Raising a Raquette on New Year’s Eve!

A bit of Throwback Thursday….

In the current ( Winter 2019) edition of Long Trail News, the quarterly publication of the Green Mountain Club, there is a brief article I wrote about our celebrations at Hadsel Mares Camp. We will continue this end of year/beginning of year tradition again this season, and we are looking forward to more cozy, and brisk, adventures!

Long trail hadsel article

So we present an article about one of our earlier New Year’s Eve trips to the Kingdom, when we welcomed in the year 2017!

                                        Raising a Raquette on New Year’s Eve!

Well, actually we were pretty mellow, enjoying the peace and quiet of the woods of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, as the new snow fell gently upon the existing foot of fresh powder. So why have I suggested in the title of the blog article that we “raised a raquette” ?  We did raise a raquette, but not in the usual sense. We took our raquettes into the wooded trails of the local mountains and ponds, to welcome in 2017 with an outdoor adventure.

Living as close to the Canadian ( Quebec) border as we do, we frequently  participate in outdoor activities north of the border, and follow many outdoor sites based in Quebec. From these sites we learned that in the French language of Quebec, snowshoes are known as raquettes….hence, our appropriation of the term!

Rather than spend the holiday weekend surrounded by noisy,  robust, and loud partiers, my husband and I decided to head to the mountains for the weekend. We were fortunate enough to be able to rent an off-grid Wheeler Pond cabin owned by the Green Mountain Club, located on the pond at the base of mountains with an endless variety of hiking and snowshoeing terrain. We are members of the GMC, Northeast Kingdom Section, and have stayed here many times before. Unfortunately, last winter, our attempts at snowshoeing weekends were major “fails”…the snow-less winter of 2015-16 had us do lots of ice-spiking and hiking around the cabin, but our snowshoe never left our vehicle. This year was different! December 2016 has been marked by nearly normal snowfall, and in the Kingdom, about 90 minutes northeast of us, there is always more snow. We also relish the chance to get out to some more remote ,less frequented, hiking destinations than are found in other areas of Vermont.

In addition to all our camping  gear, we each packed up two pair of Tubbs snowshoes, not exactly sure of what conditions we may find. We knew there would be snow, but we wanted to be prepared for any trail conditions, from packed and icy, to deep and fluffy. Our Tubbs framed snowshoes ( Wilderness 36’s  and Mountaineer 25’s) would provide us with a bit more flotation if needed, while still giving us a solid traction base.  Our Flex Alps are excellent for the often varied, and difficult, Vermont conditions we encounter on some of the area trails, so they came along, too. It was a pleasant addition to have my sister-in-law join us, with her more vintage Tubbs snowshoes. And of course, our two lab mutts, our regular adventure partners, were also with us. We arrived at the cabin’s location, in Barton, VT, early morning, ready to hit the trails before worsening conditions predicted by a winter weather advisory kicked in. We had a nice chat with the folks who were staying in the cabin before us, and they assured us they would vacate the cabin by noon, and that it would be left clean and spiffy for us. Nice folks!

Parking ¼ mile from the cabin, we geared up and headed up one of the many trails that are literally right out the door of the cabin. We headed up the newly rerouted Wheeler Mt. trail and found deep untracked powder, the perfect chance for my husband to initiate his Tubbs Wilderness 36’s. I used my Mountaineer 25’s, and they worked out great in these conditions.  The narrow wooded trail wound through the trees, and around snow covered boulders that looked like giant marshmallows. The dogs picked up on lots of wildlife sign, but the only living animal we saw was a partridge, flushed from a low pine bush by Gryphon…it flew away in quite a huff! The predicted overcast and snowy weather did not materialize, and we enjoyed blue skies, bright sun, and fabulous views.

 

My husband had no trouble negotiating the winding narrow trail with his large edition snowshoes…he even found some open areas to stomp through, much to the delight of his snow dog Edgar. Each of us found that our Tubbs provided nice flotation on the powder, yet provided great traction on the steep sections we had to climb.

We traveled for a few hours, and then took a break for hot lunch on the trail. We decided to skip the planned big lunch, and have just hot beverages and snacks instead, perfect energy boosts for the return trip.

By early afternoon, we were ready to get to the cabin. Now, each of us has a lot of experience in winter tent camping and backpacking, and there is a special attraction to that outdoor pursuit. However, as we get a bit older, the appeal of a cabin, however rustic it may be, increases. In fact, winter hut, yurt, and cabin camping has become quite popular with many folks. Some locations require backpacking, or hauling gear by pulk, while others have short equipment carries to the enclosures. Our delightful little cabin is only a few hundred yards from the parking area.  This makes it especially attractive for families, older folks, or those without the desire to really “rough it”.

We loaded our gear into our homemade pulk, and hauled it off to the cabin. Our five pairs of Tubbs snowshoes were placed outside the cabin, near the frozen lake, ready to go; there are 4 trails that are accessible right from the cabin.  My husband got the wood stove fired up, since that is the only source of heat. There is no electricity, running water, internet, or cell phone coverage here, and the bunks are nice flat plywood. The cabin is a bit rough, but it feels like a second home to us, and to our dogs, who settled right in. Some hut/cabin camping locations prohibit dogs…since our dogs accompany us on all our adventures, the dog friendly nature of this cabin makes it just right for us.

Late afternoon, as the skies began to cloud up and darken a bit, we made a nice fire in the outside fire pit. The snow then began to fall, gently upon us, as the temperatures hovered around a very acceptable 20 degrees (f).  Who needs Times Square, when you can be sitting around a fire, miles from the nearest civilization, enjoying the peace and quiet of northern Vermont?

