Sub-Title

John "lakewood" Fegyveresi

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Arctic Circle

Grímsey, Iceland

Warning...this will be another Geography geek-out post...

The Arctic Circle is a fickle thing. For most that have spent even a moment thinking about it, it's probably just known as the "line" related to the sun setting at the solstice...or some such.  The actual definition is a bit more complicated, but can be summed up as the line that marks the northernmost point at which noon sun is just visible on the northern winter solstice...and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun is just visible on the northern summer solstice. But...it gets a little more confusing the more you dig into the details.

Looking at a basic map showing the Arctic Circle, you can easily pick out the countries that find some part of themselves above it, and within the "Arctic".  Very easily, one can pick out the US (Alaska), Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia (as well as a few other island and archipelagos like Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, etc). 


But here's the thing, when you look up the Arctic Circle details online (i.e. wikipedia), it also lists Iceland as being transected by the Arctic Circle. Let's look at a map of Iceland, shall we...


This map clearly shows the entirety of Iceland falling just below the Arctic Circle. The very northern part of the island comes dangerously close to that magic line, but falls just short. So why is Iceland listed then?  Turns out a minuscule part of Iceland DOES actually cross the Arctic Circle.

About 25 miles north of mainland Iceland, there is a small island called Grímsey. This tiny island, which is part of the country of Iceland, is less than 5 square miles in total size. However, this little speck of land has a major claim to fame: The arctic circle cuts through it...and thus does put a very small portion of the country of Iceland ABOVE the Arctic Circle.***

Well, if you've ever read any of my geography posts on this journal, you'll know what I'm about to say next.  Yep, you guessed it....

"I need to go there".

Let's back up a second so I can give a little more detail on this fascinating geographical oddity. If I were to ask what the latitude of the Arctic Circle is, most would answer by saying either 66°30′, or maybe even 66°33′ to be more exact. Well...it turns out that it's not a simple thing to answer. 

If you can somehow manage to get to Grímsey, there is a monument there marking the Arctic Circle. You can even get a special certificate stating you've been to the Arctic Circle in Iceland. This is actually a major reason that many tourists seek out this diminutive island in the first place. But...where exactly is the monument erected? At what latitude?

And this is where it gets complicated. It turns out that the Arctic Circle is NOT stationary. The axis of the Earth is currently tilted about 23.5°. This is known as Earth's obliquity, and it fluctuates over a 40,000 year cycle between 22.1° and 24.5°. What this actually means in terms of the practical location of the Arctic Circle is that it is actually migrating northward a few meters per year. So the very short story here is that the Arctic Circle is not actually where the monument is located in Iceland....but has moved many meters North since it was erected. But where is it now, does it still actually transect Iceland at all, or has the entire country finally fallen South of the Arctic Circle.

Grímsey Island showing the location of the Arctic Circle and Monument

The Arctic Circle Monument near the airstrip

The Arctic Circle established monument on Grímsey

Thankfully, we can answer this question with a very handy-dandy on-line calculation tool found here:

This tool exactly calculates the angle of the ecliptic of obliquity and will spit out a very precise location of the Arctic Circle on any given date. So let's plug in some numbers and see what it says.  For the sake of this example, I am going to use the date of August 30th, 2017 (later this year).

When we plug in this date (at noon), it gives us three results:

OBLIQUITY OF THE ECLIPTIC

Eps Mean = 23.4369946128 = 23° 26' 13.181" (Laskar)
Eps True = 23.4350279869 = 23° 26' 06.101" (Using IAU 1980 nutation series)
Eps True = 23.4350275624 = 23° 26' 06.099" (Using IAU 2000B nutation series)

One of these values is a compiled result using a technique published by Laskar (1986). This method is essentially an averaged mean of the other methods. The other two values represent actual true values as defined by the International Astronomical Union. The two listed "True" values are so close together, and share six decimal palaces, that they literally would be less than an inch apart on the ground. So for sake of simplicity, lets just plot up the two lines in Google Maps to see where they fall. In order to do this, we simply need to subtract these values form 90.0.

90-23.4369946128 = 66.5630053872
90-23.4350279869 = 66.5649720131

As it turns out, when we plot up these lines of latitude for August 30th, at noon, they both are quite a bit farther north than the established monument. However, they are still on the island and therefore some part of Iceland is JUST BARELY above the Arctic Circle.

Location of the Arctic Circle as calculated using IAU and Laskar methods

Zooming in, one could then ask....would it be possible to trek on foot to this Northern part of Grímsey? Well, provided you can get to the island, it looks to be less than a 2 mile hike on some sort of foot path out to the northernmost point. Below is a map showing the zoomed-in northern peninsula with the two calculated Arctic Circles identified ON the foot path.

