After a winter that seemed to keep socking Long Island well beyond the point most of us found bearable -- it's time to peel off the heavy coats and get outdoors.
Here are five ways to indulge in a bit of spring fever -- fingers crossed for sunshine:
Break out your mountain bike for a guided group ride through the trails in Calverton. It's a good warm-up for the season, says Reginald Pearce, of Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists, which is organizing the event. "This ride will be at a slower pace and we'll take more breaks," he says. "In short, no one gets left behind."
Bring a helmet and protective eyewear. A free Department of Environmental Conservation seasonal access permit is required -- visit its office at Stony Brook University for a temporary pass (631-444-0350) or request a permanent one online at www.dec.ny.gov.
2. Walk the dog
Winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez and his dog, Satchmo, lead visitors and their four-legged friends on a leisurely 45-minute walk around the vineyard. "You get together with other dog people, take a leisurely stroll, see what's going on now and learn a little about winemaking," says Martha Clara staffer Matthew Gabriel. Bonus: Leashed dogs are welcome in the tasting room.
Volunteers are needed to help the Peconic Land Trust plant its vegetable seeds for the 2011 growing season. In exchange for a little bit of elbow grease, you'll learn how to make compost, work with a soil mix and sow seeds to grow your own herbs and veggies, says Kathy Kennedy, outreach coordinator. Participants are invited to return for the second part of the program on May 7 -- transferring the vegetable seedlings to the farm's fields.
4. Spot wildlife
Winter nature walks can be bitterly windy or cold -- but spring is a good time to take a family-friendly hike outdoors in the milder weather. The Seatuck Environmental Association's morning walk is intended to expose children younger than 5 to deer and various species of birds. "Most of the children who attend have never seen a deer in the wild," says Peter Walsh, education director. Kids will get a close-up look at deer antlers, track footprints and learn what the animals eat.
Whether you like tinkering with cars, driving cars or just looking at them, the Long Island Cars show and swap meet is an auto-lover's paradise of automobiles -- hotrods, antiques, muscles. "If it's a nice day we'll get 500 cars on display," says event coordinator Frank Coppola. "These are the kinds of cars that all the heads turn when they drive by."