 

Our evening celebratory meal was fondue, heated up on a camp stove. Of course we had the obligatory toast, from a bottle of champagne that had been kept chilled in the snow. We had brought only two camping “fancy” glasses, so my Tubbs camping mug became the third entry into the toast…how delightful it was, to raise a glass of bubbly among close family, in that setting. We did not, however, make it until midnight; early to bed were we, as we had more snowshoeing planned for the morning.

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Outside, the snow continued to fall, and by looking upward, my headlamp illuminated a kaleidoscope of flakes…and not a sound other than my feet on the soft snow. I knew that the next day, the first of 2017, would bring us more great snowshoeing conditions.

Indeed, 2017 greeted us with a few more inches of snow, and moderate temperatures. Our dogs awoke at their usual 6 am time, well before any light was visible in the eastern sky.  The early rising time left us plenty of opportunity to make a nice breakfast to have on this holiday morning…not the usual quickie oatmeal and dried fruit we have while tent camping, but rather a nice spread of scrambled eggs, bacon, and maple donuts. Fully energized, we were ready to take advantage of the new snow, and head out on the short trail that goes around the lake. My sister in law decided to spend the morning drinking hot coffee and catching up on some reading, so it was my husband and me, and our two dogs, that went out to welcome the new year with a snowshoe trek. Having hiked this trail previously on wet leaves, rock, and ice, we knew it had a few tricky spots to negotiate…nothing steep or really challenging, but we decided our Flex Alps would be the best choice for this trip. And they were…we had deep un-tracked snow, often 20 inches deep, but also some narrow and windy passages around rocks and trees. We encountered a log bridge, 25 feet long, covered in snow, making determining the location of the log a bit uncertain. Our snowshoes provide a good stable base, and solid traction, as we slowly worked our way across. The rest of the trail obstacles were no match for our snowshoes, and we reached the end of the trail, with our cabin in sight.  One last challenge…this trail has a sometimes sketchy brook crossing at one end, consisting of ice covered rocks, with a foot of snow on top; neither of us wanted to start the new year with a dip in the frigid water. We opted to cross what is essentially an old beaver dam; unhooking our pack straps, we slowly stepped across the 20 foot distance, feeling secure with the base of support provided by our snowshoes. The dogs led the way, and once across, they received a nice doggie treat!

We took advantage of the snowy trails around the cabin to let my sister-in-law try out our newer version Tubbs Snowshoes. She absolutely loved the Flex Alps, and will most likely own a new pair before our next joint outing!

This trip was an exceptional way to ring in the New Year! I wish that every holiday celebration could be as peaceful and relaxing…maybe next year, we can get our adult children to join us. After all, the cabin does sleep 6.

If you are interested in hiking the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the Green Mountain Club  https://www.greenmountainclub.org/    has all the information you need, from guidebooks, maps, and information on renting the Wheeler Pond cabins. In March, we will be back here, hoping to take advantage of some spring conditions up on Moose Mountain, another trail that begins near the cabin. There is a great variety of trails in this section of Vermont, many within 30 minutes or so from Wheeler Pond. The winter of 2016-17 appears to have the potential to be one of the best snowshoeing seasons in a long time!

 

 

Progress…One Step at a Time!

tplo sterling 1

 

In the two weeks since our last post, Gryphon has progressed well in his recovery and rehabilitation. He has progressed from a week of 20 minute flat hikes 2x/day, to 25 minute flat hikes 2x/day, and is now in week 3, of 30 minute hikes 2x/day, with increasing elevation and hills. The arrival of early snow has been a bit of a challenge. I still walk him around to his dog yard, to prevent him from running up or down the ramp and hill that leads from the usual door. He is feeling pretty good, so we have to continue to monitor him carefully to prevent aggravating his knee.  We help him in and out of the car, and do not let him jump up onto the bed. And, as we rehab Gryphon, my husband is recovering from his knee replacement surgery. Rather a busy Knee-vember!

conehead 2

Boys in recovery!

Paddling season ended on November 11th. I had tried to get out on the 9th, but the thick ice at the nearby access prevented a very long outing. With a forecast for a snowstorm on the 12th, we found some open water on the 11th, and had a nice, calm, relaxed final paddle! With Gryphon’s restriction on activity, Edgar received extra time in the canoe…he hit 103 days this year ( the same number as Gryphon), and I actually had 166 days on the water. It is always bittersweet to put the canoe away for the season, but we were able to get out snowshoeing the next day. A quick transition between activities makes this time of year more tolerable!

Paddling favorite posts from November 6th to 8th

And the end…flurries, ice, but calm waters…we’ve already begun making plans for next season’s canoe camping trips!

Gryphon has not been able to take advantage of our snowshoeing snow conditions; he must remain on packed trails, quiet roads, and rec paths.and cannot plow through snow ( as he usually enjoys doing). But he has seemed just so happy to be out and about!

 

Edgar has been the truly lucky one..he has been out for a number of snowshoeing outings, and we have found some pretty fine early season conditions!

So off we go, into the second half of November…with dark arriving at 4:30 pm, and light not arriving until 7 am. Temperatures have dropped to record lows, and as usual, we have the assortment of snow,wind, cold, and freezing rain events. As both Gryphon and my husband recover, we anticipate a great winter of outdoor fun! We just have to take it ones step at a time….

Never let a Stumble in the Road be the End of a Journey

Gryphon has stumbled…my snowshoeing mountain masher, my confident paddling buddy, my straight-line skijoring steed, my slow and steady hiking partner, my wildlife spotter,  has suffered a knee injury that has put him on the disabled list.  Without suffering any apparent injury or trauma, in late August he began limping after getting up from his bed; we thought it was because he is just “getting old”, but the limping persisted for over a week. A trip to our local veterinarian and diagnostic x-rays indicated he had noticeable arthritis in one knee, and would be a candidate for arthroscopy.  This did not sound too bad; after all, both my husband and I have had our knees scoped, and we then returned to normal activity. An appointment was made at PEAK Veterinary Referral hospital, with high recommendations for their medical staff made by many of our dog owner friends. Griff happily went into the hospital, and was seen by Dr. Schultz, who has performed successful surgery on many dogs we know.

