2011 was personally not the most epic year of my life, but it stood out as one of the greatest years I can remember.
Below is a list all the reasons why, but, truly, they are all the same reason it was such an absolutely amazing year for me:
I learned SO much!
-After running a 29er on Snowcats for over a year, I listened to the choir and built a fatbike... and never looked back.
-I figured out how to stay warm enough, yet keep from sweating, while biking & bike-joring at 30 & 40 below.
-As it turns out, biking means happiness. This, I can verify.
-Finally got my Boundary Fur Sewing beaver & wolverine ruff put on my down parka.
-Religiously following the mushers on the Yukon Quest actually taught me a lot of things about dog mushing.
-I purchased a sewing machine and then DID NOT learn how to use it. What I did learn is how intricate and temperamental they are.
-Learning to lead ice climbing made me a better climber.
-I made a proposition to rename the majority of the contiguous 48 states: Illohiowa, Nebransas, Calegon, Utada, New Mezona, Missiana, Washaho, Florgeama, Massicutt, Rhodaware, Caroginia, Tennestucky, Wisconigan, Minnekota, Wyotana, Texlahoma, and Maineshire. I would also like to add that Alaska should assume all western Canada's territories and provinces west of and including Sasquatch-chew-on. Why would anyone want None-of-it, a Labrador, OKbeck, and New-found-land, anyway?!?!
-Most importantly, I took a little girl down the road for a dogsled ride and was reminded of how wonderful it is to make a child smile.
-Brett and I attempted to summit Mt McKinley in winter, but were forced to turn around due to hip-deep sugar snow (with snowshoes on). Oh yeah, and it was -35, we only had three days of food, and were burning through the white gas faster than planned. Fortunately, I learned a lot about clothing and winter gear.
-In 2010, I volunteered on the inaugural White Mountains 100 bike/ski/foot race and then biked the 100 mile course the following weekend, solo & unsupported. This year, I, for some reason, thought it was a good idea to sign up for the race and then waited to the bitter end to find out if I got in. I finished respectfully, having an awesome time riding the course with everyone.
-For the first time publicly, I showed some of the photographs I've taken in the past five years.
-Not staying in touch with friends in the Lower 48 brought me back to Facebook after a long hiatus after joining in 2005.
-After buying an electric bass guitar, I taught myself how to play.
-Tough times reminded me to look back on good ones... real good ones.
-J.R. and I found out how cool biking the Denali Park Road over Easter is.
-Apparently, drinking 37 different kinds of beer in 21 days is the only way I can gain weight.
-When I went to Wisconsin to see my parents for three weeks, I wrote this on Facebook: 'I left Alaska and there was an 800 acre wildfire within two miles of my cabin. I went to the great state of
-If you let ice cream melt a little, it doesn't look like you ate so much.
-My 'extended seasonal' position as a Park Ranger ended and I applied to get my job back. Fortunately, I did. I found out how lucky I am to have the job I do.
-Ken and I learned the real story of Chris McCandless by talking with many Healy locals and visiting the bus with open eyes and minds.
-After severely 'dislocating' my left knee for the 6th time in just over three years, the doctor told me I had, again, torn my MCL. Great news. After a few weeks of rest, I was pretty much back up and running again (literally).
-The Middle Fork of the Koyukuk was checked off my very long Alaskan Rivers To Float list. When my car's poorly-installed-by-the-original-owner security system was tripped and shut the car down, I learned that as complete of planning as I had done for the trip, there's always something unexpected that can happen.
-Firestarter has always interested me and I found out how to make my own.
-I woke up one morning to a huge hornet stinging me on the eyebrow. Good morning!
-Stoves had me wondering, so I did some math and figured what was efficient and light.
-Creek crossing on a fatbike is a lot like managing eddy lines in a canoe.
-Research shows black bears are the most dangerous of all.
-No matter how bad things may be, I learned to always enjoy the view and take in what's good.
-Alaska Explorer & I started a fatbike rental business.
-Fatbikes are pretty awesome for exploring in summer, too, as I learned in the beauty of the season.
-Ken and I went backpacking in the Eastern Brooks Range and learned to never go up scree slopes. Being rim-rocked is not cool.
-While at work as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service, I wrote up a few documents and guides relating to backcountry travel in Alaska: Adventure Planning Guide, Backcountry Trip Plan, & Backcountry River Crossing. All can be viewed here, along with other great stuff.
-I learned how to be an adventure photographer when Ed Plumb, Ann Farris, and I hiked and packrafted 94 miles through the Alaska Range in three days. It was an adventure I had been planning for over two years. Over two 5,000 foot passes in driving rain, snow line moving down the hillsides overnight, 6 mph glacial current, and running two Class III holes without a PFD and in a packraft with no spray deck. Awesome Alaskan weekend with good friends and my DSLR in hand at all times.
-In contrast to our March adventure, my buddy Brett and I learned that some places are best visited under the cover of snow after hiking 60 miles of tussocks, brush, and unstable boulders. We also drank the best water of our lives, which was rivaled by the meltwater I drank the following month on the Matanuska Glacier.
