Tuesday, December 25, 2018

2018 in photos

Another year comes to a close, bringing another opportunity to look back on meaningful moments. My annual tradition is to post 12 months in photos, in which I pick a favorite photo for each month of the year. This year's set has a general theme of my favorite places during the year. Twelve photos can't begin to cover them all, but it's a start.

The above photo is from the Cache Mountain Divide, during the White Mountains 100 in late March. I only took a couple of photos of the aurora, as I was so caught up in just watching the display — sitting directly on the snow and gazing upward, not even realizing my hands were freezing. There's no photo or video that I've ever seen that really captures what it's like to witness the Northern Lights. So I don't claim this is a great photo; it just evokes happy memories of one of my favorite experiences this year.

January: Snack break on Niwot Ridge

Early in the year, both Beat and I were training to drag sleds along the Iditarod Trail, so January weekends often took us to the wind-blasted slopes below the Continental Divide. During this hike, we'd just faced confirmed 70-mph gusts on top of Niwot Ridge, and beat a quick retreat for tree line, where we enjoyed lunch in the calm below the storm. I love this photo for the nonchalant look on Beat's face and jacket coated in spindrift while he munches a sandwich in a (relatively mild) ground blizzard.

February: Sled training in the winter wind

Wind is a common presence in my most memorable outings, but it's nearly impossible to depict in a photo. Beat's tiny figure, obscured by a chaotic ground blizzard, almost (but not quite) captures what it's like to experience these winds.

March: Endless exhaustion across the Farewell Burn

I have more compelling, more scenic photos from my 350-mile walk to McGrath this year, but this one is my favorite — a meager black spruce forest amid the expanse of the Farewell Burn in the morning. In front of me is a soft, but at least broken trail. Pressed into the trail are the footprints and sled track of Carole Holly, another Iditarod walker who was usually about a half day in front of me. Her tracks became a comforting companion during a two-day span when I felt utterly unravelled, exhausted and alone. I had a thermos of hot Tang that became lukewarm Tang and then slushy Tang, which I continued to nurse throughout the day, taking tiny and thoughtful sips as though it really was the Elixir of Power I so badly needed it to be. While sipping that sour liquid of life, I'd sit on my sled bag and press my own handprint next to Carole's tracks, reminding myself that this had been done, and thus could be done by me, too. Carole and I ended up finishing the race together after her feet fell apart, and I caught an incredible and mostly inexplicable surge of energy along the final 50 miles.

April: Sleet storm in Canyonlands

Every spring, my Dad spends a long weekend camping in his favorite place in the world, Canyonlands National Park. This year I was able to join him. It was a fun foray into nearly-forgotten childhood traditions (Dinty Moore stew, Saltines and Twizzlers for dinner and dessert) and contemplations on mortality (Dad showed me the spots where he would like his ashes spread someday.) In this photo, we were caught in a brief snowstorm that rendered the slickrock in rich colors.

May: Sky riding on Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is perhaps the best road ride I've ever encountered, but there's only a brief window in the spring where it's open to ride (unless you are a brave and/or suicidal cyclist amid summer tourism traffic.) I managed three rides here this spring, and they were all bliss. There's something magical about coasting along a winding ribbon of pavement at 12,000 feet, with beads of sweat still clinging to your skin from a 5,000-foot climb as you clench your teeth into an exhilarating sub-freezing windchill.

June: Dawn over Bryce Canyon

Beat ran the Bryce 100, and I went for a 25-mile morning run that wove together most of the front-country trails in Bryce Canyon National Park. These desert hoodoo landscape shots have long since faded into cliche, but it's just such an incredible place to experience that I had to include it.

July: Endless climb on Hayden Pass

Late in the month, Beat raced the Ouray 100 in the San Juan Mountains. I again tagged along to bring him sandwiches at aid stations and hike pieces of the course. This photo from the second morning shows a typical climb for a race that has 42,000 feet of ascent in just 100 miles — straight up a 45-percent grade. Beat was hurting, but I thought it was an incredible place.

August: My new favorite place, Aiguilette des Houches

We again returned to Chamonix at the end of August. And again, Beat was racing something ridiculous (PTL) while I hiked around. This day was one of my hardest efforts of the summer, a big tour of both sides of the valley with more than 11,000 feet of climbing. I still took the time to spend nearly an hour sitting in the grass at this spot, a popular yet quiet point on a ridge with jaw-dropping panoramic views.

September: Beneath Swiss peaks

The summer theme continues with Beat racing and me hiking in the midst. I think this photo captures some of the best of Switzerland — dynamic skies, imposing mountains, lush grass and forest with a bucolic little farmhouse and well-built trail. The Swiss Peaks 360 was a difficult race for Beat and a difficult week for me. It's a little sad to realize how, even months later, I haven't extracted too many happy memories from the mire despite the incredible scenery. Proving once again that it's not about where you go or what you do, but what you experience within yourself that matters. I still love Switzerland, and hope to return in a better state of mind.

October: Shoulder season on the Sourdough Trail

October brought big dumps of snow early and often, setting up mountain trails for a nice season even if the rest of winter was fairly dry (which has proven true up to this point.) This was one of my first times back on a fat bike after a year-long hiatus. It's been a happy reunion. I always love snowy monochrome photos that are infused with patches of bright color.

November: Thanksgiving on the White Rim

You really can't beat the Utah desert in November light. Although nights were below freezing and days were windy and cool, I think this is the best time of year to tour around the White Rim in Canyonlands National Park. I joined six other women for an incredibly fun four days with unlimited photo ops. This photo is an overlook from a higher plateau called Murphy's, while I was out for a sunset walk before dinner.

December: Moonset over Colorado Creek

Beat and I are currently in Fairbanks, Alaska, where we planned a couple of cabin trips to immerse ourselves in the White Mountains at the best time of year, winter solstice. This photo is from the first trip, a two-night stay on a frosty, wind-blasted ridge at the headwaters of Colorado Creek. While the sun is only out for about three hours here, the nearly full moon circles the sky for the remainder of the long night, and we begin to feel well-acquainted with it. Here the moon is about to dip below the northern horizon for a few hours as the sun rises behind us.

Once again, Happy New Year!

Photo posts from years past: 
2010 part one, part two


  1. You need to get out more :)
    Keep up the good work outdoors, and thanks for sharing your lovely, motivational journal.
    Happy New Year
    Box Canyon

  2. Always enjoy your photo choices for each month that document the past year! And, of course, your writing!
    Happy Winter Solstice and Happy New Year!

  3. A sensational selection of photos, especially given your health issues. December is the winner for me. The colour of sunrise over this snowy waste after a night of hiking in moonlight, just blows my mind away. Best wishes for a happy and very healthy 2019.

  4. Always love your annual 'favorites' photo essay! And hey, your Northern Lights shot is INCREDIBLE! I was stationed on a USNS ship based out of Tromso Norway (WAY above the arctic circle) and tried and tried to get a good shot (which I never did). It's like the sky is ALIVE and just won't be photographed! It's shimmering and moving much like a living thing, and for those who have never seen it, put it on your bucket list! I'd stand in a protected spot on the ship at sea just watching, mesmerized. I don't know how the bridge crew can focus on driving the ship with that VIEW (but I'm glad they did)! And reliving the rest of your shots is interesting...your favs are based on your being in the moment and the emotions it evokes, not how great the shot is (but don't kid yourself, you take a LOT of awesome pics!) Hope you both thoroughly enjoy your time FREEZING in Alaska in the WINTER...ON PURPOSE! (GRIN) As I've said before, the things you do for fun! Happy New Year Jill, here's hoping 2019 finds you CRUSHING it once again!


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