Our hopes for a “simple” arthroscopy quickly faded, as the doctor detected a noticeable “click” in the knee, indicating a cruciate tear.  Poor Griff…he did not understand why he could not run and hike, nor did he know that a more intense surgical procedure was in his future.

Off to PEAK we go!

In the month between surgical consult and the day of surgery, we were able to take Gryphon on two previously scheduled camping trips. One trip was for closing weekend at Green River Reservoir State Park, a canoe camping trip with no portages.  The second was a GO trailer trip to another state park in Vermont, also one which required no long walks or portages. This was great, since he loves camping, and by eliminating hikes from our plans, he was able to fully participate in the trips. He was able to camp and canoe right up until the day before his surgery, oblivious to my concern and sadness over what awaited him. Of course, Gryphon’s  facing surgery was not enough to worry about…my husband is also facing knee surgery ( knee replacement)  2 weeks after Griff has his surgery!

 

The camping trip to Gifford Woods State Park was special for both dogs, since their Aunt Jackie came along; they love spending time with her, and doing so at a campsite was extra special. We did only one short hike, to a local waterfall, on an accessible boardwalk.  The nights were cold ( 30 degrees), but the days were sunny, and the paddling was quite fine for late foliage season.

 

The morning of Griff’s surgery was tough for him…since he could not get fed his breakfast! Edgar and I took him to the PEAK facility, and then I brought him in for his surgical check-in. He seemed in good spirits, but was not appreciative of having the muzzle put on prior to examination. Though he is a mellow dog, a hurt dog can be unpredictable, so for the staff’s safety, I suggested the muzzle.  I think that was the point when he realized that’s “something” was happening. He looked forlorn as he was led away by the surgical techs, but I was thinking positive thoughts, and hoping that this surgery can return him to at least a semblance of his active lifestyle.  So as to not dwell on the situation, I took Edgar for a paddle in a nearby lake…one I had not paddled since 2010, the first time we put Griff in the canoe! That was not planned, but a coincidence based on this lake’s being the closest to the PEAK  facility.

 

The veterinary surgeon had told me that Griff’s surgery would not be until later in the afternoon, so around 3pm I started to anxiously await the  call. The call was received, and it was all good news— a successful operation, torn cruciate discovered, and repairs made . Anesthesia had been no problem, and he had woken up without any issues; hungry, of course, and eating the baby food they had offered him. I knew he would be staying overnight, and satisfied that he was in good hands and recovering well, I prepped the house for his return.

  • Obtained a used ramp, for use in the car and our small steps
  • Brought out the puppy pen, thinking it might be nice for Griff to sleep on his bed without being bothered by Edgar
  • Set out the GO dog beds on the floor, for Griff to have a large flat comfortable area
  • Washed the dogs’ car seat cover—can’t have a nice clean surgical wound sitting on a dirty cover!
  • Bought cheap hot dogs…for dispensing of pills.

 

The next day, I arrived at PEAK, and received all the post-operative instructions, and medications. I knew that Griff’s activity would be severely limited for the next 2 weeks,  but felt we would do the best we could to keep him happy and comfortable during this phase of his recovery. He came out to me, assisted by a vet tech, a bit wobbly, and confused by the silly “hat” he was wearing, but so happy to see me!

When we entered the house, Edgar was behind the room divider…I feared he would try to jump on Griff in their usual “welcome home, brother” greeting. I need not have worried…Edgar was terrified of Gryphon, who was festooned in the “Cone of Shame”. Edgar kept his distance, as Griff went  to his padded bed in the large enclosure we had placed in the room. All was looking good, and we look forward to the return check-up in 2 weeks. The toughest part of this period for Gryphon will be his not being allowed to run down the ramp to the dog yard. Thankfully, we have a new side gate, so I can walk him around and monitor him in the yard while he takes care of his business. Puzzle-toys, lots of physical contact, and supervised couch time have helped him in this tough time. Onward we go, into this new phase of a return (we hope) to normalcy! Edgar, who has been getting out daily for paddling and hiking, will also have to adjust to once again sharing me with Griff!

 

It has been incredible to us that we have received so many supportive greetings and well–wishes on our social media platforms…we are extremely appreciative of this encouragement! A fellow Green River Reservoir fan even offered to loan us a soft collar for Griff. Thanks to all of you!

In 2 weeks, we will be updating with easy-peasy  hike reports, and end of season paddling photos….what a great way to spend stick season!

Farewell summer, welcome fall…and catching up!

A quick and short post…may take a while to get back into the whole blogging thing!

Fall has arrived, and we enter our favorite paddling season,. Today was paddle day #130, so it looks as though we will easily attain at least 150 days on the water in 2019. Here is a brief video compilation of our first 100 days….

https://vimeo.com/362073198

 

We have upcoming canoe camping trips, and we certainly hope that some of our colorful leaves hang around for a few more weeks! It will be a rather out-of-the-ordinary fall season for us…we normally use fall to ramp up our hiking activities in the cool weather, preparing and getting in shape for winter’s snowshoeing and skijoring fun. However, Gryphon has developed arthritis and bone spurs in one knee, so he is on exercise restriction. He is facing arthroscopic surgery, and will be limited in the intensity of his winter excursions this year. We will adjust, and work to keep him safe and healthy!

