Saturday, January 6, 2024

2023 - A Year Spent with Family and Friends


Are we getting older? Yes, definitely.  Are we slowing down? Not a chance!

At least, not if 2023 is any indicator. We had a busy, fun-filled year packed with adventures, many of them shared with friends and family.

We continue to love getting outdoors and being physically active. We spent 19 days in backcountry cabins or huts and tented a few other days. (We must be getting soft with less tent camping!) We explored several new places this year in Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa, including via two week-long bike trips. We also stayed busy in the fast(ish) lane. Between the two of us we competed in 15 local races (ski, bike, run, and snowshoe). Strava stats said that between the two of us we covered over 7,500 miles and spent 1,150 hours exercising this year. Not bad for a couple of geezers!

is still working full-time as a family physician, but retirement is just a little over a year away. She is looking forward to that. She spent less time quilting in 2023 and completed only six quilts. She has always been a big reader and finally decided to keep track of all the books she read. In 2023 she finished 75 books – that adds up to almost one-and-a-half books per week. 

Quilts are not to scale

continues to spend a lot of time volunteering. He does his trails newsletters and advocacy; social media, editing, touring coordination, and fundraising for the ski club; and now he has upped his game with the Fairbanks Cycle Club. He is now FCC president and treasurer and does social media, advocacy, and ride coordination. Some weeks he works as much as Corrine does! He is also editing a book for his friend, Ned, while trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to find time to do his own writing.

Eric leads a beginner fat bike ride for the Fairbanks Cycle Club

Our son Riley and his now-wife Sam had a busy year, especially the summer. They both graduated from the University of Iowa in May with advanced degrees, Riley with a PhD in space physics, and Sam with a master’s degree in science teaching. In July, they got married, moved out of their apartment, rode a tandem bike across Iowa (more on that later), and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Yes, all in the same month! Phew! In Albuquerque, Riley is working at Space Dynamics Lab and Sam is substitute teaching for a year before looking for a full-time science teaching job. Sam also finished her year of radiation and chemotherapy for her brain tumor and is currently doing well.

Our daughter Montana continues to live in Missoula, Montana. She is working two part-time jobs, giving her more flexibility to pursue her music. She has been meeting weekly with Eric to work on how to market her music out into the world (and practice Spanish). She released a music video later in the year that she had been working on for a while. You can watch it here, and like and subscribe to her YouTube channel if you wish. She is an amazing singer-songwriter. 

Montana also spent a week with Eric’s mom snorkeling in Bonaire. They noticed huge changes in the coral reefs and fish populations compared to a previous visit they had made there together 10 years ago. Just another sign of climate change.

Life is good for the Troyer-Leistikow family. Following are monthly recaps with more details and links to blog posts if you want more details of our year.


We finally convinced our friends, the Buffingtons, to join us on a cabin trip in the White Mountains National Recreation Area north of Fairbanks. We went to Wolf Run Cabin. We biked while Nate and Christy snowmachined, pulling their dog in an enclosed cart on skis. (That dog has got it easy!) They had a great time and are hooked on doing cabin trips. We also did the Winter Trails Challenge in a day. . . almost. We found 18 out of 20 trail signs, but the last two were quite a bit further away with long drives and long distances to cover. Corrine did get those final two signs on other trips.


Eric had the chance to visit his 91-year-old mother in Sierra Vista, Arizona. She is doing great and living independently without problems. While there, he was able to get in a lot of hiking and exploring.

We were supposed to meet Riley for the 50-km Birkebeiner ski race in Wisconsin, but a huge snowstorm spoiled our travel plans, and we stayed home. Riley was able to drive there the day before the race (after the storm had passed) and compete with a very respectable finish of just over three hours. We ended up doing our own Virtual 50-km FairbanksBeiner here at home. 

Riley at the start of the Birkie


March is the perfect spring month:  lots of daylight and great snow conditions without the severe cold.  We spent a weekend at Tolovana Hot Springs with our friend, Jill.  She hiked in while we biked.

View from the upper tub at Tolovana Hot Springs

And then later, we did an amazing trip in the White Mountains with Jill and another friend from Colorado, Betsy. It was Betsy’s first Alaskan bikepacking trip and she got it all, aurora borealis, sunrises and sunsets, good trails, bad trails, cabin life, and the chance to see all of the White Mountain 100 racers. (We rode part of the race route backward during the race. We know a bunch of the racers, so it was fun to cheer them on.)


