Ugh.....2020 is a year we'd all soon like to forget. It started out with so much promise - a new decade, a blank calendar full of possibilities. I made so many plans; hikes, outings, trips, family reunions - only to have everything come crashing apart in mid-March.
I think back to January 2020 and remember how carefree and optimistic I was then. I had no idea how much life was about to change. From being kicked out of my office and working at home for 9 months, not seeing friends and family, to wearing a mask everywhere I went, using more hand sanitizer in 6 months than I ever have in my life, and being super paranoid of getting too close to anyone. But at least outdoor activities were not off-limits, and hiking was one of the things that kept me sane throughout these difficult months.
I've been creating my "Year in Review" post now for the past 9 years. It started with one photo from the blog for each month. As the years passed and my blog got terribly behind current times, I instead started choosing favorite photos for these year-end recaps, or like in 2019, favorite hikes from the past 12 months.
But this year I'm going back to the original theme - 2020's "Year in Review" will again feature photographs from the actual month that they occurred. And instead of choosing favorite photos, some of these images will depict important, memorable, or timely events from this most unusual of years.
2020 started out with a bang, or at least a splash, with a field trip to watch huge waves crashing ashore at Washington's Cape Disappointment. My neighbor Cheri invited me to join her to capture this unusual convergence of high tides and ocean wave activity. We spent a memorable first day filling our camera's memory cards with amazing images. Such a fun way to start a new decade, at the time I foolishly believed it was a precursor of great things for the coming year.
Over President's Day weekend, I convinced my hubby to join me on a snowshoeing outing. We chose the June Lake Trail near Mt St Helens. Having snowshoed this same trail exactly one year ago, I was surprised by how low the snow levels were when compared with the previous year's trip. But there was a fresh dusting of the white stuff and when it sparkled in the sun the forest looked positively magical.
One week before life came to an abrupt standstill I decided to hike the Multnomah-Wahkeena trail in the Gorge. It was an awful rainy, cold, borderline-snow day and I almost turned the car around and headed back home. But needing a break from the impending pandemic hysteria, I donned my raingear and persevered. As I climbed higher raindrops transitioned into snowflakes until the entire forest was transformed with a white coating. I had the best time walking through this unexpected winter wonderland - it became one of my best hikes of 2020.
From mid-March through April everything shut down and I was confined close to home. No hiking trails were open and the ski areas shuttered. What to do? Hone my bird photography skills! I filled my now-abundant free time with pilgrimages to the local wetlands and nearby parks to capture the spring birds and baby ducks. This month features two photos because I just couldn't choose between the splashy robin bathing in a puddle and the cute, fluffy gosling who posed so nicely for my camera.
In May, hiking trails began slowly opening up. May 18th was also the 40th anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. Since one of the places with open trails happened to be on the mountain's north side, I made a Memorial Day visit to pay my respects and hike a "new to me" section of the Boundary trail from the Hummocks up to Johnston Ridge. Note that the photo also shows an addition to my hiking attire - a face covering, which became standard equipment for trekking any trail in 2020.
Despite COVID cases increasing, most of the local trails reopened by June. To make up for lost time, I ramped up my hiking trips this month, averaging two a week. Since I missed out on the April-May Gorge wildflower show, I hiked several places with blooming rhododendrons to get my spring flower fix.
In July the Comet Neowise made a special appearance in the night skies over Oregon. Thanks to my neighbor Cheri I met up with a group of women photographers on a remote road in the far eastern Gorge for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to photograph this unusual comet. (It only comes around every 6,800 years!) Having never attempted night photography not only was it a huge learning curve, but seeing and capturing the comet with my own eyes (and camera!) was one of the coolest photographic experiences I've ever had.
During an August camping trip in Southern Oregon with my hubby and brother we decided to visit nearby Crater Lake. None of us had ever hiked the short path from the rim to water's edge, so one warm morning we traipsed down the steep Cleetwood Cove trail to check things out. I was surprised to see so many people swimming in the lake's pure blue waters (and also to learn swimming and fishing were allowed!) Although only a short jaunt, it was one of the most fascinating destinations I hiked to in 2020.
September was a month of heartbreak, as 2020 reared it's ugly head once again. A Labor Day windstorm downed powerlines and sparked several huge wildfires in parched forests across the state of Oregon. Five small towns burned to the ground, and scores of favorite hiking trails and unique forest environments were torched. For 10 long days acrid smoke filled the skies overhead causing air quality to spike off the charts. With absolutely no place to go (air quality was considered "hazardous to health") my hubby and I hunkered indoors staring at angry orange skies and sadly watching online fire perimeter maps gobble up more and more forest land.
Ah October! My most favorite hiking month! Skies cleared and leaves began their seasonal color changes. And this year I finally made it to Mt Rainer National Park to witness the spectacular autumn colors at Paradise. I used to think the summer wildflower season was the best time to visit Rainier but after this trip autumn may have won me over.
Although high mountain autumn colors peak in October, in the Gorge and Portland area they don't reach full force until November. Fall color was weird this year, as some places the leaves turned early, others turned late, and some leaves simply wilted and fell off the trees without any color (I blamed the September wildfire smoke). But one of my favorite November hikes, Hamilton Mountain always provides a spectacular autumn leaf show.
I really haven't blogged yet about skiing in the time of COVID - but in December Oregon's ski resorts opened their doors once again. I made four trips to two different ski resorts and had some interesting experiences. A future blog post on this subject is forthcoming, but in the meantime I think this photo of me at Mt Hood Meadows with my face fully covered kind of summarizes resort skiing for the 20-21 season. No need for sunscreen anymore!
And now for my biggest, best news of 2020 - on December 31st I'm retiring from the job I've held for almost 32 years! Yeah! Midweek skiing and hiking here I come! I'm so looking forward to more free time to pursue my photography to it's fullest and hone my photo editing skills. I'm planning to revamp this blog (so many things are horribly outdated...) and set up a website so I can sell prints of my images. And hopefully travel again, if this pandemic is ever put to rest.
As always, thank you to my readers for the comments, likes, and for continuing to read my ramblings. I know retirement will bring new and interesting adventures - so please keep visiting and come along with me on this exciting next phase of life.
Good riddance to 2020! I'm hopeful for better times in 2021. Wishing you all peace and health in the coming new year.