Wind River Range -- Part Three -- Trip Report

I was talking to my friend Dr. G the other day and he reminded me that I had somehow lost the plot when blogging about our Wind River High Route trip in 2017 and I never finished part three (and the most important part) of my three part series, the trip report! Since I actually had it in my drafts unedited but never edited or published it, I now give you, only three years late later, the grand finale! You can find posts about the trail conditions here and the logistics here. (Note this is kind of typical of COVID days; I am cleaning out my virtual closet as well as my real ones!) 

Disclaimer: This post is very long. If you are short on time, please skip to day 6, which was probably my most scary (but fun?) day. 

The Wind River High Route is approximately 66% off trail, according to the Skurka version, and when I heard about it and saw photos, I had to get a piece of this. However, I knew it would be harder than just walking the same amount of miles on a trail, so I planned accordingly, but I still underestimated how long it would take. When I decided to make the trip, I didn't know how exhausting and rewarding it would actually be.

The Road Trip: Dr. G and I drove from San Francisco to Reno on the first Friday, and stayed with a friend of mine who lives in Reno. It was nice to split it up a bit. However, this was still about five and a half hours in the car with Friday traffic. The next day we got up early and left around 4 am. Luckily the speed limit is 80 on a lot of the freeways and it was mostly smooth sailing. However, we did hit road construction in Idaho, putting us in Jackson, WY around 4 pm. We changed into the clothes we would be living in for the next week, filled up our waters, readied our packs and went for dinner. We then drove to our finish line trail head, which was called Trail Lakes, and parked our car there. We had arranged for a car to pick us up and take us to the starting trail head from there. We were picked up by Christian, who drove us to Bruce Bridges trail head and entertained us the whole way with stories of the area, people he had given rides to and trip reports from other hikers. We slept in a dispersed camping spot at Bruce Bridge that night.

Day One (21.56 miles): The first 13 or so miles were on a real trail. Even though we were not yet off trail, we still managed to miss a turn at the Deep Creek Lake cutoff, which afforded us with a nice view of a meadow and some good looking peaks. However it also caused us to detour about three extra miles and about an hour and a half. We arrived at Deep Creek Lake (10,100 ft) around 2:30 p.m. The Skurka guide and others reports stated that from this point, to get up and over Wind River Peak and back down to a place where you could camp was about 6 hours. We decided to go for it. 

This is where the accidental detour took us

From that lake, we were on a real trail for about half a mile and then we took our first detour off trail. Skurka says to orient your compass to Chimney Rock and head towards the peak that way. We oriented it but ended up having to go around a big hill to get a clear view of it. I'm not sure if that is due to our error or bad directions from Skurka (probably the former), but it seemed to take a lot of extra time. Finally started the climb up to Chimney Rock, which is at about 12,500 ft. The climb was not super technical; it was through a lot of marshy and grassy areas as well as rocky ones, but it was a steep climb. We got about halfway, we thought, and then got completely socked in with fog. It was about 5:30 pm by this time so we decided to pitch our tent on a semi flat spot and conquer the peak the next day. We were on the smallest little rocky ledge in the middle of a bunch of talus (large boulders) but if not for the fog we would have had great views! 

View from the side of the mountain

Day Two (10.6 miles): Right away, we continued back up the steep hill. This time, however, much of it was covered in snow, so we put on our microspikes and yaktrax and climbed the hill. It was very slow going and I remember going from wearing all my layers to only a couple by the time we got to Chimney Rock. Once there, we went around it to the left, as Skurka had said we had to descend a bit before climbing up to the Wind River peak and then descending down a gully. Unfortunately, first we went a bit too far South, so we ended up having to backtrack quite a bit uphill. Also, on the descent, I stepped on a wobbly rock and fell, scraping up my leg fairly badly. So we headed back uphill to what we thought went to the west gully descent. On the way there I looked down and said that this also looked like a descent down a gully. To get to Skurka's gully, we would have to go up another steep climb and then back down the gully. So we decided to take this direct route, which we figured could not be any worse. Famous last words, I guess.