-I learned how to build and maintain bikes after figuring out I never use trekking poles.
-My 'Learning Experience' video was a big hit on Roman Dial's website and on YouTube.
-I found a crazy link about sailing stones - rocks that move on their own!
-In a 5 1/2 month span, this blog had 7,500 page views. I was thrilled at reaching so many. I hope they all learned something, too.
-The fatbike business kicked off when a few of us went fatbiking in Wrangell-St Elias National Park for a long weekend.
-I designed a website for Amanda's Boundary Fur Sewing business which specializes in fur products for extreme cold weather adventures.
-Andrew Skurka stopped in Fairbanks and gave his Alaska-Yukon Expedition presentation.
-With the Coal Wood Glitter video and write-up, I took third place in DaveC's trip report contest and won a sweet backpack.
-Someone downstates asked me about fatbikes and possibly building one. I shared my thoughts.
-With a few things learned and some thoughts still lingering, I revisited the stove debate.
-For the second year in a row, my dad walked out into the woods, shot a buck with his bow while hunting on the ground, and dragged it out by himself. Something to be proud of even without his much disabled leg. I'm proud of him.
-I watched the Alaskan version of Dancing With The Stars while laying in my sleeping bag at night, watching the aurora sweep across the star-filled sky as I fell asleep.
-Having learned time-lapse photography, I figured I was ready to graduate to stop-motion, which I experimented with on a glacier. I learned very quickly what not to do, but got a decent result, nonetheless. Please watch it in HD.
-Chuck Testa forever redefined what comes to mind when I hear the word 'nope.'
-My buddy Nick taught me how to hunt and quarter caribou. I taught him how to cold weather camp. It was the best trip ever. Literally.
-On the same trip, I put everything I knew to test on how to use canister stoves in cold weather. The finer points are what I learned.
-I mustered up the courage to do my first free-solo climb on ice and this year's first ascent of the Fox Creek waterfall.
-After doing some research, I found out everyone should leave their guns at home and just use bear spray.
-I learned the truth about plate tectonics.
-Girthy Thursdays became a popular event with the local fatbikers. We explore new trails every week.
-Published the inaugural Fat & Happy Newsletter for Far North Fatbikes, J.R. & I's fatbike rental business.
-Sharing is wonderful and I hope my writing on a new fatbike tire, warm hands in cold weather, and clothing for winter biking was good, too.
-Brett & I had yet another failed winter trip, this time due to whiteout conditions.
-There were a few things learned while fatbike camping at 25 below.
-Fairbanks had an average temperature of -30.1 Fahrenheit from November 15-21. It was not only the coldest week during the month of November since 1930, but Fairbanks was also the coldest city in the world for most of the month. The temperature at my cabin never rose above -30F for over two weeks, and possibly more.
-I became the most frost-covered I have yet to experience on a 17 mile round-trip walk to town one night. I was bored in my cabin and needed to get outside. The cold weather had me cooped up indoors far too long, so I decided to walk to the store and get some ice cream, as I was fresh out. Dressed in wool from head to toe to fight the 25 below temperature, I traveled 17 miles in just under 6 hours! Here's what I wrote on Facebook when I returned at one o'clock in the morning:
'Just because I was walking the streets of Fairbanks at 10 pm, dressed in wool head to toe and my army surplus mukluks because it was 25 below, doesn't mean I'm homeless, so stop looking at me like that. Maybe my car wasn't plugged in and I just walked 8.5 miles to town because I really wanted some ice cream. Besides, honey maple nut tastes better petroleum-free.'
-It was -49F while biking to work one morning.
December:-Put out the second edition of the Fat & Happy.
-A continual project, I figured out how to reduce my Alaskan summer basepack weight to under 10 lbs. A huge personal achievement.
-I gave a public presentation at Goldstream Sports on Being Prepared: Misadventures in the Alaska Backcountry. It was my first in years and not only reminded me how fun they are, but also how much work goes into it.
-I moved out of my dry cabin to my friend's place 3/4 of a mile up the hill. I moved partially by dog team and now have better accommodations for them and myself.
-Mushing this month has taught me a lot about traveling with dogs.
-Fatbike rentals picked up some and J.R. & I continue to learn about operating a business.
-Immediately after publishing this post, I went out dog mushing and learned you can never have too much snowhook. I was supposed to be taking the dogs out for a run, not me!
-We all shared our thoughts about the right shelter for every condition. A perfect way to cap off the year's education and one of the most productive discussions I've had all year.
-And I heard the best quote of 2011 from this year's Heisman Trophy winner:
'The hotter the heat, the harder the steel. No pressure, no diamonds.'
This blog started 2011 at 2,000 page views and closes out the year at 18,000. Thank you. That is exactly why it still exists.
An even bigger thank you goes out to everyone who made this year what it was. So many incredible conversations and experiences with faces both new and old. Many memories were made with friends I hadn't seen in years.