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Budtender Diaries by Tom Layou

On a mission to observe an outdoor cannabis enthusiast operate in his natural habitat, I went first to the frisbee golf course at Kincaid Park. For my mission, I retrieved the bag of discs from the trunk of my car and supplied it with a notebook and pens, as well as a pipe, lighter and weed, for diplomatic purposes.

I had not left the parking lot when I encountered my first subjects.

A group approached me and the sun was in my eyes but I could see they were holding Frolf discs.

One called out, “Hey, Tom! How are you?”

It was a former coworker we’ll call Jane who had trained me at my first pot job. We caught up a little and she agreed to answer a few questions.

Cannabis and frisbee golf seem to go hand-in-hand. Do you usually smoke before hitting the course?

I am a very occasional Frolfer, and this is my first time Frolfing at Kinkaid. Typically if I am doing something outside I don’t feel the need to. But if the occasion presents itself I’m totally down.

What does cannabis do for your outdoor experiences in general?

If I’m going on a hike, I like to be clear-headed due to bear activity. But If I’m in a group and I feel safe, I love to smoke in the backcountry and before runs and bike rides. Everything is more visual. It heightens my senses a bit. I pay attention to the little details more.

Does cannabis make it any easier or harder for you to get outdoors for activities?

It really depends. If I’m already stoned at home, chances are I won’t venture outside.

•••

The group was late for a movie and unable to stay for a smoke, so I moved on to the course. I don’t have the greatest aim… or throw… or patience, so, a lot of times, a solo visit to the Frolf course consists of stomping around in some bushes and swearing before losing the disc in the bushes again to repeat the procedure. I did complete the first and second holes. I have no witnesses to offer for this, and that is fortunate for any potential human who may have witnessed my playing.

Kincaid has effectively two difficulty levels. Each hole has what is referred to as the “Pro” and “Amateur” pads to tee off from. Hole three runs down a long hill and around to a field. I stopped at the pro tee and examined the cliff drop to the amateur pad. My tendency is to drift, and without a pair of eyes down on the hill I would be looking to spend the rest of my evening kicking through underbrush instead of asking random people if they smoke weed.

There was a group finishing the hole. Hoping to catch up, I scurried down the hill and tossed from the amateur pad, down, left, and directly into the bushes.

I had chosen a disc I could abandon if I needed to, but that still left the question of credibility if I came barreling down the hill all like, “Hey! Hey! Do you guys smoke pot?” so I knocked around the bushes, looking for the driver. I made up a little song about having something to do but being all stuck in the bushes looking for a frisbee and the group, though gradually, seemed to be moving on. I couldn’t help feeling a little like Elmer Fudd.

I went back to the tee to retrace my steps. I heard discs hitting the chains as people behind me completed hole two, but it was taking them a while to catch up.

On the second try I found the disc, leaning upright against a branch in a stand of grass. As I circled around to get it the disc disappeared again. My commitment had already waned.

There was coughing behind me up the hill. Not clear your throat-coughing, not, took-a-drink-and-swallowed-wrong coughing, but ‘The Cough.’ It’s an international smoke signal in a way, because if you are somewhere that you hear a deep, heaving, empty the lungs til they’re inside-out kind of cough and there isn’t a building obviously on fire, that person is smoking weed.

I plucked the disc from the grass and doubled back. At the tee there is a bench, some bushes, and on the other side, a park maintenance road where it seemed the following group stopped to get high. I started to walk around the bushes when two guys appeared, one with curly hair and a taller one. They seemed surprised.

I told them I write about weed and asked if they would be interested in taking a few moments to talk about cannabis in the outdoors.

These gentlemen were astonished.

The tall guy said, “Dude, we just did that!”

They were about twenty-two.

Curly Hair said, “What a coincidence!”

I was starting to wonder whether this may qualify as investigative journalism?

What does cannabis do for your experience outdoors?

Tall Guy: “It enhances, and amplifies nature, what it means to be in nature.”

Curly Hair: “That’s good, man, that’s like, poetry. It feels like a vibe, out here, you’re more connected.”

Does weed slow you down?

Tall Guy: “Outdoors it accelerates me. For me it’s mostly an outdoor thing. Weed isn’t an every day thing for me. People like to use it to relax, but I enjoy it more out here.”

Curly Hair: “People who sit around, it’s not as much fun. It’s less fulfilling. I’d be here sober.”

•••

On the way out of the park I saw a young, clean cut group I wasn’t going to approach until I realized they could easily be on the other side of my register at the shop.

I said, “Hey, I’m actually bailing because I keep losing my discs, but I’m writing an article about cannabis and the outdoors, do any of you consume marijuana?”

So, I’m 36 with some gray starting to show in my goatee, working backwards up a Frolf course in a Baked Alaska shirt with some discs in a glorified man purse and a notebook talking to the wrong people — kids, basically.

It was awkward. There was some silence and shifting around.

“Um... noooo?” one offered.

I thanked them and moved on. While they walked onto the course they were sharing surprised laughter and saying things to each other, probably something like, “Excuse me, do WE look like we could be weed smokers?”

But in my professional opinion the answer was yes and that’s why I asked.

There are other ways to enjoy cannabis in Alaska’s outdoors. For instance, you can get all baked and ride a 6 to 10 foot bore tide for a few miles in the Turnagain Arm doing about 15 miles an hour on a surfboard.

Surf SUP AK, a small handful of bore tide surfers, can be seen at outrageous hours about any day the Arm isn’t frozen. I spoke to an old friend, and founder of the group, about the role of cannabis in his experience with the bore tide.

Do people smoke before surfing the bore tide?

I typically stay smokin’. Not everyone out there smokes, though. Last night, this morning, I had a joint already rolled up and a couple of the girls were there and I was like, ‘Let’s smoke this up,’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, cool.’ I’ve never seen anyone out there giving a shit. Some people in the crew smoke, but not everyone. We share, we’re cool, it’s not really that big a deal. It’s a small part of the scene; it’s really more about the wave.

Are you afraid?

“It’s not scary at all anymore. It’s never scary to ride. I can get scared in certain situations, but it’s exhilarating. One time it was looking gnarly and a lot of people couldn’t decide to go out, but me and this one other surfer did. We got out there and the wave kept building and building, the wave was pushing us eight feet high and I went to the curl, but I couldn’t bring myself to slide from the wash into the curl. I didn’t know then that was the safest, the best place in the world, where you have the most control. I was afraid to drop from this gi-normous wash. I fell in and got held under. But that was one of the best mornings, for the fact that we were there, we were the only two people in the world who decided to step out into it.

What does it feel like to get up on top of the bore tide?

It can be different every time. For me, the longer rides become a lot like skateboarding or snowboarding, just super comfortable.

For now, I think I’ll just stick to Frolf.

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