We did a quick trip to Moose Creek Cabin in the White Mountains. Originally, Corrine had planned to bike from home with her friend, Nikki, but snow and unopened trails in the Chatanika valley derailed that plan for the third time!  One of these years, she and Corrine will complete this ride. Instead, we started from the Wickersham Dome trailhead (Nikki was not interested in the shorter bike trip).  The ride out was beautiful but the next day there was a bit of bike pushing due to winds picking up overnight.


Eric tried to make winter last as long as possible with a final ski to Eleazar’s Cabin. He didn’t make it to that cabin due to open streams. (He crossed one but decided against the second.) Fortunately, he was able to use Lee’s Cabin as a bailout since a friend had rented it but couldn’t use it. Meanwhile, Corrine put in some miles training for another Unbound XL 350-mile gravel bike race, and while doing that had her closest and scariest encounter with a grizzly bear!


Riley met Corrine in Kansas to be her support for another go at the Unbound XL race. Once again, she did not finish due to a combination of extreme heat and miles and miles of sticky, gritty mud that slowed her down and put several holes in her bike frame. Ouch! Oh well, she says she won’t be back to try again but we will see. (Eric would like to point out that Corrine wrote that last sentence.)

We did get in one quick solstice backpack to Stiles Creek Cabin in the Chena River Rec Area where we were not allowed to dilly dally due to hordes of mosquitoes!

Also in June, Eric performed at the Fairbanks Folk Fest, playing guitar and singing a few songs. While he stays super busy with volunteering, he does squeeze out a little time for music. 


July was our busiest month. We spent Fourth of July weekend in Nome and had amazing weather. Corrine biked all three roads while Eric hiked and did a little biking. We saw lots of birds and a few musk oxen, and we even got to soak at Pilgrim Hot Springs, north of Nome, a place we had never been before. 

In mid-July we were off to Iowa for Sam and Riley’s wedding, which ended up being a family reunion for both the Leistikow and Troyer families and for the Pedek family, too. All Troyer siblings were there, as well as our kids and Eric’s mom. All the Leistikow sisters attended, along with two nieces and a grand-nephew. It made for a busy weekend of socializing and fun. The next week Eric and Corrine helped Sam and Riley pack up their apartment. 

We then joined the newlyweds and biked across Iowa for the 50th edition of RAGBRAI. Riley and Sam rode a tandem with a Just Married sign! It was a crazy adventure with 20,000 bikers and temperatures over 100F most days. We were glad we did it but never again! Too busy, too hot, too many people. (But at least we did get in a few tent days!)


We had a late fire season in Fairbanks with the worst fires and smoke in August. The one weekend of really smoky skies we escaped down to the Alaska Range to bike and explore some trails that we hadn’t been on in years. It was a nice little get away. We also got to stay in a public use cabin we had never been to before.


In September we met up with six friends to do a weeklong hut-to-hut adventure from Durango, Colorado, to Moab, Utah, in the San Juan Mountains. A great time was had by all. The weather was fabulous, our group was amazing, and the huts were outstanding. I can’t recommend this trip enough. We went down a few days early to visit with our friend, Pete, who lives in Durango. 


October is shoulder season which makes doing Alaska trips more difficult, so we just stayed home. Eric finished splitting and stacking a load of firewood that got delivered in May. But winter came early, so we were able to start skiing by the first weekend in October! 


With all the good early season snow, Eric and I did a quick overnight ski to Eleazar’s cabin in the White Mountains. We wanted to explore somewhere around the state for Thanksgiving weekend, but the best weather was here at home, so we just skied and biked locally instead.


Our friends, Jill and Beat, were able to once again make it to Fairbanks to train for their winter ultra-races. We were able to join them for the last two nights of their five-night trip in the White mountains and share Christmas with them. We tried to join them for another weekend trip but were foiled by drifting snow. (Fortunately, they made it to the cabin.)

More Friends and Family for 2024

It was a year that was packed full of fun adventures with many of our friends and family. Next year we hope to do more of the same. We will try for a third time to get to the Birkebeiner with Riley, we have a family trip planned in April to see the total solar eclipse in Texas, and Corrine has some more big race plans on the horizon. We hope your 2023 was as fulfilling as ours and wish you more adventures in 2024.