to the internet in locations where we had a good cell signal.)

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The Shore Drive along the lake was beautiful, and we were awed by the size and beauty of Superior. We saw many eagles flying overhead, and perched on tall trees. The weather was good, but it seemed like a long day. We finally saw the sign for Sawbill Outfitters in Tofte,  MN , and after a 23 mile drive from the main road, we arrived at the Sawbill Lake Campground.

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Though our schedule meant that our stay at the BWCA would be brief, but we did have two nights to stay over, giving us an entire day to paddle and explore the lay of the land. A contact from social media had suggested this lake for our exploratory visit, and it was perfect. The weather was a bit variable, but the paddling conditions were fine, and the lake was ideal for dipping our paddles into the Boundary Waters. At the Outfitters office, we checked out the regional map, showing the impressive number of possible canoe tripping routes. We were at one tiny corner of the entire BWCA, but it certainly was inviting to think of possible outings…darn, if it were only a bit closer!

 

Thankfully there was no fire ban at this campground. Our site was high above the water,  with easy walking access to the canoe launch area. However, we were also a bit downwind of the pit privy building, and when the wind was just right ( wrong), well, let’s just say that the campfire smoke was often welcomed!

We had more inquiries about the GO, and nice conversations with folks from Minnesota and the Campground staff about our trip, and about various paddling destinations. This was a very welcoming and comfortable break in our pattern of long travel days, and I think the dogs enjoyed the opportunity to hike around the lake, and explore in the woods.

 

After a photo op in the early morning fog at Sawbill Lake, we loaded up, and headed towards Manitoba.

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A long day ensued, but we were excited that we would finally have the chance to actually meet, in person, some of our Facebook friends that we have known for years.  Kev and Andre live in Winnipeg, and when I realized we would be passing their area on our westward trip, I suggested we really needed to at least meet for a cup of coffee.  When Kev heard that we would be camping at Falcon Beach Campground, only an hour or so from their home, he decided they would camp with us!  We really looked forward to meeting these folks and their 3 amazing dogs…they also skijor (at a much higher level than we do!), snowshoe, camp and canoe with their dogs.   (http://www.oxforddogsgear.com/)

After successfully negotiating what was probably the least attractive border crossing into Canada (   International Falls, MN to Fort Frances,ON ) we passed from Ontario into Manitoba. One of the weirdest sightings that day was the plethora of salt lakes ( sodium sulphide, I believe), from very small, to large white lakes. Apparently this salt is harvested for commercial laundry use, but it made for some odd looking bodies of water.

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We arrived at Falcon Beach, MB, in time to set up the GO, and make dinner before Kev and his pack arrived. We had communicated during our travel that day, via Facebook messages ( thanks for the wi-fi, Timmy’s), so we knew they would probably arrive after we did, destined to camp at the site right next to ours!

We had also received a Facebook message from Jessica, who is the amazing blogger behind http://www.youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com . Her stories of adventures with her dachsunds , and her great advice to all dog owners, have made for fascinating reading for years. She had planned in being in Banff on the day we were to arrive; however, in the Banff she had encountered heavy smoke from recent wildfires, and had opted to return to Seattle. We were sorry to have missed the chance to see her, and were also getting a bit concerned about the wildfire activity in Alberta. It would have really been a bummer to arrive in Banff NP and not be able to see anything due to smoke!

That was a really fun overnight stop. We chatted over a campfire, sharing camping and dog stories. We showed off the GO, and they were quite impressed by the roominess. In the morning, we all went for a brief paddle on Falcon Lake. Though this campground, and the adjacent lake, are not our “usual” type of camping and paddling destination, it was a wonderful part of our journey. Meeting Kev, Andre, Belle, River, and Burger was definitely a highlight of our trip!

After enjoying a delicious crepe breakfast prepared by the guys, we took off for the prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Our destination was not specific for that evening…basically, go as far as we can tolerate! We knew of campgrounds in the Moosejaw area, and hoped to drive at least that far.

We encountered quite a bit of traffic in Regina, SK, which delayed our arrival at the campground a bit. It was hot, muggy, with heavy air when we found Buffalo Pound  Provincial Park, just north of Moosejaw. As this was a very quick overnight stop, we set up the GO in “minimalist mode”. No vestibule, no interior table, no sleeping bags for dogs, and quick snacks for meals. We discovered beautiful muted fall colors on the rolling hills, and hiked up one trail to overlook the large lake. Griff alerted to a few mule deer, which agreeably posed for some photos. It remained light until nearly 9pm, but we were pretty exhausted, and slept well, even with the howling of nearby coyotes. The dogs were oblivious!

