Roger Phillips: It's tough to beat the last call at dusk

It might not have a cool name like "dawn patrol," but a sunset outing is still cool.

rphillips@idahostatesman.comMay 23, 2013 

Rog column.JPG

Why get up early when you can end your day like this?


I had just finished telling my fishing buddy how evenings don't produce as well as I think they should when my fly disappeared in a swirl.

I instinctively set the hook, and my rod formed a letter C. I felt a deep-bodied fish reverberating on the end of the line like an electic pulse.

It was that thrashing head shake all anglers crave, and it came when the sun had disappeared over the horizon and the water had taken on the deep-blue hue where everything becomes a silhouette in the fading light.

It wasn't until I'd netted the fish that I realized I had just landed my biggest smallmouth bass of the day. What made it even better was it took a topwater fly (aka redneck dry fly) in the waning light when the air was still and cool, the water calm, and the pastel hues of sunset had faded to indigo.

Evening is one of my favorite times to be outdoors. When others are settling around a campfire or disappearing into their RVs and firing up their generators, I am milking the last moments out of the day.

It's not limited to fishing. I often gear up and ride my mountain bike on trails in the Foothills as shadows are creeping across ravines and gulches.

That soft evening light makes the Foothills glow, and the oppressive heat of the day is muted.

I pedal up the trails, breathing deeply and tasting for any hint of cool air and feel the sweat bead up on my arms and face only to gradually evaporate as intended.

Cycling under a blazing sun is a bad deal for me. I always feel like I am 10 hard pedal strokes away from spontaneous combustion. More than once I've stopped to cool down and suddenly felt light-headed. It's not a fun feeling. Heat makes any physical effort feel twice as difficult as it saps my body of its strength. It's like someone just stole a month of training from me.

But on an evening ride, not only is it cooler, I get the bonus of topping a ridge as the sun is disappearing to the west and the city lights are starting to twinkle.

The trails are usually less crowded, but not always. I am not the only one who enjoys the experience. We give each other a knowing nod as we pass. People seem to be in that mellow, sunset groove.

Sometimes I just take a hike, and Dusty loves to tag along. She can do her favorite activities - sprinting and sniffing.

It's nice when I don't have to worry about her overheating. When we get home, she happily laps from the water bucket and then tips over on the floor, tired and content.

I jump into the shower and rinse off the sweat and dust, and the evening air feels cool and pleasant as I dry off.

Of course, I could also get up early and beat the heat, but it's not going to happen. I don't go to bed when it's still light out, so I usually get to sleep pretty late when the days are long.

I'm also unmotivated in the mornings. I'd rather gradually wake up. I occasionally succumb to the peer pressure of the morning people, but it can make fun feel like a chore.

I prefer later, and after a day at work, why would I want to waste those precious final hours of daylight in front of the TV?

There's so much left to do. I can eat dinner, let it settle, and still have time for an hourlong session in the Foothills, or maybe try to tempt a fish at a local pond, or on the Boise River.

It give me a sense of accomplishments when another day is crossed off the calendar that ended in a meaningful way.

That last call on the trail or water doesn't have a romantic name like the "dawn patrol," which started as surfer lingo and spilled over to other outdoor sports.

I've been trying to think of a complementary term for the evening. Dusk patrol sounds too derivative.

Sunset sweep? Sounds kind of like what ski patrollers do, and also too active for the mellow sunset vibe.

Sunset stroll? Too casual, and it reminds me of a walk on the Greenbelt.

So I will keep trying to come up with something to call it, but whatever it ends up being, I know I will like it.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Thursday. Look for Zimo next week.

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