November of 2009 was the second time I had run California’s “Run the River” half marathon course, so I knew what to expect. The American River, which cuts through Sacramento, would be just inviting enough to make me wonder why I was running rather than fishing, but not clear and fishy enough to keep me from paying for the race.
The last .1 of the 13.1-mile course would feel longer than it should because the noise of the finish line crowd carries. After 13 miles, one-tenth of a mile is nothing, right? Just around the corner. Nope. Just around the other corner. Nope. One more. But I knew this so I waited until I saw the end to get excited. Having gorged on post-race eats, my buddy Nate and I walked back toward the shuttle bus that would take us back to my truck. There was a woman struggling through the last few corners, crying.
“Almost there, you got this,” Nate said.
“No, I don’t. Don’t lie to me.”
“Seriously, it’s just around that corner.”
“No it’s not; don’t lie to me. This will never end.”
She was broken.
The end seemed so close, but she was fooled by the crowd, her internal odometer, whatever.
I was her last March, when I was sure the winter was over, then five feet of snow fell. Spring was just around the corner, then it wasn’t. Winter held on for another turn, another turn, another turn until it almost didn’t feel like I had the legs to make it. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but last March was pretty awful.
So, I’m being more cautious this year. If one weather service says accumulation will be less than an inch, I check another to verify the prediction, calculate the average, then add a foot and a half. Last year’s cold, late winter delayed the steelhead season. The year before I was catching nice fish in warmish water around budding berry bushes. Last year the greedy grip of winter kept bushes nearly bare into late April. A buddy of mine came up from California and caught exactly one steelhead though we spent four days on a local river. The week after he left, the weather warmed a bit, rain came, and I caught five in a day, but fishing turned off again until May. It was crazy.
But I guess that’s the way things are. I guess I’m most surprised by the fact that I expected things to work according to my plan which, of course, is impossible when a variable is the weather. Alaska weather especially.
I could hear spring just around the corner, but we had a lot of winter left.
I found myself wishing for clouds or even a sprinkle of rain once in a while when I lived in California, just to mix things up a bit, you know? Not here. Thou shalt not tempt the weather with talk of spring coming.
We’re getting deep into 2018 now, but I’m keeping my excitement tempered a bit.
Cautious optimism only.
Jeff Lund teaches and writes out of Ketchikan.