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Good Riddance, 2020

It’s finally the last day of 2020, the longest blur of a year I’ve experienced, and I’m sure I’m not alone here. It’s been a weird one. 

But I do hope that 2021 is better for everyone, though I have my doubts as New Years’ is a human construct after all (and this would be why I don’t believe in the new year, new me bs). 

A Blur Of A Year In Review

I like many of you who do read here didn’t travel hardly at all this year. In fact, the tours I co-lead in Mainland Yemen and on Socotra Island were the only real travel I did outside of Alaska in 2020. Funny enough, I had been saying that I wanted to travel a bit less… but I didn’t mean that much less. 

Al Khuraiba, Al Khuraiba Yemen, Wadi Daw'an, Wadi Doan, Wadi Hadhramaut, Hadhramaut, Yemen
al Khuraiba, Yemen

Oman, Yemen, Socotra & Egypt

As mentioned, my only travel outside of my home state this year started in Southern Oman with a brief adventure in the Dhofar region before taking a group across the border into Yemen to explore the al Mahrah and Hadhramaut Governorates. 

Those portions of the trip went off without hardly a hitch, to be honest, and you can read and see a bit more about them in these articles:

Dragon Blood Tree, Dragon Blood Trees, Dracaena Cinnabari, Socotra, Yemen
Dixsam Plateau, Socotra

Next up was Socotra, which many of you who’ve read along here over the years is a special place to me. This leg of the trip went fairly smoothly aside from a blogger with us who complained about literally every aspect of the trip but luckily for the remainder of the group I was really the only one who had to deal with it. 

I started working on writing miniature blog posts about specific destinations on Socotra Island to supplement the existing Socotra blog posts I’ve written in the past after I returned home, though I’ve not done a great job at executing that plan (I promise there’s more to come here!). The only place on the island I got around to highlighting was the Firhmin Forest

Dahshur, Dahshur Pyramids, Pyramid, Egypt, Cairo, Sneferu, Bent Pyramid, North Africa, Africa, Sahara, Egyptian Sahara
Bent Pyramid, Dahshur

After wrapping up Socotra it was back to Egypt on the weekly flight. This time I had spared a few days to explore a bit more. 

I originally planned to maybe get down to Luxor or Aswan. Did that happen? No, I got lazy. 

In the end, I took my time to explore Cairo and the surrounding area a bit more thoroughly, but one day I’ll make that dedicated trip to Egypt to explore the remainder of the country. 

Read more about Egypt here:

Basically what most of March-May 2020 looked like for me

Covid Shutdowns & No Money, Mo Problems

Luck would have it, a friend of mine who I used to work with was having a baby in March. This is legitimately the only reason I arrived home on March 4th. She was due about two weeks later and had asked me to fill in for her maternity leave, and seeing that this wasn’t my first time covering a friend’s maternity leave, I decided to come home a couple of weeks beforehand just in case her little girl decided to make an early appearance. 

Prior to Mary locking me in to cover for her, I had planned to stay in either North Africa or the Middle East for several more weeks to get some personal travel in after the two tours. So, thank you Mary for being the sole person responsible for bringing me home in early March before I had a nightmarish situation of trying to get home at a later time on my hands. 

So, I arrived home and went to work for less than two weeks before we were deemed non-essential and sent home indefinitely. Truth be told, I wasn’t that upset because I used that time to write articles for the blog that would carry me through the summer (August 20th to be exact) and start working on a massive overhaul of this very website- you know, to make it less shitty and slow. 

So really, the only downside was not making the money I intended to for that 7 week stretch that we waited for the ADA and Alaska Board of Dental Examiners to figure out how we (dental people) would go back to seeing patients safely. 

By mid-May, I was back working 40+ hours per week as a hygienist though. 

Atigun Pass, Brooks Range, Dalton Highway, Alaska
On top of Atigun Pass, along the Dalton Highway

Dalton Highway, Gates of the Arctic, & ANWR

My big fat Alaskan summer break: the Alaskan Arctic

You see, I was supposed to fly to Canada in July to meet up with my friends from Inertia Network (the crew that helps organize some of the trips I’ve run) and we were then going to drive from BC to Alaska as a recce trip to piecemeal a future trip together but for obvious reasons, this trip didn’t happen. 

Following the road trip, I was supposed to take a group to the Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of the Arctic National Park with my friend Kathryn who started her own company called Backpack Alaska. Ultimately we decided to postpone the trip to August 2021. 

So I was left with a giant hole in the middle of the summer, and living in Alaska, I may as well had been on an island with the Canadian border shut… so what do you do with a break of that size?

Why, you drive as far as you can away from home in Alaska without leaving Alaska: Prudhoe Bay.

We took a couple of weeks and made a giant road trip along the Dalton Highway. The first day we drove from Eagle River to the Yukon River (being from Alaska, we’d both done this leg of the drive countless times) and from there we wandered into and explored the wild abyss of Alaska that sits above the Arctic Circle.

Atigun Gorge, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge , Alaska, ANWR, Alaskan Arctic, Arctic, Northern Alaska, Atigun, Atigun River
Views of the Atigun River in ANWR

The two main side excursions, of course, were hiking into ANWR and Gates of the Arctic National Park. 

We made a brief day trip into ANWR, following the Atigun River into the refuge, getting a minor taste of what the expansive area has to offer. Needless to say, that will be a part of Alaska that I will be revisiting at a later date.