Me (that tiny black dot in the middle) descending the gully

It was very steep and the rocks were all semi unstable. It was very slow going, as each step was a cautious decision of what would come next. We got down to the point where our descent met Skurka's and we picked our way down the hill. Once the rocks ended there was a long steep snowfield to descend, and then more large ralus, and then another snowfield. On the first one, I dropped my yaktrax and John went sliding for about 30 feet, which was a bit nerve-racking. It definitely was not easy or safe, but we made it down in one piece. After that we went around Lake 11185 through yet more talus, then followed a creek through willow (my nemesis! it's so scratchy!) and lots of bushwhacking before ending up at Black Joe's lake. At Black Joes, we followed the shore for a while before finally doing an up and over (through more willow) of some granite cliffs to get to the North side of the lake. From there, we joined up with the big Sandy trail (a real trail, and people!) where we had a fairy easy few miles to big Sandy Lake.

War wound

From there we went up North Creek trail not too far and found a nice camping spot by the water. Of course, now that we were out of the hills and back near the stream, it was mosquito paradise. We quickly put up the tent, filtered water, ate and went to bed.

Day Three (15.5 miles): We started up the North Creek trail again in the morning, and about four miles later we arrived at the Cirque of the Towers.

The Cirque of the Towers

I believe this is one if the most heavily trafficked places in the Wind River Range. It is definitely beautiful. It us a semi-circle of pointy mountains all surrounding a lake. We peaked at Jackass Pass, which is about 12,500 ft. and where we could not help but getting some photos with the sign (jackass!). We then dropped down into the lake area before heading up the Texas pass. At this point, we had two options of getting up and over and we decided to forgo the New York pass in the interests of time, as it now seems like we aren't going to be able to get done as much as we thought we would and it was the more difficult of the two.

After descending Texas pass, we walked along two lakes to get to Shadow Lake, where we turned north. Here we passed through a gorgeous meadow with granite boulders and peaks in the distance. It reminded me a bit of the JMT near Cathedral Peaks. Then it started to hail. It rained and hailed on us for the next few hours. We went up from Shadow Lake through the meadow, then towards Pyramid Lake before going off trail again at Skull Lake. From there we bushwhacked a bit before following a river for a while to another lake. Then it hailed some more. Then we followed another river to another lake. Then it hailed and rained. Due to the rain and the time getting a little later, we finally decided to set up camp around 5 pm at Lake 10,5xx instead of trying to climb Raid pass today. By this time our feet were soaked, but we did get a respite from the rain to eat our dinner before going into the tent for recharging and relaxing. And, I almost forgot to mention...I saw a chipmunk carrying a baby chipmunk today and got dive-bombed by a yellow throated hummingbird while filtering water. Good times!

Day Four (14.2 miles): On this day we realized that we were definitely going to have to find an early exit route, as we were not covering as many miles as we thought we would and we had to be back home by a certain time. We looked at the map and saw that there was an alternative near Europe mountain which would get us back to the car in about 20 miles. We were hopeful that we would be able to get there by the following night!

We started up our first pass of the day, Raid pass, with wet feet. I had not been looking forward to putting on my wet shoes and socks from the day before but it had to be done. The climb to the top required a lot of marsh walking, talus hopping and then crossing a snowfield before getting to the top. Then it was back down the other side, into Bonneville basin, an unnamed lake, and Boulder Creek.

Bonneville Basin (we would walk around that lake to the left)

We climbed down on large granite slabs rather than go down the steeper snowier decline. We then skirted the lake and a lot of bugs (actually we did not skirt the bugs at all!), and climbed up some grass ramps to Sentinel Pass, where we had a great view of Photo Pass.

