2021 in Review: Investing in a Life Filled with Hiking and Backpacking

We began 2021 with overflowing hope for what the year would hold after such a difficult and unpredictable 2020. To be completely honest, in some ways this year was even harder than the last. But despite the challenges, we continued to find calm and solace in the outdoors. We spent almost every weekend and vacation hiking in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and California. Over the years, we have developed our own hiking rhythm and rapport—tacit understandings of when to walk in silence, talk, pause to take pictures, meditate, snack, or pack up camp—and really settled into that this year. Somewhere along the way, hiking and backpacking evolved from being extra hobbies to becoming core components of how we live our fullest lives. 

All told, in 2021 we hiked over 500 miles, backpacked the Trans-Catalina Trail in California, finished hiking the New England 67 4,000 footer list, and most importantly, tried to stay as present and grateful as possible during these experiences.

As we continue to invest our resources into our passions, we have made the decision to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail next year! Here’s to a 2022 filled with rocks, mud, and the green tunnel of the AT. 

For now, here are our 10 most memorable hiking experiences this year: 

10. Kinsmans in Winter

On a cold winter day, we saw one of the most awe-inspiring undercasts from South Kinsman in the White Mountains. 

Kinsmans in Winter

Hiked the Kinsman Trail to North and South Kinsman where we saw the most breathtaking undercast - a veritable ocean of clouds extending to...

9. Belknap Range

The Belknap Range consists of 12 peaks in the lakes region of New Hampshire. As we continued to explore different trails in the Northeast, we stumbled upon these mountains and were surprised by their beauty. We decided to hike all 12 peaks in just three weekend hikes over the spring.

8. Long Trail Section 5

This LT section meant a lot for us. It was the section we missed last year due to an injury and also included Killington, the last remaining New England 67 4,000 footer in Vermont that we hadn’t hiked yet.

Sunset from Killington Peak Vermont

Long Trail Section 5

We summited Killington Peak, our 5th and final VT 4,000 footer on this NOBO Long Trail section from Mad Tom Notch to Inn...

7. Bigelow Mountain and Avery Peak

This hike in Maine offered breathtaking views of lakes, valleys, and an open ridgeline walking between peaks.

Bigelow Mountain Summit

Bigelow Mountain and Avery Peak

Two more 4,000 footers in Maine! These peaks in Bigelow Preserve boast outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and Flagstaff Lake.Read the postBigelow Mountain and Avery...

6. Wildcats and Carters Traverse in Winter

In other seasons, this strenuous hike offers little reward in terms of scenery. This winter, however, the snowpack was so high that we got the most incredible views of the Presidential Range, making this one of our favorite hikes of the season.

5. Franconia Loop Sunrise Hike

We’ve hiked Franconia Ridge a few times before, but this time we went up for sunrise and wow was it worth it. As soon as we got to the ridgeline, the sky lit up with pastel purple and pink hues.

Franconia Ridge Loop Sunrise Hike

Started hiking at 2:45am to see a glorious sunrise on Franconia Ridge.Read the postFranconia Ridge Loop Sunrise Hike

4. El Capitan in Yosemite

Hiking to the top of the iconic El Capitan from Yosemite Valley has been a dream of ours. In 90 degree weather, we hiked ~16.5 miles and 4,500 feet of elevation and could not have felt more energized by the challenge. 

3. Lakes Trail to Pear Lake

This hike into the High Sierras included everything we could have asked for in a day hike: well-graded switchbacks, tall trees covered in moss, alpine lakes, marmots, and rocky landscapes. 

2. Trans-Catalina Trail

Hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail was one of the most enjoyable backpacking trips we’ve taken together. The weather was perfect, the beachside campsites felt like paradise, and the expansive views of the mountains and Pacific Ocean were unbeatable. 

Trans Catalina Trail sign with cactus

Backpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail

Thru-hiking the 38.5 Trans-Catalina Trail on Catalina Island in California was the perfect short backpacking getaway and just a ferry ride away from LA.Read the postBackpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail

1. Katahdin and Hamlin Peak to finish the New England 67

We finished hiking all 67 4,000+ foot peaks in New England by hiking Knife Edge to Katahdin (the highest peak in Maine and the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail) and Hamlin Peak. This was one of the most exhilarating hikes we’ve ever done and was the crowning accomplishment of the past three years hiking in New England. 

Hikers with the Katahdin trail sign

Mount Katahdin via Knife Edge

We saved this huge hike of Knife Edge Trail to Mount Katahdin’s Baxter and Hamlin Peaks to finish the New England 67 list...

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