This column was first published April 26, 2008

It’s official, spring has sprung. I can so declare because I got out on the lake Thursday evening and was serenaded by red-winged black birds, a quartet of Canada geese, a couple of hooded mergansers and dozens of peepers.

But the most official proclamation of all came from Eddie the Eagle who welcomed me back to Pushaw Lake from high atop a pine tree. He weathered the winter well, quite well, I’d say by his robust size and bright colors.

The evening breeze chopped up the lake and kept the temperature in the low 50s. It also contributed to a little pre-season jitters while I worked out the kinks brought on by not being on the water since last November. It was helpful to have been paddling with a friend, Karen Francoeur, who I know would have been willing to help me hoist my body from the chilly water in the event I missed a stroke.

Successful repair, I think...

Wednesday Dave Behany at the Ski Rack in Bangor called to say my ankle gasket had arrived. Come and get it.

Last fall I’d ripped a piece out of one of the gaskets in a pair of waterproof paddling pants, and I was resigned to replacing the gasket myself after exploring on line several options that included sending the pants out for repair. The cost wasn’t prohibitive, but it was going to be close to half of what I paid for them originally!

So, after checking the NRS catalog and others, I decided on a do-it-myself repair job, with the cost of the gasket and Aqua Seal cement coming in at about $20 even. Palatable to be sure in comparison to more than twice that for a professional job.

The NRS Web site, by the way, has a very helpful tutorial on how to do this job, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re thinking of installing a new gasket in your dry wear. My first task, even before getting gasket in hand, was to scout out a chunk of foam that I could turn into a form over which I’d stretch the pant leg and install the new gasket.

I lucked out at the U-Haul packing center in Brewer where a helpful worker dug up a chunk of rigid foam about 6 inches thick with a piece of cardboard glued to one side. It was perfect. At home I picked out a plastic container with a larger diameter than needed to use to trace a circle.

Then I cut out the chunk and on the band saw cut a 6-inch deep cylinder. I taped that to a piece of wood I could chuck in my lathe and turned the cylinder down to just the right diameter using a piece of 60-grit sandpaper and finishing it up with a finer grit. I used packing tape to cover the foam so any glue that seeped out wouldn’t adhere to the cylinder.

I did all this on Tuesday night in anticipation of getting the gasket Wednesday. Then when I had gasket in hand I marked the old gasket about an inch down from where it joined the pants and with a grimace cut off the damaged gasket. There was no turning back.

Following the NRS instructions, I pushed the form into the pant leg exposing about two inches of the form. Then the new gasket got stretched over the form and pulled on enough to make it even with the fabric. This left a little more than an inch of rubber on rubber.

The directions called for putting a heavy rubber band around the outside of this lashup and folding the new gasket up onto itself, exposing the remains of the old gasket. I applied the Aqua Seal to the turned up section and the old gasket with a disposable soldering brush and carefully folded the new back down over the old, squeezed excess glue out of the seam and placed a couple of heavy rubber bands over the outside of the new joint, leaving it to cure for 24 hours.

I’ll let you know if the process worked when I get a chance to hit the water. With my luck I’ll push my foot through the gasket and it’ll part company and shoot off into the air like a rubber band jet. Either that or I’ll get glued into the pants permanently by that excess glue I missed.

Baxter Park litter patrol

Baxter State Park’s seventh annual roadside litter patrol is gearing up for the May 3 assault, and Uncle Baxter wants you!

If you’re a willing volunteer and don’t mind a little work, sign up no later than this coming Tuesday by e-mailing Marcia Williamson at or give her a call at 723-8537.

What you’re signing on for is roadside cleanup on the park’s main drag, beginning at the Togue Pond Gate at 9 a.m. on May 3.

You’ll be off the hook at noon, then treated to a free barbecue lunch. Park officials hope that volunteers will make this year’s litter patrol as successful as last year’s. What better way is there to celebrate spring in the woods?

Great Maine Bike Swap

Attention anybody who rides a bicycle! The Great Maine Bike Swap is coming to Orono for the first time. In years past, the Portland event has been a wild success (it’s going on Sunday at the USM Sullivan Gym if you’re interested).

The Orono debut is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 4 at the UMaine Student Recreation and Fitness Center on the Orono campus.

The bike swap is a great way to buy and sell used bicycles in good, working condition. Sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BCM) and university groups, the swap in Orono will feature a large area for test riding, exhibits by local bike shops and other green exhibitors. I’m told there’ll be entertainment, bike gear, refreshments, safety checks, mini workshops, and more.

Here’s the sales pitch: “Hundreds of bicycles of all types – from mountain bikes to road bikes, kids bikes, hybrids and even tandems – will be for sale. The public is invited to sell used bikes in good, working condition. Volunteer advisors and experts will be on hand to help with pricing and bike fit,” according to an e-mail I received.

Here’s what I was told you need to do to sell a bike at the swap: Bring your bike in between 8 and 10 a.m. You’ll be asked to fill out a form with your contact information, the type of bike and your price. Experts will be on hand to help with pricing. Checks for bikes sold will be mailed promptly. If a bicycle does not sell, you may pick it up at the end of the swap or donate it to a local community bike repair group.

Admission to the Great Maine Bike Swap is $3, with free admission for students at the University of Maine and children 12 or younger. There is a $3 fee to place a bike for sale and a 15 percent commission on all bike sale proceeds. All money raised supports the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s education and safety programs.

For questions, table space, or to volunteer, contact or check out the Bicycle Coalition of Maine at

Raft and Ski in one weekend

Want to spend the weekend mixing up your senses? Why not go skiing Saturday then rafting on Sunday?

This winter’s seemingly never ending snowfall will permit Sugarloaf ski resort to stay open until May 4 this year, coincidentally the day after Northern Outdoors opens for the 2008 whitewater rafting season. To celebrate this overlap of winter and summer, Northern Outdoors and Sugarloaf are offering discounted rates on rafting and skiing May 3- 4, according to Scott Kaier, who handles publicity for the rafting company in The Forks (call 800-765-7238 or go on line at

The 2008 whitewater rafting season officially begins May 3 with the first of 10 dam releases on the Dead River this summer. Normally priced at $59, Northern Outdoors is offering trips down the Dead for $49 when combined with a day of skiing at Sugarloaf.

May 4 is the season’s final day at Sugarloaf for the 2008 season. Normal $69 lift tickets will be discounted to $39. Call Sugarloaf at 1-800-THE-LOAF for details.

Canoe poling championships

Chip Cochrane of Allagash Canoe Trips called the other day to ask that I remind readers of the annual canoe poling championships on Kenduskeag Stream next Sunday, May 4. Registration for racers is 8:30-9 a.m. and there is a $5 fee. Races start at 9:15 a.m. and will continue to around 2 p.m. with awards following.

Events include: Intermediate (beginners), Wild water race and Slalom race, Open Wildwater race (advanced) and Slalom race.

The race will provide viewers a chance to watch the top canoe polers in the U.S. test their skills down, around and back up stream in this first race of the season. Canoeists are welcome to come test their own skills in this traditional canoeing event as well, Cochrane said.

All the action will be visible from the Kenduskeag Stream Park just upriver from the I-95 bridge.

For more information call Chip at 207-237-3077.

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays