The author looks over a mountain near Ketchikan in the late evening sun on an alpine deer hunt. (Courtesy Photo / Abby Lund)

The author looks over a mountain near Ketchikan in the late evening sun on an alpine deer hunt. (Courtesy Photo / Abby Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Turning the corner

The corner from summer to fall is a casual turn.

There are corners you turn quickly and out of which you accelerate.

There are corners you turn casually, and slowly cruise though.

The corner from summer to fall is one of those casual ones. Few people are actually excited for winter. Sure the Alaskans up north might be excited for the myriad winter activities that come with the cold temperatures and precipitation, but it’s hard to ski, tour, skate, snowboard or fat tire bike when it’s 39 degrees and rainy.

There will eventually be snow, but then it will be packed down, rained on and turned into an icy glaze that makes morning commutes as stressful as they are dangerous.

But we’re not there yet. All of September is in front of us. When a storm concludes, there is a chance at a return to real warmth. River fishing, alpine deer season and berry picking seasons are peaking, black bear season is starting, and the chaotic tourist days are numbered.

September is one of my favorite months because of all this. The attention that is paid to appreciating daylight, warmth and the opportunity to fully enjoy the outdoors, is much higher than the frenetic days of June and July. It’s impossible to keep up with the offerings of this state and there’s too much daylight to get any semblance of rest. Full speed ahead!

By September, the vacation is over, school is back in session and the much-awaited hunts are happening. If there was ever a time to slow the speed at which the hours pass, this is the time of year to do it. Of course, that is impossible, and it’s has never been possible to put proper value on a moment because by the time we realize the gravity of the moment, it has likely passed.

As my wife steadied her rifle on a buck in the early morning, that was the moment. But I spent that moment waiting for the report of her rifle and then looking at the result. I took a picture of her standing over her first ever blacktail deer. I was with her when she killed her two mule deer so it wasn’t completely unique, but it was her first alpine deer. That moment passed quickly too, then the processing couldn’t happen fast enough thanks to the maddening amount of mosquitos, gnats and no-see-ums. There is no luxuriating in the hike off the mountain either. The treats in the truck cannot be reached fast enough, neither can a shower after two brutally hot days on the mountain top, so the ever-so cherished August alpine season is also lost in a flurry of excitement as time seems to accelerate.

Then comes September.

My wife asked me Monday where I wanted to hunt over this coming Labor Day weekend. I told her I hadn’t thought about it. I know I want to hunt, but rather than second-guess myself all week, I will probably just wait until Thursday. Part of this is knowing I will have a better idea about what the weather is doing, but part of it is also acknowledging any weekend could be the last one in the alpine, so it’s less about where we go, and more about soaking it in and taking a few more minutes to appreciate the alpine deer hunting program.

Of course it is Southeast Alaska. The last good alpine hunting weekend may already be behind us. In which case I will have a vivid memory that passed too quickly, as they always do.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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