Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Looking Back on 2012

It has been a over a year since I have made a post.   I am back and thought I would start with one of my favorite tradition to look back at my previous year.  So here, it is.  It is long and full of mountains, but I believe it is worth your time.  It might even make you want to explore your world.  So grab a cup of coffee or an ice cold one and enjoy.  

Great Basin National Park

Early last year, I found myself in Utah for work.  I decided to celebrate my birthday in style and hit one of the lesser known National Parks - Great Basin National Park.    If you go to see it, you will find one of the remoter areas of the U.S. that would be a great backdrop for any western.  Once inside the park, you will cast your eyes on snowcapped peaks and the Bristlecone Pine, trees nearing 10,000 years old.

Western metal work at the entrance of the park bringing back memories of yesteryear.

The 13,065 ft Wheeler Peak at the heart of the park.

Minerva, now a ghost town was a former Tungsten mining camp.

Bonneville Salt Flats

On the way back to Salt Lake City, I could not resist a stop at one of the most famous salt flats in the world, the Bonneville Salt Flats.   In summer it is the site to a one week spectacle called 'Speed Week.'   There, vehicles of all kinds rev their engines and look to set world records racing on one of the earth's flattest surfaces.  For a great look at the experience, watch "The World's Fastest Indian," about setting a world record on the Indian Motorcycle.

The salt flats in the offseason, soaked in winter water.   

The late afternoon sun descends over the Silver Island Mountains.

Antelope Island State Park

My final stop on the trip was to Antelope Island State Park located on the eastern edge of the Salt Flats just outside of Salt Lake City.  The 42 square mile state park is home to pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, American bison, porcupine, coyote, bobcat and millions of waterfowl.  

The 6,594 ft Frary Peak at the center of the park.

A pair of bison at dusk watching out for the hidden coyote.

Sioux-Hustler Trail

This year, I had a big goal to hike the 225 mile John Muir Trail.   In order to get ready, I read Andrew Skurka's 'Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide,' and I decided to rethink all my gear to carry only 13 pounds, not counting camera gear, food and water.  I needed to know that it would all work well, so I set up a hike on an obscure 33 mile Boundary Water's trail called the Sioux-Hustler.   The trail which wove in and out of lakes was faint most of the time, but navigable, without doing much route finding.  It provided solitude.   It was perfect.

All my gear, minus my Nikon d300s Camera.

My hiking companion, Chad Stone crossing a large granite rock.

Big Horn 100 Mile Trail Run

This year, I had one more running goal to complete.  I wanted to run a 100 mile ultrmarathon.  I had no time goals, only to know that I did it.  I of course had to pick a scenic race in the mountains.   I chose Dayton, Wyoming's Big Horn 100 miler, known to be one of the best organized ultras.  I went out there without crew, without experience and without family support.  This was crazy.  I was soon to learn from veterens of the sport that this was one of the toughest hundred mile ultras out there.  What did I get myself into. But I laced up my shoes and did a lot of running and a lot of fast hiking to complete the run in 32 hours and 30 minutes.   It was a long time, but I did it.  

Somewhere out on the trail.


In 2011, I took the family on a road trip to Canada.  This year, Cindy and I wanted to do something a bit more adventurous.  We decided to go to Panama with Anatalya.  Cadel was not yet 2, so fortunately Grandma and Grandma Carlson could take him.  We headed off to Central America for two weeks;  Panama was not at all what we expected.  It is no longer the land of Manual Noriega or just a big canal.  It is a lovely country, laced with jungles, pristine ocean views and mountain retreats.   The country is doing quite well and was a perfect place to introduce our daughter to international travel.  

Panama City

 At the center of Panama lies a vibrant city, filled with friendly people, fantastic food and plenty of traffic.  There are a couple of areas where you can look into the past such as Casco Viejo and Panama Viejo, but most of it is a vibrant 21st century life.

Downtown Panama City at the edge of the Pacific Ocean

The icon of Panama, the hat.

Cindy and Anatalya walking the streets of Casco Viejo.

At the edge of the city, lies the wild jungle in Parque Natural Metropolitano.

 Pedasi in Peninsula de Azuero

Along the west coast of Panama, lies the countires "Tuscany."   The Peninsula de Azuero is filled with ranches, farms and plenty of untouched beaches.  We traveled to Pedasi to spend a few beautiful days at a small B and B and walk the untouched beaches before development takes hold.   

Anatalya takes to the swing while we enjoy the coffee.

Sunrise over the Gulfo de Panama.

Three beach kings, ruling the roost and scaring off any crabs in site.


In the heart of Panama, lies a small mountain town filled with cool mountain air, thick jungles and crystal clear streams.  There many a westerner have retired to live in a place where the local Panama is still alive.  

A tailor works hard to repair anything you can imagine, including my camera bag.

Need a haircut?

