Our Adirondacks Getaway…before the Winter Storm of March 2017!

Strange month for outdoor activities…we have had temperatures swing from 65 degrees (f), down to 15 below zero, and everything in between. We have hiked on ice, rocks, bare ground, frozen crust ,and deep snow. We have gone up some steeps, and hiked the flats of lakeside trails. We have enjoyed bright sun and blue skies, but have also tolerated thick fog and cold,windy grey days. Conditions have severely restricted our skijor and kicksled efforts, since our usual skiing trails have been decimated by the variable weather.

We have managed to try out a few new trails, some quite close to us, and others a bit more distant. We still have our favorite “go to” trails, but it is nice to get out and give us, and the dogs,a bit of variety.

Each winter, we take a short winter trip, usually to either western  Maine or the Adirondacks, seeking a change of pace, and a chance to snowshoe, skijor, or kicksled in a different part of the northeast. This trip is always in early March, based upon our Vermont Town Meeting Day holiday. This year our trip to Old Forge, NY had multiple purposes…yes, we wanted to snowshoe and skijor, but also wanted to stop by Mountainman Outdoor Supply, to check on the status of our SylvanSport GO trailer. The trailer was ordered last fall, and we had an anticipated delivery date of April.

Of course, the weather took a downward spiral in the weeks preceding our visit, so we were not sure what to expect for conditions. We knew there had been a bit of snow loss, but given projected temperatures , we thought we could get in a bit of skijoring. Well, the skijoring did not happen. The warm temperatures, rain,fog, and wind sucked the trails dry…If we had gone skiing the day of our arrival, we would have been okay. But we had decided to take advantage of the 2o degree temperatures, and bright blue sky, to hike up a small mountain outside town. Bald Mountain ( Rondaxe) is a nice hike…we thought it would be good to stretch the dogs legs after 5  hours in the car. So we  started out early afternoon, a very late start for us.Thankfully, there were only a few cars in the parking lot.

This was definitely a hike for our MicroSpikes! Hard, firm, crusty snow, with occasional swaths of sheer grey ice ( on the steeper pitches, of course) made the hike a bit more challenging than it may normally be. I only got stuck on the ice once, but managed , with help, to get over to the side, and get a foothold on some crust. The dogs did fine, and helped pull us up a few small pitches! I certainly would not have wanted to attempt this hike without spikes…however, we ran into a few groups of young adults, who, in their sneakers and smooth soled boots were slipping and sliding their way along the trail. We saw a few wipe-outs, but thankfully, did not have to render first aid.

The trail culminated in a nice rocky summit, approached by hiking along some fun knife-edges….we did not go up the fire tower at the summit, but enjoyed the spectacular views from terra firma!

As we were heading down, in one of the shaded, wooded areas of trail, I saw a few folks approach from below. We stepped off the trail to let them pass, and the woman called me by name…somehow, I recognized that this was Amy from the great blog Its More Fun Outdoors ! She called out “Vermont Paddle Pups!”, and we had a lovely meet and greet on the trail. We have used their blog as a resource for activity ideas in the Adirondacks, and they have followed our blog and facebook page. What a coincidence we meet on this day…and now we have met two more of our social media friends! Be sure to check out their blog for their trip report (www.itsmorefunoutdoors.com)

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The day after our great hike up Bald Mt, the skies were grey, and it was a bit windy and warmer. We decided a nice flat hike would be in order, so we selected a hike to a lake and cascade that was also in the Old Forge area. Our targeted destination of Cascade Falls was not attained….after 90 minutes of hiking on a trail that was marked by many downed trees and branches, and lots of frozen and very slippery stream beds, we opted to call it a day. (Our spikes were clumping, bare boots slipped , so I even used snowshoes for part of the trail, to get some traction.)We thought about then going skijoring , but decided we would leave that for day 3. Unfortunately, the rain and wind came in force that night, so as mentioned, the trails were stripped by day 3.

So what else did we do in Old Forge? Well, our favorite pancake house was closed mid-week, so we had to find another local diner…very good, and we certainly would return again. We explored many of the lakes of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, some frozen over, and others with a lot of open water visible.

We did get to Mountainman Outdoor Supply, and found out that our GO should be arriving soon..we anticipate coming back to NY in April to pick it up,and give it an overnight test at a local campground in Old Forge. We enjoyed checking out the inventory of boats and gear…certainly a place we enjoy visiting!