Footpath is visible on the shore by the airsrtip... heading to northern peninsula

Laskar-derived Arctic Circle point along footpath

IAU-derived Arctic Circle along footpath

Turns out that there is a very tiny natural "wobble" to the progression off the Earth's obliquity called the "Nutation". In other words, as the Arctic circle drifts Northward, there is a very slight sinusoidal wave component to it. This means over several years it will drift North, then back South, then back North...all while generally trending North. This will happen until the tilt reaches a minimum of about 21.1° around the year 11,800, at which time the Arctic Circle will finally start trending back South.  I played around with various dates using the calculation tool with both the Laskar and the IAU methods, and just as I suspected, the Laskar method just averages out the natural wobble and calculates the approximate "mean" of the latitude line. So, in a nutshell, the precise Arctic Circle is the IAU-determined value, but the mean is still pretty close and an easier way to visualize it.

If you look at the absolute Northernmost point Grímsey, we could therefore calculate the approximate year that the Arctic Circle will no longer contain any of Iceland. Below I've identified the tiny little speck of land that juts out (just above sea level) from the absolute Northernmost point on Grímsey (and thus Iceland). The exact latitude of this point is: 66.56641486°


So...using the online Ecliptic tool, I extrapolated the path of the Arctic Circle out into the future: Starting with my birthday of 2015 as a starting point (20-Nov-2015), I plotted up the the Latitude Path of the Arctic circle up to the year 2076 (my 100th birthday). These results are shown below:


You can clearly see that both the Laskar (mean) latitude, and the true nutation-influenced latutide trend North overall...but that the True latitude also has a sinusoidal component to it. I've drawn on the line indicating the northernmost point of Iceland.

As you can see, around the year 2030, the True Arctic Circle moves entirely North of Grímsey for about 7 years until about 2037. Almost exactly on my 67th birthday in the year 2043, the Laskar calculated average Arctic Circle latitude line moves above Grímsey...although the True line is still below. By the year 2047, both calculations result in the Arctic Circle line falling entirely above Grímsey. But then, for about 2 short years between 2060 and 2062, the True Arctic Circle calculation just dips back below the northernmost point on the island (due to the nutation of the obliquity angle), before finally moving above for good. Then for almost 9000 years, all of Iceland will be permanently below the Arctic Circle. I wonder if there'll be a guy in the year 2062 that will get to update the wikipedia page for Iceland to finally say it's no longer transected by the Arctic Circle

Turns out, if you also backtrack dates using the online Ecliptic tool, you'll also come to discover that the placement of the monument on Grímsey coincides with a True latitude of the Arctic Circle around the year 1900. This seams reasonable...meaning that the marker was probably placed some time about 100 years ago, near both the turn of the century, and the independence of Iceland as a nation.

....at any rate.

This of course brings us all back to me and my silly fascinations with geographical oddities. You may have wondered why I chose to look at the random date of August 30th, 2017. Well, I chose that date, because ostensibly that is the date that I will actually be on Grímsey, walking to the Arctic Circle. As of last night, I now have airline tickets purchased for Iceland, and I will be touring the country for 11 days. Other than the obvious amazing things to see and do in Iceland (e.g. glaciers, volcanoes, fjords, hot springs, etc), I made one request....I wanted to go to Grímsey to walk above the Arctic Circle. Provided all goes according to plan, and our ticketed ferry does leave on schedule, we should arrive on Grímsey around noon on August 30th. I can't wait. This may be even more exciting than the pole of inaccessibility!

The plan is simple. We'll be camper-vanning around Iceland on the loop road (counter-clockwise), and will aim for the tiny town Dalvik, where we'll hop on a 3-hr ferry over to Grímsey for the day. We'll hike around the island, including a jaunt up to the Northern tip, and then head back to the mainland on the return ferry a few hours later. There will be many pictures and GPS screen captures taking place for sure.

Ferry route from Dalvik to Grímsey

It's funny...for as many times as I've been to the Antarctic, and even the South Pole itself, I've never actually set foot above the Arctic Circle, despite getting quite close back in 2003. As part of a ridiculous road trip from Ohio to Alaska, I managed to play around in Fairbanks only about 200 miles south of the actual Arctic Circle, but never made it any closer. Ive been to England, Northern Labrador, Yukon, and Nunavut Canada....but never above that magical Arctic Circle line.  This may finally be my chance (at least until I end up doing field work in Greenland).

