How could that possibly be the path of least resistance?
IIRC, lightning sorta can sometimes burn a path as it goes along. You can see that with the naked eye when there is a big electrical storm with you chances of looking in the right direction and from a non scary distance.
It is not making the whole jump in one instant like one might think. also, it sends feelers or feeders out from the ground also I think.
I tend to stay safe to avoid event #3… ( already been hit twice in my life… )
Neutral air is a very good insulator… right up until you heat it up enough, or subject it to a strong enough electric field, that it ionizes and becomes a plasma. And a plasma is actually a pretty good conductor.
Have you ever seen a Jacob’s ladder? The voltage builds up until the electric field is strong enough to make a path at the narrowest point, and a spark jumps across. That bit of air is now hot, and so starts to rise, but it remains conductive, and so a current continues to flow through it while it’s rising. Eventually, the plasma rises enough above the tops of the prongs that it breaks the connection, and the voltage starts building up for the next spark.
I had assumed it was talking about cloud-to-cloud lightning, and I’ve been in stroms in which the lightning may have been traveling at least 50 miles across the sky. In one instance, it was an electrical snowstorm.