 

We were up at 0630, while it was still pretty dark out….a quick load and go, and off we went, watching the flaming red prairie sun rise, headed towards the Alberta border, and the adventures that awaited!

 

 

Stay tuned…more to come in Part 2!

September Song? “On the Road Again” !

Soon we will be heading off west-bound! Our gear is ready to go, the pups are enjoying the cool weather and looking forward to more adventures, our itinerary is set ( in pencil), the house-sitters are ready, and we will soon be packing up the GO.

 

We have plans to meet up with Kev and Andre from Skijor Oxford Dogs in Manitoba, and if things work out, we may be able to see Dawn in Minnesota, and Jessica  ( from Seattle) in Banff!  Our social media contacts have provided us with invaluable information and ideas, so we are sure that our adventure will be memorable. As in any long trip, there will be hiccups, but we will hold our breath, and get past them….our goal is to be safe, keep the dogs happy and active, and maybe even scout out some locations for trips in the future ( i.e. in the Boundary Waters and Algonquin).

If you check our page that keeps a journal of our preparations, you can see that we have had some great shake-down trips. We feel confident in the GO, and are ready to take it to some wonderful sites.

The last month has seen us hiking and paddling a lot…cooler weather mean foggy mornings on the water, and some chilly nights when camping. We went canoe camping for the 60% solar eclipse, and enjoyed the best few days of camping weather all season!

 

 

The loons chicks are huge! And fall colors are beginning to show on the hillsides!We have paddled a few new lakes, and have found a few gems…and continue to enjoy our local favorites.

 

When we return, we will continue paddling locally, and have a few short overnight trips planned. So off we go! We will be posting periodic updates on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and hope you will enjoy following along with our adventures ( and misadventures)

 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” (Shakespeare)

This months blog entry is a video presentation, displaying photos of some of the many observations we have made this year (and a few from last year).

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One of the many pleasures that we derive from paddling is our immersion in the natural environment…the boats give us the ability to observe the natural world “up close”, while still maintaining a respectful and safe distance from the many critters and birds that we may see. Getting out bright and early in the morning has multiple benefits for us…1)we avoid the heat of the later day, which may be unpleasant or unsafe for the dogs, 2) the water tends to be calm and quiet,without wind,  allowing us to hear the many sounds of the world coming awake 3) Calm waters make for clearer photos!  4) We may paddle even popular ponds and lakes before the access sites and waters get busy with other boaters, and 5) Wildlife tends to be active and visible in the early mornings.

I am a very amateur wildlife photographer, and definitely a novice birder…but we enjoy seeing and hearing the amazing birds and animals that share the Vermont environment with us.  Our dogs are not allowed to harass, bark at, or chase wildlife, and they often assist us by silently alerting to the presence of an animal that we may not yet see. I think that they actually enjoy seeing the wildlife!

We feel protective of our wildlife, and do participate in programs to help them out. We submit observations and data to inaturalist.org and ebird.org, and take part in the annual Loon Watch census of loons on Vermont lakes.  It is fun to share our photos, and we often use social media to help us with identification, habitat questions, or identifying hot spots for wildlife viewing.

So enjoy our short video, and see if you can identify each of the photos!

 

June…not great weather, but some nice paddling!

June 2017 has continued the pattern of very wet weather that we have experienced this spring. Over 50% of our days have seen rain, and it has been rare to have two “nice” days in a row. This has restricted my spontaneous overnight canoe trips a bit, but early morning paddling has been pretty fine. We have seen lots of neat birds ( and loon babies!), and have been able to get in one camping trip with the GO trailer. Hiking has been a bit of a challenge, due to the very wet ( and slick) trails.Our involvement with the Friends of Green River Reservoir and Friends of Waterbury Reservoir have also kept us busy.  This weekend, we are taking part in a presentation at the Green Mountain Club about Hiking With Dogs…a fellow GMC member suggested us to their outreach team, and we agreed to participate, thinking it a good opportunity to share our philosophy of safe and responsible outdoor adventure with dogs.

So here is a photographic summary of our activities for the past few weeks….more canoe camping is planned, if Mother Nature would please cooperate!

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Canine Canoeing Capers—Tips for Dog Paddling!