Outside of Fairbanks in 2003

The Arctic Circle marker 200 miles north of Fairbanks that I almost got to see

There will be many more Iceland posts coming as the trip gets closer for sure...so stay tuned.


***NOTE: To be entirely accurate, there is a very tiny rock that just juts up above sea level about 75 km north of Grímsey called Kolbeinsey, which is the current northernmost point of Iceland....HOWEVER, due to high sea erosion and rising sea levels, it is not expected to be above the surface for much longer (probably in the next 5-10 years it will disappear - more details here:

But, if for some reason, Kolbeinsey can hang on and fight off the erosion of the sea until the year 2062...and thus remain above sea level...it would allow for a tiny portion of Iceland to still remain above the Arctic Circle past 2062.  Incidentally, even if Kolbeinsey could stay above sea level indefinitely, the Arctic Circle would still finally drift north of even that latitude, around the year 7000. So unfortunately Iceland will still lose it's place above the Arctic Circle until the Earth's obliquity angle makes its way around again a few thousand years later. I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

Kolbeinsey Rock (less than 10 meters wide total and eroding into the sea)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Defining Home

My Pennsylvania "Goat-Path"

For almost 8 years while attending graduate school, I called State College Pennsylvania my "home". I lived in the same tiny one-bedroom apartment for those entire 8 years, and settled in nicely to life there.  Before that, I lived for over 10 years in Ohio, calling Cleveland my home. Going back even further, I spent 17 years of my life outside of Rochester New York, in the small suburb of West Webster....calling it, "home".

But, starting last year, and for the first time in my life, I had started to feel somewhat "homeless".  My new job and living situations were complicated and required a lot of commuting back and forth between multiple cities and states. In addition, between field deployments and lab deployments, I never really had a sense of "home" any longer.  I hadn't really noticed it at the time, but slowly I began to realize that I just didn't feel settled anywhere just yet.  I was constantly driving back and forth between Vermont and Massachusetts...and living between two apartments. I loved both places immensely, but would often ask myself, which one was really my home?  Certainly most of my "stuff" (junk really), was in my small VT place, and I was spending more days a week there....but my heart was in MA, with my other half. Long distance commuting is hard.  I took me months to get all of my telework arrangements finalized, but only recently have I finally been able to slowly decrease the number of days I spend in VT...and actually spend at least 5 nights a week in MA.

Throughout all of this though, one thing has remained fairly constant.  My running.  Whether in VT or MA, I do my best to get out and run on the roads and trails around me.  It didn't take long to establish my standard routes in both places either. My "usuals", as I like to call them.  Oh tonight I'll do the "Quechee Loop w/Bypass" and then tomorrow the "Auburndale Loop".  You know those routes...I'm sure you have them too.  The ol' stand-bys.

When I was in State College, I had my absolute stand-by route. The Out-n-Back on the bike bath past the golf course. No matter how rough of a day I had, I always knew that if I did my out-n-back down the trail past the golf course, that things were going to be just fine. It was on this little trail, that my true sense of "home" was realized. It was also on this trail where I would settle my mind and tackle the tough questions that were bothering me...particularly related to my thesis.  Many sections of my dissertation were pondered and sorted-out in my head over the course of my little out-n-back.  Sure I had other trails and roads that I ran often too, and I definitely spent countless hours in Rothrock State Forest, but this one was my "old friend".  It was also along this route that I would see that little path that veered off at mile 2 into the woods, that became affectionately known as my "goat-path". I wrote an entire post about that little path, and about the one day that I finally decided to explore it.


My little Out-n-Back in Pennsylvania.


Recently, as I was at about mile 2 of my run outside my home near Boston the other day, something interesting happened. I noticed that little root that I always see on the turn by the river.  Then I anticipated the rotting board on the little foot bridge over the creek. On my way round the turn by the park bench, I stepped up over that big rock that just sits so awkwardly there.  On the loop turn near the end of the cul-du-sac, I stopped to peer out at "Fox Island" sitting so perfectly in the middle of the Charles River.  Then I made the turn up that bugger-of-a-hill by the swamp and towards the road, being careful of that spot on the trail with the gnarly roots.  On my way down River Street, I passed that silly house with the weird statue, and then topped it all off with my favorite 1-mile mini-loop: "Dolan Pond Loop"...

Somewhere along the line, over the past 18 months, I had finally found my new "stand-by". It just sort of happened. I smiled as I made my way through this run, with a strange sense of contentment, as I just knew, somehow, that this was to be my route. It was the first time in all of the chaos of moving and commuting and post-grad-school life, that I felt I was finally home.  

