If it seems like the fall season in Alaska is upon us, you’d be wrong. Technically.
Technically, autumn does not begin for another week, Sept. 22, a date which marks the fall equinox, the day when every point on the earth shares an equal amount of sun and night, 12 hours worth of each. The planet at this point is balanced perfectly on its axis, which is defined by the magnetic poles.
From that point on until the spring equinox in March, the northern hemisphere will be receiving more darkness than daylight.
However, while we still have a week left of daylight supremacy to savor and before we begin the dark plunge into winter, the question remains: What happened to summer?
Who among us can say they’ve gotten in a full weekend of camping, fishing or hiking without the pesky rain making a mess of things? Not many, that’s for sure. The sunny days have sprouted out here and there, but not without a lengthy interlude of dampness between them.
It seems like summer 2017 has had one obstacle after another to tackle. First it was the bears, as two deaths from maulings in June left a state in shock. Then, for a brief time, it was the East Fork fire near Sterling that had local residents on edge.
In recent weeks, it’s been the rain. At times it is a deluge, while other times it is just a threat. Most of the time, it’s a persistent shower, one that doesn’t know that it’s overstayed its welcome.
The last 30 days on the Kenai Peninsula have seen a 133 percent increase over the average month-to-date precipitation from 1981 to 2010, according to a map released by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center. Other spots in the state have been even wetter. In Denali National Park, some areas have seen over a 400 percent increase of the average rainfall this time of year. Down in Ketchikan, a 50-year-old summer rainfall record was broken.
This should be the season of scenery. Fall in Alaska marks a brief window of change from the long, summer evenings of fishing on the river and gallivanting on the mountaintops to the brisk, winter afternoons of skiing on fresh snow laid down the night before. Autumn in Alaska goes quick, but the landscape becomes a flowing patchwork of intense color painted on like a brush on a canvas, so the opportunities to go for a walk to see the sights are limited.
The rain has its upsides, chief among those the nourishment that the flora receives in preparation of hunkering down for a long winter freeze, giving it strength for a triumphant spring return, but mostly, the precipitation is just a bother. It ruins weekend plans, or for those hardy enough to brave the elements, makes life a little more miserable while holding onto a fishing pole or climbing up a ridgeline.
It also doesn’t make for a productive training regimen in preparation for a certain popular athletic event in Kenai and Soldotna this time of year.
The annual Kenai River Marathon — which also includes a half marathon and five-kilometer event — is scheduled for Sept. 24, nine days from this column’s publication. While training for a marathon, it is paramount to push aside the laziness that undoubtedly crops up on rainy days and forge ahead into the chilly conditions. Too often, I have found myself scheduling a long run or workout during my off hours, only to be deterred by a steady deluge that seems to persuade me into staying inside and watching football highlights on ESPN from a part of the world that will not see a true fall until November.
However, this is a marathon we are talking about. A grueling endurace test that rewards those that put in the time and logged the requisite miles in the cold September rain. Besides, the race itself will be run rain or shine, so you might as well get used to pushing into a strong headwind of raindrops stinging your face.
Luckily, the summer is coming to an end, and the rain’s annoying presence will no longer frustrate us to no end. So what if I spent half the day lounging on the couch watching the Bears lose yet another game? It’s not like I was missing anything outside.
Plus, I can see the splendor of the fall colors from the comfort of my car’s rain streaked windows. The leaves are right on the edge of hitting their peak of vibrant hues of red, yellow and orange, the fireweed has nearly struck midnight as its upper leaves of crimson are hanging on for dear life on the top of their stalk, and the familiar scent of decaying autumn is pervasively present on nearby saunters into the woods. An excursion on the Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna isn’t for the faint of heart for this reason.
With that in mind, enjoy the show and try to steal a dry day when you can, because Mother Nature doesn’t seem to be playing fair.
Reach Clarion sports reporter Joey Klecka at firstname.lastname@example.org.