It’s always a good idea to overpack for an off-island beach day. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

It’s always a good idea to overpack for an off-island beach day. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: To burn or not to burn

The go-carts and caramel apples from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory also come to mind, but I can’t think of Estes Park, Colorado, without thinking of my sunburned nose. Elk were milling about the edges of town, there were trout in a nearby lake, but my nose ended up nearly purple and stands out in my memory. It blistered and later cracked. The thin air, duration and lack of sunscreen (my ears got lotion, so did my neck and cheeks but I missed the most obvious spot) joined forces to create a painful childhood memory.

I thought about that summer day over the weekend as two hours became three, then four, on a secluded beach with friends.

I was “getting some sun” which is euphemistic for realizing that a burn was in progress or had already happened and was worsening.

But the Alaska burn is a different burn. The angle of the rays thanks to the tilt of the Earth necessitates more contact with the atmosphere before it reaches us, so the attitude toward exposure is different. Alaskans, especially in Southeast, wear burns with a sense of pride that doesn’t exist in parts of the world in which skin cancer is an ever present threat. Dismiss exposure at your peril the closer you live to the equator.

Sunscreen was passed around, but I declined. There is growing evidence that some of the cheapest and most popular sunscreens contain chemicals that have been deemed unsafe by the FDA, though that wasn’t my reason. It was simple irresponsibility.

Regarding chemicals, on a scale from oblivious to tinfoil hat, I am somewhere on the cautious side. The amount of chemicals we ingest, not to mention plastics, can’t be good for us and the numbers are becoming more specific and unnerving. What was an educated guess is becoming more clear. So I’ve gone to covering up with those light, breathable sun shirts that make me look like I’m ready to step onboard a skiff to fish for bonefish in Belize.

But not on Saturday. Saturday I pulled up my pant legs and absorbed. Other than burying the tops of my feet a few different times, I paid more attention to enjoying the experience.

It could be considered negligent to allow even an occasional sunburn because skin cancer is no joking matter. Yet it is impossible to be completely without incongruities involving healthy decisions.

People would never, ever consider eating farmed fish because it is, in addition to being an abomination, filled with contaminants. Yet those same people might eat fast food or drink soda without care for contaminants or chronic-illness-inducing amounts of sugar.

A man who preaches self-care and kindness spends four hours a day on social media arguing.

A woman puffs on her nicotine and chemical-laced vape as she explains she only eats organic, free-range food because of the hormones and antibiotics.

Observe everyone long enough and hypocrisy is inevitable, so it’s probably better to avoid being the, “Well, actually…” person.

Anyway, there was a grouse hooting up the slope behind us. Ravens circled and chatted, utilizing nearly the full range of their dialects. A whale cruised, leaving columns of spray that evaporated quickly in the heat.

The fire was efficient and perfect for cooking gourmet hot dogs and sausages. I forgot tinfoil for the onion, but it roasted nicely and added luxury to the beach day meal.

I definitely got a little sun, but nothing that will make me remember anything other than the highlights of a day trip to a remote beach on a sunny Southeast Alaska day.

• 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.

More in Sports

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Ida Meyer (301) and Etta Eller (294) lead the 3,200 at the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Track and Field State Championships on Saturday. (Pete Pounds / Alaska Sports Report)
JDHS’ Etta Eller takes gold, Ida Meyer silver in 3,200 at state track and field championships

Eller also wins 1,600; Wilder Dillingham wins 200 during event in Anchorage.

An orange-crowned warbler looks for bugs on a willow (Photo by K.M. Hocker)
Thunder Mountain High School pitcher Jack Lovejoy catches a line-drive hit to end the Region V softball championship game against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Thunder Mountain High School Falcons are conference champs, heading to state softball title tournament

TMHS rebounds from 19-12 loss in back-to-back Saturday games against Sitka, wins finale 9-3.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Kai Ciambor outmaneuvers Soldotna’s Daniel Heath during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
JDHS comes up short in state soccer title games

Boys fall behind early in 4-1 loss to Soldotna, girls miss opportunities in 2-0 loss to Kenai.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé goalkeeper Alex Mallott stops a shot by Ketchikan’s Joe Larson (9) during the Crimson Bears 4-2 win May 17 over the Kings during the regional tournament at Adair-Kennedy Field. JDHS defeated Ketchikan again in state semifinals to advance to the state title game. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire file photo)
Both JDHS soccer teams are playing for the state title on Saturday

Boys to defend crown in rematch against Soldotna, followed by top-seeded girls against Kenai Central

(Clarise Larson/ Juneau Empire file photo)
Both JDHS soccer teams advance to state semifinals after decisive wins

Top-seeded girls stay undefeated with 5-0 win against Palmer, second-seeded boys top Homer 3-1.

The author’s wife kneels to net a trout over the weekend. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Live free, fish hard

In my young trout bum days I’d go hard. It was the… Continue reading

An orca swims beside a boat near Berners Bay on May 12. (Photo by Eric Jorgensen)
On the Trails: Orcas, ducks, warblers and others

I went on the Audubon cruise to Berners Bay in May, on… Continue reading

Most Read