This column was first published March 22, 2008

Welcome to spring, or should I say “unlocking” as Kurt Vonnegut would have us call the months of March and April.

Perhaps you saw Thursday’s editorial “They Call It Spring” in which the late author’s six-season “Vonnegut Variation”was outlined. Under the novelist’s plan we’d have winter (January, February), unlocking, followed by spring (May, June), summer (July, August), fall (September, October) followed by locking (November, December).

Perhaps an easier, less complicated way of looking at our seasonal variations would be to divide the year into two seasons: winter (July 5 to July3) and summer (July 4). The way I see it lately, that’s pretty much on the money. The calendar said spring Thursday, but the equinox was ushered in Wednesday night with snow, sleet, hail and rain with a replay during the day Thursday.

But there are signs of spring. You may have to look closely, but they’re there. Rivers are beginning to flush their icy contents downstream. The sap’s beginning to flow, you can see evidence in wet spots on dry pavement where small branches have been trimmed by winter’s snows. And we’ve regained more than three hours of daylight since Dec. 22 or so.

Other sure signs of spring are the paddling shows and symposiums. The Jersey Paddler will be held March 28-30 at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, N.J.; the Kittery Trading Post’s Paddle Sports Show at the University of New Hampshire in Durham is April 4-5; the eighth annual Paddle Smart Safety Symposium at the Y on Second Street in Bangor is April 12 and the Sea Kayak Safety Symposium at Cape Elizabeth is April 19 – the very same day as the surest sign of spring, the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race.

Another bet that spring’s on the way is a visit by Al Johnson, boating safety specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard’s First District. He attended the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors meeting Wednesday evening in Augusta to pass along a few reminders about paddle sports fatalities. In the First District (New Jersey north to Maine), Johnson said, there were 15 canoeing deaths and eight kayaking deaths.

And here are some statistics that might make you wonder why our state legislature refused to pass An Act to Require Boating Safety Education this week:

The Coast Guard’s most recent annual statistics nationally for 2006 show 710 boating deaths in 2006 vs. 2005’s 697. There were 3,474 injuries vs. 3,451 and $43,670,424 in property damage vs. $38,721,088, respectively, in 2006 and 2005.

Overall, two-thirds of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, the Coast Guard says. Of those who drowned, nearly 90 percent were not wearing their lifejacket. That’s 421 dead people. Eight out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using boats less than 20 feet in length.

The most common types of boats involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (45 percent), personal watercraft (24 percent) and cabin motorboats (14 percent). A significant increase was observed in the number of reported fatalities associated with the use of canoes/kayaks (99) compared to 2005 (78).

And here’s the kicker for the Augusta crowd: “Consistent with previous years, 70 percent of reported fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.” That’s straight off the Coast Guard’s Web site.

If you should wish to learn more about boating safety, the Coast Guard Auxiliary provides instruction to boaters at all levels. For more information about Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety classes or to find a class, go online and visit For more boating accident statistics, visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety site:

I invite you to come to Paddle Smart at the Y in Bangor on April 12 from 5-9:30 p.m. and walk away with some knowledge about ways to make yourself a safer paddler.

MOAC looks at West

Carey Kish is once again on center stage for the Maine Outdoor Adventure Club’s eastern Maine chapter meeting, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Epic Sports, 6 Central St., Bangor.

Kish, a founding member of MOAC and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, will talk about “Hiking the West Coast Trail,” a trip he took with two other MOAC members.

According to Parks Canada, the West Coast Trail is located on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The 77-kilometer (46-mile) trail is a unit of the Pacific Rim National Park that includes a section of coast southeast of Barkley Sound between the villages of Bamfield and Port Renfrew. The West Coast Trail originally was constructed for the rescue of shipwrecked mariners. It attracts thousands of hikers annually.

Parks Canada says, “This trail largely retraces an old telegraph route first established in 1890 and follows a rugged shoreline where approximately 66 ships have met their demise along this stretch of the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific.’ The topography ranges from sandy beaches to rocky headlands and wide sandstone ledges. Caves, arches, tidal pools and waterfalls add variety to the shoreline.

“The land of the West Coast Trail unit is temperate coastal rainforest dominated by old-growth spruce, hemlock and cedar. Some of the tallest and largest trees in Canada are known to be on or in the vicinity of the West Coast Trail.”

Kish will present a slide show and talk about the journey’s lush rainforests, wide sandy beaches and dramatic rocky headlands.

If you can’t make Tuesday’s meeting, check out the 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 was rescheduled from a previous February date.)

MOAC’s eastern Maine chapter meets in Bangor and each month has a presentation on an outdoor topic. MOAC activities take place statewide and members communicate via e-mail lists to announce volunteer-organized trips and also spontaneous outdoor adventures. New members and visitors are welcome to attend meetings. For more information about MOAC, visit or e-mail

Trail group offers photo contest

Penobscot Valley Pathways, a group that encourages area residents to get out and enjoy the many public walking trails in our community, is offering a photo contest to celebrate the beginning of spring and their new Web site:

The Penobscot Valley Pathways Web site is a compilation of information and resources about walking trails located within a 30-mile radius of Bangor. Although still under construction, the Web site will allow for community conversation about trails, access to maps of area trails and allow community members to display photos of their favorite trails.

To encourage community participation, Pathways invites you to take part in a photo contest. Selected photos will appear on the new Web site to help showcase the trails in our region. The subject of the photos must be taken along public walking trails within a 30-mile radius of Bangor. Photos may be submitted to in JPEG format along with photographer’s name and contact information.

Photographers will be asked to sign a release allowing Penobscot Valley Pathways to use the photo on the Web site. The winner of the photo contest will receive a $50 gift certificate to the Sea Dog Restaurant in Bangor. Deadline for entry is March 28.

The group hopes to have the Web site fully operational by April 4. The group will be offering three community walks in the following weeks.

For more information on the institute contact Karen Cashman at 973-6164 or by e-mail at

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays.