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Happy 4th Birthday to Wandering Pine! It’s always fun to look back to see how things have changed and recap the highlights of the year. The Saturday mornings that I used to dedicate to writing have been spent walking outside, working in the garden and quietly wedged into my reading chair with the dog. I write less often than I did in those first two years, but now spend more time crafting each post and enjoying getting lost in the creative process.
You don’t need me to sit here and tell you that last year was hard…and that it was much harder for some than others. 2020 was sobering. It forced me to slow down, listen, and gave me the gift of time. It caused me to pause and really look deeply at my life and decide what was serving me and what was not. I learned to be alone. It increased my faith and compassion for others. It made me speak up and be brave. It made me aware of how much I have to be thankful for and forced me to let go and release control. I’m grateful for long thoughts, a quiet mind and uninterrupted work. And, I finally got over my phobia of canning!
Thank you for your support and being here for another year, it means so much to me!
Wandering Pine Blog 2020 Fun Facts!
- Number of posts: 30
- Number of visitors: 21,640
- Number of views: 34,943
- Total words: 44,468
- Average words per post: 1,533
Top 5 2020 posts:
- North Country Trail 100 Mile Challenge
- Beaver Creek Valley and Great Bluffs State Park
- Superior Hiking Trail Databook Review
- Wandering Pine 2020 Outdoor Gift Guide
- Minnesota North Shore Weekend! Part 2: Tettegouche State Park, Superior Hiking Trail and a BEAR at camp!
Top 5 2020 YouTube videos: (NEW!)
- Fall Backpacking in the BWCA: Sioux Hustler Trail (The Other SHT) – 709 views!
- Superior Hiking Trail: Episode 2-The Purple Map: Hwy 1
- Hiking Southern Minnesota State Parks!
- Superior Hiking Trail: Episode 15-The Teal Map: Temperance River
- Hiking Trail: Episode 20-The Teal Map: East Kennedy
Top 5 all time posts:
- Making Your Own Ultralight Backpack
- Backcountry Hygiene- How to Pee Poop and Period Like a Pro
- Wheal and Flare! My Dance with Hikers Rash
- Stillwater Stair Challenge + Stillwater Bridge
- Superior Hiking Trail | Part 1: Thru Hike
The year started out with a Hike with the Women Who Hike Minnesota Crew! I started my own “First Day Hike” tradition 5 years ago. Even in the freezing cold, its a great way to kick off the New Year! I also got a creative bug and hacked together a little DIY pulk out of things I had around the house. I christened it Sled Zeppelin and it was fun to play and pretend I was on an expedition somewhere…maybe we’ll go winter camping! January also brought trip planning for the Border Route, Kekakabic, Sioux Hustler and hiking 100 more miles on the North Country Trail. Soon after, a novel coronavirus was making its way into the news and Minnesota had 30 straight days of clouds. Little did I know how much the meditation/quiet time/morning routine I was just starting would help ground and steady me for a year that would be anything but normal.
February was an extremely difficult month for our family. Death of a parent and hospitalization of a child. We spent a few weeks juggling back and forth interstate travel to care for my husband’s mother, sleeping in two hospitals and caring for our son, who severely broke his leg and needed surgery. I had a lot of down time waiting around in hospitals, so it gave me some time to finally re-organize this space a bit and learn a little about the business side of blogging (I’m totally still figuring this stuff out). My husband is an incredible life partner and I can’t imagine going through any of this without him. As things settled a little, and our son was recovering at home, he encouraged me to keep my birthday present plans to visit the International Wolf Center and go dogsledding! Jennifer Pharr Davis came to town and gave an inspiring talk about her journeys on the Appalachian Trail, faith and grief, that was just the balm that my aching heart needed. It was fun to meet her afterwards, she’s wearing my homemade backpack in this picture and signed it! Ruth and I would also host a Galentines Hike at Banning State Park, which ended up being our last Women Who Hike group event of the year.
In March, I was selected to be part of a 2 week work-from-home pilot starting on a Friday…by Monday, our office was suddenly closed and everyone was working from home. I am extremely grateful for this arrangement and set some intentions and a routine right away to transition into it. A global pandemic was declared, and toilet paper, beans, frozen vegetables, paper towels, hand sanitizer, eggs and cleaning supplies were wiped out in stores. My husband and oldest son were deemed front line and essential workers, while our youngest and I stayed home (and I found myself washing doorknobs for the first time in my life). I sewed masks for my family and friends out of repurposed fabric and started walking every day – sometimes 2-3 times per day! The pup and I stayed in our neighborhood while the state locked down, picking up trash along the way, kicking off my 2nd season as a Granite Gear Groundskeeper, and looking for new beauty to appreciate near home. I got antsy and started the biggest garden I would ever have, INDOORS! I planted close to 50 tomato seeds I had saved and many many other plants, just to have something to occupy myself with while we were hunkered down. I took a lemon seed from my tea one morning, sprouted it just to see what would happen, and it grew into a tree that now lives in my home office! It brings me joy everyday. All of the love and hope I had for these little seeds this Spring would bear the biggest and most bountiful garden I have ever grown.
In April, I decided that the only logical solution to my plans for the year, was to CANCEL EVERYTHING. NO BWCA Backpacking trips, NO family vacation to Idaho, NO Group Hikes, NO clean up hikes, nothing fancy, nothing risky.…just stick to the neighborhood and hunker down. Campgrounds and The North Country Trail were closed due to Covid-19 and many thru hikers on the the long trails were cancelling their trips as well. I wrote my first book review of the Superior Hiking Trail Databook and about the 10 Essentials that I bring on every hike. The North Country Tail extended their 100 mile challenge patch to any 100 miles hiked in place during the month of April. Challenge accepted! The pup and I continued to stick close to home, appreciate the beauty around us and haul bags of trash off the roads and sidewalks as we went. I tried to keep my work routine intact as much as possible and spent my ‘commute time’ walking before and after work.
Soon the babies would be too big to live inside and they all needed to be moved out to the greenhouse! Winter snapped back and I ended up having to put a little heater in there for a couple of weeks to keep them alive until the temps warmed up and the ground was ready. I expanded my garden beds and planted everything close to get it all in. The pup and I continued our neighborhood walks, breezing past our 100 mile challenge and caring less about miles or counting hikes…or what even counted as a hike, for that matter. I started missing the trail and made a SHT Blooper video of some of the funny moments on last year’s hike. I was starting to regret cancelling all of my trips, and dreamed up a ‘hike-in-place micro-adventure’ 50 mile urban backpacking trip through the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway in Minneapolis over Memorial Day weekend. The plan was to hike the whole urban national trail and camp in my friends backyards. I did not take that trip. That weekend, a man named George Floyd was killed in police custody, in front of a crowd of people; sparking outrage, awareness, and protests that would be felt and heard, not only in Minneapolis, but around the world.
The month of June was spent listening, praying, supporting, learning, unlearning, and exhausting myself in the garden. I, like many white people, was forced to look at the systems and privilege that I benefit from and figure out what to do with it. Many people posted ‘black squares’ on their social media channels, declared themselves muted, and amplified BIPOC voices as an act of solidarity. I struggled to write anything meaningful, rushed my words and deleted almost everything I wrote that week. My written words felt optical and unhelpful, and later I understood why people muted themselves. Personal conversations on phone, water and land, were more impactful than anything I could write, so I focused on that. I spent this time further educating myself and choosing small, consistent actions that could actually make a positive difference. Anti-racism work is a complex, imperfect, life-long journey and I am reminded that you can’t just read a book, check a few boxes and expect it to go away.
‘Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’1 John 3:18
By mid-June, my flowerbed was full of strawberries and exploded with its biggest harvest ever, producing gallons of fruit and forcing me to finally learn the art of making jam. This would be the first step to preserving over 100 jars of homegrown goods this summer! Minnesota’s campgrounds also opened back up and I was able to sneak in a spontaneous overnight to Beaver Creek Valley State Park to camp with a couple of friends and add two new State Park Hiking Club passwords to my book!
July brought raspberries, mulberries, rhubarb, greens, and all sorts of flowers and herbs that I would dry for my first shot at making tea! The green beans, zucchini and first red tomatoes arrived mid month and I was starting to pull in enough veggies to share and preserve! Kayaking and Paddleboarding replaced hiking, as it was so much easier to socially distance (less crowds) and clean up our lakes. I got to take a few friends out on their first time paddling and our youngest son even joined a few times – swimming is good for that broken leg! The tomatoes were coming in by the basket-full each day, but I was still able to sneak away for a weekend of rest on Lake Superior. I started to miss having something to look forward to, besides a ripening tomato…so, I set out to add a few more adventures back into the mix.
I had little motivation to plan these outdoor adventures …mostly because I figured they would just get cancelled anyway. Lucky for me, I was able to join a couple of friends on their trips on the North Shore…and then crash Ruth’s big roadtrip in Southern Minnesota! It was wonderful to get to go on a trip that I didn’t have to plan! I also feel very fortunate be in a phase of my life where my family can handle things at home and support me on adventures like these (I secretly think they are just glad I don’t make them go with me anymore). I also successfully launched the pressure cooker without blowing up my house and lost count of how many jars I canned this month. Fancy Nancy is dreaming up a plan to hike the Sioux Hustler trail in September, so I need to scramble to get my trail legs back in business!
