Travel Lists

A year in review: 2021

The past two years I’ve been rather ambitious with my annual roundup posts, listing all my adventures. What can I say? Colorado is amazing and I just want to share everything with you all! But in the interest of being a little more concise this year, I’m going to break it down by month and only share the biggest highlights.

Like all of you, our year began close to home with socially distanced outings. For us, this meant continuing our explorations of the Colorado Front Range. I had a bunch of winter hikes I wanted to do and we were able to make a pretty decent dent in this list over the first three months of 2021. In January, this included a hike to Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Black Lake

Mid-February marked our seventh anniversary. To celebrate, Pat and I snuck away to the tiny unincorporated town of Twin Lakes, Colorado for a long weekend at a cute little B&B. Located near the base of Mount Elbert – the highest point in Colorado – this was a gorgeous place for a getaway. We’d driven through Twin Lakes in the summer but this area is, in my opinion, even prettier in the winter. Fresh snow fell prior to our arrival and we woke Saturday morning to crisp blue skies, bright sunshine, and a shimmering landscape. Add in our delicious post-hike beers at the historic Twin Lakes Inn and the jacuzzi tub in our B&B, and it was the perfect weekend in the mountains!

March is when winter truly arrived in Colorado. We started out the month with a storm that dropped a foot (30 cm) of snow in Denver… which, while a normal amount of snow to receive in the mountains, is an unusually large storm for the city. Two weeks later, another monster storm dumped another foot on us and up to 6 feet (1.8 m) in the mountains. A very un-spring-like beginning to spring break. It ended up being Denver’s second snowiest March of all time. Even though I’m usually done with winter by this point of the year, we desperately needed the moisture… and the fresh powder made for some good snowshoeing!

Views from the Helms Lake trail
Rocky Mountain National Park

After nearly three years in Colorado, I was really disappointed in us for the lack of high pointing we’d accomplished. None, to be precise. Which was dumb, given that five state high points are within reasonable driving distance of Denver. The streak finally came to an end at the beginning of April, with a day trip up to Panorama Point in Nebraska. This was also my first time in Nebraska, making it state #45 out of 50 for me! Three weeks later, Pat and I headed down to the Oklahoma panhandle to climb the state’s high point and visit some other sights on the southeastern Colorado plains (and the Kansas high point too!) en route.

Panorama Point – Nebraska high point
Mount Sunflower – Kansas high point
Black Mesa – Oklahoma high point

Now fully vaccinated, Pat and I continued to expand our travel radius throughout the next few months. In May, our big outing was a four day camping weekend at Dinosaur National Monument in the northwest corner of Colorado. We’d originally planned to visit in 2020 but, as with most things last year, our plans collapsed with the arrival of COVID. So we rescheduled for 2021 and, as a bonus, we were financially in a better place which allowed us to splurge on a full-day guided rafting trip while we were there. We traveled 9 miles (14.5 km) on the Green River through Split Mountain Canyon, experiencing Dinosaur from a very different perspective than what we saw from above. It was awesome!

Dinosaur National Monument

Chelsea and I also drove up to the Dakotas for a long weekend in mid-May to stand on two more state high points!

Taken from the South Dakota high point trail

The month began with my first trip home to Montana in a year and a half. It’s the longest I’ve ever gone without returning home. But my mom was fully vaccinated too so I finally felt safe hopping on a plane. We spent a week roadtripping through western Montana, stopping to visit various historic sites and scenic locations I’d somehow never seen, despite growing up there. We had so much fun and I learned a lot of the Montana history that I’d never actually learned in school.

Montana Prison Museum
Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site
Gates of the Mountains

This is typically our busiest month in Colorado. It’s summer in the mountains by this point, meaning I’m beyond excited to spend as much time as possible above tree line. July is also the month that everyone likes to come visit us. First, my in-laws arrived and we spent a few days exploring with them. Then it was my mom’s turn to hop on a plane and come visit. She and I went on a couple day hikes as well as our annual mother/daughter backpacking trip. I also did a couple hikes with friends.

A personal highlight for me in July was summiting my second Colorado 14er. It was also my first ever solo hike, and I arrived home feeling very accomplished and ready to stand on some more tall summits.

Mount Bierstadt

Obtaining a backpacking permit in Rocky Mountain National Park is never easy. In 2021, multiple collapses of the reservation system made this process even more complicated. But we eventually managed to secure a permit for an overnight trip for us and our friend Kaylyn. The three of us spent the night 8 miles (12.8 km) into the backcountry and day hiked up to beautiful Lakes Nokoni and Nanita. It was an exhausting but much-needed weekend in the mountains!

Labor Day Weekend in the Rockies is an amazing time of year! At least, that’s been our experience so far. Previous Labor Day travel destinations include Rocky Mountain National Park, Snowy Range in Wyoming, and the Four Pass Loop. On all of these trips we had warmth and sunshine and gorgeous scenery. In other words, the bar was set pretty high. I wouldn’t say we exceeded the bar this year with our trip to New Mexico to summit the state high point, but we came pretty darn close. Six state high points later, it feels good to have made tangible progress toward my high-pointing goal this year.

The second half of September in Colorado was all about fall colors. The leaves usually begin to turn early in the month and by mid- to late-September the state is filled with hillsides of bright yellow aspen trees. The tundra plants also turn golden yellow and deep red. Appropriately, we headed to Aspen for a weekend in the middle of the month to enjoy these lovely autumn colors.

Independence Pass
Maroon Bells

October began with the return of Upslope Brewing’s annual backcountry taproom, a fun fall beer/hiking event. We attended back in 2019 and had a blast, so we were super excited that they were holding the event again this year. It took place at Winter Park ski resort and included a gondola ride, a short hike, lovely views… and, of course, alcohol. In addition, 100% of the proceeds from the event goes to Leave No Trace, an outdoor ethics and education organization I am always happy to support.

