If I had to choose one word for 2016 it would be spectrum. Highs, lows, interesting, serendipitous, frustrating, sad and happy all mixed together. So instead of trying to compartmentalize everything that happened last year I’m going to list it all together, the way it happened. Our life has been pretty seasonal the last couple years. Not by the true seasons, but by where & when we’re living and the in-between. I’ll to my best to give a peek into the fullness that was 2016.
Context if this is your first time on the blog. My wife Susan is a travel nurse and our location is determined by her 13-16 week hospital contracts. I work remotely and tag along. We started doing this in June 2014.
I liked living in Reno. The climate is like Colorado, dry and sunny with a reasonable low cost of living. The tech scene is growing. Plus, it’s centrally located to Lake Tahoe, Mammoth, and Yosemite (when Tioga Pass is open). Midtown is a cool area. There are good breweries but there aren’t many good restaurants. I’d rate it up and coming.
- Won some trivia nights at the Little Waldorf with our new friends Mark & Shannon.
- Has one of the best coffee roasters & shops I’ve tried: Hub Coffee Roasters
- Sweet, amazing Airbnb host(s) Carol & Dennis.
- They told us stories of the over 70 foster children they took in before Carol had grandchildren.
- Carol also inherited a cabin in Montana that the Unabomber spent a winter. He stole their roof and a bunch of her dad’s stuff when he finished his own cabin. Most of said stuff is now held as evidence by the FBI.
- Watched way too many episodes of Reno 911. So good.
- Our beloved Carolina Panthers lost the Super Bowl.
- Found wild horses near Virginia City.
- Some friends and my parents came to visit.
- Had an incredible season of snowboarding in Lake Tahoe and a long weekend in Salt Lake City, UT. So many powder days.
- 30min drive from Northstar = Lots of ski days.
- Met lots of awesome designers & developers at Epicurrence—The Montues.
- Found out Chandler, our 16 year old cat was irreversibly sick.
- We spent much of these 4 months going back and forth to the vet and giving him treatment at home. He was put to sleep the day before we were supposed to move out. After it happened we couldn’t stay there another night so we packed and moved out a day early.
In-Between: The Southwest
After we left Reno we were heartbroken without anywhere to go. We were trying to move to Las Vegas or Los Angeles areas for the next contract but hadn’t heard anything back. Susan’s parents were going to a work conference in Palm Springs, CA so we headed that direction. Then we decided to float through the southwest until we heard something. It was a surreal experience. Beautiful landscapes during the day and grieving at night when it faded away.
- Stayed in Bishop, CA. Visited the Ancient Bristlecone Forest.
- Drove to Death Valley National Park.
- Got a flat tire on a primitive canyon road in Death Valley. While moving. Imagine taking your entire life out of the back of your car to reach the spare tire. Then jack your car, your only real possession, towards a cliff. It is starting to get dark and rain. Can you feel the pit in my stomach yet? This is the day after putting Chandler to sleep. All we could think is “WTF are we doing?”.
- Pulled in to the closest town, Las Vegas on a donut at 3am. Got new tires put on the next day.
- Spent the night in Jumbo Rocks campground in Joshua Tree National Park.
- Arrived in Palm Springs and spent a great week with Susan’s parents.
- Spent 2 days in Los Angeles, visited Harry Potter World and the Griffith Observatory.
- Visited and/or camped in Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Petrified Forest, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Saguaro, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks.
- Had some trail magic in Zion: We were let into a group camping site with families from Idaho and LA/Pasadena and spent 2 wonderful evenings laughing around the campfire with them and their awesome kids. One of their photos from that day even made Backpacker Magazine!
- Tried and failed to get walk-in lottery permits to The Wave 3 different days.
- Synced up with some other travel nurse friends in Page, AZ to do lower Antelope Canyon.
- Checked Horseshoe Bend and Monument Valley off our bucket list.
- Stopped at way too many McDonald’s and Starbucks’ just to use wifi.