View of Photo Pass

From there we crossed a huge snowfield (part of it very steep) to the lake below. Once we got a little lower though, you could slip slide and glissade a little to get down, which Dr. G did not want to do, but I did happily. Then it was a bushwhack-a-palooza around the lake, where there were supposedly elk use trails, but they were hard to find! Then we climbed up the side of a waterfall to get to another lake, where we then headed up photo pass. Again, we had to climb up snow to get to the top then there was a trace of a pack mule trail but it was quickly covered in snow, so we hiked down the snow instead. Actually I slid down on a garbage bag on my butt which was so fun! Dr. G was not amused.

Our tent on a rock next to a frozen lake (pre-snowstorm).

From there we had to go around another lake, follow a stream up a hill and then once we got to a lake we headed up more granite slabs to get to our camping spot. Oh, did I mention it hailed and rained on us pretty much all afternoon. That evening we camped on a granite slab next to a partially frozen lake and it was super windy and probably in the 30s! As we lay inside the tent, it began to hail. Then rain, then more hail. Very hard! I fell asleep to the sound. I woke up to a strange sliding sound, which was snow sliding off the tent. It had pooled up in the top and was causing the tent to sag. As it melted, it slid off the tent.

Day Five (13.75 miles): When we woke up, there was fresh snow on the ground. Which made for an interesting time, trying to hop from rock to rock when you can't see the rocks and the ones you can see are slippery. We first went up Europe cool, which was a smaller pass, then we crossed over to Europe peak, but to do so we had to climb up a 20 foot crevice to get to the knife edge at the top of Europe peak. It was hairy. Then it was a gradual descend over lots of snowy slippery rocks to a little lake where we crossed over snow and saw so many animal footprints. I'm not sure what they were but it looked like they had 5 toes and claws, so I would guess some sort of doglike animal. Also saw tons of small creature prints, some with five long toes, some with four feet together (jumpers?) and some little mice, etc. type prints.

Somewhere near Europe Col

After climbing a hill, we followed a stream to a tarn (small glacier lake) and then followed the tarn to it's end where we crossed over to find a fisherman's trail (very faint at times). We followed it to Golden Lake, Lake Louise and upper Golden Lake, with probably about 10 creek crossings to boot. There was one crossing where the water was so fast and was up past our thighs that we had to hold hands and slowly cross together, step by step. Then it was a long climb up to where we could see Douglas peak pass, our next climb. It was grueling on both the climb up and the one down, with lots of loose smaller talus. On the climb down it was loose gravel, loose talus, then huge talus, then more huge talus. We arrived at the lake where we set up camp on a big flat rock around 6 pm.

The Golden Lakes

Day Six (14.5 miles): when I woke up this morning, my shoes were nearly dry! Hallelujah! We got ready and the first thing we tackled was a smallish pass (11,400 ft) which took us up to a frozen lake where there were two guys camped. We went around the lake on talus, then had to climb up a class three crack to get to our next obstacle, Alpine lakes pass. The entire pass appeared to be covered with snow. And it was very steep. We strapped on traction and started up.

Dr. G climbing Alpine Pass

Dr. G chose a diagonal route across the face towards a few rocks on the east side. I chose a straight up approach, with a plan to cross over higher up where it was a narrower snow band. Dr. G chose the better option. By the time I got up to the rocks where I had to cross over snow to get to the summit, I was sweating and nervous. Plus to get up to the top of the rock pile, I had to climb several class three cracks. Then I had to cross over the steepest and highest section of snow with only yaktraks and a prayer. Obviously I made it, as I am writing this, but I had my doubts at the time. I tried not to look down as I jammed my foot into the snow as much as I could, step after step. I made it, to the first rock island, then had to do the same thing again to get to the snowy saddle of the pass. Once safely there, I called out to Dr. G that maybe that had been type two fun.

After that, we had to climb down . I can't remember details of the downhill portion. I think it is safe to say that we went on pretty gradual downhill on snow towards a glacier, which then led to a saddle, then we followed a stream, got lost, forded the stream, bushwhacked through willow and then climbed up and down another hill before fording another wide stream before heading to Blaurock. Blaurock pass was 1,200 ft. of climbing per one mile. We started by going around a huge floodplain, then began a slow crawl up the hill. I think we averaged about an hour and a half per mile. It was tundra, then a lot of talus and snow, but mostly talus, so it was slow going!