We headed back on a drizzly grey day. My birding efforts in NY had proven mostly futile, but we stopped at Crown Point NY, and in the Dead Creek area of VT, and were able to get some good sightings.

It really looked like our winter had fizzled to an end, as we returned to mostly bare ground, and only a hint of possible snow flurries in the forecast. We have been working on our presentations for the upcoming New England Paddlesports Show, and our annual ocean visit. Little did we know! Mother Nature has walloped us with record snows this week…more to come on that, once we dig out! We are actually heading off for some cabin camping this week, at Wheeler Pond Camps in the Northeast Kingdom. We feel pretty confident we will have some amazing snowshoing conditions!

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A Brief Mid-Winter Video….

 

 

We have been soooo busy, enjoying the amazing deep snow that has accumulated since early January. Quite a change from last winter! Anyway, to tide you over until our next post,which will have some new winter adventure news as well as some exciting paddling related developments, here are a few pictures of our recent snowshoeing outings.

 

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 this 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.

 

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 untracked 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!

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Snowshoe Hike Through History

Snowshoe Hike through History—Millstone Trails

Words and pictures by Tubbs Ambassador Sheila  | Day Hiker

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Here in northern Vermont,our location gives us quick and easy access to some amazing recreational opportunities in the nearby mountains and woods. We love heading out to a favorite remote trail, miles from the nearest paved road. But, in keeping with the somewhat quirky nature of Vermont, one of our favorite places to hit the trails for snowshoeing is actually near an industrial area. Wait, isn’t that a bit of a curious destination? Yes, it may seem so…but for a unique, amazingly scenic, and historically fascinating snowshoe hike, head to the Millstone Trails, in Barre, Vermont.

Barre is a very small city, whose title “ Granite Capital of the World” is well deserved. For well over a hundred years, the granite industry in Barre has produced world renowned granite for monuments, buildings, and spectacular grave markers. The granite industry began to flourish in Barre in the late 1800’s, when it was discovered that the quality of granite in the high hills outside the city is unmatched. Immigrants, from Scotland , Italy, and other European countries flooded the Barre area, bringing their craftsmanship and stonecutting skills to the hundreds of quarries that dotted the landscape.

The Millstone Trails network, managed by the Millstone Trails Association http://www.millstonetrails.com/ maintains over 90 miles of trails on the site of 75 abandoned quarries, high in the wooded hills over the central Vermont area. The network, only about 10 years old, is primarily a mountain bike mecca….however, in the winter, it is home to snowshoers, cross country skiers, fatbikers, and disc-golfers. Yes, there is a free year-round public disc golf course set amongst the quarry piles, right near the primary parking area, in the Barre Town Forest.

There are trails of varying difficulty, from narrow winding trails through the woods, to wide, groomed, trails that cross brooks and streams. There are some impressive lookouts, many situated over the 50 abandoned quarry holes, or on the top of waste granite piles. These lookouts are marked on the map, available from the association, or downloadable from the website. We love the Grand Lookout, where vistas can extend for nearly 100 miles. This is a great location for families !

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Along the trails you can observe relics of the granite industry, when the quarries were flourishing…derricks, cranes, sheds, and rock piles, “relics” being reclaimed by nature. Some of the old granite walls and deposit areas have incredibly detailed carvings in them. Each June, MTA sponsors a “Rockfire” festival, and the year’s new carvings are revealed during the festival, illuminated at night by torches.

There are interpretive signs in the network…not so many as to be obtrusive, but placed in such a way as to provide insights into the history of the area. The impressive array of trails means that each trip here can be different. We can stop by for a quick hour hike, or we may spend a few hours exploring new sections of the area. Snow conditions can vary, from crusty and firm, to deeper powder. Only the main, wider trails are groomed, so for snowshoeing, the wooded trails often provide access to some nice untracked snow. We have used Tubbs Flex Alps snowshoes here, as well as Tubbs Wilderness snowshoes…it all depends on what the snow conditions may be . There is often more snow here than in lower elevations nearby.

We rarely see any other folks here…the network is so large, that even on a winter weekend, you may feel you have the entire place to yourself. At present, MTA is not charging a fee for winter use, though they do welcome donations. The trails are closed to bikers from mid-November to mid-December (our hunting season). Though technically walkers and hikers are not prohibited, commons sense indicates that the trails are best avoided during that month.

If you are heading to the many ski areas in the mountains of Vermont, cruising along Interstate 89, consider stopping to check out these trails. Throw on your snowshoes, head back into history, and enjoy the views!

