Last week’s fog is nowhere to be found. The tops of the trees that hid in the mist can be seen again. Fog comes in for a week at a time or for a few hours with little concern for it being morning or afternoon. It can be thick enough to make me wish I had a jacket, but can vanish with just fifty feet of elevation change. Splotches of fog appear on the waters of Admiralty Strait to map the temperature clashes between air and water.Running on the bluff trail we can see above water and fog. The Olympic Mountains are slowly becoming whitened with snow. The jagged mountaintops, seldom bare, are now rounded with the early snows of fall. Winter awaits, barely two weeks away. These early chills and moisture; do they foretell of snow on our trails instead of a post card view away across the strait? The tree tops behind us are starting to dance–gently, barely whispering of wind.
“Wind, but no wind chill.” I once used those words to start one of my columns. Yesterday as we returned from the bluff trail above Ebey’s Landing the wind suddenly made its presence felt. The actual temperature was about 40ºF, a not uncomfortable temperature for us as we ran along the trail just off tree’s edge a little over two-hundred feet above the water. We had both glanced at the tree tops as we ran, acknowledging and commenting the soon to be felt wind. Out in front of us we could see the waves becoming more active. The wind was out of the southeast–a direction that allows a fetch (wonderful wind word: the distance an uninterrupted wind travels) of fifty or more miles. A wind that on other days would push the tide up, giving it the power to rearrange the driftwood. Today it was only enough to make us glad to turn our backs on it as we started across the prairie.
Kathy mentioned an upcoming trip to the other side of the mountains; to the open hillsides of the Palouse, Washington’s grain belt. We will get to run in an area where no trails are needed and the wind moves clouds way overhead while pushing us up one side and along the ridge. Routes will be chosen according to the direction the clouds move. A vague notice of darkening clouds might take place. There is a chance of thunder storms in these almost treeless hills.Ice? The nearness to winter solstice means the sun does not get high in the sky; does not stay long enough to melt the mornings frost. The high pressure system has kept cold and clear skies for us for the past five days. The giant high and low pressure systems out in the Pacific Ocean and the rain shadow we live in here on Whidbey Island keep our weather ever changing, but rarely at the extremes encountered in other parts of North America.
When was the wind storm at Rockport State Park? 2011? We went to see eagles, but got sidetracked and hiked around the wind damage done in the park. A short run turned into an hour and more of walking, pausing to take a picture, pausing to try to imagine the noise and the ground shaking as a giant shattered, then came crashing down. Pick up a stick and try to break it. Now think of the power provided by the wind to break a “stick” five or six feet in diameter.That is a seven-, maybe eight-foot diameter tree trunk that has broken by the wind.
The wind and the tide. The weather and the water. The beach that is runnable almost everyday becomes unpassable as a wind with a long fetch matches direction with the incoming tide. The moon joins in to create a higher than usual tide. The view from Partridge Point is hypnotizing. Waves are pushed higher and no two waves break the same way. No surfers are seen today. The waves they want are here, but too near the bottom of the bluff. There are too many pieces of driftwood with no particular place to be–the tide, wind, currents, and the whim of nature are for the enjoyment of gulls and an occasional eagle, but not for man.
We have sunsets over our mountains–colored by the day’s weather bringers.Weather is just as much a part of our running as it is a part of our daily lives. The books for running grew from training, nutrition, and injury to include weather, how to read the sky, why the tides and fogs and … a few from my shelves:
Weather Wisdom — Albert Lee
Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped LIfe, Myth, & the Land — Jan DeBlieu
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemispheres with Migratory Birds — Scott Weidensaul
The Weather Book — Jack Williams
Climatology: An Atmospheric Science — Hidore / Oliver
Beyond the Moon : A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides — James Greig McCully
Blame it on the Rain: How Weather Has Changed History — Laura Lee
The Weather of the Pacific Northwest — Cliff Mass
Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning — Richard Hinckley Allen
—–Run gently out there—–