Notes on 2020

This has been a year to go down in the annals of blogs, wikis, and feeds for the ages. I’ve fared better than most I think, but my life has changed completely. I’m now sitting at a desk in a bedroom in Phoenix, feeling tired, uncertain, hopeful, determined, scared, cynical, stoic, weak, strong. How, broadly, did I get here?

PaCT Draft

I have to start with a bit of amazement at my luck in choosing 2019 to finish hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, fulfilling a 23-year pact with my friend Pete. If we had picked the wrecking-ball year of 2020, that dream would likely have been crushed beyond salvation. I began the year determined to write about the trip, which I started to do. Then I lost steam and got excited by Pete’s writing, which I helped to edit. The publication of his book is one thing I’m really looking forward to in 2021.

Descending to Needle Rock

The snow was slow to come early in the year, so we did some chilly hikes on the still bare dirt then road-tripped to Arizona where Ann was signed up as a volunteer for Saguaro census 2020. I went with her as far as Phoenix where we visited my dad and Sarah. We figured this might be our only Arizona trip for the year.

Alkali spring campsite

While Ann counted cactus some snow finally fell and I had a few good outings.

Aaron scopes a route to Warren lake

The weekend of March 14 I decided to start working from home due to COVID-19, and I asked Ann to come home from Arizona. From this point on, we worked from home and only met friends outdoors.

Quarantine smiles

Thus began the pandemic cycle: work, exercise, cook, sleep, repeat. April. May. The isolation seemed to be working. Daily new cases in Washoe county exceeded 50 a couple of times but then fell again afterward.

We moved the cycle to Nampa, Idaho for a visit to Ann’s parents after we each isolated ourselves as much as possible for the two weeks prior. The world felt bigger and wilder when we traveled. The return trip involved a narrow escape from miles of muddy road in the Santa Rosa range after a June snowstorm. While we were gone Reno struggled to differentiate protests and riots in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, and the 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases was over 60 and rising.

June snowstorm

For my 48th birthday in July Ann supported me for a really grand overnight backpack around the headwaters of the Little Walker river.

Camp above Anna lake

Ann and I have always been close, but spending nearly every waking and sleeping hour together forced us to address conflicts we might have avoided otherwise. In general this strengthened our relationship, but by August we also saw some upsides to a little time apart. I made a solo road trip to Colorado for two weeks to visit my Dad in his other home there. The pandemic cycle continued regardless of location, but the road trips allowed for some welcome outdoor outings.

Wheeler summit

Back in Reno new cases of COVID-19 seem to to have peaked around 100 per day and now looked to be falling. Work became more demanding, and I canceled a planned to trip to visit my mom in Michigan. Smoke from wildfires seemed to pour in from all directions, adding poor air quality to all the other factors keeping us indoors. Finding smoke-free outdoor locations felt like a survival game. In October COVID-19 cases started rising again, with a vengeance.

Smoky sky

The last week of October we got a call from my dad and Sarah back in Phoenix. Sarah needed to go back to Colorado, and Dad didn’t want to go. His Parkinson’s disease symptoms had worsened. We agreed to be in Phoenix in a week, and we’ve been here since then. Dad’s condition has improved and Sarah has returned, but it still feels like we’ve got a family’s worth of challenges to face. Dad is considering a surgical implant to administer his medication, which he needs continuously. We’re finding ways to live and plan a future, in a time when the future seems more opaque than ever. The Sonoran desert provides some winter solace while we face it together. Coronavirus continues to rage in the US and especially Arizona, with a new more contagious variant from the UK showing up in Colorado. Hospitals in Phoenix are turning ambulances away. 2021, here we come.


I track some statistics from year to year, but this year it’s clearer than ever to me that these numbers don’t really tell the story. I’ve taken refuge in hiking and running, making for an almost normal-looking year in those terms.

Hours Tracked (by GPS): 375.5699999999997

Hours Tracked

Outdoor Nights: 37|4


Miles on Foot: 1046.5100000000002


Elevation Gain on Foot (ft): 166120


Ski Tours: 8


Books Read: 14

Books Read

Years gone by:

Hours Tracked off_grid_nights,outdoor_nights miles_hiked feet_elevation_gain ski_tour miles_biked Bike Elevation Gain (ft) Books Read

3 responses to “Notes on 2020”

  1. Hi Dylan! After too much time it occurred to me to see whether was still there. And, as luck would have it, I found your wonderful recap of 2020. Maybe it was not as chock-full of exciting adventures as you’d have liked, but it filled in a lot of blanks for me. Glad to hear your dad is still with us–I always liked him and you seem to take after him in many ways.

    I finally moved out of the deep woods of Forestville to Santa Rosa where I have better internet service and better access to other services. If I hadn’t moved, I’d have had to evacuate when the fires came last summer. I’m now in a leafy, squirrel-friendly suburb and my back property line is in the middle of a year-round creek, so wildlife abounds. No more lumberjacking, but I do have magnificent oaks and bays. I’ve noted about 40 bird species here so far.

    C19 has prevented most of what I might have done this year, such as a long motorcycle ride, but I think I am better able than most to endure social isolation. Anyway, I have a new home to tinker with. I’ve installed solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall battery. The latter was only up and running about a week ago and I can’t resist checking the app every hour or so.

    • Hi Bruce, so glad you found this! I intended to share it on Facebook but forgot, which makes off-FB interactions all the more meaningful!

      We are still in Phoenix, where Dad and Sarah contracted C19 but we did not. We’re living in a trailer in the yard, and they are doing alright and nearing the end of their quarantine period. Sarah unexpectedly got a much worse case than Dad – his Parkinson’s symptoms maybe got a little worse but that’s it.

      I still hope we can visit you in Santa Rosa to and see your little nature preserve some time! The birds in Phoenix include a lot of real vocalizers: northern mockingbirds, great-tailed grackles, and curve-billed thrashers. There’s always a concert of some sort in our little palm tree oasis.

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