2016: The theme was “Change”


Seems semi-mandatory to have a summary of the past year.

Here’s mine for 2016.

Does help clarify thoughts, goals and where I want to head in the year ahead.

Thanks for indulging me.

TL;DR version? A relationship ended, a pet passed on,  both my outdoor related side-jobs and my day job have been busy, I went on more trips than I realized at first so shouldn’t complain, gear posts are more popular but not my favorite articles that I’ve written and I am still seeking that elusive balance! 

Life in general

I like the “Trail Work – Life” balance more myself. 🙂 PCO of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition

My day job career has been beyond busy at times.

A spate of weekend work and some night work cutting into my alleged free time. The days themselves are sometimes too busy and make it difficult to dedicate energy and time to my equally busy outdoor related pursuits.

I am tired at times basically.

I gave up working with a volunteer group and a podcast I used to co-host as the time bank funds were getting thin.

So it goes.

I am mid-career for both my day job and my passion it seems at the same time. Difficult to sustain the pace.  We’ll see what happens in 2017.

The recognition from colleagues and other websites was some unexpected, but rather nice, praise.

On the other hand, twenty-two overnight trips were taken this year (some multi-day) and a smattering of day hikes and trail work outings were also taken. Guess I should not complain too much!   But as I like to say: “I am trying to get out as much as possible…but that is never enough.”

A year of changes

Of course, 2016 had a significant change: A seven-year relationship came to an end.  Personal plans were derailed a bit. But in the long run, it is the best for both of us.  The relationship was over far longer than what official court paperwork would indicate. Neither one of us would admit as such at the time.  Sorrow, anger and perhaps despair were all experienced more than a harmonious relationship since at least some time in 2015. A familiar story for many. Just seems more poignant when this life change happens to you directly.

I think we’ll both be happier now that we can pursue our own lives.

Seemingly less important at first, but impactful in its own way was the death of a small companion.

“Just a guinea pig”  some would say. But pets have a way of sneaking into our lives regardless of size.  Their affection, acceptance, and trusting nature are perhaps part of the reason why our animal companions mean so much to us.

Talking about a divorce and a pet as both life changes may seem odd.

But both of these events happened within months of each other. And both the pet and the relationship were part my former wife’s life and my life at almost the exact same time.

Two parts of our shared lives that started and ended within months of each other.

Make of that what you will.

Trip Highlights

Some interesting trips were taken.

At least for me.

I’ve been in Colorado since 1999. A fault of mine is that I seek newer places to explore and not always satisfied with old favorites.

Becoming harder to see new places esp without driving too far.

Almost as good as new! @benchmarkmaps

A photo posted by Paul Mags (@pmagsco) on

But I managed to find some gems.

Some the more memorable trips I’ve been on in 2016:

Sunset over the Soapstone Prairie

I walked the Sand Dunes to the high 14ers with Cam Honan.  Some unique ecosystems in some rugged terrain along places that aren’t seen too much.

 And later that year did a very obscure bit of wandering with Aaron of TrailGroove in the Wind River Range.

  • Even when on-call, I try to get out   Until I moved recently, there was a local bird sanctuary nearby that was my “go-to” place when I was on an electronic leash.  Less than ten minutes drive from home, quiet, never crowded and with a strong cell phone signal. I truly enjoyed this place. And I found some rather pleasant views. The key is to get out. No matter how it is done.

One of my favorite photos was taken in this place, too!

  • My friends and I had a good run of after work Wednesday hikes in the summer and into fall.   Pretty lucky when I can be at 10,000 feet on a weekday, see a beautiful fall sunset or explore the foothills with friends. And then cap it off with beer.

After work stroll in the #Boulder #colorado foothills. #hiking

A photo posted by Paul Mags (@pmagsco) on

The Ferris Mountains backpacking trip shortly after was another memorable jaunt. The Ferris Mountains are an obscure range just north of Rawlins that has intrigued me for a while.  Only a twenty-mile trip, but what twenty miles! No one was out there; navigation had to be dialed-in, and there was some difficult terrain. But it was a unique place and a place I was glad to experience finally.

  • I made it to my Utah for my birthday –   I enjoy spending my birthday in the backcountry. I don’t enjoy parties, birthday dinners in a restaurant or even gifts to celebrate another whirl around the sun.  Give me the gift of time. Time that is spent in a beautiful and wild place.

Backpacking in Dark Canyon was the first part…

Followed by a very memorable time spent in Natural Bridges National Monument.

