That mysterious snow-covered mound in our backyard finally revealed its treasures with the recent melting. We found our sea kayaks! Paddling season is officially here.

Early spring kayaking isn’t for everybody, but if you are an experienced paddler, and have the proper clothing and gear and an eye for changing weather conditions, this is a fabulous time of year to get in touch with the seasonal transition.

We recently put in at the Prince Point Road boat launch just north of the Gurnet Bridge in Harpswell and enjoyed a three-hour paddle down a portion of Long Reach and back.

Five Canada geese were sunning themselves at the end of the concrete ramp as we carried our kayaks down to the water. They slowly waddled into the water and paddled away, joined by five other geese a few yards down the narrow cove. As we paddled within sight of the Gurnet Bridge, we spied a solitary clam digger bent over at the waist and working the mud flats to our left. A bald eagle circled above him.

Long Reach is a fine destination for your first outing of the spring. It is narrow, protected from westerly winds, and has enough nooks and crannies and small coves to mitigate any waves created by southerly sea breezes.

As we headed south, the wind blew steadily into our faces, but we just poked along, keeping our paddle blades low to the water.

On the way back we flew along, as if on a conveyer belt, without being awash in breaking waves as we would have been out in the open bay.

The shoreline is sparsely developed with a few year-round homes, seasonal cottages and fishing shanties. One cottage name said it all: Utopia. Gnarled red oaks dominate some sections, while white, red, and pitch pine rise over other sections of the reach.

There are plenty of coves to get out and stretch in, with some flanked by beautiful flaked fins of eroding cliffs.

The water was pea soup green at the launch site, slowly changing to grayish brown down the reach, then a rich emerald green as we neared the turbulent narrows between Prince Point and Doughty Point, where the clear, cold waters of Harpswell Sound squeeze into Long Reach. Use caution here, as the water swirls in every direction at mid-tide.

We poked out into the upper reaches of Ewin Narrows to catch a glimpse of the Ewin Narrows Bridge, circled around Doughty Island, then quickly headed back to the protective cocoon of Long Reach.

Rows of wire lobster traps sat at shore’s edge at the end of Prince Point, ready for another summer of action. Blue buoys straddled the top layer of traps, while overturned wooden dinghies adorned the flattened marsh grasses above the tidal zone. In the reach, we had earlier passed a weathered walkway to a fishing shanty covered with a jumbled row of half-round wooden traps not commonly used in Maine anymore.

Black ducks catapulted off the water in every small cove we entered, their pale-white wing underparts flashing in the sun. Male common mergansers hurtled by us, their milk-white bellies muscular and powerful.

It was easy identifying the red-breasted mergansers in the breezy conditions. Their unmistakable long, skinny bills, and ruffled head feathers made us laugh. They are a species in definite need of a fashion consultant, as they often look like they have not quite figured out how to dress for a night on the town.

The thick shelf of ice clinging to the eastern shoreline at the high-water mark featured a dazzling array of forms and figures. We let our imaginations run wild, seeing ice shaped like duck decoys, mushrooms, bowling balls, benches, arches, ET’s head, and on and on.

We are continually amazed at how warm one can stay snugly encapsulated in a kayak. A 45-degree day is almost sweltering, with the sun warming the cockpit and reflecting off the water into our faces.

The hands are the keys. We use insulated nylon paddling poogies that allow us to grip the paddle shaft with our bare hands while still offering wind protection. We dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature, wearing either a wetsuit or drysuit. Our insulated Chota paddling boots keep our feet toasty.

As we glided with the wind back to the launch site, the Gurnet Bridge bald eagle soared over us, and our five Canada geese friends once again waddled off the end of the launch ramp to allow us to land. A flock of robins dashed across the water from one treetop to another.

We walked up onto the narrow Prince Point Road bridge and enjoyed the view down Long Reach one final time. Somewhere out over the open reaches of Casco Bay we knew the wind was howling and the seas tossing and breaking. We felt thankful for the protection Long Reach had provided, and ready to enjoy many more early spring explorations by kayak.

In a few weeks, we will be looking for that first blue heron in the sheltered coves. On or about April 10, we will hear the season’s first shrill cry of osprey echoing over the bay, a sure sign spring is here.

Michael Perry is a former director of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs. He may be contacted at:

[email protected]