Waiting for the snow to melt seems to have given birth to quite a few eccentric hobbies here on the Kenai Peninsula.
For example, my neighbor has taken up ice chipping. He keeps his driveway perfectly clear all winter, but I guess that as the new snowfall tapers off, he begins looking for more frozen water to relocate. He started by chipping down to the pavement along his curb, but has since expanded his ice-free zone about halfway across the street.
For those more inclined the let breakup proceed at its own pace but still are anxious to get outside, here's 10 outdoors-related things to do while waiting for winter to recede:
Fishing. There's always some type of fishing going on somewhere on the Kenai Peninsula. Right now, it's catch-and-release for rainbow trout on the upper Kenai River, portions of which are open until May 1. As always, be sure to consult the regulations book before heading out, and if this is your first fishing trip of the season, make sure you have a 2004 fishing license.
Maintenance. Generally, heading out for that first trip of the season makes one wish he or she had taken a little more care in stowing the gear last fall. Now is as good a time as any and certainly better than the day you'll be using it to give everything a once-over.
Just about everything used on, in or around water requires some form or maintenance. Fishing reels can use a good cleaning, old fishing line can be changed and hooks can be honed.
Kayaks and canoes can be cleaned off, paddles can be repaired and motor boats and trailers generally require some care.
Speaking of cleaning gear, before stowing your skis for the summer, remember to apply a coat of soft wax but don't scrape it off to protect them from oxidation while in storage. Find a cool, dry place for storage, and avoid storing your skis standing up.
While you're at it, why not pull those sleeping bags out of the closet and let them air out for a day before trying to sleep in them, and maybe your hiking boots could use a new coat of waterproofing. The possibilities are endless.
Plan a trip. OK, campgrounds aren't open yet, moose season doesn't start until August and the kings won't be running for another month and a half. But why wait until the last minute to plan an outing?
As a hunter told me last fall, planning the trip is half the fun. So go ahead, make your reservations, get some maps, guidebooks and visitor information, visit an outdoors show, and then daydream away. Share the task with the whole family. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate coming up with a grocery list for a trip to Captain Cook State Rec-reation Area can spark a pleasant conversation of past adventures and inspire ideas for new ones.
If you're planning a family hunting trip, sign up for a hunter education class, required for hunters born after Jan. 1, 1986. Classes fill up fast, and the Soldotna office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game keeps a waiting list don't wait until the last minute to sign up.
Get involved. There are lots of organizations doing lots of interesting things here on the Kenai. Safari Club and Ducks Unlimited both have active peninsula chapters, area Fish and Game Advisory Committees are discussing a variety of proposals, and the Kenai Watershed Forum, among other things, is embarking upon a bank restoration project. The Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club meets regularly, as does the Peninsula Sled Dog Racing Association and the Tsalteshi Trail Association.
Indeed, there are all kinds of outdoors groups active across the peninsula. If nothing else, attending a meeting might introduce you to a nice group of people with similar interests.
Visit Seward's Alaska SeaLife Center, or the new Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer. While it may not be the same as getting out on the water, both facilities offer a glimpse into the world of marine wildlife. Both have Web sites (www.alaskasealife.org, www.islandsandocean.org) with information including driving directions, schedules and admission.
Take walk on the beach. While the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge's trails may not be free of snow yet, the peninsula's beaches offer plenty of opportunities for nice long walks, spectacular scenery and chances to view a variety of birds as well as beluga whales, seals and otters.
Bird watching. Birders around the peninsula are getting ready for the arrival of a wide variety of migratory birds which make stops on the peninsula. Good places to watch for arriving avian visitors include the mouths of rivers, open water on lakes and streams and estuary flats. The refuge has established a birding hotline (262-2300) where you can report your own sightings and listen to what other birders in the area have spotted.
Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation launched the "Wings Over Alaska" program last year, awarding a variety of certificates to birders based on the number of species spotted.
Get a jump start on your gardening. OK, so the snow still is covering your flower beds, but area nurseries carry plenty of supplies for turning any sunny window into a small greenhouse. Plant some seeds now and by the time Memorial Day rolls around, they'll be just about ready to put in the ground.
If you are planning on hiking the hills of the peninsula and you haven't been hitting the trails all winter, maybe a few trips to the gym are in order.
If none of the above suggestions are enough to get you thinking about the great outdoors, consider bringing an outdoor theme into the house by redecorating a room. I've always thought Mossy Oak Break-Up would look great on my living room wall.
This column is the opinion of Clarion reporter Will Morrow. Comments may be e-mailed to william.morrow@peninsula clarion.com.
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