These orthopedic issues arose a few weeks before our planned September canoe camping trips; thankfully, this year we decided to go easy, and did not have any long portages in our canoeing plans. We first had a 5 day return trip to Parc Regional du Poisson Bland in Quebec. We did not have a beach site this year, but an amazing high rocky site, with 180 degree views of this huge lake. This spectacular large island camping area, on a lake north of Ottawa, is clean, well-run, and a true delight ( except for when we get wind-bound). We encountered only one negative…a truly idiotic jerk who decided it would be funny to intentionally drive his powerboat within 6-10 feet of the bow of our canoe. Even if he does not speak English, I think he understood what we said to him! Otherwise, it was a great canoe camping trip!

 

 

We opted to rent a larger, heavier canoe in order to deal with the often large waves on this lake…even so, we had a bit of a tight fit with all our gear! It was much more stable, however, than our little solo boats.

 

After a few days at home ( well, for me and the dogs…my husband flew to DC for a few day to visit our son), we were off to the Adirondacks. We planned to paddle at least 5 new lakes, and try out two new campgrounds; we accomplished all that and more! The weather was perfect, perfect, perfect! The entire album, and captions, can be found on our Facebook page.

 

 

So we enter fall facing uncertainty for Gryphon and his future activities…so glad that he is comfortable in the canoe, so he is able to continue his outdoor adventuring! Soon the lakes will ice over, and the paddles and boats will be put away…stick season will be upon us, and then it is just a matter of waiting for snow.  Paddle On ( at least for another 6 weeks or so)!

Paddling it Forward (or paying it forward)…sharing the fun!

As this very wet and rainy and cold Spring finally comes to a close ( with flood watches issued today, of course!), we have time to check the content on our blog, update a few posts, and clear out some of the outdated information.

  June 2019…New Pics!

We love sharing our passion for outdoor adventuring with dogs, and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to give presentations for various community groups. We do not charge any fee for these presentations, and we tweak and update the material frequently. Most presentations happen in the spring, but it might be fun to expand into other seasons…maybe, for example, hints for snowshoeing with your dog, to be offered in the fall? Anyway, to help organize our site, here is a description of each of the presentations we have done in the past few years. We are always open to suggestions for improvement! We certainly hope you will get a chance to explore with your pups this summer!

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Get out in your canoe! Wildlife Watching from the Water

This presentation will provide descriptions, photos and videos of 5 of our favorite local lakes and ponds, and how you can enjoy the amazing wildlife while paddling your canoe or kayak.  Want to take your dog with you?  We will offer hints and tips to prepare your dog to be a silent wildlife spotter. This will be a fun and informative session, with lots of time for audience interaction.

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Dog Paddling 101

We will offer tips and suggestions to help your dog become a true paddle pup.  There will be a demonstration of useful gear and equipment, presentation of training ideas, and a sharing of our experiences , both educational and humorous! This seminar will help you best prepare for safe and responsible dog canoeing and kayaking on our amazing lakes and ponds.

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K9 Trail Adventures

Discussions about the training, trail etiquette, and gear that can help make outdoor adventuring with your dog safe and fun!  We will have an exchange of ideas , and provide hints and suggestions for ensuring the safety of your dog when he explores our trails and mountains year-round,  as you become a top-notch,  responsible dog hiking team.

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Canoe Camping with Dogs 

Hints and Tips for taking your paddling pup on overnight camping adventures, while canoeing and kayaking to remote and paddle-in campsites. We discuss how to prepare your pup, safety considerations, gear options, and provide  destination ideas.

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Paddling to Banff

A cross country trip ( 5799 miles across Canada and the northern US), GO camping  with the dogs, paddling the Boundary Waters, Algonquin, and iconic lakes in Banff National Park. We discuss trip planning,  gear selection, paddling destinations, and dealing with speed bumps along the road.

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Travels with Pup….Canine Paddling Adventures!

Hit the road, and explore new and varied locations for paddling and camping with your dog. We will offer helpful hints for having a successful and safe canoeing vacation with your dog, and share our enthusiasm for widening your paddling horizons. This presentation focuses on Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, and the opportunities it provides for some amazing paddling adventures.

 

 

Welcoming Spring…Wildlife Watching from Your Canoe!

paddle2 25apr wcsp 4

 

Yes, this time of year presents such great opportunities for me to get out on the water, with Gryphon and Edgar, of course, to check out some of the early season birds and wildlife. More on that later….

Wait, weren’t we just snowshoeing? Yes, we snowshoed until April 17th, which was my 134th day of snowshoeing this season. We could have extended the season, but trips to DC, a bout of illness, and the first signs of open water signaled that a fabulous season had come to an end!

 

 

Our last 5 days of snowshoeing!

This Spring, we made 5 presentations,at 3 different venues. We presented two seminars at the North Country Animal League, the rescue shelter where we found both of our dogs. One presentation was on safe and responsible hiking with dogs,and the other was on Dog Paddling.

At a local library,we presented on wildlife watching from your canoe…with your dog!

And, we had our annual trip to the New England PaddleSports Show, held this year at the Whittemore Center at UNH. The dogs had to get special dispensation to be allowed into this newer building ( the show previously was held in the field house). Other than a few protective barks, they did very well…lots of waiting around, attending our two seminar sessions, and even having to take multiple trips on an elevator.

 

The pups were so well behaved, during a break, we took them to the UNH Dairy Bar, for a very delicious ice cream treat!

 

One of the highlights of the show was the opportunity to attend a presentation by Laurie A. Chandler,the first woman to solo thru-paddle the Northern Forest Canoe trail. We spent some time chatting, and she wrote a delightful inscription as she autographed my copy of her book Upwards! And of course, we had the ocean! Happy pups, running and playing on the beach…always a special time on this annual trip.

