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Sam Cook column: Beauty hides beneath the constant, dismal dripping

The yellow dog and I were getting ready for a rainy run at Hawk Ridge on Wednesday evening when a brown dog walked over to say hello. The dog was boxer-size, a formidable specimen, but I sensed no ill will in its demeanor.

A young woman ambled over from the car parked ahead of mine to collect the dog. I had just seen her come off the road with four dogs. She had already put the rest of the team in the car. It had Alaska plates and bumper stickers plastered all over its tailgate.

The woman said hello while our dogs circled each other.

“Kinda wet out there,” she said. “But beautiful.”

She wore a loose jacket that was long on function and short on fashion. Her knee-high rubber boots were the Xtratuf brand you see all over Alaska. I commented on the license plates, and she said that, yes, she was from Alaska. She said it in a way that implied she had been born and raised there. She had just moved down to Duluth, she said.

She had an air of confidence about her. She seemed like the kind of person who might have spent a lot of time behind a dog team or who could skin and quarter a caribou if the need arose.

A light rain was falling, and I knew I’d better get going before I lost all momentum for this soggy run. I hadn’t been looking forward to it, but now, lifted by the Alaska woman’s positive take on the day, I was trying to reframe it. All day long, I’d been talking to people who were grumpy about this spate of dismal weather and about the ice that remained on inland lakes with the fishing opener approaching.

“You want to interview a crabby person?” a guy at a local tackle shop had asked me earlier in the day.

The woman called her brown dog and headed for her car. The yellow dog and I started running. Within a quarter-mile, I had to peel off one layer. Some days, it takes one more layer to get out the door than it does to get down the trail.

We trotted on through the steady drizzle and drip. The fog was so thick I couldn’t see any houses in the Lakeside neighborhood below. But the Alaska transplant was right. It was beautiful out here. Water droplets clung to the branches of the pussy willows. A bird I couldn’t identify sang its song over and over again. A freshet rushed along in the ditch, hurrying to reach Amity Creek.

I was wet, but plenty warm. And happy.

Back at my car, a mom just down the road was talking to a small person who appeared to be her 3-year-old daughter.

“One more time in the puddle. Then we have to go,” mom said.

The child waddled across the road in her rubber boots and began stomping in an excellent puddle. She stomped up and down the puddle, each spirited stomp sending glorious arcs of gray water in every direction.

I’ll bet she thought the day was beautiful, too.

Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or Follow him on Twitter at or on Facebook at “Sam Cook Outdoors.”