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.

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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!

Magical March—More Snow, Maine Moose, and Mud!!

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!

Maine Bound!

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!

 

“Where it’s snowing all winter through that’s where I want to be. Snowball throwing that’s what I’ll do, how I’m longing to ski (well, snowshoe)! *

edgar blowing snow sterling 27

And we have had cold! But that has not stopped us from getting out nearly daily, to keep ourselves and the dogs active through our long winter. Here in Vermont, the month of January had dramatic temperature swings, from minus 25 (f) to highs of 52 (f).  Our monthly total of less than 5 inches of snowfall resulted in mere traces of snow on multiple days, leaving “nice” nice coatings of snow dust on top of surfaces frozen grey from the 4-5 days of rain we had. Despite the temperature swings, often gusty winds, and frequently slick trail conditions, in January we managed to get in 19 days snowshoeing,  4 days spike hiking, and 4 days of skijoring/kicksledding. I conducted one snowshoe clinic for the local recreation department, and we also hosted a moonlight snowshoe for the local lake advocacy Board of Directors. I also presented a slideshow on our Banff trip for a Senior Center’s monthly Travelogue program.

We are giving our Tubbs Snowshoes quite the workout, and they continue to do an exceptional job at giving us safe access to trails in all conditions!

February has already turned the corner…we picked up 8-10 inches of snow over the past few days, and over a foot is expected this week.  The dogs will appreciate the fact that the forecast does not include any bitter cold temperatures, so for now, anyway, their doggy boots can remain tucked away in our parka pockets.

Our search for better snow conditions has taken us on a few road trips, providing the opportunity to explore new trails suitable for easy day trips.  We also hiked up Laraway Mt. for our annual mid-winter trek to see the ice columns.  Our local trails have continued to serve us well, and we have been pretty fortunate to find some nice snowshoeing, even when the we were not optimistic about potential conditions . We even discovered that a local trail network, when conditions are just right, makes a great kicksledding area.

Laraway Mountain section of Vermont’s Long Trail:

 

Taconic Mt Ramble, the newest Vermont State Park

 

Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge, in nearby New Hampshire

 

Our full moon snowshoe…on some pretty icy and firm snow, and with the full moon obscured by snow clouds!

 

Kicksledding and skijoring

 

…and finally, snowshoeing on our local trails. We are definitely fortunate to live in such a great area for outdoor recreation!

 

 

And so our winter adventures continue! We have a few upcoming speaking engagements, and we will also be conducting additional snowshoe clinics and guided hikes for the recreation department.  We recognize that paddling season is less than 10 weeks away!!! Our minds occasionally shift to Canoe Mode, as we need to make our plans for next summers paddling expeditions. We already have reservations for Keji National Park in Canada, for backcountry canoeing and camping, but the rest of our plans are still in formation stage.  Stay Tuned!

Enjoy the rest of the winter, keep active and exploring, and it is almost time to Think Spring!

 

*Credit: Lyrics by Irving Berlin