 

So, now we are in paddling mode..well, at least I am, because I have a dry suit; with local water temperatures ranging from 34-42, it would be foolhardy to get out paddling without such thermal protection.  In fact, I was aghast to discover that a local high school took some students out in canoes, on our coldest, last ice-out lake, where two days earlier I had measured the water temperature at34 degrees. Yes, they were wearing PFD’s, but as a former Outdoor Education program instructor, I cannot imaging taking such a risk. So Duncan has to wait until the water warms a bit before he can get kayaking, but since Edgar has become a steady canoe dog, I can take him out , alternating days with Gryphon ( the dogs are in life jackets, with neoprene vest beneath). Here are a few pics of our first 8 days on the water, in 5 of our local favorite lakes.

 

Yes, that is a patch of ice Gryphon sees!

So, the title for this blog entry refers to wildlife watching….so far, this spring has been phenomenal! I have upgraded to a newer model of my bridge camera ( Canon Powershot SX70 HS), and it appears to be an improvement in terms of clarity at zoom; it has a few improvements over the SX60, but also a few detrimental changes ( i.e. self timer only goes up to 10 seconds..for remote shots, it can take me longer than that to set the camera,and then get in position with the dog, gear,canoe,etc!) Otherwise, I think it will help improve my amateur photography skills this year.

We have welcomed back many of our avian friends, and look forward to spending more time on the water observing them ( from a respectful distance, of course). These are some of our observations from paddle days 1 through 8….

 

And a few more!

 

Yes, I really love and appreciate seeing the variety of nature on our local ponds and lakes…our newest presentation, on wildlife watching will have to be updated, as we see more and more species of animals and birds!

Our spring and summer schedule is chock full of canoe camping, GO camping, day paddling, an hiking outings…at this point we will take another hiatus from blogging, and plan to return with a mid-summer blog update. We will continue to have regular updates in Facebook, Instagram and twitter.

Have fun with your dogs, keep safe, and Paddle On!

North, South, East, and West…Heading to Where the Snow’s the Best!

Well, in reality, it is not as though we have had to go very far to find awesomely impressive snow conditions. This year, the snow pack has remained deep and solid into March. Other than only a few days of rain, warm weather,and some subsequent icy trail conditions, this snowshoeing season has been epic. As we approach Spring ( and we will hit our 100th day of snowshoeing this weekend), we present a photo essay on some of our travels, near and a bit farther, in our constant quest to explore new and exciting trails.

Part 1: To the East! In early February, we headed off to the Northeast Kingdom to stay at the Nulhegan Confluence Hut, located in an area close to many different snowshoeing trails. We had stopped by to check out the hut on a visit last fall, and decided that it looked very nice, and in a superb location to access winter trails. We had then booked an overnight stay, hoping that winter would bring us deep snow and moderate temperatures.

We stopped along the way to snowshoe at Perry Holbrook State Park, a new, unimproved park in Glover ,VT. We encountered thigh deep unbroken snow, so we slogged our way in just past the first pond, took a nice rest stop, and slogged our way back to the car…what a lot of snow!

After a lunch stop at the very  inviting Visitor Center of the Silvia Conte National Wildlife Refuge ( in Ferdinand, VT), we drove down the road a short way to the roadside trail access for the hut.

We knew that we would have to use pulks and sleds to bring our gear across the snowy field (300 yards) to access the hut, which is hidden on the edge of woods alongside the river. Check-in time is 1pm, so we loaded the sleds and headed out just before 1 o’clock. The going was slow, as the snow was deep and un-tracked. It was curious because we had seen two Quebec registered cars at the winter parking area up the road, but there were no signs of anyone walking to the hut.

tubbs70 71 3feb nulhegan 21

Well, as we approached the hut, we heard a dog bark, and realized the prior users had not checked out at the designated 1pm time…in fact,  the plentiful used TP along the trail 10 feet from the steps,  the food and dog waste right outside the sliding door, and the scrambling we heard inside, it was obvious they had not even started to pack up. We nicely informed them that they were supposed to be out by 1pm, so they hurried along, cleaned up their mess outside, packed up their belongings in storage tubs, cleaned up and swept out the interior of the hut, and post-holed their way back to their cars, along a route not the designated trail.Only one of the fourhad snowshoes, and they were dragging the storage tubs along the snow.  Well, at least they kept their dog under control, and had kept the hut warm for us! It was a bit cold outside, and was starting to snow, but our dogs patiently waited outside with us.

Once we had gained access to the hut, we were comforted by the wood stove, and the welcoming interior of the hut. A sleeping loft would remain unused, since the dogs cannot climb the ladder. The hut is equipped with a propane cook stove, utensils, and cookware for six…so we had brought only food, water, and a backpacking stove for quick heating of beverages. A lovely, cozy hideaway!

We took an afternoon hike on the River Trail, in woods, and fields with more deep snow.

As the snow fell, night also fell, and the quiet, dark evening could not have been more peaceful! The dogs were tired, and fell asleep easily on the floor by the wood stove. We used the couch and sleeping pads as our beds, and it was a very comfortable night. Heading out at midnight to use the privy can be a daunting practice…but here, the privy is well designed, not too far away, and I even saw snowshoe bunnies in the nearby woods , illuminated by my headlamp.

The next morning we enjoyed a nice sunrise, then after a light breakfast, packed up to head out. Though we had stayed only overnight, and we still love Hadsel Mares camp at Wheeler Pond, we decided that we will return to Nulhegan, in the summer for paddling, and in the winter for more snowshoeing.  Thanks to the Vermont River Conservancy and Vermont Huts Association for sharing this great resource!    See more at  https://vermonthuts.org/

Our next snowshoeing was to be at the Moose Bog trail, located just west of the hut. We have visited this trail many times, in all seasons, and have seen great bird sightings. On this day, we found great snow, but no Spruce Grouse. In fact, only Woodpeckers were seen, until I was swarmed by Red Breasted Nuthatches and Chickadees, accustomed to hikers feeding them by hand.  On prior outings, I had brought nothing to offer them, but this time, I had a bit of birdseed….apparently, that was to their liking!