Looking back from Blaurock Pass

We got to the top (12,800+) eventually and headed back down the other side, which was a combo of gravel use trail and snow, before petering out into tundra, then another easy rock hop River crossing before joining up with the glacier Trail, which would eventually lead to the car. We went about 2 miles on the trail then set up camp on a nice soft woodsy spot with a tree cover. That night there was a fabulous thunder and lightning storm!

Day Seven (23.4 miles): Since we were now on a trail that we had not planned to go on, and with no mileage markers on the maps, we estimated our distance as the crow flies. We had thought that we would have approximately a 20 mile hike for this, our last day. We started off at our regular time, around 7 am, and we were luckily on a trail the entire time. Otherwise the going would have been a lot slower! My understanding was that the trail would be a gradual downhill, as we were starting above 10,000 feet and we're heading towards the parking lot, which sat at 7,500 feet. However, we did know that we would have one section where we would have to climb back up to above 10,000 ft. before our final descent to the parking lot.

A real trail! (on the home stretch)

The trail was soft and easy. We started off with a gradual decline from about 10,200 to 9,500 feet. So far, so good. This took us to mile 8 or 9. Then we started climbing up and got to about 10,500 before the trail levelled off. I thought this was the end of it. It was not. A few miles later the trail started slowly climbing up again. We got to about 11,000 feet before we finally started to descend. At this point we were at maybe 16 or 17 miles. I had seen switchbacks on the map toward the end portion of our hike and thought the downhill portion would be quick. However these were the longest switchbacks I'd ever seen! They were so gradual and each switchback felt like a quarter mile long! We finally got down to 9,000 feet and then the trail levelled off again which was not what we wanted. The last few miles seemed endless but finally we spotted the parking lot down below. From there it was a steep mile down to the car where we finally changed out of our 7 day old sweaty clothes and headed to town for a hamburger.

The end!

Total miles: 113.71 mi.
Total elevation gain: 30,577 ft.

Are you still reading? If you are, congratulations! Please sign your name at the bottom of this page and you will be sent a huge prize!

Have you ever done a multi day hiking trip? What is your favorite place to hike (day or multi-day)? 


Looking Back: March

Well hello! The month of March was one for the record books so I figured why not put some of my thoughts in writing?

Running: Despite many obstacles, I ran 180 miles in March. The month started out great; summer training was starting to ramp up, it was a little rainy, things were still "normal." Week two was a travel week for me, so it was slated for a low mileage week, but then the shit hit the fan. More on that later. The next Monday, the Bay Area went into a shelter in place and since then running has been a bit of a trial. It often looks like the photo below, which, as you can see, is nearly impossible to get 6 feet away from people.

Photo Credit: LA Times

Reading: In March I read 10 books; to be clear, 5 of them were audiobooks. As I am now running by myself and commuting to work and doing a lot of house and yard projects when I am home, all of the above translates to a lot of time going toward audiobooks. Oh and did I mention that the CFA Exam which was supposed to be in June was cancelled/postponed? So now studying is also postponed, so I have had lots of time to get to reading! My favorites for the month of March were This Tender Land, The Dearly Beloved and The Book Women of Troublesome Creek.

Travel: Now this is a story I never thought I would have to tell. Believe it or not, I did travel in March. On the 11th, I flew to...wait for it...New York City. I went for a work trip combined with my friend's wedding. My flight was basically empty. The Monday before I left , the Dow dropped over 2,000 points. The Wednesday that I flew, the Dow dropped another 1,400+. The first day in the NYC office, it dropped another 2,300 points and then on Friday the 13th, it went up 2,000 points. I would say that was the strangest week (at the time) market-wise, that I have ever been through. To top it off, our firm was starting to make people work from home and restaurants were half empty etc.

