John Holyoke holds four bear cubs while reporting on a den visit by the Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife bear crew. Credit: Gabor Degre

Last week, as spring seemed to be nearly, apparently looming, I asked readers for some recreational options for those inevitable days that would follow, when mud season arrived in force.

Heck, I was so excited about the warming temps, I even dug out a few pairs of shorts and started shopping for sunscreen.

Then, this week, it snowed. Welcome to Maine.

Over the course of the week, a couple of BDN readers did play along and offered a few light-hearted mud season options for my consideration.

“I live in Perry, and I love mud season, mainly because it’s a sure sign that spring is on the way,” Nancy Asante wrote.

Among Asante’s suggestions for mud-season fun:

“I have a good pair of rubber boots in the car so I can deal with whatever’s outside the car door when I park,” she wrote.

Asante said weeding the dormant flower beds is easy when the ground is wet, and she makes a point to find things to enjoy about mud season.

“I enjoy every minute outdoors in the magic few days between the disappearance of the last snow banks and the arrival of the black flies,” she wrote. “Without any car washes nearby, I haul out the hose and clean the car every week or so. Between these washings, I wear the mud behind each wheel with pride. I have gotten out and done whatever needed to be done, refusing to let the mud cramp my style.”

Reader Alison McCrady suggested mud pies as one option, and pointed out that creative types might be able to find clay along muddy stream beds and could craft some cool pottery.

Or, she suggested, it’s possible to turn mud season into a spectator sport.

“On a sunny fairly warm day, find a spot to put out lawn chairs close (but not toooo close) to a big puddle/pothole/mud hole on a rural road,” McCrady wrote. “Bring a cooler with beer (or if a family event, soda) and food, perhaps a portable BBQ setup. Now, get ready to watch for big rooster tail splashes, plastic wheel covers popping off when the pothole is hit just right (wrong?), perhaps place small wagers on some ‘idjit’ in a high-rise truck powering over a washboard dirt road and breaking an axle.”

Or, I suppose, there’s this: You could simply decide to head someplace warmer and return after mud season is over.

Ice out, baby

For those anglers who are eager to get out on some unfrozen water and do some early season trolling, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has a cool tool that you’ll find useful.

The department regularly updates ice-out conditions on the state’s lakes and ponds; armed with that knowledge, finding a place that you can actually launch a boat and fish becomes a lot less time-consuming.

You can check out the list here. Keep checking back for regular updates as the weather warms up.

As of Thursday morning, the list includes just four waters. The ice is officially out on Cox Pond in South Berwick, Knights Pond in South Berwick and Scituate Pond in York. Also listed: Sebago Lake, with the following disclaimer, “The State Park ramp is open but there is very little open water at the end of the Songo River to fish.”

Want to cuddle cubs?

For years — ever since I was first lucky enough to head out to write about the state’s wildlife biologists and their ongoing bear research — I’ve regularly been approached by people who ask me the same question: How can I get the chance to go out and visit the bear cubs, like you did?

Unfortunately, I’ve never had a good answer.

I have very little power and cannot arrange such junkets. And I’m not really willing to give up my own job so that someone else will get the chance to cuddle a cub or four. So my suggestions were never very helpful: Get to know all of the biologists and hope for the best. Find a bear den on your own property. Become the governor.

Today, however, I have a suitable answer: Enter this contest, and you might just get your chance to meet a few bear cubs next winter.

Four prizes are up for grabs in the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Keeper of the Maine Outdoors Experience promotion, and one of those is a bear den visit.

So go to their website. Enter. Hope for the best. Then, next year, I might be the one asking you that question: “How can I tag along and hug a bear cub?”

Good luck!

John Holyoke can be reached at or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke

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...