Since our family vacation was cancelled, we pulled together a quick weekend trip to Bemidji for my husbands birthday and before school started back up. We dream of having a camper again one day, so renting one from Outdoorsy ended up being super fun for us as we save our pennies for an adventure-mobile of our own. I’m STILL pulling tomatoes out of the garden! I’m never growing potatoes or carrots again (they were so tiny). The squash hybridized into some sort of possibly poisonous frankenpumpkin and I started dehydrating things instead of canning. This was helpful in making easy backpacking meals for our BWCA Sioux Hustler trip. The pristine wilderness at the peak of Fall colors was even better than I expected and I can’t wait to go back – check out our YouTube video of you want to see for yourself. I looked forward to unplugging in the wilderness for a few days…although, I am fortunate to be able to work from home, the additional screen time had sucked the fun and energy out of Social Media for me. When I got home, I backed everything up and considered permanently deleting my accounts. Instead, I took a nice 6 week break and came back refreshed and with less of an attachment to it.
October brought a 20 mile hike with the Scouts! I still volunteer as a merit badge counselor with the troop our sons were involved in and always look forward to the challenge of a long day on foot with them! I also squeezed in one more adventure with my best friend, camping in Iowa at Ledges State Park! I don’t normally think of Iowa as a camping destination, but its the half-way point between the two states we live in and ended up being a great meeting spot! The last harvest of green tomatoes came out this month…there were so many, that I made a dozen pints of green tomato relish! An early snowstorm had me scurrying to take down the greenhouse, compost the leftovers and put everything away in ONE afternoon! This was the earliest I’ve cleared out my garden, but it felt good to get it over with and have a fresh new bed for next year.
November started with a distance learning home chemistry kit for our youngest and a tumultuous election that is still in the daily news. All the screen time I eliminated on my social media break came back as “doomscrolling” just to try to understand what was going in in the world. Daylight savings also really threw me off this year, every day was “blursday” and I started waking up and hour or two before the alarm – for WEEKS! I used this time to write a Holiday Gift Guide and a Gear review about winter foot traction. My sleep schedule was messed up for most of the month, but I found energy in writing first thing in the morning. Writing these more technical and structured posts was very time consuming, but I felt like I was learning a new skill…what else are you going to do when you are wide awake at 4am?
December is a month of slowing down, reflecting and dreaming of the future. I spent a lot of time this month under a fuzzy blanket, wedged tight into the reading chair with our dog, watching TV, playing my violin at chapel, celebrating advent virtually with my church family and starting to dream about next year’s adventures. I bought a used spin bike that has been a blast to ride in the mornings and I plan to use it to train for MY VERY FIRST BIKEPACKING TRIP! I have wanted to try bikepacking for several years now. Feels like the perfect time to do it, and seems pretty Covid-proof. If you have been bikepacking, drop me a note in the comments, I’d love to hear your tips!
My cute little adventure planner is already covered in stickers and starting to fill with doodles, hopes and trip plans! I’ll be joining the Granite Gear Groundskeeper Crew for a 3rd year, booked a trip to Isle Royale, bought a teeny little field watercolor set and plan on having a big old garden again!
Whew! This was a long post. If you made it this far…thank you again for another year of supporting this space. What are you looking forward to in 2021? What did 2020 teach you? Do you write down your intentions for the year or past reflections? I’d love to hear about it! Either way, drop me a note and say “hi!”. Hearing from you is always encouraging and lets me know that people actually read this stuff.
Here’s to a blessed New Year full of hope, healing and exciting new adventures!
Happy New Year!
Bonus: 2020 Reading and Audioboks
Seriously, this post just keeps. on. going…
I read and listened to some good books worth mentioning this year! I felt like Ibram X Kendi, Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle were right there working along side me in the garden, since they narrated their own books. I love that!
If You Want to Write – Brenda Ueland
So You Want to Talk About Race- Ijeoma Oluo
How to Be An Anti Racist-Ibram X Kendi
I’m Still Here-Austin Channing Brown
Me and White Supremacy-Layla F. Saad
The Gifts of Imperfection -Brene Brown
Untamed – Glennon Doyle
A Spark of Light – Jodi Picoult
Walk, Hike, Saunter-Susan Alcorn
Long Story Short – Margot Leitman: Moth Grandslam Champion (currently reading)