After a stop for brunch at our favorite parson’s Corner restaurant in Barton, we headed home…satisfied and pleased that we had found a great new hut destination!

Part 2: To the South! Our recent southern expedition was a day trip, to an area in Middlebury Gap where we have snowshoed a few times previously. The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area contains a section of the Catamount Trail than we usually don’t travel, and we have found it to be very pretty, especially on a sunny day.  We had a very satisfying morning, even though there was considerably less snow than at home.

This area makes for a nice day trip; it is only about 90 minutes from home, and the drive to reach the trailhead is through some of the prettiest winter scenery in Vermont.

Part 3; West Across the Lake! For our annual Town Meeting week 3-day getaway, we decided this year to head back to the Adirondacks. We have been to the Old Forge area and Tupper Lake for winter vacations in the past, so this year we opted for Saranac Lake. We were not looking for mountains to climb, but rather, we wanted to explore new snowshoeing trails, and hoped to get in some skijoring as well. Our route took us right past the Crown Point Fort historical site. We often stop here, for birding, or to stretch our legs, but we had never actually been on the 2.4 miles of trails. There was enough snow for snowshoeing, so off we went….it was fun getting out to the lake access, the old orchards, and fort remnants.

The sun actually came out and warmed the snow to mush; it was a bit different snowshoeing around an old fort. Exploring history while on snowshoes is something we really love!

After our morning snowshoe at Crown Point, we headed off to Saranac Lake; as we passed through Lake Placid, we realized we were ahead of schedule for check-in at the motel. Using our new Snowshoe and Ski Trail map, we found a small network of trails located just outside of Lake Placid. The Brewster Peninsula Trails provided a very nice nature trail alongside the lake shore and through woods full of Hemlock trees.

So then, it was off to the motel..yes, a motel! No cabins, huts, or tents on this trip…I had a gift card for Best Western, so we actually stayed in a motel! Luxury! Very nice, dog-friendly, and even though the pool was out of commission,we had a nice stay. On a prior winter trip, years ago, we had visited the Ice Castle, and hoped to once again see this magnificent annual structure.  However, it had been knocked down after the Winter Carnival ended, so we saw only the remnant piles of huge blue ice blocks!

The next morning, we loaded up our skijoring equipment, and drove a bit beyond downtown Saranac Lake to Paul Smith’s College. I had seen social media postings about the VIC, the center with many miles of XC ski and snowshoeing trails…trails where we were allowed to skijor with the dogs! It was cold and snowy when we arrived and obtained our self-service tickets and maps. The trail grooming fellow had just arrived, and suggested a nice loop for us to ski. On to the trails we went, with 2 inches of new powder on top of recently groomed skate and classical tracks.  The dogs had a blast!  Edgar kept up his nice pace, and Griff maintained his steady trot. A few curvy and hilly sections, with trees close to the trail edge, provided some excitement, but we all survived and had a great time.  We decided that we would return later in the day for some snowshoeing.

Here is a short video of some of our outing.we even had a bit of sun as we crossed the marsh! It includes a bit from our snowshoeing later in the day.

https://vimeo.com/manage/322033876/general

Our next stop was a return trip to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge. We had discovered this facility on a winter trip a few years ago, and it definitely deserved a return trip. This facility provides a safe haven for birds and other animals that have been injured, abandoned, or surrendered by other facilities. Some of the animals are being rehabilitated for a return to the wild. Here, you are provided an up close, safe look at some of our local wildlife, and have the opportunity to make a donation to support the facility. The only animals that I missed seeing were the black bears ( since they were still hibernating in their enclosure).

One of the Wolves

Other animals we saw included eagles, vultures, saw whet owls, bobcat, fishers, western coyotes, red fox, and turtles…so much to see!

After our wildlife visit, we trekked back to VIC for some snowshoeing on a trail that leads through the woods and across a fens/marsh. Our one day at VIC made us vow to return again, both in summer and winter. As we plan our September ADK trip, we will be looking at camping in this area.

We wrapped up our trip the next morning with another snowshoe outing. We couldn’t find the access to our original planned trail so we went to the trailhead for a section of the JackRabbit Trail; this trail winds from Keene to Paul Smith’s, so we were just checking out the section closest to to Saranac Lake.  This is a very nice trail, winding through woods , with gradual grades.

We encountered one XC skier, who immediately corralled her loose dog, and they proceeded by us without incident. However, as we were returning to the trailhead, an unleashed large Spaniel type dog started running towards us, dragging a leash. The dog’s owner was bare-booting the trail, ( a violation of the winter rules), and seemed unable to control her dog. We asked her to call her dog, then to leash her dog, then to not let her dog run up to ours…each time the dog would run close to ours, she would call it back, but it would then just turn around and run back to us. She said her dog wanted to play, then he’s just a puppy,  then he’s friendly, and said ‘ “Why do you want to be that way?” Yes, we were irritated, and waited until she finally leashed her dog in her control. After she took her dog off trail, and we passed, I told her that we were asking only that she exhibit some common trail etiquette! Grrrrr!

That one rude woman could not put a damper on our trip, which was a great success! We even found a bike that is large enough for my husband!

saranac lake 56

 

Part 4: North to the Border!

Snowshoeing Day #100…off on a morning with a forecast for blue skies ,sun, and temperatures near 30. We have visited this trail section before ( Catamount Trail section 31), and have found it to be a scenic, rolling, very pleasant trail for a few hours of snowshoeing. We stop at the obelisk marking the border with Canada, then retrace our route for half a mile, and head down through rolling woods until we reach a marshy turn around spot.  Even the noisy snow machines racing on a half-mile of shared trail did not diminish the fun today!

So now as we enter mid–March, even with the arrival of more snow this week, we start to think of paddling…on the water in 6 weeks? We have five presentations this Spring, 3 in Vermont, and two at the New England PaddleSports Show. The dogs and we will continue to be busy as winter winds down and Spring arrives for real!