March 11: SFO-EWR

On Thursday, my friend who was getting married texted me to tell me that her wedding has been cancelled. So we make plans to still meet up for brunch on Sunday. On Friday, they start shutting down restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn. My friend says brunch is cancelled. I decided to get an earlier flight out and end up flying home on Saturday morning. On my flight home, most people are wearing masks.

Etc. & Misc.: I am still going into the office. Out of our team of 12, three of us are still going in. I am driving there (I usually take public transit) and back each day and am going grocery shopping every two weeks. Other than that, I am at home. I am taking runs by myself, all within 5 miles of my house. I am healthy and I have plenty of food. Since I do not have to study, I am getting a lot of yard work, housework and cleaning/culling projects out of the way early this year. I have not done my taxes yet.

I am still hopeful about having a garden, but am not going to go out to buy plants since that is not essential so I have ordered some online (we shall see!) and am attempting to plant some seeds this year. Also the trees (fig, peach, plum, orange, avocado, blueberry) are looking very good this year!

What was your favorite March read? What are you filling your extra time with? 


Best of 2019: Books

I suppose it's time once again for my once a year post! And what else would be worth coming out of semi-retirement for than books?

According to Goodreads, I read 80 books this year. Once again, I tried to clear off my bookshelves a bit, and ended up reading 5 books from my shelf, none of which is going to make this list! I also "read" 28 audio books. If you have not discovered Hoopla yet (a library app), you should check it out! Their books are always available (no hold/wait time), although the selection is a little smaller than Overdrive.

Without further ado, here are 10 of my favorite books from 2019, in no particular order.

Educated by Tara Westover - This is a true story about a girl growing up in Idaho with survivalist parents. They don't believe in school, hospitals or education. Her father makes her work in his scrap metal business where the machinery is unsafe and the work is long and tiring. She begins to educate herself on the sly and finally gets free from the situation, but not without a long and painful journey first.

Becoming by Michelle Obama - Whether or not you are a fan of Mr. Obama, you should read this book. It is a story of a strong woman and the paths that her life took, starting in a small neighborhood in Chicago, and leading to the White House and beyond. It opened my eyes about some of the things that happened while the Obamas were in the White House. For instance, I did not realize the extent of their gardening and healthy eating program. Nor did I know what it was like to have the Secret Service follow you around all of the time. This was a fun "peek" into the lives of Michelle and her family.

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera - This was a surprise I found on Hoopla and it was a pleasant one! Set in 1924 South Carolina, it is a story of three women, a plantation owner, her African American servant and a poor white single mother of four. It's a story of the strength of women, no matter what their situation.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn -- Although not as riveting as her book The Alice Network, this was still a very enjoyable read. Set in post WWII Boston, this is a story of the Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. After the war, the only one of them to escape the Nazi murderess known as The Huntress starts hunting her.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff - It's 1946 Manhattan and a women walking through Grand Central finds a suitcase with photos in it of a bunch of different women. Upon trying to find out who the suitcase belongs to, she unearths a story of a ring of secret female agents who were couriers and radio operators during WWII.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris - A Jewish man from Slovakia gets sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and is given the job of tattooing every prisoner's number on their arms. He uses his privileged position to trade stolen jewels and furs for food and clothing for the prisoners.

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny - Number 14 in a series of 15, this book did not disappoint. I have actually read three of the series, but on reading my first, I did not know it was a series so I started in the middle and have continued to do so as I have read a couple more of them. However, this has not detracted from my enjoyment of the books I have read so far!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - Part romance, part murder mystery, part coming of age, this book is a tale of a young girl growing up on her own in a swamp. It was a page turner the whole time and I couldn't put it down.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham - If you have ever read Circling the Sun, you will love West With the Night. The story of a very spunky young woman growing up in Kenya in the 1920s. She is a horse trainer, aviator and jack of all trades! She ended up being the first person to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic from East to West.

