Come late March of each year, Dale Cross and others like him will tell you they get a bit more spring in their steps. Days are getting longer, the sun’s shining brighter … and another paddling season’s on the horizon.

“It’s sunny and 70 [degrees] down here,” Cross said on Wednesday, speaking from Belfast.

For the record, it was not 70 in Belfast on Wednesday.

It just seemed like it for Cross — the director of Saturday’s St. George River Race — and his fellow whitewater canoeists and kayakers.

“We start looking forward to this around the first of the year,” Cross said. “We start planning for it and getting things in place. It’s a celebration of spring down here.”

The six-mile St. George River Race is the traditional opener of the whitewater racing schedule and is appropriately the first race in the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization’s points series.

The St. George will begin at 11 a.m. and registration will be held in the center of Searsmont village on Route 131. Registration runs from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

The St. George race will be followed by the Passagassawakeag Stream Race (April 4), the Souadabscook Stream Race and Sprint (both April 11), the Marsh Stream Race and Sprint (both April 12), and the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race (April 18).

Cross said that while many of the area’s other rivers are still covered with ice (the Passagassawakeag, for one), the St. George has been free-flowing for the past 10 days.

He also said that the Belfast area hasn’t had any significant rainfall in 3½ weeks, which means the river isn’t raging, by any means.

“It’s a little lower than average, but it’s still a lot of fun,” Cross said. “There’s enough water to paddle and get down through. You just have a few less choices in the river.”

Cross expects a good turnout for the race and said 38 boats had registered as of noon on Wednesday.

And he said that the slow spring melt may well lead to some big-water paddling at some of the season’s later races. It has to rain eventually, he said. And there’s still plenty of snow in the woods that can run into the rivers and streams that paddlers love.

“With a few warm days and some rain, it’s going to be wild the rest of the way,” Cross said.

Twig hike scheduled

Many outdoor enthusiasts can walk down a woods path and point out various trees and plants by name … if it’s summer time … and if those trees and plants have leaves.

Come winter, tree ID is a bit tougher.

On Saturday, a pair of wildlife biologists will prove how simple identifying trees can be, even if those trees have yet to sport their summer greenery.

Lee Kantar and Danielle D’Auria, better known as Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife biologists, will teach attendees some tips during a hike at Sunkhaze Stream National Wildlife Refuge.

The Friends of Sunkhaze are organizing the hike, which begins at 9 a.m. Hikers can park at the Carter Meadow parking lot or at the trailhead on Oak Point Trail.

Kantar and D’Auria will identify trees by looking at twigs, bark and buds. The trip will take about three hours, and the hiking will be at a leisurely pace.

Appropriate footwear is a must, and participants are advised to bring water and snacks.

The Oak Point Trail is located on the north side of County Road, 6.8 miles east of Route 2 in Milford.

For more information, call 991-1645 or 827-0227.

PI show this weekend

So you think you can speak fluent moose?

You think you’re the top moose-caller in your group of friends?

This weekend, you’ll have the chance to prove it as the Presque Isle Fish & Game Club hosts its annual sportsman’s show at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

The show will be held Saturday and Sunday, and at 4 p.m. on Saturday top moose callers from Maine and Canada will gather at Wieden Hall to compete for cash prizes in a contest sure to bring the burly critters running.

The Presque Isle show will be held at Gentile Hall. Show hours are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $4 with kids 10 and under getting in free.

I’ll be heading to Presque Isle to pitch in on the moose-call judging committee again this year and look forward to enjoying the show.

If you’re heading to UMPI for the event, I hope you stop by and say “hi.”


John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...