The next night I went out and re-ran the loop again, just to see the feeling was ephemeral, or if it was in fact genuine. I was elated that the feeling had not diminished. 

My wee-little Auburndale Loop had become my new...."old friend".

My ol' friend

Looking out at Fox Island through the brush along the edge trail

Fox Island seen from above

Another view of the Charles River

That "soft" part of the trail

The fun "root hop" section along the river's edge

The smell of pine needles always gets me here

The hidden little foot bridge over the creek

And good ol' Dolan Pond Loop - which I've done over 50 times now.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016: A Year of Settling In and Seeking Out

Exploring the North American Point of Inaccessibility

As the wee hours of 2016 draw to a close, so again comes that time to reflect. For as many times that I have found myself penning this type of post from the remote confines of Antarctica over the past 10 years, it's somewhat refreshing to be laying in my own bed, in my own home, pecking away at my laptop as the year comes to a close.

Usually I make an effort to sum up my years with a theme...a sort-of thesis statement. While 2016 definitely marked a distinct slow-down with regards to my running, I find now in my retrospection, that it most certainly did NOT mark a slow-down in my exploring.  I did still run several races this year, but If I had to choose a theme for 2016, it would most likely be that of "seeking out".  Most of my adventures revolved around "exploring" new places.

The other big theme of 2016 for me was that of "settling in". I would say that since 2007 and my AT Thru-hike, that I've had somewhat of a wandering soul. I don't think this will ever truly change, nor would I want it to, but I do think that some small part of me has finally started to feel more settled and at ease. Not settled down per se, but definitely settled in, if that makes sense. This year marked the first full year of my new job at the Cold Regions Lab, and at my new location in New England. Both things giving me more of a sense of "grounding".  And while I'm still bouncing back and forth between two locations in New England (MA and VT), things are becoming much more scheduled and regular. With all this said, just because 2016 was "more settled" doesn't mean I didn't still have a hell of a lot of fun.

So for this post, I think I'll follow my usual format and walk through the highlights, while trying to keep bringing the focus back to these primary themes.  I went through my memory books, postings, and pictures, and came up with what I think are the highlights, so feel free to take a stroll with me back through 2016.

South Pole
2016 began for me in a place which I'm ashamed to admit...that I never actually thought that I'd make it to. Since my thru-hike in '07, I've tried to hold firm to the belief that if you truly want to see someplace bad enough, you'll find way to be make it happen.  For whatever reason though, with regards to South Pole, my pessimism seemed to always overpower any strong will I had. I always just felt that I'd never make it there. Thankfully, and with a little luck, I was fortunate enough to be invited to assist on South Pole Ice Coring Project (www.spicecore.org).  This meant, not only would I spend almost 2 months at the South Pole, but I'd be there for Christmas and New Years!

I still recall enjoying a few drinks with fellow researchers and staff at the South Pole Station on Dec 31st, and counting down the seconds to the New Year.  It was definitely surreal to be in such a remote place for such an occasion (It felt fundamentally different than my many New Years celebrations at WAIS Divide in West Antarctica over the past several years). I can recall running outside of the station, just after the countdown,  and standing by the geographical pole. I remember thinking that I was the first person in 2016, in the entire world of over 7 billion, to reach the actual South Pole!

New Year's Day was marked by the celebratory moving of the Geographical Pole Marker, so just a few hours after midnight, I watched as a new marker was placed about 10 meters away from the current marker (the Ice Sheet at Pole moves about 10 meters a year).  Over the season, we finished an incredibly successful Ice-Core drilling campaign, pulling out 250 more meters of ice than we originally planned to (1750 meters total).  I ran nearly every day for all of December and January, dropping about 10 pounds and getting strong for an upcoming Spring of racing. I also ran the South Pole Marathon, and the inaugural South Pole 50 mile Ultramarathon. I had the incredible honor of meeting Antarctic Explorer Henry Worsley just days before he was lost to us; I cannot recall meeting anyone quite so inspirational. I even re-created classic photographs with my friends, toured 2 amazing cosmic background radiation telescopes, climbed at a bouldering gym, and ran a 5k dressed in goofy clothing....all while stationed at the most remote place on Earth.  This was my 6th deployment to Antarctica, and quite possibly the most memorable.

