Currently living/working: Alaska! Work-wise, our multiple income streams have slowed, but we squirreled away paychecks knowing this. We have tons of Backpacker work due in November, and are also working on the seasonal list of top 50 forthcoming products for Outside Business Journal through December. We are also still cleaning airbnbs occasionally. But overall, we’ve enjoyed the blank spots on the calendar. With the manic grind of summer in our rearview mirror, we took this month to catch up on life’s administrative tasks. You know, the burgeoning inbox, all those pesky medical appointments and even worse, the phone calls to insurance/medical providers because some of these companies are incompetent (my very strong opinion). I pushed a lot of this off this summer because it seemed like too much … it still is too much!!
Current mood: At the beginning of October, it seemed like we were wading through quicksand with all the things we wanted to accomplish. And it’s so easy to get distracted when you have time on your side. One minute I’m writing, 5 minutes later I’m googling something that needs to be researched, 20 minutes later I’m down a long, dark rabbit hole. But, I feel like we’ve both figured out our time management strategies and have been extremely productive. I hereby declare October as a solid GSD (Get Shit Done) month! Plus, we had birthdays & anniversaries to celebrate this month, so that made it more festive.
Currently excited for: Hawaii!!! Like most people, we hardly went anywhere last year, but we started planning this Hawaii trip way back in 2019. I didn’t want to get too excited because … well … Covid keeps upending so many plans. But I’m pretty sure it’s happening and we have all our ducks in a row. The main catalyst was a 70th birthday trip for Justin’s mom with everyone … and then we decided since it’s our last state, we needed to bolster our trip. Not to mention, it is our 15th year of marriage, so splurge is appropriate. We are spending about 3 weeks there in November—a few days in Maui with Justin’s mom, a full week in Kauai with Justin’s whole family and 1 week on the Big Island solo. We’ll hit 2 new-to-us national parks and Hawaii’s highpoint!
Currently amazed by: Auroras are the literal bright side of dark winters in Alaska. And this year we entered into a very active period of the solar cycle that will last for years. This means we have more frequent geomagnetic storms! We can already attest to that active period. We are lucky to have already enjoyed a front row seat to the wispy and hypnotizing aurora dancing overhead several times in September and October before the subzero temperatures in true winter. It’s pure magic.
Currently thankful for: Permanent Fund Dividend! I feel like I’ve been hearing about the “PFD” from my uncle for during the last 45 years he’s lived here. The PFD was established in the 1970s to share the oil pipeline revenues from the North Slope with state residents. As soon as we made AK our permanent home in 2019, my uncle said, “start applying for the PFD!!” Turns out, there’s all sorts of hoops and boxes to check, but at the 11th hour, we received the approval in time to receive the payment this October! Since it was unexpected, it definitely felt like a bonus paycheck.
Currently proud of: I’ve been telling Justin to get a pair of peepers for years, but he resisted and insisted he didn’t need reading glasses. His mom sent him a pair with his birthday gift, and now he hardly takes them off. He still won’t fully admit his failing eyes, but I keep telling him he looks darn cute in them and I think that is a form of encouragement. (Send him a message if you agree).
Currently regretting: Getting old! I know, I know, we’re not that old. Besides Justin’s eyes, I feel like I have all sorts of odd issues popping up in my 40s that I never had before. For example, for the last year, I’ve been experiencing “cubital tunnel syndrome,” basically elbow nerve pain probably from keeping my elbow bent while on the laptop and while sleeping. Anyway, I now wear a brace when it gets inflamed. And have you heard of milium? They are small cysts, and I had FIVE around my eyes in the past few months. I did finally get in with a dermatologist this month to get them removed, but it hurt like hell (I’ll spare you the pictures). Ho hum, such is the nature of getting older I suppose.
Current confession: We definitely have adopted our winter adaptation, which means sleeping in longer! The sun is rising at 9:36am these days, so it is really hard to get moving before then. We are so lucky we work from home in the winter because we clearly need that flexibility!
Current guilty pleasure: Look what we found on the shelves of our grocery stores!!!
Currently worried about: So because we are leaving AK for a few weeks, we have this irrational fear that our Toyo oil heater & freezer will fail. It’s an Alaskan’s worst nightmare. We may not have water pipes that will burst, but we do not want our cabin to freeze. Our Toyo heater has been acting up a bit, so it’s not totally irrational. We plan to have a friend check on our place occasionally, but still. As for the freezer, we are eating as much as we can out of it, but we have still have a lot of salmon left from our fishing haul and it’d be a tragedy to lose that!
Currently not excited about: Like I said, Justin & I both are working on our Backpacker Spring Gear Guide reviews and I dread the edits on these projects. It’s just a lot of e-mails back and forth with editors, PR reps and testers and by the ninth round of re-writing, I’m usually pulling my hair out.
Currently reading: I read 2 Alaskan books this month!
I loved, loved, loved Molly Rettig’s book Finding True North: Firsthand Stories of the Booms that Built Modern Alaska. Molly is an author I met at a restaurant this summer, and of course we connected immediately. She is from Pennsylvania and moved up to Alaska in 2010 to as a reporter for Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Her degree in environmental journalism had her covering climate change, wildlife and rugged Alaska life, which meant she interviewed and connected with tons of long-time Alaskans.
Here’s the thing: Molly spoke to my heart from page 1 through 254. I typically use sticky tabs when reading books to mark passages or phrases that resonate with me, and I don’t think I’ve ever done it more than I did with this book. I love when authors make their sentences count!
So what’s it about? The book seamlessly weaves the perspective and amazing struggles of the hardcore Alaskan old-timers with Molly’s personal anecdotes discovering Alaska and her opinions on conservation. Most people know there is a constant tug-of-war in the 49th state about how best to the use the land and its resources (i.e., gold, copper, oil, gas, fish, wildlife) and how much regulation is necessary. Molly dissected the pros and cons of all views, and this book opened my eyes a bit. I’m still a wholehearted tree hugger in my imperfect way, but at least I feel more informed thanks to Molly. If you ever questioned the contradictions found in Alaska, this well-researched book will help reconcile them, or at least soften the blow of resource development.
I also read Jeff King’s Cold Hands Warm Heart. Jeff King is well known in the Denali area because he is a multi-year winner of the Iditarod (and other races) and operates Husky Homestead, a popular summer tourist destination to meet sled dogs. As I’ve said before, there are heaps of published authors in my area, and it’s my goal to read all their books! I actually had Jeff’s book on my TBR list even before moving here. Anyway, the book was great! It tells the story about Jeff’s pull to come to Alaska and to enter the charismatic world of sled dogs, and of course all the insane adventures and persistence that comes from racing over the years. Justin & I went dogsledding last winter for the first time, and it certainly is a thrill, but more than anything, it only reinforced the mad respect I have for mushers. I cannot fathom standing on the back of a dogsled for 1,100 mile across the Alaskan wilderness in 50 below temps against anabatic and katabotic winds … but I love reading about it from the comfort of my cabin.
Currently watching on Netflix/Hulu/Apple TV/HBO Max: We are usually late bloomers when it comes to TV shows, but we caught the Squid Games bug early. Disturbing show, but we couldn’t stop watching. Now we’ve started watching Manifest. And if you have HBO Max, you should watch the movie, Promising Young Woman! So good!