2021 : The steady state

If there’s a theme for 2021, it is that we continue to find our Moab groove, put down more roots here, and enjoy where we live. Overall, a pretty damn good year!

Joan and I settled more into Moab, with Joan receiving a promotion and more autonomy to create some fantastic programs.  Programs that educate the children lucky enough to get Ranger Joan and her colleagues for the day.  Joan’s office never disappoints.

A view from Joan’s office when a friend visited. PCO Johnny Lam.

I continue to have my low-stress job. If I am doing work that I frankly did earlier in my career. In that case, the tradeoff is, as mentioned, lower stress,  more flexibility, some colleagues I genuinely enjoy working with, frequently WFH, and three-day weekends every week.  The timebank hours increased quite a bit for something Joan and I care about a lot -time outside!

A variation of how we spend most Thursdays.

Steady employment in Moab with no weekends, holidays, nights, and not in the tourist trade makes for a rarity.  I used to question falling into IT. But it is much like being a mechanic – I’ll always find a job with an in-demand skill set. And working for a non-technology company, I avoid most pitfalls that tend to go with IT work.

We continue to settle more into the greater Moab community and put down some roots.

We picked up our volunteer opportunity that went on pause during the height of COVID and started volunteering as archeological site stewards at the lovely Fremont Indian State Park and Museum.

We also adopted a site in Moab that’s a half-hour walk from the front door. With the increased development pressure in Moab, keeping some eyes around these lesser-known but accessible sites has become especially important.

It is volunteer work Joan and I can do together and goes with our shared interest in local archeology, the outdoors, and giving back to something that brought us great memories over the years.

Speaking of community, Joan and I got into the habit of taking the park service interns on her team for a camp out every season.  We bring the deluxe camp set up, cook some food, take them to the local places, and have an enjoyable time.

We always have the gear to lend out, the Italian grandma in me insists on making sure everyone gets fed, and we love introducing people who never saw the desert or even alpine terrain in this way.  I joke that Joan and I are now the “cool aunt and uncle” for the mainly grad-student age interns we take out. 🙂 And based on the touching thank you letters received, it furthers our enjoyment of this new tradition and something we’ll continue to do.

With people now vaccinated and restrictions loosening up this past summer, we finally started socializing with friends again. People came to Moab to visit us. We met friends in such places as Dinosaur National Monument and Colorado National Monument. Joan felt grateful that she’s not the only person who had to listen to my (many!) stories. 😉

PCO Joan

This past spring, of course, Joan and I witnessed the effects of warming climate directly:  The Pack Creek Fire occurred a mere five miles from where I’m typing. And brought the impact of climate change to our literal doorstep in terms of smoke. And made me appreciate the importance of the AQI too.

Pack Creek Fire viewed from my front yard. Pixilated phone photo but still works.

The biggest personal news, of course? We did a thing in Grand Junction after Joan enjoyed her summertime off –

If you look closely, you’ll see the certificate for the thing we did.

Our honeymoon suite in the Aspen Lodge did not disappoint.

PCO Joan

We look forward to many happy years of sharing 42″ tent space in gorgeous places.

Memorable times in the outdoors

We try to spend almost all our free time outdoors. Joan, of course, has a teacher’s schedule complete with extended breaks essentially. She spent a good chunk of the summer backpacking, seeing friends, camping, and catching up with family in Oregon.  The fires altered her plans somewhat, but she ended up having a fantastic time.

From Joan’s trip in Ranier NP.

Between hiking, backpacking, and camping with Joan and some trips solo, I managed to get in about 100 bag nights this past year. I couldn’t tell you the miles, but I could show you some memorable highlights, instead:

  • A lot of time enjoying nooks and crannies of our red rock backyard

  • And seeing the cultural and historical aspects of this area

  • And this past year, we did more packrafting trips.  Our preferred packrafting trips mean as much packing as rafting. And we enjoyed continuing to canyon country in this way.

What’s ahead?  I suspect more of the same. And that’s a good thing!. On a solo trip level, there’s a cool little route mapped out I hope to hike in the fall. More to come!

The online world

I’ve written far less this year than in previous years. Not because I feel pressed for time but something for more prosaic reasons. Meaning, I don’t buy/get much gear to review; there are only so many ways to cover the same topics, and what I enjoy writing (think pieces that’s more of a deep background) are the only ones I care to write once inspired.

Since I’m out more in a given year now than any time outside of thru-hiking on multi-month trails, I can’t say it matters too much! Frankly, if I wanted to juice the numbers, I had an illuminating (ha!) example when I did a two-year plus review of a headlamp with all the comments on this site and social media, when I wrote a piece about outdoor ethics, hardly a peep.

Writing top ten marketing listicles ain’t my bag. And it never will.

Otherwise, the popular articles tend to be the same ones as in previous years such as my talus vs. scree post.

The only new article to crack the Top Ten list is the Toyota Tacoma camping setup article. Honestly, I did not realize the post’s popularity until I peeked at the stats. As our recent “Gear Pick of the year” is its tailgate, I guess that works. 😀

Instagram continues to be a preferred and growing way for me to stay active online. I enjoy taking photos and “microblogging” to go with it.

The exception to “think pieces” not doing well is the various campfire articles I wrote that provided vigorous discussion from the smores brigade.  Perhaps it’s an arrogant view, but I think campfires, especially in the backcountry, will be something people look back on as something appropriate for the time but no longer done today.  If anything, the folks at Leave No Trace changed their page on campfires because of what I wrote. And that I think that’s pretty cool.

Other “think pieces” that did well in some circles included my polemic on rec DOT gov and its evilsAlas, some of my predictions became true based on recent news items concerning Arches.

And now with ads! These links go to third-party sites with affiliate links.

I am also proud of my “Last Journey” article, as it created a good dialogue in various outdoor circles.

Looking ahead?

More trips outside, more trips with Joan, and continuing to enjoy our desert home.

Sounds pretty good to me.

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2 years ago

Thanks for this recap & Congrats–Happy for you 2! :- )

Joyce A Moulis
Joyce A Moulis
2 years ago

Recently I found your site via Backcountry Post. Thanks for sharing photos, thoughts, and volunteering! Have loved red rock country since first visit in 1976. Yes, I am old and a flatlander from Kansas. My late husband and I first loved the solitude of it, then conservation, history, archaeology, and rock art. It all started in the backcountry around Moab, but as visitation pressures grew, we explored north into the Swell and south to Cedar Mesa. Many good memories. So glad you and Joan are there as stewards and teachers. Wishing you a long and happy life together making many… Read more »