Cordova Chronicles: Just walkin’ in the rain

The Espej’s use iPhone apps to make sure they reach a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Clearly, this day was a huge success. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times
The Espej’s use iPhone apps to make sure they reach a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Clearly, this day was a huge success. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

Let’s face it. Cordova gets a lot of rain; in fact, an average of 148 inches per year, compared to a national average of 38 inches.  

Yet by the end of an unusually dry August, Cordovans were hoping for rain, as creeks and reservoirs were drying up, and salmon were trying to figure out where to spawn.

Rain or shine, there are locals that can be seen out and about on a daily basis enjoying perhaps the most basic exercise in the world, namely walking.

All it takes is a good footwear, effective rain gear and the right kind of attitude.

Some partake of this pursuit with music in their ears. The theme could very well be precipitation.

After all, rain has been immortalized by Gene Kelly’s famous 1952 dance routine “Singin’ in the Rain,” in which he merrily splashed about while twirling an umbrella — which makes one wonder why hardly any Cordova walkers (other than Kelly Weavering) carry such a device.

Then there is the equally appropriate tune, “Just a Walkin’ in the Rain,” in which a forlorn lover is “getting soaking wet … while trying to forget.” The chorus is even better: “People come to windows, they all stare at me, shake their heads in sorrow, saying who can this fool be.” 

Most of the staring these days seems to be out car windows of vehicles racing by, some which add to the deluge by ignoring the effects of splashing water from nearby mud puddles.

Yet walkers keep doing their thing. Sometimes to astonishing lengths, if you add up their miles. 

Remember the scenes in the movie “Forrest Gump”, where Forrest decides to run across the United States, and then turns around to run back, just because he felt like running? Estimates of the distance he would have run one-way center around 3,500 miles.

Guess what? Local walker Barb Cave, who faithfully strolls along Eyak Lake for 4.5 miles a day, rain or shine, would cover that distance in 2.5 years. So, she has crossed the distance of the United States at least four times in the last 10 years.

Vistas such as this await hikers who trek to the top of the Mt. Eyak Ski Area. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times
Vistas such as this await hikers who trek to the top of the Mt. Eyak Ski Area. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

For those that prefer steeper inclines, consider Jerry Bendzak, who makes daily hikes to the top of the Mt. Eyak Ski Area.

Bendzak, noted for his meticulous attention to detail, has a unique way of keeping track of the number of ascents: he adds a rock to the bottom of a small ledge at the top overlooking Eyak Lake, which happens to be his favorite resting spot before heading back down.

Rocks are filling up the hole, and he may have to find a second location.

Like many other Mt. Eyak trekkers, Bendzak appreciates all the work ski area manager Dave Branshaw and his crew are doing to improve the trail up Mt. Eyak.

“They have been adding sawdust and compacting gravel on much of the lower part of the trail,” Bendzak said. “And it has really made the hiking easier.”

“We have more and more hikers on the area every year,” Branshaw said, who has also added drainage ditches in key spots to prevent washouts. “The goal is to continue improving it, all the way to the top.”

Most of the gravel has been hauled up by the bucket load in Branshaw’s mini truck, while sawdust from various local mills is transported in bulk. Additionally, a mechanical chipper is being used to chop up brush that is cut along the trail, with the resulting wood product then being spread along the trail.

Many locals prefer walks around town. Flat or hilly terrain is easy to find, and much of it is paved.

One of the most regular couples is Dean and Roseanne Curran. Strolling about town hand-in-hand is part of their daily routine, and they are always good for a smile and wave.

Then there are the Espejos. Flor has a determined forward-leaning walking style, and when I encountered them on Main Street, both were kind enough to stop and show me their iPhone tallies of steps taken that day. Rarely do they miss reaching 10,000. On that day, they were beyond 11,000.

Philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day,” and also added, “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”  

Regardless of where you walk or hike, we are lucky to live in a place where such a healthy pastime is right out the door — rain or shine; and so many people who could care less about a few or many rain drops.