A cruise ship makes its way through early morning fog last summer. The passengers who have been arriving lately have not been experiencing similar tranquility. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

A cruise ship makes its way through early morning fog last summer. The passengers who have been arriving lately have not been experiencing similar tranquility. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Racing the weather

Daylight is unstoppable this time of year.

Not like up in the Interior or North Slope, but there is a similar feeling of obligation if not responsibility to do something when it’s light out. January was January, and now it’s not, so get outside.

That all occurred to me this morning as daylight snuck around the edges of the curtains in the bedroom and broke my sleep. I rolled out of bed and prepared for my morning exercise. The weather was stable so I considered something outdoors before the weather turned and cloudy became an atmospheric river.

I felt good, energized, ready.

Only then, once I had committed, did I see that it was 4:09 a.m. The alarm sounds daily at 5 a.m., so there was really no need to get up, but I was already standing, which is past the point of bed return. I figured the roads would be more empty and a bike ride more enjoyable than a run, so I chugged some water, grabbed my helmet and rolled out.

In addition to the ever-present assumption that all motorists are texting, as the day wears on, impatience and even rage towards tourists grows and manifests itself in unsafe driving habits. The earlier the better for a calm, enjoyable ride.

A mound of excrement was deftly constructed in the middle of the street by the neighborhood bear. I swerved, made a brief assessment of size and continued.

The tight mile on the highway passed easily and I was cranking down the bike path in a light wind. In the passage parallel to the path was a cruise ship. I wondered about someone on board doing a run along the track that I assume is on the top deck. He or she would think it’s a beautiful morning for a run. Ominous gray clouds were present, but a suckerhole to the east allowed golden streaks to reflect against the windows of the ship. What a moment for the tourist.

By the time I turned and headed home, a few drops had started and it became a race to get inside before the skies opened. I’ve biked in the rain before, of course, but few things bring out a competitive spirit like outrunning a storm.

I was cruising in heart rate Zone 3 when my alarm sounded in my pocket. I don’t wake up with this sort of vigor every morning, but today I was an overachiever and I loved the feeling.

Rather than a few warning squalls, this storm approached in a blanket of increasing severity. A breeze with a drizzle. Wind with rain. Small craft advisory and downpour. I was starting the coffee by the time the weather event started. I had perfectly executed a short five-mile ride and was home preparing for school without suffering through the stinging rain or morning traffic.

My wife and I started our commute in a steady rain. The ruts of the highway, which had been dry two hours earlier, were long rounded rectangles of water that splashed across the center line as we drove.

We stopped at our favorite bakery in town for a breakfast burrito. A few tourists in cruise-ship issued ponchos looked soaked and overwhelmed by the weather and questioned the sanity of residency. They steadied themselves and gazed at the menu contemplating what looked good and maybe whether or not this place took American currency.

One looked happy and refreshed. He had the look of someone who had maybe been up early enough to make the best of his first Southeast Alaska weather window.

I smiled, hoping he had.

• 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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