Grand Junction, CO
Susan got an offer and we didn’t have other options so we ended up in Grand Junction, CO for the summer. It’s is a small town on I-70 near the western border of Colorado. Best known for the Colorado National Monument it is a red rock, canyon and mesa landscape. It’s central to Aspen, the San Juan Mountains, Grand Mesa, and Moab, UT. There isn’t much there but a weekly farmers market.
- Terrible Airbnb host.
- Host sold the house in the middle of our stay and moved all the artwork and furnishings out mid-July.
- Learned to cook meals on a tabletop single burner with no oven.
- Airbnb had my back on the contract so we kept from being displaced and the new owners we’re really great.
- It was still ski season at Arapahoe Basin and Aspen (both on our passes) so we got to ride into June.
- Went back to Wilmington, NC to be in one of my best friend’s wedding and hang out with college friends.
- Learned what temps over 110° feel like for weeks on end.
- Got out of our comfort zones and went to Wanderlust, a yoga retreat in Aspen.
- Climbed 7 CO 14ers. (Quandary Peak, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Bross, Mt. Sneffels, Mt. of the Holy Cross, Handies Peak)
- Some took multiple attempts due to foul weather or lack of vehicle clearance.
- Rented a Jeep to drive up Cinnamon Pass to climb Handies Peak.
- Learned it was more comfortable to sleep in our car at trailheads instead of setting up a tent.
- Visited my Aunt and Uncle in Durango & learned about his family ties to Silverton, CO. Love them.
- Took a road trip to Wind River Range, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks.
- Summited Middle Teton.
- Were able to go to Chicago for some real food and a baby shower.
In-between: California & Oregon
When we lived in Reno and were planning on moving to LA we booked permits to hike Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48. We spent the summer hiking at elevation and training. There was enough time between contracts to drive down to California and do it before heading back up the coast. This was our first strenuous overnight backpacking trip. Afterwards we floated back up to Seattle.
- Visited Mammoth Lakes, CA and Rainbow Falls.
- Successfully camped at Trail Camp and summited Mt. Whitney.
- Visited Yosemite but failed to obtain Half Dome permits.
- Visited Bend, OR and Smith Rock State Park.
- Climbed South Sister near Bend.
- Spent a couple of days with close friends in Portland, OR.
I love Seattle. We spent 8 months there in 2015. After the ups and downs of the year, we wanted to be back in a place we liked, near people we knew. Great coffee and places to work outside of the house. Incredible food. You don’t realize how much it matters until you spend 7 months in places with bad restaurants. Did I mention how good the food in Seattle is?
- Almost moved into a hoarder’s house, went to a hotel, then arranged housing in Ballard for a month to tie us over.
- Thru-hiked (dayhikes) the Enchantments, High Divide Loop in Olympic National Park, and Three Fingers Lookout. All were some of our favorite hikes of the year.
- Overnight backpacked up to Sahale Glacier.
- My photo was featured on the REI Instagram account.
- Wheels were out of alignment and had to replace tires again at 17k miles.
- Had buku’s of friends visit.
- Multiple visits to Portland and Mt. Hood areas with friends.
- Started of ski season with a waist deep powder opening weekend in Whistler, BC.
Mountain Roadtrip + Home for the Holidays
I had to burn all my vacation before the end of the year so Susan and I drove out to Big Sky, MT, Jackson, WY and Sun Valley, ID to snowboard. Spent 2 weeks at home visiting with friends, family and even went into the actual office for a week to put in some face time with my co-workers.
Seeing it written out this year was full and all over the place. A huge year of personal growth as an individual and a couple. We were pushed physically, emotionally, and logistically this past year but we’re still going. This year doesn’t look any slower. We’ll take it 13 weeks at a time.
If you like hiking and snowboarding photos, follow me on Instagram. If you like to hike, sign up for Pathfinder. We’re excited about it and will be launching beta soon.