This column was first published on March 8, 2008

Officially and quite candidly, I’m sick of shoveling, snowblowing, scraping, raking, scooping, brushing, sweeping or otherwise moving snow. I heard someone say the other day there’d been 19 days when all of the above had to be done, sometimes more than once.

I really don’t dislike snow — as a matter of fact I kind of like it. The way I look at winter is you can always throw on another layer of clothing. As long as you can layer on your wardrobe and you have a few toys (snowshoes, cross country skis, sleds and the like) you can make your own fun and get a little exercise in at the same time.

Now listening to that ol’ oil burner in the basement fire up is getting old. I’m sort of getting used to 58 degrees inside by now, but there are nights when I have to watch television while wrapped up in a blanket and wearing my down-filled slippers. My bed-time routine now is to head upstairs about a half-hour before turning in and cranking up the electric blanket. Then when I do crawl in I don’t have to assume the fetal position and shiver for half an hour to warm up the sheets.

There’s some hope, though. The calendar says spring’s not far off (12 days, but who’s counting). This weekend we set the clocks ahead so we’ll have an extra hour of light in the evening (I was liking getting up with the sun lately, now it’ll be a month or so before that’ll happen again).

Best of all it’s only six weeks now before the Kenduskeag Stream race (April 19), and only five weeks to go until the annual Paddle Smart paddling safety symposium at the Y.

Water levels?

Michael Alden of Brewer e-mailed the other day asking me what I thought about the upcoming paddle racing season and what the rivers would be like. That prompted me to do a little digging. Michael figured I’d have this information tucked away in the bin upstairs. Well, I’m sure it’s there, I just don’t know how to access it. And this weekend’s rains will throw a monkey wrench in the works, I’m sure.

Michael’s e-mail prompted me to check out the National Weather Service at Gray to see what it had to say about hydrologic outlook for this spring. If you go to their Web site this weekend you’ll probably get the March 7 updated prognosis.

The NWS says snow depths along the coast are averaging a foot or less, increasing dramatically as you head inland where you’ll find three or more feet of snow. The coastal snow has water equivalents of 1-4 inches with content rising from 5 to 10 inches as you head inland. .”Snow water equivalents across western Maine are in the top 25 percent of historical values,” the NWS says.

“Reservoir levels are well above normal for the time of year. Reservoirs in the Kennebec River basin are 59 percent full which is 11 percent above normal. Reservoirs in the Androscoggin River basin are 55 percent full which is 16 percent above normal,” NWS says, and groundwater levels have been pretty much normal for the time of year. The last part of February show above normal levels for soil moisture. “Water supply shortages are not anticipated this spring,” the NWS says. (Ya think?)

In conclusion, the NWS says, “A deep and moisture filled snow pack as well as above normal reservoir levels and high soil moisture indicates that above normal flood potential is warranted. Weather conditions will have to be monitored closely over the next few weeks as a prolonged warm spell along with heavy rain on the deep snow pack could cause serious flooding. … Major flooding does not occur from snow melt alone. Rainfall – how much and in how short a period of time – is the most important factor in determining the severity of flooding.”

My advice? Paddle on salt water, it rises and falls predictably…

Park reservations up

Winter weather hasn’t dampened the spirits of folks wanting to spend a night or two in the state’s public campgrounds. As a matter of fact records are being broken, according to the Department of Conservation.

Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan sent out a press release to spread the word that through the end of February 3,697 requests had been processed for a total of 19,105 camping nights. McGowan said that over the last five years there has been a consistent increase in early reservations. Last year, the state hosted visitors for more than 229,000 camping nights.

McGowan said he thinks more New Englanders may vacation closer to home because of high gas prices. Thus he says the number of campers could keep on rising.

West Coast Trail on MOAC agenda

Maybe you’re not up to tackling the arduous West Coast Trail, but wouldn’t it be fun hearing from someone who has.

The Maine Outdoor Adventure Club’s Eastern Maine Chapter will hear from Carey Kish, a founding member of MOAC and an award-winning member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, March 25 when he speaks on “Hiking the West Coast Trail” on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It is a journey he took with two other MOAC members and he’ll show pictures of his trip.

MOAC meets at 6:30 p.m. at Epic Sports, 6 Central St. in Bangor.

In his buildup for the talk, Kish says the 77-kilometer trail, from Port Renfrew to Bamfield has historic significance for native Americans, shipwreck survivors, and prospectors, to name a few. “Today visitors come to experience the beauty of the coastal environment and the challenge of hiking one of the most arduous hiking trails in North America.”

The West Coast Trail is one of three components of the Pacific Rim National Parks system to protect the outstanding natural features of this area, Kish said.

Future MOAC meetings will include an April 26 presentation from a representative of the Maine Huts & Trails project, which will eventually include a network of 180 miles of hiking and 12 wilderness huts in western Maine. (This event was rescheduled from a previous February date.)

MOAC activities take places statewide and members communicate via e-mail lists to announce volunteer-organized trips and also spontaneous outdoor adventures. MOAC activities include hiking, water sports, biking, skiing, snowshoeing – and everything from extreme sports such as ice climbing to more gentle sports such as walking or birding. New members and visitors are welcome to attend meetings.

For more information about MOAC, visit www.moac.org or e-mail info@moac.org or contact Peggy Markson at 947-9906 or oronopeg@earthlink.net.

Kayak the Harpswell Islands

Here’s something to consider for an in-state getaway this summer when gas prices will likely be somewhere around $4 a gallon. I heard from the folks at H2Outfitters the other day they are offering two-day island exploration trips around the Harpswell Islands in the northeastern Casco Bay area.

“This understated and stunning area offers the seafaring adventurer a variety of interesting paddling opportunities, including a stop on Eagle Island to visit Arctic Explorer Admiral Peary’s summer home and museum. Kayakers will be based at a quiet country inn that’s ‘off the beaten path,’” they said.

They offer packages that include meals and lodging including Friday night and Saturday with paddling on Saturday and Sunday. Information is available on their Web site at www.h2outfitters.com

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays