Sunday, January 16, 2022

Finding New in the Old - Looking Back at 2021

Well, 2021 felt kind of like the same old thing as the pandemic continued on. As in 2020 we stayed mostly close to home and we didn’t try any crazy new sports or hobbies or get any new jobs, yet we still found new places to explore and new things to experience. 

We did get in one trip Outside (to South Dakota and Montana), when it looked like the pandemic was slowing and we were both vaccinated, but then came the Delta surge (and, of course, Omicron). Mostly we continued to explore Alaska, including in our own area. 

New quilts  and new volunteer positions

All the quilts that Corrine made this year - they are not to scale

When not exploring, Corrine continues to work full-time as a family doc at the Tanana Valley Clinic, from which she plans to retire in 3 years. She also continues to quilt, and this year finished fourteen new quilts. Volunteering continues to take up much of Eric’s time, especially with the ski and cycle clubs (newly  appointed as treasurer for the cycle club), for trails (including through his newsletters) and for the neighborhood (he started a new neighborhood Facebook page this year). He does some editing and tries to get in some fiction writing when time allows. 

January – A new-to-us cabin

View from Wolf Run Cabin in the White Mountains

We were able to get out on 2 cabin trips in January - Cache Creek over New Year’s and a quick overnight to Wolf Run Cabin – one of 2 White Mountains National Recreation Area cabins where we hadn’t yet spent the night.  Weekend getaways help us to cope with the cold and dark of January.  (Though the truck didn’t start and had to be jumped at the trailhead at -20 F on the Cache Creek trip: Final diagnosis: the auto-start was draining the battery.)

February – Some winter snow races but nothing new

Corrine finishing the virtual Distance Series race

Eric and I both did the Distance series ski races this year, held virtually due to Covid. In late February, Corrine finished the 25-mile Chena River to Ridge race on skis.  Eric had planned to run that race, but he injured his calf earlier in the month. Fortunately, he could bike, but decided not to risk it in a race. 

March – We explore new trails in the Whites

Looking down on Caribou Bluff Cabin the White Mountains

To celebrate our birthdays, we did a multi-day, cabin-to-cabin biking tour in the White Mountains NRA. We lucked out with a glorious weather window. It was a bit chilly, but we had sunny skies and bomber trails. We finally got to bike some new-to-us trails, Fossil Gap and Windy Creek trails. We might have started a new spring tradition! 

April – New snow records - When will winter end? 

Eric enjoys sun and warmth at Moose Creek Cabin

It seemed like winter was never going to end this year.  More snow and cool temps. Fairbanks set records for the amount it snowed in April and for snowpack on the ground. Eric used our fish-scale skis for a late-month ski trip to the Moose Creek cabin in the Whites while Corrine headed to Denali for a long day bike ride as she ramped up training for summer races. 

May – New accomplishments for our kids

One of Montana's song covers

We celebrated as parents when Riley became an official published scientific author!  Here’s an article about the paper: 

We can’t just pick one month to celebrate Montana as she continues to explore music, adding several more music videos to her YouTube channel, which she was able to personalize this fall by getting at least 100 subscribers:

For us, May is challenging for getting out on trails. Either the snow is melting and/or the dirt is mud. Trails-geek Eric found ways to snow-bike (early in the day when the trails were still frozen) and using the fish-scale skis in the melting snow, including a 12-mile ski in the Whites in the rain! Later in the month he once again started leading the Tuesday Night Mountain Bike rides. And he and Corrine biked the Tanana River dike - a new place they had never biked before. Corrine did a last big training ride by biking the Dalton Highway to the Yukon River and back, another new adventure for her which included 140 miles with 15,000 feet of elevation. 

June – New routes as we prove we are never too old to do dumb things

At the beginning of the month Corrine attempted the Unbound Gravel XL – 350 miles in 36 hours, a new distance for her. She dropped out at 180 miles due to her stomach shutting down. She isn’t happy that she DNF’d – something she has rarely done.

Later, Corrine rode a new biking route that two friends created based on the old Sluice Box 100, a multi-sport race in the Fairbanks area. The new route is 125 miles with over 14,000 feet elevation gain. She finished in 18 hours. Meanwhile, Eric decided to hike what he calls the FarCHAR route. Connecting the trails/routes of Far Mountain, Chena Dome and Angel Rocks-to-Chena Hot Springs all in one go. It’s 75 miles, with about 19,000 feet of elevation gain (though Eric did a bonus 5 miles when he accidentally backtracked a ways). He finished in 49.5 hours with only a couple of short naps. Are we tough or stupid? A little bit of both, but nothing new about that. Once we get an idea in our heads, we usually have to see it through.

Also in June, Eric again ran the Fairbanks Cycle Club’s Bike Swap, this time in a new venue and during a pandemic (not a new experience he enjoyed). He also played at the Fairbanks Summer Folk Fest, trying to keep his old music skills from getting rusty.

