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Winter 2022/2023

After having a fabulous fall we rolled into a winter filled with cold and illness. It’s been awful. However, I was sent across the country in both directions and had a chance to enjoy some great scenery and weather in North Carolina and Oregon. I was fortunate to catch sunrise over the start of the Rockies near Glacier National Park during the flight to Oregon. I’ve had that experience once and this time was just as magnificent.

2022 was an great year; maybe because it was the first year in the last three were life has started to return to normal:

  • – there are still signs the pandemic exists / existed but people are pretty much over it across the nation
  • – the quiet and desolation we enjoyed in our travels during the pandemic is entirely over, and, travel is stupidly expensive
    – 2022 was the first year in three I was able to get back to 10,000 steps / day on average
  • – I flew so much for work I started getting free upgrades to comfort and business class. I’m not sure this is a positive, this is just a massive difference from before.

The other big event was seeing a full parhelia / sun dog complete with a second rainbow one bitterly cold morning on the drive to work. Sun dogs are common in Minnesota but I’ve never seen a full double rainbow. It was insane.

I put some photos below from my travels / events in the last part of 2022 / early 2023. Enjoy!

Back in the Saddle – Business Travel / Flying in 2022

After seven (short) years I find myself traveling for work / business frequently enough to earn status with airlines and hotels. Business travels is really different than before but I think it’s due to the pandemic.

Here is what I’ve noticed is different:

  1. Red eyes on Monday morning and Friday evening flights are a mix of men, women, and children. Not just business men.
  2. Airports aren’t that busy.
  3. Far fewer business travelers – it seems.
  4. Flying during the pandemic before the vaccine was the most amazing experience ever.

Some further explanations:

Airports used to be filled with dudes flying for work. It sucked. These dudes had their logo wear, their status, and were impatient as hell. They had no qualms about cutting in line or being dicks, in general. I think it’s because they knew they’d never see the people around them ever again. It sucked. It was especially bad on early morning and late evening flights. Now, it’s a diverse mix of individuals. I’m sitting here at MSP at 5:35AM and I see leisure travelers, families with very small children, lots of women business travelers, and only a handful of dudes in their logo wear like me.

In the past I seem to remember like 78-85% dudes tutting about in their logo wear. And for the remaining individuals, it seemed like travel was so new they forgot how to human – they’d stand in a aisles, stand at the end of escalators, block exits and generally look like a deer in headlights. It sucked. Looking around it seems like logo wearing business traveler dudes like me are maybe 30% of the crowd?

Airports aren’t too bad now. Sure, there are some bad times but the waiting and the general sea of people seems to be diminished a bit. It’s not great but it’s also not horrible like I remember.

Lastly, it appears as though flying during the pandemic is going to be one of the most memorable experiences ever. No one was at the airports, planes were empty (empty middle aisle!!), nothing was open at the airport, every rental car was available, it was stupid cheap to fly – I bought a round trip ticket to Denver from MSP for $49, and it was quiet. It was amazing. I didn’t mind the mask mandates and the strictness. Had the pandemic been worse for someone like me I’m pretty sure I’d be hanging out at the airport since it was the only place people took the prevention steps seriously – airlines handing out lifetime bans is quite the incentive to behave.

What about the similarities? The only thing I can tell that is similar is the line at any place serving coffee. Easily 20-40 people waiting at caribou, Starbucks, etc., in the early morning. Makes sense, we are only human :).

I put some photos I like from my flights over the last handful of years. I don’t mind this business travel stuff so much, certainly nowhere near my dislike I had for it seven years ago. It’s kinda fun now; instead of work travel being a 2/10 it’s closer to a 6/10 for me.

Colorado 2022

The annual hiking trip in Colorado didn’t disappoint!  

We picked the Mitchell Lakes area this year and hiked to Blue Lake. The lake is in the Brainard Lakes area and has some other wonderful easier hikes, like Lake Isabella, along with harder hikes like Blue Lake. I’ve wanted to hike to Blue Lake for some time but the hikes are on the longer side and steeper side so it’s remained a place on the ‘to do’ list. We had perfect weather, just a little bit of snow and rain, but otherwise beautiful.  

Like most years, we caught the sunrise on the trail and the alpenglow was stunning. It was a special treat to watch the clouds burn off the surrounding peaks. It’s a rare scene hard to describe in its splendor and certainly gains a place with the other ‘wonderful, astonishing, rare, very fortunate to see’ experiences I’ve had in my life. We started so early we had the trail and lake to ourselves. It was serenity and the reason why I hike in nature. The company and conversations were wonderful too, all in all, an impossible experience to replicate.   

We did manage to encounter a moose on the trail this year. I knew moose are large but moose are LARGE. The realization I am just a soft / fleshy bag of vital organs covered protected by some breakable bones near a giant moose during rutting crossed my mind more than a few times as we were figuring out what to do with a moose on the trail directly in front of us. The moose gave us the side eye and we eventually walked off the trail / around the moose when we saw the moose simply wasn’t moving. While hiking on a different point of the trail we heard some moose in the thicket and it sounded like branches and trees were being ripped up by heavy equipment. It reminded me of the sound we heard while hiking in Alaska where we were crossing a super thick thicket and it sounded like a school bus started driving through the thicket – we always thought we spooked a moose and it seems the sounds are similar enough to confirm we did, in fact, spook a very nearby moose in the thicket while hiking in Alaska.  

On an aside – timed entry is screwing everything up. We have to plan well in advance to get access to pretty much any trail. The outdoors are closed and it’s heartbreaking. It truly seems I am the last generation who enjoyed simply going to national parks and other wonderful outdoor offerings in the US whenever we wanted. I get that something needed to be done but this is too bad since people need to plan super far in advance, pick a place that does timed entry far enough in advance to be useful, or get lucky. Timed entry is preferential to those who are free during the week so schlubs doing a 9-5 M-F are at a very large disadvantage compared to the leisure class. It is too bad and it is disheartening. 

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.