My buddy texted at 4 a.m. saying the hunt was a no-go. He’d been up all night and was worried he was getting run down. One of the worst things you can do as a teacher is fall behind on your health early in the school year, even when there isn’t a pandemic.
Anyway, I happened to roll over at 4:10 and figured I’d check the weather. The forecast called for gusts to 60 mph and 4-foot waves, even if the relative shelter of the narrows. The hunt was canceled. So I turned off my alarm, fell back asleep and woke up at 5 a.m. anyway.
I listened to the rain pound the roof and flood the gutters. I pictured ducks and geese hunkered down out of the storm and figured I’d head out in the afternoon when the weather was supposed to break. Or at least not be hazardous.
Along with building a strong immune system against common germs comes the need to build misery tolerance because if October was a fish, it would be a lingcod. Ugly. Nasty. Angry. But you still like it. It’s the month that seems to say, “Okay, you’ve had your fun. Now, the payment is due.”
Most of us in Southeast Alaska can handle cold, clear winter days in the teens or 20s. But there’s a different cold that comes when it’s 41 and rainy. The jokes about liquid sunshine during summer are reduced to cursing either with anger or twisted admiration for the violence and wetness of an October storm.
When the sun does reappear, it no longer carries much warmth. Direct sunlight on dark clothing is the only way one can be warmed. In the shade, no chance. The highs might break into the 50s, but it appears the weather feels it is under no particular obligation to do so.
However, at the end of the month comes rut, and as the bodies of dead salmon are washed from the river on high water days courtesy of the deluge of rain, steelhead can be picked up in small numbers increasing as the winter run begins in earnest. Now, with the addition to waterfowl hunting, the early pre-rut days are packed, and I sometimes feel the need to be super-armed when I head out. Shotgun, decoys and a rifle or bow, just in case. I never take it all into the field, but it’s all there in case I want to transition from duck to deer.
If it weren’t for all the outdoor opportunities and advancements in outdoor apparel to keep hypothermia at bay, October would be intolerable. As it is, it’s just another obstacle. October is the month that prevents people from legitimately claiming they are “pretty much a local” because they’ve been coming to southeast Alaska for part of the last 10 summers.
Oh, yeah? How many Octobers you got?
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.