Kuyuktuvuk Creek, Gates of the Arctic, Alaska
Wandering around in Gate of the Arctic

For Gates of the Arctic, we made a small multi-day loop hike into the national park, which you’ll be seeing an entire blog post dedicated to it releasing in a little over a week. But to cut it short, it was beautiful and crazy, but also one of the more difficult treks I’ve done- almost 100% due to Arctic terrain. 

As for the Dalton Highway road trip itself, it was pretty fun, though this isn’t my first time- I’ve been part of the way up it in years past, just not to the end in Deadhorse- until this year. 

Looking to plan your own trip into the Alaskan Arctic? Read these:

gulf of Alaska, Alaska, resurrection bay, kenai fjords, kenai Fjords national park, major marine tours
Arriving into Kayaker’s Cove

Kayaker’s Cove & MacDonald Spit

At the end of summer, I explored more of the Kenai Peninsula, returning to places I’ve been before and others that were new to me on some in my free time. Kayaker’s Cove was one of the new places, located just outside of Seward, and honestly, I think it’s going to be a yearly trip now. You can read more about it here

Next, I was back in Seward again a short while later to go on a Major Marine wildlife cruise in Resurrection Bay that I had been delaying for nearly two years now because of other events that have popped up Major Marine Tours had invited me to come on a quick press trip down there quite a while back). I can’t believe being a life-long Alaskan, that I’d never done one of these glacier and wildlife trips before and now I can 100% recommend it to anyone considering going on one.  

Between Beaches, MacDonald Spit, Kachemak Bay, Alaska
Inside one of the glamping tents at Between Beaches

Finally, my last new spot visited in this part of Alaska is MacDonald Spit, which is located across Kachemak Bay from Homer. This all came about when my mother-in-law decided that she wanted to orchestrate a girls’ weekend getaway. Before long we were all headed south for a long weekend away at Between Beaches, which funny enough is owned and ran by a highschool friend of my mother-in-law’s. 

Getting to explore the south side of Kachemak Bay was an awesome way to end summer in Alaska. You can expect to see a blog post about MacDonald Spit and Between Beaches coming up here soon, as I am heading back down there just after New Years’. 

Working Myself To Death: 2020 Edition

The remainder of 2020 was spent working in dental offices, working on making this website not be trash, working on new blog posts and other content, and promoting the Bradt Socotra guidebook that I helped Hilary and Janice put together this spring and summer. So not the most interesting thing for those of you that do follow along on my adventures here, but in all honesty, I don’t think many of us had a very exciting year anyway. 

Oolah Pass, Gates of the Arctic, Alaska

What To Come in 2021?

Hard to say at this point, but it’s looking like we may be able to move forward with the Yemen expedition we had planned for February, though we may need to delay it just a bit, we’re still working out the kinks on that. Next, we have a Mainland Afghanistan expedition slated for May, the North Caucasus trip planned for early June, I have to be back in Alaska for a bachelorette party in the mountains in July, August will see Kathryn and I leading a small group to the Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of the Arctic, September I’ll be in a wedding in Colorado before having to depart immediately afterward to start our Yagnob Valley and Fann Mountains expedition in Tajikistan, October will be spent taking a small group to traverse the Afghan Wakhan Corridor, and November will be a group trip across Uzbekistan. Will all of these slated group trips and expeditions happen? I have my doubts, but we’re still moving forward with arranging them.

Victoria Falls, Mosi oa Tunya, Zimbabwe, Africa

What Posts to Expect in January

I’ve been working on getting new blog posts scheduled out, so expect to see ones from McMurdo Sound, Antarctica; Vic Falls, Zimbabwe; the Devil’s Pool, Zambia; Gates of the Arctic, Alaska; Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia; Grand Pacific Drive, Australia; Lake Malawi; Maras, Peru; Tajikistan border crossings; and Dominican Republic.

Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a rough year for most all around, though I can’t complain too much about my own as I know a lot of people have had it much worse off than I did (I’d say this was mostly just a year of annoying inconveniences for me).

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2 thoughts on “Good Riddance, 2020”

  1. Carl Pietrantonio

    Hiya Nicole!

    Happy New year to you, first of all. Sorry your 2020 was not the best, but to be honest, it sounds pretty good to me. At least in comparison. Got back from Milan on Jan. 15 and have since not been more than 40 miles from my house. It’s driving me mad. 3 different surgeries, some other medical wonderfulness, (I am 63, this happens) and a host of other BS, plus the Pandemic screwing everything up, etc. SO glad this year is over! Hoping like hell to get going *somewhere* in 2021.

    Great end of the year post and though I am very likely never going to Yemen and similar places (just not my bag), I do like reading your stuff, as always and do pick up things along the way.

    BIG compliments on the changes to the website, also. Easier to read, easier to comment and a huge overall improvement!

    Really, just want to say HI and say thanks for the posts and the writing! I hope all your travels work out this next year!

    Thanks, and take care!

    Carl

    1. Glad to hear you’re okay Carl! 3 surgeries is a lot to go through, hopefully none were delayed by the pandemic shutdowns an whatnot. Dealing with health problems suck, I’ve been in and out of the doctors since July trying to figure out what’s up with my thyroid, and that’s fairly minor in comparison.

      The website overhaul was a total Pandora’s box situation. I thought I was just going to speed things up… and that turned into a two month long ordeal, but at least it’s finally done! Glad it’s easier on you.

      Hope there’s less doctor visits and more travel for you in 2021, 2020 has just felt like when you’re a kid and you get in trouble and punished and the whole time you’re screaming “but I didn’t do anything!” Except this time is different and I actually didn’t do anything!

      Well take care and happy new year!

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