Humedal San-San Pond Sak

As we took the bus across Panama from Boquete to the Caribbean Coast, I cracked open the guide book and at the last minute, we made a change in itinerary and found the highlight of our trip.   We headed to an obscure park called Humedal San-San Pond.   It was not easy to get to, in fact a pain, involving staying in a rundown hotel, waiting around for half a day and dead end bus rides with no success, but we persevered and found heaven.  We discovered a loggerhead turtle sanctuary, sloths in trees and giant lizards the size of Anatalya.  If you go you can stay overnight in a rustic beach setting, release baby sea turtles and if you are lucky watch giant female turtles lay their eggs on the beach.

A baby loggerhead sea turtle heading for life in the ocean.

The fresh waters of San-San.

Every night locals come out to walk the beaches and gather up turtle eggs to ensure they are not eaten by predators or taken by the unsavory sort.  The eggs are then guarded and raised until they hatch when they are released into the sea.

Bocas del Toro

On the Caribbean coast, lies Bocas del Toro.  It is a tourist town, but is still young.  There are no massive hotels, only B and B's, small pensions and plenty of good restaurants.  The locals are laid back and still hang out in town, there are long untouched beaches and deserted islands.   

The classic seaside home.

The John Muir Trail

In 2008, just a 10 months after my daughter was born, Cindy and I snuck away for a 10 day vacation to California's Sierra Nevadas.  There I found a trail starting in Yosemite Valley, winding 225 miles across numerous protected areas only to finish at the top of Mt Whitney.  I enlisted one friend and we scheduled it for 2012, who for unseen circumstances, had to drop out.  I found a new companion, Erik Fosshage to do part of it and put the gears in motion.  There one can hike through some of the most spectacular scenery in America and if you choose, never cross a road.   As a tribute to Ansel Adams who often photographed here, I have posted them in black and white.

Day 0:  Yosemite Valley's Inspiration Point

Day 1:  Nevada Falls pouring down toward the valley.

Day 2:  View Over Sunrise High Sierra Camp

Day 3:  Thousand Island Lake - a favorite of Ansel Adams.

Day 4:  Erik Fosshage's last day.

Day 5:  Tully's Hole in the late afternoon rain

Day 6:  Coffee break at Lake Marie.

Day 7:  A pair of hikers descending towards Bear Pass.

Day 8:  View from Muir Pass.

Day 9:  Alpine Lake in Muir Wilderness

Day 10: Another Alpine Lake in Sequoia National Park

Day 11:  Bighorn Valley with its desiccated cedar trees.

Day 12:  The Pinnacles of Mt. Whitney - the highest point at 14,505 in the lower 48 states and completion of the John Muir Trail.   

Park Point Park

For our 12th Anniversary, Cindy and I decided to head to Duluth for the weekend.  We fortunately acquired a place to stay from a good friend on Park Point, also known as Minnesota Point.  Park Point is a seven mile sand bar that separates Lake Superior from the Superior Bay and the Harbor.   It includes plenty of old homes, an airport and a park at its tip.

Cindy walking among the fall colors.

The path winding along the shores of Lake Superior.

My Family

Throughout the year, my family had plenty of great moments.   I wanted to share three of my favorite images of the year.

My son Cadel turned 2 in summer and is now had his personality sprout.  He is a non-stop talker.  Who would have thought such an introvert as myself could have created a boy with such energy.  

My Daughter Anatalya is a spirit of her own.  She has recently turned five and is just beginning to learn to read.  She takes good care of her brother and still wants to explore the world.  

Cindy, the light of my life and the joy of both my children.

A Look back at the Past

While these last images were not mine I thought they were important to include.  I decided this year to start a multi-year project to digitize all my photos and family's photos.  I wanted to have all of them preserved and to have them to share with my children.  So far I have scanned 3500 photos but still have plenty more to go.  During this process, I was greatly reminded that my parents were once both young.  Here are two of my favorites. 

My dad young and free.

My Mom just before she got married to my dad.   I miss you mom.

Miscellaneous - My Favorites of the Year

The Music:

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
The Beatles - Let it Be
Cold War Kids - Robbers and Cowards
Mumford and Sons - Babel
Nina Simone - Sings the Blues
Policia - Give you the Ghost
Sam Cooke - Night Beat
Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns
Swedish House Mafia - Until Now
Vampire Weekend - Contra

The Movies:

Cycles South
A Fine Line
Running the Sahara

The Books:

Advantage - Patrick Lencioni
The Book of Drugs - Mike Doughty
Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn - Jamie Maslin
Monsoon - Robert D Kaplan
Paddle to the Amazon - Don Starkell
Riding the Iron Rooster - Paul Theroux
Wild - Cheryl Strayed

The Podcasts: 

Dirtbag Diaries

The Useless Goals:  

Ending my running streak at 534 Days, 
Hiking 5 more trails on my quest to hike all published trails in MN, 
Scanning 3500 Family photos, 
Running in my 49th State - Delaware



  1. I'm a big fan Nick!

    David Helm:)

  2. Nick, this is truly an inspiring post. Maybe it's because we've gotten to know one another fairly well in terms of the challenges we, or rather I, have faced this year, but it's refreshing to see someone live life as they want to, rather than how they feel others want them to. If that makes sense. Thanks for being.