The ABCs of Snowshoeing!

During a rather nasty mid-winter freeze and thaw cycle, our tremendous snowshoeing conditions are being challenged. But we will persevere, and come out of this weather cycle ready for another 2-3 months of snowshoeing, which will overlap with the beginning of paddle season! So we offer a lightweight blog entry, with a few tweaks and updates from a similar one posted a few years ago! Think Snow! Think Spring!

The ABC’s of Snowshoeing

“Now I know my ABC’s, aren’t you very proud of me” So goes the rhyme we all learned as little children…and learning the alphabet opened the door to a world of endless opportunities! Well, getting involved in snowshoeing opens many doors as well, doors to experiences in the outdoors that are always changing, exhilarating, and allow you to be a part of a winter wonderland. Here are just a few “ABC’s” of snowshoeing…a fun way to share some of the lingo that winter outdoors folks may toss around!

Avalanche   A large amount of snow that slides down a slope or mountain, burying anything in its path. Avalanches are extremely dangerous, and anyone who snowshoes in mountainous terrain should be aware of avalanche dangers

Binding   Bindings attach your boots to the snowshoes; Tubbs provides several binding options, designed for a snug and comfortable fit.

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Crampon  Sharp metal traction devices on the base of snowshoes, to aid in traction on slick surfaces; they may be integrated along the frame, or may be attached to the base of the binding or rear decking of the snowshoe.

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Decking The surface of the snowshoe which provides the support and flotation above the snow surface. In traditional wooden snowshoes these are made of woven, lacquered rawhide strips. Modern snowshoe decks are made of a variety of synthetic materials, which may be contained within a frame, or may be a molded surface without a frame. The Tubbs Snowshoes snowshoe selector tool describes the wide variety of snowshoe decking material available. http://tubbssnowshoes.com/snowshoe-finder

Elevation Gain    Indicates the strenuousness of a hike or climb, essentially, how much climbing is involved; many trail guidebooks provide this information, as elevation gain is important to know, along with trail distance.

Frame   The outer edge of the snowshoe, to which the decking is attached; it provides the shape and structure for the snowshoe.

Gaiters  Water-resistant fabric “sleeves” that  covers the lower leg and ankle, to keep snow out of your boots.

gaiters ice

 

Heel lift   A metal bar at the heel area of the binding, which can be raised and lowered; Raising the heel lift reduces calf fatigue on steeper ascents.

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Incline   What you go up…and then you come down!

Jerky  A high-energy snack popular with many outdoors folks

Kiosk   An open, usually wooden, structure found at many trail heads, upon which may be posted trail maps, regulations, registration books, and other useful information.

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Leave No Trace  Refers to a set of ethical principles, which promote conservation, and minimizing recreational impact on nature ( i.e. pack it in, pack it out!) For snowshoers, the nastiest violations we usually encounter are dog poop ( yuk!) and the dreaded post-hole!

griff april babcock 17 posthole c

 

Mountains   The geological formations which call to us, and where we must go!

Night   A great time to get out on your snowshoes! Bring a headlamp, a hot beverage, and listen to the amazing sounds of darkness….it is especially amazing during a full moon.

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Outdoor Preparedness   Being ready for whatever you may encounter during your snowshoeing expeditions…dress appropriately, know first aid, have your maps, keep hydrated, watch the weather…stay safe!

Poles   Snowshoe poles can aid in your stability, especially on difficult terrain. The poling action also helps your workout include more upper body exercise.

moosalamoo 15

 

Quinzee   A snow shelter made by hollowing out a large pile of snow. The quinzee can provide warmth and protection as an emergency shelter.

Register  Signing in at a trailhead; helpful should you require assistance, as it may indicate your destination, companions, and time of departure and estimated return.

trail register

Sunscreen  It is important to protect yourself from the sun, even in winter!

Traverse   Travelling across a slope; secure the edge of the snowshoe into the slope before stepping. Poles and crampons are helpful for a safe traverse.

Uphill   Climbing direction which can result in your becoming sweaty, even in cold temperatures. Be sure to wear a wicking base layer to help keep you dry. Avoid cotton!

Views One of the best benefits of snowshoeing! Amazing vistas, across mountains and valleys, rivers, and fields….You may be amazed at the wildlife you see in a winter environment.

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Winter Fitness  Snowshoeing is a great activity for improving overall fitness, and may burn 400-1000 calories per hour, depending on the intensity of your travels across the snow.

Xanthocomic  The kind of snow you do not want to eat!

Yield   The snowshoer going down the hill should yield to the snowshoer coming up the hill…a standard of trail etiquette.

uphill

 

Zipper Pull   You can get attachments to your jacket zipper that can make it easier to adjust zipper while wearing gloves; some have thermometers, lights, or whistles on them.

So that’s the snowshoeing alphabet…the most important letters? F-U-N !

 

 

Bubbly in the Kingdom…Welcome 2019!

 

The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is a term “used passionately throughout Vermont and beyond when referring to the corner of the state against the Canadian Border and the upper Connecticut River” (Vermont.com) This rural corner of the state is definitely one of our favorite areas in Vermont, with remote and often undisturbed land, fantastic recreational opportunities, and cabin rentals with snowshoe trails located right out the door. For the past few years, we have been fortunate enough to rent the Hadsel Mares cabin at Wheeler Pond ( though the Green Mountain Club) for the site of our year’s end, and New Year’s Eve celebrations. For reports of prior such celebratory stays, please check out our blog posts from Jan, 31, 2017, and Jan. 6, 2018. In these postings, you can clearly see that the winter weather can be quite variable, and we always wonder, right up until the day we depart for the cabin, what Mother Nature will hold for us.