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This article has some tips and hints that we have found helpful in the development of our Paddle Pups. It is designed merely as a guide, since every dog, paddler, and individual’s expectation is different. It was first published a few years ago, on the backcountryk9.com blog….I have updated it just a smidgen, since we actually use solo boats now more than the tandem canoe. However, the information in it has consistently proven helpful, so we once again offer it to those of you curious about turning your dog into the perfect paddling partner.

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“There is one thing I should warn you about before you decide to get serious about canoeing [with dogs] . You must consider the possibility of becoming totally and incurably hooked on it”.  Bill Mason,  Path of the Paddle

I made the “with dogs” addition to the Mason quote, because we have admittedly become incurably addicted to paddling with our dogs . We are avid canoeists, and advocates for safe and fun outdoor adventures with dogs. We share with you a few pointers, to help you and your dogs have a great paddling experience, one you will want to continue for many years.

No way…you put TWO dogs in your canoe with you? Oh, we’ve heard that one before. We started out with one dog, who took to canoeing like a pro. He paddled with us for a few summers as a “solo dog”. Then when we adopted a second dog, we faced new challenges. Well, yes, we were able to put 2 large lab mutts in our 16’6” canoe, and off we would go… paddling a few days every week, from mid-May to end of October. We also do multi-day canoe camping trips, day trips, picnic paddles, and love exploring new waterways. You and your dog can too!

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We enjoy canoeing as a relaxing activity, which gets us out on the beautiful lakes of northern New England. We use the tandem canoe for some trips, but most of our outings now involve the use of a 13 foot solo canoe and a 12 foot kayak. One dog prefers the canoe, and the other likes his kayak, so both dogs and paddlers are happy! The tips here were used to acclimate Edgar to his kayak, and he successfully transitioned into being a kayak pup, too.

If your dog can happily ride in a car, he can be a good candidate for canoeing. Canoeing does not provide the exercise that hiking, skijoring, or running may, but we have found our dogs love the peaceful movement of the canoe. They get to see wildlife, explore islands and beaches, camp out with us, and swim to cool off.

If you are deciding which canoe to use, we suggest you start with a stable, family-suitable canoe. Aluminum canoes can get very hot and noisy, both unpleasant conditions for a dog… so we suggest avoiding them. If you are going to check out canoes prior to purchasing, we suggest you bring along your dog. It is helpful to have the pup try out the canoe for size, too…some configurations are more suitable for dogs than others. Even better, if you go for a test paddle, bring your dog along, too, wearing a life jacket, of course.

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Be sure to have a covering on the floor of the boat. Your dog will need to adjust to the movement of the canoe, and if he slips or slides, he will be uncomfortable, insecure, and will not be able to settle down. We have used yoga mats, backpacking pads, foam mats…all with varied success. We found that on many of these mats, once water gets under them, they will slide. Our preferred solution is a section of good quality indoor-outdoor carpeting. This material can be cut to fit nearly the length of our canoe, protects the interior from the dogs’ claws, and also is easy to clean, dry, and roll up for storage. Note: For the kayak, we have installed an adhesive Punt Surf traction mat, designed for SUPs. That has worked very well in the kayak interior.

Be sure that you are confident paddlers before you take your dog out in the canoe. You do not have to be expert canoeists, but even on quiet waters, you are going to have a miserable (and dangerous) time, if you and your dog are both uncertain and inexperienced. Select a quiet, calm body of water, with an easy access launch site, for your first excursions. Choose a time of day when there are fewer other boaters or dogs around; the smoother the water, and the fewer distractions, the more successful your initial trips will be.

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Your dog does not have to be a good swimmer to have a safe trip. In fact, for all dogs, we suggest the use of a dog life jacket. This jacket can provide thermal protection in cool water, provides a nice handle should you need to lift your dog out of the canoe or the water, and makes your dog visible to other boaters should he end up in the water. Neither of our dogs is a skilled swimmer; should we capsize, I would prefer to deal with a guided, floating dog, than one who is struggling. We periodically have our dogs practice swimming while wearing their life jackets, so they gain confidence in the water.

Do not forget to wear your PFD! No matter how strong a swimmer you may be, should you need to assist your dog in the water, lack of a PFD could be detrimental to your health. According to the American Canoeing Association, 85% of canoeist who drown were not wearing PFDs. Consider that, and the fact that there would be added exertion required in trying to help your dog!