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova - Another depressing by fascinating book by Lisa Genova. In the past, she's talked about early onset alzheimers, Huntington's and now she's talking about ALS. Not only does she teach us a lot about the disease itself, but she also details the emotional side of things, which really pulls on the heartstrings.

What good books did you read in 2019?


Best of 2018: Books

Well, hello! I am ashamed to say that its been nearly a year since my last confession blog post! I was lurking reading some friends' recaps of 2018 and I decided to round up a few of my own. I do always like looking back at my own recaps sometimes a few years later. So, even if its just for my own eyes, here goes nothing!

Each year I list a few of my favorite books from the last year of reading. In 2018, although I spent hundreds of hours studying for the CFA, I still rewarded myself with a good book at the end of the day. My goal for the year was 52 books, but I actually surprised myself and ended up with a total of 67!

You can find prior best of book lists here: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: Of course, book numero uno is a book about WWII. Set in 1939, this details an entire Jewish Polish family, split into a million tiny pieces after the commencement of the war. For years they try to survive however they can, they dodge Germans and Russians, they get sent to France and Africa and South America. I am amazed by how resilient some people were during these times, how much death and suffering they had to witness and how some of them overcame it all and survived.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman: This is a book regarding the small town politics surrounding accusations of sexual harassment against players on the award winning junior hockey team. This book reminded me a little of the book Missoula, which also touches on the same conflicts. Although translated from Swedish, this book flows like water and I finished it in no time at all.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: A single mom and her daughter rent an apartment from a wealthy family in town and before you know it, they are all tangled together in life. As the story progresses, secrets are uncovered that were supposed to remain buried, and a twist comes unexpectedly at the end. I also enjoyed her book Everything I Never Told You.

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel: A touching book about gender stereotypes and the prejudices surrounding them. Five year old Claude is a little boy who likes to wear dresses and to play princess and who identifies as a girl. We grow up with Claude (Poppy) and the family and we learn about the hardships that come along with bucking the "norm."

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain: Yes, its another book about my foe, Ernest Hemingway. But its not really a book about him. It's about one of his (many) wives. I am annoyed with these women, who cheat with him and then get cheated on, but it doesn't make the situations any less fascinating. Although I don't love the characters, I like learning about the time and the author tells her story well. This is the third book I have read by her and she does not disappoint.

Here are a few others that made the cut: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. You can also find several others that I gave 4 stars to here.

What were your favorite reads of 2018?


Looking Back: December & January & February

And before you know it, poof, a month has already gone by! And then, poof, another! I have been really slacking on posting, but I have been reading your updates when I get a chance; I am just not really commenting as much anymore. Here, in short form, is a summary of my past few months.

December quickie: In December I ran 164 miles to bring my 2017 total to 2,505 for the year, which got me to my 2,400 mile goal. I climbed 29,800 ft, which also bagged me my 450k climbing goal for the year.  I read 6 books, for a total of 94 books. My favorite for December was The Alice Network, which I talked about in my Best of 2017 book post. I traveled home for the holidays.

Running: In January I ran 204 miles and climbed 28,900 ft. In February I ran 210 miles and climbed 23,300 ft. This year I have lowered some of my goals a bit, as I have some more important things on the agenda, but I would still like to break the 2,000 mile / 400,000 ft climbing goal. I seem to be on track so far.

Sunset Speed Work at Lake Merritt

Point Reyes Sunrise Run

Lately a typical running week is three or four runs: a short trail run during the week, one session of road/speed work during the week, a "long" trail on the weekend and sometimes a once a week catch up road run with a friend who is training for her first full running half marathon (she has done a half before but walked a lot of it). This seems to be a good variation while still putting in enough miles but spending less time than if I did all trail runs. I still struggle to find a balance at times (and sleep is often the loser), but it'll get there!