This year turned out to be pretty fine! Our November and December weather had been marked with lots of snow, great snowshoeing conditions, and not too much oppressive cold. The week before we left for Hadsel, we saw a bit of fluctuation…some warming weather, rain, and icing…but our experience had told us that in the NEK the snowpack is pretty durable.  So we packed our microspikes, a few different pairs of our Tubbs snowshoes, and dog and human gear and attire suitable for a range of temperatures and conditions.

Since check-in time at the cabin is after lunch, we stopped along the way to spike hike a local trail network; trails had crusty snow and ice, were a bit firm, and it was chilly…but we enjoyed exploring the trails through the sugaring operation, adjacent to a lake we paddle in the summer.

 

 

After a few hours on the trails, we headed off to the Kingdom. The winding, narrow road up to the cabin was a bit slick, but we saw that the woods had good snow cover. The dogs have been to this cabin quite a few times, and seemed to recognize our destination, as they were getting quite excited when we pulled into the small parking space. Our homemade pulk was used to haul much of our gear; backpacks and portage packs went on our backs.

Inside, it was time to get the fire going; the cabin had been used the previous night, so the temperature inside was balmy, in the 40’s. Our settling in consisted also, as usual, of unloading gear, making up bunks, getting the dogs settled in, and checking log entries from those who have stayed here since our last visit ( which had been in October). This rather rustic and rough around the edges cabin, was in fine shape; the Green Mountain Club insures it stays clean, safe, and welcoming!

 

 

After lunch, we decided to head up to the Moose Mountain Trail, which has a nice overlook above the Wheeler Pond and the cabin. A ¼ mile road walk, and we were at the trailhead. The trail was packed out and firm, despite a good deep snow pack, so we used out spikes. It was cold ( teens), but sunny, with little wind. The trail has a few scrambles, and as I stepped a few feet off the trail to photograph Edgar and his dad heading up this area, I sank into 3 feet of snow….at least I was stable when taking the photos!

 

The trail above the lookout was unpacked; it was firm, but as Griff and I climbed further up, I did begin to sink a bit. As we were beginning to lose the sun as it lowered over the nearby mountains, I opted not to stop to put on my snowshoes. Instead, turned around  to rejoin Edgar and his dad as they had headed down the trial after the overlook.

So back to the cabin; bringing in more wood, shoveling out the outside fire ring ( full to the brim with frozen snow, ice, and unburned wood), and getting our dinner prep started. Easy dinner prep for this first night…the second night we would have Aunt Jackie join us, so a New Year’s Eve feast was planned! The dogs settled in for the night, and in our toasty cabin, sleep came easily.

 

The final day of 2018 was sunny, with temperatures in the 20’s. We headed ½ mile up the road, and up Wheeler Mountain trail, using spikes as we negotiated up the trail. The snow began to soften up, and was getting a bit clumpier, so I opted to switch over to my Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes; great traction, and security on loose snow as well as a few icy spots. I was able to bushwack around a few tricky spots, enjoying the deep soft snow in the woods.

 

Knowing that we would be heading off to a different hike that afternoon, we turned around after about 90 minutes…have to save some energy for the next hike!

While back at the cabin preparing lunch, the dogs suddenly alerted, excitedly running around  and looking out the window of the cabin, thrilled that…..Their beloved Aunt Jackie had arrived!

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Once Jackie had unloaded her gear and settled in, we had lunch, and decided to take a short (30 minute) road trip to get to our next hike. We had stumbled upon Sentinel Rock State Park in October, impressed by the expansive views. At that time we had not explored the developing trail network, but in December we had snowshoed in this new state park, guessing our way around the freshly blazed trails. The snow had been 3 feet deep in places, marked only by lots of moose sign…it was apparent that no one else had recently trekked on these trails! So we thought Jackie might enjoy these trails, as they are not too difficult, rarely used, and have lots of wildlife spotting opportunities. We arrived, to discover that the exposed field (leading to the trails) was now windblown, mostly devoid of snow, but with open marshy areas and icy patches. Spikes got us safely to the trail’s entrance to the adjacent wooded area…alas, lots of snow in here! Snowshoes on, and time to explore!  We found beautiful conditions, and look forward to more snowshoeing on these trails, as we have been told moose do frequent this area, (confirming our belief after all the scat we saw in December.)

 

After returning to the cabin, it was time to prep our New Year’s Eve feast; we would not be waiting until midnight, but rather celebrate a bit earlier in the evening. A nice fire was started outside, and as a light snow began to fall , we cooked up some filet mignon and chicken. Inside, the lobster meat was being thawed, and the rice boiled up. A little melted butter, and some sparkling and cool champagne, and our feast was ready! Surf and Turf, winter cabin camping style…does it get any better?

 

A late evening trip to the “House de Potte ” (privy) revealed that a steady snow was falling; however, the temperatures were rising, and by morning, the rain and sleet had arrived. We had enjoyed 4 delightful hikes so far, so rather than get soaked while hiking the trail around the pond ( our planned morning excursion), we decide to have a nice slow paced bug-out, and then head off for a nice breakfast.

Our favorite local restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, so we would not be enjoying our breakfast there. Plan B worked out just fine, and we had a nice hot morning repast, bringing in 2019 in culinary style (at a great Vermont diner).

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So now it is 2019! The new year has seen a return to nice snowfall, and more fantastic snowshoeing conditions.  I hit 50 days snowshoeing on January 9th; last season, it was mid-February before that number was attained. We hope that some of the local dog-friendly x-c trail networks are groomed soon, so that we can get in a little skijoring. We will have some more cabin camping trips, as well as our annual early March snowshoeing trip to Maine or the Adirondacks. Though winter is firmly entrenched ( it is -12 degrees today) , we remind ourselves that we will be paddling again in less than 4 months!  Happy New Year!