 

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It is advisable to have your dog well versed in basic obedience commands, such as sit, stay, down, and “hup” ( or another command you may select for getting in and out of the boat ). We had each of our dogs work on these skills in the boat while on dry land before they ever went onto canoe on the water. This included having them sit, stand, and lie down while we rocked and wiggled the boat. This training has saved us from disaster more than once, as we have often encountered heavy waves. Each of our dogs began his canoeing career by sitting in the same canoe compartment with the stern paddler….the dog was secure, easy to hold, and there was less chance of unexpected motion from the dog. The dog then “graduated” into riding in his own section, once he had demonstrated reliable canoe behavior.

Be sure to practice good canoeing etiquette with your dog. We do not allow the dogs to bark while in the canoe. We paddle near some amazing wildlife, and would not want our dogs to harass the loons, beaver, herons, moose, or other animals ( or paddlers) we may see.

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We do have a standard routine for getting in and out of the boat. Dogs go in first, one at a time, upon command…then we go in. The dogs are taught that we decide when they enter and exit the boat. Upon landing, we reverse the process. Most capsizings happen within 10 feet of shore, and keeping a strict routine can help prevent this. The dogs only get in and out of the boat when we decide it is safe for all of us.

Our dogs get very excited when they see that they are going in the canoe! If your dog has trouble settling down, you may want to take him for a run, or a short exercise session first. It is also a good idea to let him take care of any potty business before he gets into the boat!

On longer paddle trips, we try to stop periodically and let the dogs out to run around a bit, to stretch and complete any unfinished “business”. Be sure to clean up after your dogs, as we are responsible for them, and for keeping our waters clean.

We like to keep short leashes on the dogs while they are canoeing, for guiding them at the launching sites (where there may be broken glass or other hazards), and in case we do go into the water in an unplanned manner! We have used traffic leads, and regular leashes coiled up with gear-ties, secured to their jackets. It is crucial you do not have any hanging lines that could cause entanglement if the boat tips, and NEVER tie your dog to the boat. We have had great success using the Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash, since it serves wonderfully as a canoeing leash. It stays wrapped over the dog’s regular collar until needed, so it is both safe,  and handy.

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We always carry drinking water for our dogs in the boat, using the OllyDog Olly Bottle or the H2O4K9 bottle. It can get hot in a canoe in the summer, and it is important that we, and the dogs, keep hydrated. Yes, they can lean over the gunwales to access water…but we do not always want the dogs drinking from the water we may be paddling across. It also can become quite the “tippy-canoe or puppy, too” experience if your dog suddenly decides to drink the lake.

Our trips always have us carrying a canoe bag with essential safety gear which includes a dog first aid kit. Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, even in remote canoeing areas we have found bottle caps and broken glass on launching and landing sites. In this kit, we always have a few cordura musher’s booties; should we have to bandage a paw, the use of a bootie will help keep a bandage in place.

One of the most important elements to having a successful dog paddling expedition is your attitude! Have fun… remember that this activity may be a bit unsettling to your dog.  Go slowly…start with short trips, so your dogs can earn your praise while he practices his canoeing skills. Take Photos! You will want to look back some day and realize how far you and your dog have come, and laugh at your adventures (and misadventures!). Canoeing is a “lifetime activity” for our dogs. Once their skijoring and kick-sledding days are over, we know that they will continue to enjoy canoeing with us, a shared activity we all love.

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Rest, Respite, and a Return to the Reservoir!

Ahhh..the beginning of canoe camping season! The opening weekend of the season for Green River Reservoir State Park, our favorite local getaway for overnight camping. Poor Edgar and his Dad had not been out kayaking prior to this trip, so we chose a site not too far from the access point. In Vermont, May can bring snow, hail, wind, or stinkin’ hot temperatures, so our first trip is usually within easy reach, should we need a quick escape. Green River Reservoir is 650 acres of quiet waters…no power boats allowed, so it really is a paddler’s paradise. Less than 30 paddle-in sites exist, so weekend reservations are usually filled by early Spring. I made our reservations last fall, knowing that by opening weekend, we would be ready to begin the 2017 canoe camping season. It is a great spot to escape for a few days, getting away from the chaos that often surrounds us!