Reading: In January, I started 6 books and put three of them down right away, for a net total of three books. I have started to be better about ditching books that don't catch my interest before I get to the halfway point. This time, I even ditched a couple in the first couple of chapters! In February, I had a better month, and read four books (no rejects!) which were all pretty good. My goal this year is one book per week, or 52 books. So far, I am a little bit behind, but I will likely catch up in August and September, when I generally have most of my vacation time.

Some of my favorites from the past two months were:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (****)
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (****)
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (****)
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (*****)

Travel: You know that buzzer sound when you get an answer wrong on Family Feud? That pretty much sums up my travel for the past two months. A big fat BEEEEEEP. Nothing. Okay, so not totally nothing, I guess, but mostly local. I went to Auburn for a nice hike with the family and I spent a fun game night at a friend's house, but I have slept in my own bed every single night so far this year. After spending virtually no Saturdays in my own bed from August - November of last year, it feels a little strange. Plus I have to wash the sheets more often now.

Auburn Hike with the Fam

Well, that's the last three months in a nutshell! Before I go, I want to give a quick shout out to my friend Lisa, who besides my Mom (hi Mom!) is one of the few people who reads this. After what I would say was a difficult pregnancy, she recently had a baby boy! Congrats Lisa!

What have you been up to for the past few months? What book should I add to my list? In what month do you travel the most?


Looking Back: 2017 Money Pie

To welcome in the new year, I always take a moment to look back on where I spent my money. I find it very helpful in organizing my spending for the year ahead. In addition, it sometimes gives me a wake up call, as often it is easy to spend a lot in one category without even realizing it (cough, Costco, cough). You can find prior years here: 2014, 2015, 2016.

This pie is for spending only, and does not include savings. Here they are, in order of greatest to least!

Home: This category includes mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance, as well as other misc items, such as appliances, stuff from the hardware store, home improvement and furnishings. This year I actually spent nearly the exact same amount dollar wise as I did last year on my home category. However, I bought a lot of backyard materials this year!
Travel: Once again, travel ended up high on my list. This category includes flights, lodging, food and transportation when away from home, including long distance run trips and road trips. I did a 2,000 mile road trip to Wyoming as well as road trips to both Oregon and Mammoth this summer. I also went to Minneapolis for Lisa's wedding and to Bryce for the 100 miler!
Transportation: Last year I bought a car, so this year my transportation category was significantly lower. However, this still includes the daily commute to work (including pre-tax dollars) as well as registration, insurance, gasoline and maintenance for the car. Luckily I have my trusty bike, so much of the daily transportation is done sans vehicle. However, this also includes weekend trips for running etc.

Groceries/Dining Out: In 2017, I actually spent 17% less on food than I did in 2016. I had to double and triple check that number though, as I did not feel that it could be correct. However, after checking, I did confirm that I spent about the same amount dining out, but a lot less on groceries. The culprit? Costco! In 2016, I took 5 big Costco trips, whereas in 2017 I only took 3 and man, what a difference a Costco trip makes!!

Misc: This includes personal care, toiletries, gifts and donations, credit card fees and things like that. This year my dollar amount increased significantly! The bulk of it is gifts, but I had some registration/education fees to pay this year which really upped the dollar amount of this category a lot.

Health: This includes pre-tax deductions and any copay or charge for the gym, prescriptions, contact lenses etc. The bulk of this percentage is health insurance.

Shopping:  This category pretty much includes anything I buy on Amazon, regardless of the use. I am too lazy to sort through the purchases to see what is food related or what is not. In fact, that could be a big reason why my food spending was so much "less" in 2017, as I do buy a lot of dry goods on Amazon. In addition, much of it could probably also go towards the Entertainment or the Travel categories as well, as I did buy some camping/hiking related items as well.

Entertainment: This includes movies, baseball games, and running related (or other hobbies) expenses. This year, most of it went to race fees. I did travel for running, but I kept that in the travel category.   