Autumn in Colorado was truly amazing this year; this is our fourth year in Denver and by far the best fall we’ve experienced. The colors lingered well into October, and my favorite hike of the month was a lovely loop in Rocky Mountain National Park with Chelsea. Neither of us were expecting it to be so bright and colorful and, despite the annoyingly unstable weather, we both really enjoyed it. I’ll be posting about this hike after the new year, but for now here are a couple of my favorite photos.

Last year, for the first time ever, Pat and I decided to eschew Thanksgiving traditions and spend the long weekend on a mini road trip to Utah to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Inspired by last year’s success, I planned us another getaway for 2021. This year, we took the entire week off and returned to Utah to visit Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks. We also drove through part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and spent some time at a couple Utah State Parks. I will be writing multiple posts about these locations over the next couple months… for now, I’ll share a handful of the photographic highlights (I came home with about 800 photos, it was not easy to narrow it down to these eight).

Bryce Canyon National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Goblin Valley State Park

I didn’t accomplish much hiking in December, instead spending most of my weekends working. Such is the life of a professor at the end of the semester. Also, the weather wasn’t very cooperative. But I did manage to squeeze in one final hike in the foothills west of Denver.

2021 Hiking Goal
As you know if you’ve been following me for any length of time, I’m a list-maker and a goal-setter. I track the distance and elevation gain of all my hikes in a spreadsheet. In 2020, I ended the year with about 89,000 feet (27,130 m) of elevation gain. Inspired by that, I set a goal at the beginning of 2021: to hike 100,000 vertical feet (30,480 m) by the end of the year. It was a roller coaster and, for a while, it looked like I would fall short. But I’m pleased to report that I (just barely) accomplished my goal, ending the year with a total of 100,087 feet (30506 m) of elevation gain!

I’ve decided not to set a hiking goal for 2022, mainly because we want to branch out into other outdoor activities. We’ve also made it a goal to spend more time in Denver itself; we’ve seen an embarrassingly small amount of the city despite living in the metro area for 3.5 years. Fear not; I have no plans to stop hiking and exploring the beauty of Colorado so I will still have plenty to share with all of you.

But that’s for another time. For now, I want to thank you all for your endless support and for being such a wonderful community to be a part of. I wish you all a safe, happy, and healthy new year, and I will see you in 2022 🥳



62 thoughts on “A year in review: 2021”

  1. Wow! You had a great year that year! I began making a list of the photos that I really liked as I read through the post but had to quit because it was getting too big. LOL Awesome photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a fabulous year, Diana! Your trip to Bryce and Capitol Reef looks AMAZING, I can’t remember if I’ve seen photos of the Grand Staircase-Escalante before, but it’s so beautiful. And Goblin Valley, too. What a fantastic area of the US! Definitely one of my favourite states. Here’s to another year of adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love mountains, Diana! Though my hiking days are over, I have fond memories of living for 30 years in several small towns in the mountains of Virginia. Some of my happiest days were spent hiking in The Shenandoah National Park.

    Thank you for this delightful recap of your adventures. Have a great 2022!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Diana, it looks like you and Pat had a great year. You live in a gorgeous part of the country, and you’re obviously taking great advantage of it. I particularly like your photos from your November trips – especially the shot of the slot canyon. And of course I love that you do handstands everywhere! Wishing you joy and adventure in 2022. ~Terri

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Terri! We do feel fortunate, especially in the last couple years, to have so much to visit so close to home. I’m working on writing about our November trip now so there will be lots more photos soon 😊 A happy new year to you as well!


  5. What a great year – I really enjoy these retrospective posts (I’m way behind reading your posts). Seeing your Utah pics makes me long to go back down there – it’s been way too long. Here’s to a great 2022!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy New Year to you too! I hope you both continue to stay happy and healthy.
    I’m doing that thing today where I catch up on tons of blog posts so please forgive the potential flood of comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As always I enjoyed your post. I ❤️ This one especially as it reminds me of those places I have visited, and some that are now on me list to see. May your 2022 be filled with joy, wonder, and successful adventure. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Really enjoyed your annual round-up, and especially the snowy scenes and canyons. Hope you’ve had a restful Christmas break, and look forward to reading about more of your adventures in the new year!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sounds like you had a fantastic year, Diana, despite the ongoing pandemic crises. Congratulations on your 7 year anniversary and your goal of hiking 100,000 vertical feet, that’s a fantastic achievement! Wishing you another fun and adventure-filled year to come! Aiva 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You’ve really been busy with exploring and that’s great. You’re photos are wonderful. I’ve actually seen some of those places such as Canyonlands in Utah. 30 thousand meters is the vertical equivalent of 30 kilometres and that’s just unreal. Five years ago we did around 3 thousand kms and that was a busy year. You’re living the dream. Tip, after we had enough of the climbing on day hikes we shifted to lake canoeing. It’s surprising how many circuits there are where you can paddle in multiday trips and end up where you started.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Diana, you do your native state of Oregon proud with your accomplishments in another beautiful state. And to achieve them in the midst of a pandemic took extra planning, caution and flexibility. Congratulations and your community looks forward to your continued adventures, be they in Denver or in the wilderness.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, you were really busy this year! Amazing how you can look back on a year and realised how much you’ve actually done!
    Your photo’s are spectacular – love these last couple of pictures that were taken in Bryce Canyon.
    All the best for your new traveling plans for 2022 … we are looking forward to read more about your adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a fruitful 2021 you had! Lots of hiking and reaching new heights (literally)! It’s also great you went out of state to explore more of the US as possibly can. Can’t wait to see you branch out more with your hikes (and handstands) for the upcoming 2022 year!

    Liked by 1 person

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