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This was also going to be fun because we had made a few snowshoe treks to this specific site during the winter…accessed via the winter- use only Catamount Trail.  The weather forecast for the weekend was temps in the 60’s, with nightime lows near 30, and light winds. We arrived a bit earlier that normal check-in time, figuring that if the site was vacant,we could drop off our gear, and paddle to an island for lunch. However, the nice Park Ranger, Ross, said to go ahead, and that the site should be vacant.  Good idea, since we saw that the wind was definitely going to be gustier that the 6-9 mph forecast had indicated. The staff at this park are tremendous, and it is no wonder that they received the Vermont Park Staff of the Year award last season!

Heading out, the sky was blue, the water cool ( but not too cold), and the wildlife was ready to greet us.  We passed an eagle perched in a tree, high above a pair of swimming loons. Pretty cool, except we know that the eagle is just waiting for some loon chicks to snatch!

Edgar was just great in his kayak…he resumed his position in the boat as if he had never been away.   The kayak led the way, as we worked our way through the increasing chop.

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The dogs loved this site! Lots of grass to roll in, water easily accessible to splash in , loons and geese right off shore to provide entertainment, and a nice flat tent spot. Well, we certainly liked that,even if the dogs were not so impressed.

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There were 2 issues that were less than pleasant…1) a prior site user had left a lot of watermelon rinds right on the edge of the site…perfect bait for the local bears and raccoons.  2) No black flies, but the no see-ums ( gnats) were very annoying! Our bug repellent did work, but even when they were not upon you, they were buzzing about your head. We rubbed some safe natural based repellent on the dogs’ heads, since Griff seemed to be bothered by the nasty critters.  Though Edgar appeared oblivious to the bugs, we noticed that he had been stung around his eyes! Poor pup, he had to go into the tent for a while so he could be monitored, and to escape further bites.  Thankfully, within 20-30 minutes the swelling had gone down, and he never appeared the worse for wear. Griff just enjoyed sleeping in the sun!

After having lunch and establishing our comfortable site, we went out for a windy, though enjoyable paddle exploration. My little canoe was bobbing quite a bit as we paddled downwind, but it was great fun!  One of my goals this season is to improve strength and technique needed to paddle in windier, more challenging conditions. As long as I am laughing, it is a good time!  Gryphon was very happy, also, to have Edgar once again paddling beside him…

After dinner, we made a fire in the large ring. Not the most  successful fire we have made, but it served the purpose to keep bugs away, and to provide some psychological warmth. As the sun dropped lower in the horizon off our campsite, the thermometer showed the cold was arriving.

The dogs readily went into the tent, getting snug for the evening ahead. As darkness arrived, the haunting calls of the resident loons and barred owls echoed around the campsite. So peaceful and quiet…the best way to fall asleep. Well, until one of the few neighbors to the park decided it was a good night for a long and loud fireworks event!

Gryphon has recently decided he does not like thunder, and gets very clingy and requires re-assurance when the sounds of thunder occur. So in the tent, with the booms crashing about, he decided he really needed to get very close to us…so very close, in fact, he was trying to hide in my sleeping bag. Poor dog, he did well with comforting, but he , and we, were very appreciative of the end of the fireworks.

Morning arrived with a temperature of 30 degrees; Griff and I were ambitious, and went out for a sunrise paddle in the pink and foggy morning. Edgar decided he was nice and comfy in his sleeping bag, and opted to stay with his Dad in the tent.

We all decided that we would take advantage of the calm water, and pack up and head out early. There was rain in the forecast for later in the day, and we wanted to be able to hang out our gear at home before the rain began. It would also give us a chance to get breakfast at a local spot we have been frequenting for over 30 years! So after a welcome cup of hot chocolate, we loaded up and headed out, taking a circuitous route around the rez.

It was nice to see that one of the 4 pair of loons had established a nest; this particular nesting site has been productive each year. We look forward to watching the chicks emerge ( from a safe distance), and seeing them grow as the season progresses.

Our  concensus is that we had a succesful trip…no major incidents, and my husband felt comfortable paddling over the two days. The first outing can be a bit taxing on the shoulders! We enjoyed our site, and there was plently of room to enjoy the sunny day.

Of course, we had to match up some of our winter shots with spring shots! Looks a bit more green now….

site 4 combination 2         site 4 combination 1

We are ever grateful to Vermont State Parks for providing such a wonderful place for day paddling and camping. I feel so strongly about this spot that I recently was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Friends of Gren River Reservoir. That is quite the honor, and am glad that I will have the opportunity to help maintain this special place. Please check out the website ( http://www.fgrrvt.org/ ) for more information on how you can help preserve this gem.