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Walking ( Hiking) in a Winter Wonderland….

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Wow, we have had a normal, typical, actual wintery December this year. Last Christmas, we were hiking in 60 degree temperatures, without a drop of snow visible, and it was December 29th before I got out on my Tubbs snowshoes.

December 2016 has been a pretty hectic month; lots of winter hiking and snowshoeing, some wild weather ( normal for Vermont!), a trip to New York City for this Country Mouse, family coming in for the holidays, new stuff from LL Bean and LuminAid to test out and review, another nice contest win from trailspace.com, phewwww, ready for a little break!

We are heading out in a few days to celebrate the New Year at the off-grid GMC cabins in the Northeast Kingdom. It looks like we will have plenty of snow for snowshoeing, and the temperatures are not going to be brutally cold. So here is a toast to the New Year…one which will undoubtedly bring new challenges and adventures. 2017, here we come!

And now, a brief video of our snowshoeing in December…so excited to actually be able to get some snowy photos this year!

“I have an affection for those transitional seasons, the way they take the edge off the intense cold of winter, or heat of summer.” ― Whitney Otto

Transitional season…or stick season…or shoulder season…Whatever you may call it, the month of November is marked by daylight ending at 4pm, temperatures fluctuations from well below freezing to near 7o degrees, and the sun’s deciding to make itself scarce for a while. Bright Orange becomes the color of choice for outings in or near the woods, for both humans and dogs. We are supportive of hunters and hunting, but do not want to end up the victim of an errant shot. The trail conditions can vary from wet heavy, slippery leaves, to enough snow to require snowshoes. This is November in Vermont, and we have survived it well this year, with lots of outdoor activity, and more hints of winter than we saw all of last year’s winter season!

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We have been hiking, both on dry and wet leafy trails, and on untracked snow and ice.  My new Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes actually got tested within a few days of their arrival! We have also been joring…bike and kicksled only, since we have yet to get good skijoring conditions. I won a great Stormy Kromer hat from a twitter contest…those twitter chats, (such as #hikerchat and #trailtime) are a great source to make connections, learn about activities, and get advice for knowledgeable folks.

Here are some pics from our outings this month….given our attire,and the dogs’ vests and scarves, I think we are pretty visible!

Hiking!

Above: Burke Mountain, Waterbury Center State Park, Catamount Trail, and Cotton Brook canoe access

Above: Mill Trail, Stark Mt., Nebraska Notch Trail, and Waterbury Reservoir

Our snowy adventures have sometimes required us to hike up on the mountain,seeking man-made snow being stockpiled for the ski season. However, recent snowfalls have enabled us to take advantage of all-natural pure Vermont snow!

Above: Mt. Mansfield and Snake Mountain

Snowshoeing! Already I have a few entries in my 2016-17 snowshoe journal…maybe this year our winter trips will be highlighted by LOTS of snow….

Joring!  Just a few photos, and a funny video to show Edgar in his training mode….

So to wrap up this month’s installment of the adventures of the Paddle Pups, we present our own Edgar the Wonder Dog! Enjoy your outings with your dogs, keep safe, and we will be back after the holidays!

A Fond Farewell to the 2016 Paddling Season!

That’s a wrap! The season has come to a cold, rainy, and snowy end….but what a year it has been! Adventures, mishaps,wildlife, travel, and great plans in store for next year.

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If you have been reading my blog articles, you know that we have ventured further, paddled more, and seen more varied wildlife this year than in past years.  As the season comes to a close, we are a bit sad…the boats have their protective coats applied, and are in their storage locations. The canoeing flag is off the deck, and the wooden paddles will soon be on display (since they are works of art) in the living room. Gear has been cleaned and put away until next May.

We will spend the next 6 months snowshoeing,hiking, skijoring, and kicksledding…more winter cabin camping is on the schedule,and we HOPE that this season we will have some actual snow!  We can’t canoe during a Vermont winter, so we have our other favorite activities to help us endure.

We have already been bikejoring, and winter hiking ( spikes required) on snow and ice….having started that makes the end of paddling season easier to bear. And on those too cold,long, dark, boring winter weekend days, we ill be planning our itinerary for or Banff trip next fall.  That will certainly be some exciting preparation work.

So here is our 2016 Paddling Summary annual video…we tried to highlight some of the wildlife we saw this year. Enjoy!