Our Outdoors: Ups & Downs
September 19, 2022
The rolling hills around Big Detroit Lake in western Minnesota typically kick off my autumn, but it isn't the scattering of ruffed grouse in its surrounding woods that elicit my echoing footfalls and that of hundreds of others on the weekend after Labor Day. Instead, the woodland birds, whose Minnesota opener is still a week off, have it easy for at least another seven days as I hit the pavement surrounding the water in the crisp, clear morning air of early September for the annual Dick Beardsley half marathon. Up each rise, my legs grind and sweat falls, before a bit of relief on the downhill side takes me into the next gentle dip funneling toward the lake and a bit closer to the finish line.
Strangely, the motion of ascending and descending the hills matched the gentle rise and fall of my rod tip on the water after the race, as the slow pulse of my baitcaster, tipped with a fluorocarbon leader and the blue flash of a Jigging Rap, moved the lure along the bottom and the arcs of the walleyes that showed up on the sonar. Picking them up, along with a few scattered crappies that were suspended above them as night would fall, gave a sense of reward for the moments of monotony that sometimes settled in as I became lost in thought, staring at the reflection of the sun on the water. Both the season-ending half marathon around the lake, and the fishing on its surface, seemed to mirror the summer that was: full of the same ups and downs.
Weather often dictates both fishing and running efforts throughout the spring and summer and while the dreadmill (my endearing term for the treadmill, which hosts much of my winter and inclement weather running efforts) always awaits downstairs as a less-enjoyable fallback option for a cold, rainy, windy, or otherwise imperfect morning, there isn't much of a replacement for when inhospitable conditions thwart a fishing trip. As a result, and in comparison to last year's hot, dry summer, where I rarely missed an opportunity to hit the pavement or the water, both my running and my fishing were markedly inconsistent this season, requiring some added effort to find the time. Through those challenges however, I was able to string together memorable times on the water, and more recently better runs as the summer began to stabilize, resulting in a respectable finish just a couple of minutes behind my personal record posted last fall in the half marathon.
So too, both outdoor activities mirror life. We are often faced with challenges that our environments throw at us, or circumstances our own decisions create, requiring us to cram in a little extra time or training to get where we need to be or close in on our desired goals. At times, the journey can feel like an uphill battle, and at others its easy-breezy down the slope away from life's challenges. Most often there's the relative calm and the steady rhythm of a cadenced breath, a daily cycle, and the near monotony of a pattern our lives fall into, like the lift-fall-hold of the jigging lure. In others, however, it's punctuated by a jump and a start and an adrenaline rush of an exciting event that upends everything with joyous panic, like a large fish on the line. The ups and downs of this summer, and that of my recent angling and running activity were a reminder of that.
It's not only the summer season that brings those ups and downs either. Soon the prairie hills with their own rise and fall will guide my boots through the grass and sweat equity will be paid in pursuit of sharptails and pheasants, and the winding trails in the north woods will lead me to a shot or two at ruffed grouse. Thus, the pattern continues from season to season, and all one can do is enjoy the downhill slope when it is presented, learn from the grind up the real and proverbial inclines, find peace in those moments of apparent monotony, and savor the excitement when it comes, both in life and...in our outdoors.