And Corrine also did a quick overnight hike to Lee's cabin. for summer solstice.  She left after work and was back before lunch the next day. Not every adventure is over-the-top stupid!

And friends Jim and Chris Hall visited us while they were here for Jim's high school reunion.

July – New places to explore with lots of family fun thrown in

Sam and Riley hiking above Eielson Visitor Center

July was busy. Too many good things occurred to have just one photo!  Riley and his girlfriend Sam came to visit, and we had an amazing weekend in Denali National Park. Sam’s first trip there, and she got to see the mountain fully out, along with seeing bears and moose! Then, we headed Outside for 2 weeks. Corrine did the Trans South Dakota bikepacking race, a new race for her, while Eric visited college buddy Wayne (and wife Marian) and explored SD trails while being available to rescue Corrine just in case. (The temps during the race climbed above 100, but Corrine persevered by biking at night and finished the race!) Before the race, we explored new areas, including Devil’s Tower (Wyoming) and the Black Hills. 

Hiking off the Beartooth Highway with Teresa, Mark, and Taz

After the race we drove through Badlands National Park and Custer State Park before meeting up with Eric’s sister, Teresa, and her husband, Mark. We got lucky with the Montana wildfire smoke and had a great time camping and hiking along the Beartooth Highway and in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, all areas and trails new to us.  

Before flying home, we met up with Montana (still living in Missoula) for an afternoon in Butte and even did a short hike to the Ringing Rocks, a very cool geologic formation. We headed home just as the Delta variant was surging across the country.

August – Back to work and the real world

WOW riders on a Wednesday night bike ride

We spent most of August catching up after our 2-week vacation, but Corrine did race in the inaugural Nenana-Rama – a new 100-mile road bike race to Nenana and back - and placed 2nd for women! She also continued to ride with the WOW (Women on Wheels) group where she is still able to keep up, barely. She also took 3rd place in the doctor category for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Readers Choice Awards!

And Montana came for a short visit to see us and friends.

September – Lots of Micro-adventures, New Places

Fall along Eklutna Lake

September was filled with several small micro-adventures as we tried to get out as much as possible before winter. We did the Summer Trails Challenge in 36 hours over Labor Day weekend, which included a couple of new trails for us. Corrine explored more in the Nome Creek Valley by bike and foot. She also biked the new-to-her Tofty Road from Manly to the Yukon River (near Tanana). Due to Covid we had canceled a planned Grand Canyon float trip, and instead adventured south of the Alaska Range. We explored Talkeetna and nearby trails, then biked the Eklutna Lake Trail and hiked the Curry Ridge Trail out of Kesugi Ken Campground. Every trail was new to us!

October – Not much new as the seasons change

Corrine looks out at the White Mountains on a day fatbiking trip

A quieter month. Nothing new or too exciting, but we did get an early snowfall (at higher elevations) so we did several short skis and fat bikes along Old Murphy Dome Road and up in the White Mountains. Eric put together a new garage-in-a-box for our truck (finishing just before the second snowfall at the house) and continued to edit a book for a friend. Corrine continued to work long hours and spent her free time quilting.

November – Winter is definitely here - nothing new about that

Fat biking part of the Fairbanks-Circle Trail with friends

Winter hit with a vengeance in November: below zero Fahrenheit for most of the month. We continued to get out, just for short jaunts, but we cancelled 2 cabin trips due to cold and wind and marginal trail conditions. One was scheduled for Thanksgiving, so we hadn’t invited anyone over. Good thing! We ran out of water. (Like many in Fairbanks we have it delivered to a storage tank.) That was a new experience we don’t want to replicate. We got water on Friday and cooked our (locally raised) turkey then!

December – A year-end to remember - Epic weather and a new covid variant

We got out for 2 cabin trips in December, one for our anniversary and one for Christmas with Colorado ultra-endurance friends Jill and Beat, who usually come in December for winter training. They were just in time for our crazy year-end weather: back-to-back storms with a foot of snow followed by an inch of rain followed by another foot of snow and high winds followed by temperatures down to -35F. We’ve all had plenty of winter experience, but we were still a bit shell-shocked. Eric spent more time clearing snow in a week then he had most of the rest of the year! (When the storms ended, we hired a front-end loader to clean up the rest!) This type of weather is definitely new for Fairbanks. To add more fun, the Omicron variant ramped up, messing with airline schedules. Jill and Beat made it home, but not without scheduling drama.   

Out with the old, in with the new – again! 

The world seems to have gone a little crazy this past year. Weather and climate change, politics, and the pandemic. Yet we remain happy and healthy. We are thankful that we can get outdoors to enjoy what nature has to offer and still find new and fun places to explore in our own backyard. Who knows what 2022 will bring (at least two Covid-canceled trips so far!), but here’s to another year of adventure and exploration. No matter what, we’ll keep trying to find new places to explore and have new experiences.