Current mood: I hope this blog post finds everyone healthy and in good spirits. I’m pretty sure our mood is in line with everyone else’s: unsettled. The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic escalated quickly and keeps shape-shifting daily. It’s hard to ignore the terrifying/heartbreaking news and not to let your mind wander to the what ifs. It’s hard to focus, period. All we can do is take it one day at a time (my mom’s favorite mantra).
Currently living/working in: Justin & I bunny/cat sat for 19 out of the 31 days in March. Before we moved to Healy this winter, we said, wouldn’t it be nice if we picked up a few pet-setting or house-sitting gigs? Who knew it would become our norm! (Not to mention a welcome income source.) And in other good news (we’ve all have plenty of bad news), our freelance writing gigs pretty much tripled this month, a few of which expand our bylines and let us get creative! Having deadlines is always a good thing to keep us in check.
Currently worried about: I call March the month of limbo for us. As everyone has been affected by the virus in unique ways, what was supposed to be our main source of income is on hold, indefinitely. Seeing we had a flight from Alaska to Colorado to start that work with Leave No Trace and a renter lined up to move into our cabin 4/15, we obviously changed that course to stay put here in Healy. Included among the major adjustments: prepping for a loss of expected income in April and beyond, as well as continuing to pay out of pocket for health insurance. As I mentioned, we rebounded with some new content projects, although a few articles were shelved in light of what’s going on and freelance work takes months to be paid. It seems like a yo-yo of good/bad personal news this month.
Currently not excited about: Justin normally gets his bi-monthly Crohn’s infusion in Denver, but we had to do cartwheels through fiery hoops to have it changed to Alaska, which was a whole saga in itself. Let’s just say, the single doctor and health care we’ve dealt with in Alaska is nothing like the personalized care we have luckily experienced in the lower 48. We’re happy his treatment can take place here in Alaska, but unfortunately, that means on 4/3, we have to come out of “isolation” and go into a hospital, willingly. Might I add, the ONLY hospital in Fairbanks (population 31,000). But in our opinion, it’s better than getting on a plane, flying through Seattle and into Denver, both hotbeds.
Currently excited about: While we feel horrible having to delay the move-in date for our renter, we are grateful not to be homeless or nomadic in this time of crisis.
Current guilty pleasure: Bunny & cat sitting for half the month meant we had unlimited Internet, showers & laundry. We are now back to our pioneer ways of showering, washing dishes and hoarding laundry.
Currently thankful for: Even though we’ve had to shift our plans a lot and experienced loss of income, we didn’t quite have to recalibrate our entire reality like some people. Adopting the hermit life is a norm for us, as we’ve pretty much lived on and off in isolation for the past 9 years. Our current town (Healy) is small with very few services open in the winter, so closing non-essential businesses meant the library, 1 bar, 1 breakfast place and 1 coffee shop. Overall though, it seems people are staying connected more often these days via phone, texts and the infamous Zoom (our Internet is limited, so Internet calls need to be spaced out), which is one of the few positive results of being quarantined.
Currently proud of: Byline brag! First up, one of our anchor clients is Backpacker Magazine, particularly the annual Spring Gear Guide. For the past 4 years, Justin has managed the knife/tool category, while I’ve managed the trekking pole category. This past year, we took on the food & nutrition category, and it was a welcome addition! Here are pictures of the print pages (on shelves now, if you could go to a store), but I’m sure the content will be online soon (Food reviews are online!). Also, my REI Trail Mix Column on snowshoeing came out this month! Unfortunately, another one I wrote for REI on XC skiing is on hold.
Currently amazed by: Even though Justin & I are going into our 4th year as category managers, it still amazes me how much work goes into the whole process for the Spring Gear Guide. There’s so much hurry up and wait on our projects with a long lead-out time. For example, we had 40+ items of food out for testing among 30 people from March 2019-October 2019. Then we labored over writing the reviews and fielded edits time and time again through January 2020. Finally, it goes to print and we can rest. If you calculate how much we actually make based on how many hours we put in, Justin thinks it’s about $0.06 an hour. It is definitely a labor of love. We are already planning for the Spring Gear Guide 2021!
We couldn’t do it all without our stellar testers. Thought y’all would get a kick out of some of our favorite quotes from 2019 field testing notes (that didn’t make the 2020 Spring Gear Guide):
There are degrees of taste in the backpacker world. Degrees ranging from: tastes like sawdust; just bad, but edible; not bad; kind of tasty; good backpacking meal; great taste for a dehydrated meal; great taste (doesn’t even resemble backpacking food). This falls into “I’d be willing to serve this off trail.”
If y’all are looking for evidence of magical elves, look no further than the Stowaway Gourmet factory. The portion size was spot on for a very hungry hiker and I could imagine eating this meal in a craft brewery after a long hike.
It tasted just like a beef roast if you drank the water that came off it.
After you finish all the tablets, the tube feels wasteful. But you can at least put your weed in there.
Pepper Pocket is also extremely fun to say and so we decided that some day, somewhere, we would trailname someone pepper pocket after this meal.
Too much lactose gives me gas (sorry friends!). So no one wants me to eat these bars on a normal basis.
I did find it relaxing to sit down with my mini bubbly drink. It felt like taking my vitamins, but more fun.
No one can possibly spend the duration of a hike without a jerky encounter. Even turkeys have jerky encounters. But usually, they are the contents of the jerky and not the consumer, so their encounters might be slightly less positive than most.
Here are some of the knife quotes:
Holds an edge like a jealous girlfriend can hold a grudge, steady and not giving an inch.
It has a bottle opener. In my opinion, if you can’t open a beer without having a dedicated beer opener on your knife…. well maybe you need to go back to college.
My friend’s crazy enough to shave his leg with a knife. He definitely shaved off a few leg hairs, but also managed to shave off the first layer of skin as well. I took it back quickly, threw it in a bath of bleach, then rinsed it so I could cook my dinner.
Current confession: Anyone who has known us for awhile remembers our money pit of a home that we owned in Danville VA from 2005-2015. When we purchased our dry cabin here in AK, we thought, how many problems could there be without running water? Well, a roof leak, condensation inside and shoveling several feet of snow this winter has quickly reminded us that home ownership = problems!
Currently regretting: We had big plans for our winter up in Alaska to travel around the state and explore. Well, that really never happened, and now it can’t happen. The truth is, we enjoyed exploring our immediate backyard too much. We also had dog sledding on our bucket list, but weren’t able to pull that off yet. I think we’ll have many more years to get all around Alaska and do all the things.
Currently reading: I forgot to mention I re-read Call of the Wild by Jack London at the end of February. Next up was Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, but I couldn’t make it through it all. I just thought it was boring! I skimmed the last half and called it finished. I just finished Two in the Far North by Margeret Murie. “Mardy” is a pretty well known conservationist with a historical badass resume. The book chronicles her adventures growing up in Alaska and following her scientist husband around wherever his work took them. Justin’s also been on a reading kick! He just finished Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and I plan to read that next.
Currently watching on Netflix: We haven’t started a new series, but downloaded enough so that we can watch a movie nearly every night (many of which are not worth mentioning).