  • Another New England visit occurred.  First, my buddy Tim and I did a hike to the Bondcliffs in New HampshireIt was great to see my old stomping grounds.

Even saw what is quickly turning into a favorite photo!

Later, I visited the family in Rhode Island. Some local hikes in RI were taken in between family visits and catching up with friends.

I did some hiking and also went a little more obscure than what most tourists see. But the trails in the park ain’t too shabby either.

The Website

A #Utah #backpacking trip starting tomorrow after work @benchmarkmaps

A photo posted by Paul Mags (@pmagsco) on

The website grew in readership this past year. I suspect if I were not so busy this past fall, I’d have seen even more growth. September, October, and November had much-too-much, both professionally and personally, going on.

Both my outdoor time and my writing output suffered

But what I did write did seem to do well.

The usual suspects of gear specifics,  bullet points of places to see and more generalized gear discussions did the best.

Biggest surprise? My Top Ten Shelters of All Time article did very well. This article was a tongue in cheek click-bait listicle. At least in part. Distressing how easy it is to write fluff pieces with no substance that do well just because of SEO dark magic. :O  If I wrote more gear specific articles and went to the SEO dark side more often, this site would do “better.”  I suppose. But that would be annoying as hell for me and not something I excel in, to be honest.

Of the articles I did write this year that did well, here are my personal favorites in no particular order:

  • Puffies 101 –    If there is gear discussion I do excel in, it is summarizing in broad overviews that educate rather than specific products. My Puffies 101, I think, helps clarify the different types of insulation and hopefully stop some of the kvetching when people complain their 10 oz jacket is not warm enough for winter. It’s not supposed to be.
  • Philosophical Musings – That’s the polite way to put my strong opinions. But thinking out loud and writing about it has struck a chord at times.   Embrace the Weather,  Who are you? , Pack Shakedowns,  and GoFund Yourself were all popular rants, er musings.  Who knew curmudgeon thoughts from an East Coast transplant would be well-received? 😀
  • Getting started articles – Well all started somewhere in the outdoors. The link at the stop left of the page has proven to be among my most read resources. Twenty-years of outdoor fun,  a few nights, some miles walked and a lot of writing in one distilled form.  Star with this article I wrote this past year that was well received.
  • And finally, I would have never guessed an article on Pecorino Romano cheese would be so popular! I’ve received photos of people who packed in the cheese because of my suggestion and they loved it.  My Italian-American soul is amused. And some distant Roman ancestors are smiling!

What’s in store for 2017?

Either way, I am going forward!

I truly do not know for the most part.

I do know trying to balance an increasingly busy day job with a ramped up set of outdoor related projects is becoming more difficult.

We’ll see.

What I also know is that due to the recent life changes, a lot of friends I’ve made over the years have extended offers to visit them in Israel, Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Canada among other places. I think there is some traveling in store for 2017.  In fact, I’m going to the Grand Canyon come March!

The past year had some bumps, some changes and was a lot busier than I would have liked.

But it is all part of life.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Buddy Sessoms
Buddy Sessoms
7 years ago

Have thoroughly enjoyed your writing both on this blog and through TrailGroove. TrailGroove is frankly the best outdoor source available today. If things go according to plan, 2017 will be my year to accomplish the JMT and Long Trail. Will hopefully be the start of my ‘Middle Aged Triple Crown’; appreciate you getting me and my family of four on the trail.

7 years ago

Oh Mags – the Trail Show just isn’t the same without you. Change isn’t always easy, but it’s inevitable. Sorry to hear things have been rough, and especially sorry to hear about the loss of your little guinea pig. My own plans for hiking the Northville-Placid Trail last summer had to be put on hiatus because I couldn’t leave my two elderly dogs, who both died in August. (Shit. I still get all weepy just typing that). I’m another who’s been appreciating your blog, as well as TrailGroove – even though my recent adventures have been limited to day hiking.… Read more »

7 years ago

I am loving reading this recap. You are inspiring me to look at my own year… I am so sorry for the loss of Charlie. I lost two of my beloved pets this year. My horse Socrate (had been with me for 25 years) and my pet rabbit Tucker (6 years)… Our lives are changed forever…

Jeremy Werlin
Jeremy Werlin
7 years ago

Any of us that have lost pets (family members) understand, bro. Peace and cheers for a life well lived.

Father Time
Father Time
7 years ago

Your time bank would expand greatly if you quit moderating boring forums where history repeats itself weekly. Read and enjoy them when you have time to waste. Take your time back Paul.