A robin searches the newly thawed ground for worms and insects during spring 2020 in Dedham. Robins are considered a harbinger of spring, even though they stay in some areas of Maine year round. In the springtime, they're much more visible as they hunt in people's yards and migrate north. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

Yes, folks, it’s true: the first day of spring is very nearly upon us. We are very much aware of the fact that in Greater Bangor there will be at least a few more days where it doesn’t get much above freezing, but the Earth keeps moving closer to longer days and warmer weather. That’s the promise of spring.

What are some of the signs of spring in Greater Bangor? Read on.

Natural phenomena

Clockwise, from left: Walter Libby collects sap from his maple trees at his home on Essex Street in Bangor on the first day of spring in 1973. Credit: BDN File; Aerial views of the Penobscot river during the 2013 spring melt. Credit: Brian Feulner / BDN; A fly lands on a crocus petal in this BDN file photo. BDN File Photo

The obvious signs of spring are natural phenomena, such as robins, cardinals, crocuses, flowing water in streams, maple sap flowing, a bud or two on a branch here and there. Squirrels, waterfowl and (unfortunately for curious dogs) skunks are out sniffing around for food and for mates. Sap in maple trees has already started to flow. Signs of spring are everywhere, even if the temperature is still freezing.

First shirtless guy spotted

This one doesn’t usually happen until slightly later in the month — even as late as early April — but inevitably, on the first 50-plus degree day, the first shirtless guy will be spotted. This gentleman, so overjoyed by the relative balminess of the air, can think of no better way to express his delight at the warmth of the day than by shedding his pesky clothes and walking around downtown Bangor au natural from the waist up. You have no choice but to accept his body positivity.

At left: A shirtless man enjoys a warm spring day in this 1977 BDN file photo; at right: Pedestrians take a load off on the Hannibal Hamlin statue in downtown Bangor on a warm spring day in 1977. Credit: BDN File Photos

We love mud

Just like Rick Charette said, we love mud. Well, actually, we don’t really, especially when it’s so muddy and mucky it messes up our driveways and dirties up footwear. With the spring thaw comes mud season, puddle season and dog footprints across the floor season. It’s a sticky part of life, though, and it’s a sign that better days are to come.

At left: Dogs enjoy the mild weather at Sandy Point in Stockton Springs in this file photo. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN: With temperatures in the 70’s on March 20, 2012, the Bangor waterfront was a perfect spot to relax in the sun. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Pothole city

Let’s face it: Driving in Maine during March is not too different from what we imagine it would be like driving on Mars. Some roads are so rife with potholes they are barely passable. A lot of the worst ones will get filled in the next few weeks, but expect bad driving conditions at least until the end of April. And maybe set aside a few bucks for an alignment adjustment for your car.

At left: Steam rises as Bangor Public Works employees Cary Grant, left, and Brian Harris work on patching potholes at the intersection of Griffin Road and Kenduskeag Avenue in Bangor on March 12, 2019. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN; at right: A huge pothole in Bangor is dubbed “Thunder Hole” after the famous Acadia National Park attraction, in this 1980s BDN photo. Credit: BDN File Photo

Gifford’s and Jimmy’s open

There are people who ask why anyone would eat ice cream during the winter, when it’s cold out. And then there are those people who think the above-mentioned people are fools. Ice cream is good any time of year, and the folks at Gifford’s in Bangor and Jimmy’s in Brewer know it. That’s why they open just before or right on the first day of spring, regardless of the actual temperature outside. Jimmy’s started offering tasty soft-serve at its takeout stand on North Main Street in Brewer a couple of weeks ago, actually, and Gifford’s opened in mid-March as well.

At left: Dawn Good (left) smiles as Tori Dyer hands her the parfait she ordered at Gifford’s Ice Cream stand on March 20, 2015. The stand had just opened for the first day of the season. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN; Kiwi, a Norwegian elkhound, waits patiently for vanilla ice cream with her “grandma” Leanne Warner at Gifford’s Ice Cream Stand in Bangor on March 19, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Buried treasure

This heap of bagged trash is one of many that Maine Department of Transportation crews picked up beside the interstate in Fairfield, on April 25, 2019. Each year, the state spends about $500,000 to remove litter from the side of the interstate. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

After many months of being covered, the winter’s blanket starts to recede, revealing hidden treasures long buried under a convenient covering of snow. Aside from the typical bits of carelessly tossed litter like coffee cups, soda bottles, empty packs of cigarettes and “nip” bottles, there’s, of course, little dog-made landmines to contend with. We wonder, do people realize littering is just as bad in the winter as it is in the summer, when your laziness can’t be hidden by snow?

Receding snowbanks uncover winter litter at Bass Park in spring 1973. Credit: BDN File

Loss of motivation regarding snow and ice

In December, shoveling, blowing, sanding and salting your walkway or driveway was a labor of love, done with military precision and attention to detail. Nice, crisp edges. Not a slippery patch in sight. Every inch of snow carefully scraped off the car. Beautiful, really.

A student crosses campus through the snow at the University of Maine on April 3, 2019. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

In March, it’s a different story. It’s a cursory effort, done solely to get you and your family out of the house. Sure, one foot is enough space to walk in. Your entire truck bed is full of crusty snow. The snowbank at the end of the drive is so tall that even White Walkers can’t get over it. Out of salt? No problem; this container of Morton’s will do just fine. It’s all gonna melt next week anyway. Right?

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in the Bangor Daily News in March 2018.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.