The Verdict: In 2017, as planned, I did spend less dollars than last year. However, it's a bit of a cheat, as I bought a car last year. Without the car purchase, I would have spent about 9% more in 2017 than I did in 2016. I did see big increases in Health (I blame premiums), Misc (education) and Shopping (laziness of not sorting the category, aka human error). I spent a lot less on Groceries (sorting/human error/Costco) and Transportation (car purchase) and pretty much the exact same amount on Dining Out and Home.

What should I do differently? I would say that aside from spending less on shopping, I should probably get a better categorization system for Amazon purchases. Otherwise, I could travel less. NOT! Actually, most of my travel involved camping, so the bulk of the cost was flights and transportation costs.

Do you tally up your spending at the end of the year? Do you budget for next year? What was your highest spending category in 2017?


2017 Goals: Year End Review

Happy New Year!! Last January, I posted nine goals and it's time to look back to find out how I did!

1. Run a 100 mile race -- Done. Bryce 100M is in the books!

2. Run 2,400 miles / Climb 450,000 feet -- Done. 2017 Totals = 2,505 miles / 457,400 ft.

3. Conquer the hills -- Not Complete.  The goal was to PR on the following:
(1) Marincello: Goal = beat 15:41 total or 10:53/mi -- best this year = 16:36 total or 11:31/mi
(2) Bobcat: Goal = beat 21:33 total or 10:39/mi -- best this year = 23:19 total or 11:31/mi
(3) Regular 12: Goal = beat 1:45:00 total or 9:03/mi -- best this year = 1:57:51 total or 10:09/mi

4. Read 52 books (with at least 4  of them off my home shelf) --  Done. As of Dec 31st I read 95 books with a total of 33,412 pages which is an average of about 350 pages per book. Also, 6 of them were off of my own shelf and I gave away 4 of them after I finished them.

5. Bike or Run Commute once a week to work -- Done. I ended up with 303 biking miles this year, which is an average of about 5 miles per week. This jives with my goal, as one round trip commute to BART is about 3.5 miles. I have not run commute even once this year.

6. Try 12 new things -- Done. This year, I (#1) drove cross country to WY in one day, (#2) and hiked off trail  for over 100 miles in the Wind River Range. I did a solo trip to (#3) Sweden, where I (#4) hiked the 400km+ Kungsleden trail, (#5) ate reindeer sausage, (#6) rowed myself across a lake in a rowboat three times, tested out a new rain jacket, and (#7) tried Swedish beer. I also (#8) went to Bryce National Park, where I (#9) ran 100 miles and then made a quick stop in (#10) Zion on the way home. I visited friends in Brighton Beach where we went to a (#11) BYOV (bring your own vodka) Russian restaurant. I went (#12) to the drag races in Sonoma and then the finals in Pomona. There were many others as well, and I am still mostly "learning something new every day" as my parents used to tell me I should do!

A Day at the Drag Races

7. Spend less money than last year -- Done. As of the end of Q2, I spent 26% less than last year. However, after Q3, after buying a lot of new backpacking gear and doing the bulk of my yearly traveling, I sunk to only 11% less than last year. At the end of the year, I ended up spending 10% less than last year.

8. Complete my yard project -- Mostly done. My goal was to switch out the grass in the front yard for rocks and drought resistant plants. This was done. I also wanted to update the front yard sprinkler system. This was partially done In the back, my goal was to reorganize the raised beds, reorganize the drip system, set up a leveled patio area in the back corner, and put down flagstone on the patio. This was all done. However, I am not really satisfied with the setting of the flagstones, and so this will be 2018 redo. So, I will say that this was done.

9. Complete my wall art / photo project -- Done. I finally got my act together and printed out some photos for the over-the-couch wall. The problem is that I can never choose which photo to put up. However, I finally decided to just put something up and if I didn't like it, I could change it later. I also ordered some more canvas prints from a Groupon and so now I have a few more prints around the rest of the house as well.

Out of 9 goals, I really only missed one of them, so I call that a good year!

How did you do with your 2017 goals? What new things did you try this year?