Roger Phillips: Everybody needs some downtime, or not

When you live in a four-season town, you just keep rolling.

November 21, 2013 

Winter duck hunt.JPG

Hunting means spending long hours outdoors in tough weather, and proper clothes will keep you comfortable.

The couch is calling, but I must not go. Sometimes it’s hard not to, and I admit on a cold, rainy weekend I occasionally succumb to the soft embrace of couch cushions, a TV remote and comfort foods.

But it doesn’t last long. There’s always something going on outdoors, and when you have four-season friends and four-legged ones, too, downtime is temporary.

I’ve always been fortunate to have both. When I want to slack on the couch for an evening, my Lab, Dusty, lets me know it’s time to go for a walk.

Even a subtle motion toward the door makes her bolt toward the door and spin like a rodeo bronc with her tail furiously wagging.

Hard to say no to that, even if it’s cold and dark outside and I would rather lay on the couch.

My wife and I bundle up, grab the leash and take her for a walk. It’s a peaceful, reflective time, and it clears my head a lot better than staring at the TV.

Even when it’s dark, we never take a flashlight or headlamp. We know our route, and it’s amazing how different each night feels.

We’ve been out during a full moon on a snowy night when it seemed like you could read a book by ambient light.

Other nights it’s so dark it’s almost spooky, but then we turn around and see the glow of the city lights and it looks like a city-wide display of Christmas lights.

It can be hard to get motivated to go outdoors in late fall. The weather is either bad or unpredictable. There’s usually not enough snow for snow sports, and conditions are often too sloppy for bare-ground sports such as hiking and mountain biking.

But there’s still hunting and fishing available, and those are frequent trips in November and December.

Hunters often yearn for bad weather. It usually means better hunting than those perfect October days.

It brings birds from the north, drives elk out of the mountains, and kicks bucks into their knuckle-head rutting phase.

There’s always something to do, and I’m lucky to have lots of like-minded friends.

Late in the week, we get in touch by email, phone or text and form our weekend game plan.

Sometimes the weather is just too nasty to deal with, but like I always say, it’s easier to cancel plans at the last minute than make them at the last minute.

Regardless of what we have planned, whether it’s a late-season mountain bike ride, a duck hunt, or a steelhead fishing trip, we usually end up going.

After you accept that it might be cold and a little miserable at times, it rarely is.

That doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally have numb fingers, but those are often the result of landing a big steelhead or trout, or setting out decoys on a frigid morning. It seems like a fair trade-off.

When I don’t go, I get reports from my friends on Sunday evening or Monday, and I’m usually sorry I didn’t go and a little jealous because they had fun without me.

The late-season payoff is always there, you just have to suffer a little for your art.

And it’s lot like we’re short of people around here willing to do it.

I’m always proud and impressed by the folks in the Treasure Valley and beyond who defy the weather gods. They keep doing their favorite things when they weather gets nasty, whether bike commuting on a blustery day, jogging on the soggy Greenbelt, or hiking early in the morning in the Foothills trails so they can be done before the midmorning thaw.

It’s easy draw to inspiration from you all, whether you’re my friends, or those whom we pass on our outings.

Few of us are super men or women. We just like to get outdoors and have a good time, and the comforts of home start feeling pretty claustrophobic in a short amount of time.

If you’re sitting indoors pining to get outside, feel free to join us.

Wear the proper clothes, or buy some if you don’t have them. Buy the absolute best long underwear you can afford, or put it on your Christmas list. Warmth and comfort starts there.

I’ve found that until the temperatures dip into single digits, I can stay comfortable in merino wool long johns, a zip-neck fleece sweater, a down vest and a softshell jacket. Add a warm hat, gloves and thick socks, and I am ready for almost anything.

I’ve also learned the hardest thing about late fall outings is often just getting out the door.

Brace for some initial discomfort, and discover for yourself that being outside isn’t that bad, and usually, it’s pretty darn good.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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