I wrote quite a bit about my South Pole adventure within my 2015 year-end posting here:


The 2016 New Year's Day South Pole Marker being revealed

South Pole Station as seen from a light aircraft

Celebrating the Geographical South Pole
A 39 year-old goal, finally being realized

90.00 South...way to go Garmin

A fresh South Pole Ice core within the drill barrel

Cleaning a netted ice core

The South Pole Ice Core Drilling and Analysis team

Around the World 5k Team

Robert Falcon Scott's famous picture

Our Re-creation

Roald Amundsen's famous picture

Our Re-creation

Playing at the South Pole bouldering gym

Finishing the South Pole Marathon

Finishing the South Pole 50

My official award recognizing the South Pole 50

Henry Worsley approaching South Pole Station

6 years of Antarctic Adventures

Starting 2016 off with some fun...

Febapple 50
After returning home at the end of January, I spent a few weeks catching up on work projects, and stepping up my training for what would be my 4th running at Barkley. I began incorporating a large share of hill climbing both on real hills, and on my recently purchased (and very used) Nordic Track that had a 40 degree incline mode.  My first real test of my South Pole running streak was the Febapple 50 race put on by my friends at the NJ trail series.  I signed up for this event on a complete whim, and really just wanted to test out my new and better-trained legs. The short story of this event, was that somehow I came away with another full-out victory. I've only ever pulled off a full win a few times over the many years of my racing, and this one did NOT come easy. I had to fight it out over the last 10 miles with another runner, besting him by only about a minute at the finish line. It was nerve wracking, but also quite exhilarating. The course featured five 10-mile loops.  Each loop was a figure eight shape, coming back to the center after about 5 miles.  

I wrote a fairly long report from that event here: LINK: FEBAPPLE 50

Here are a few pictures from the event:

The cold/ice start of the Febapple 50

Coming into the final Aid Station; Mile 47

Looking over my shoulder as I fill up, seeing the 2nd place runner approaching

The course

Tasmania
Not long after this event, I was packing my bags again for a very long 14+ hour flight. This time though, my destination was Tasmania.  I had always wanted to visit Tasmania and event planned to on one of my Antarctic return trips. But it simply wasn't meant to be. When I saw the International Partnership in Ice Coring Sciences conference was going going to be held in Hobart, I knew I had to find a way to attend. Not only would this allow me to present my research to the global community of ice core scientists, but I would be able to spend some time hiking and exploring the backcountry of a place that's been on me "to-do" list for a very long time.  Thankfully, I applied for an early career travel grant and was awarded a full award to cover my travel and lodging! This meant I was able to attend for free, provided I presented my data. Definitely a win-win. Awesome!

The conference went quite well, and I even currently have the research that I presented there in review in the Scientific Journal Cryosphere. While in Hobart, I stayed at a quaint little Airbnb apartment, and spent most of my evenings running and hiking on trails.  I climbed Mt. Wellington probably 6 or 7 times just in the short week I was there.  After the conference, I rented a car, drove up to the northern part of the island, and spent 3 days running in the Tasmania Trail Festival with a fellow South Pole resident, Curtis.  The event consisted of a Marathon, Half-Marathon, two separate 10-Milers, and a sprint 2 miler...all squished together in a 3 and a half day long weekend.  I did all the events for the "slam" and had an absolute blast!  What a great experience. Before heading home, I spent a day traveling to the farthest "practical" point South I could in Tasmania near Cockle Creek...which proved to be a rather fun little venture as well. I wrote a very long report about my trip here, detailing many of my runs and adventures: 

LINK: TASMANIA

Here are some highlight pictures from that trip:

IPICS conference - 'Young Scientists' group

Running the Day 1 Marathon

Running the Day 2 morning 10-miler

Running the Day 2 mid-day Half-marathon

Running the Day 2 evening 10-miler

Finishing the Day 3 Sprint 2 miler, and the "Slam"

Track showing my run from my Airbnb to the summit of Wellington

View of Hobart from the summit of Wellington

My planned Hike to the Southern tip of Tasmania

End of the Road Tasmania (farthest South)

South Coast Track, Tasmania

Approaching the Southern tip of Tasmania

End of the Trail in Tasmania

Pointing to the actual farthest part of the mainland (not easily accessible)

Another development from 2016, was that I finally gave in and created a Strava account.  I still log all of my runs on RunningAhead, but have now begun to use strava for select runs.  It is fun seeing how you stack up on various "Segments".  Here is my track for the hike in Tasmania: LINK: Cockle Creek.

Tammany 10
Once back from Tasmania, I had to start seriously picking up my Barkley Training game. I knew that 2016 would probably be my last year at the event, so wanted to show up with at least the physical ability to finish.  While I definitely didn't train as much as I did in years past, I still felt strong, and able to tackle tough climbs.  I felt that I had at the very least a minuscule chance of finishing all 5 again...and hopefully a fun run.

With all of this said, I was still lacking in true elevation workouts.  I had spent many hours on my 40 degree Nordic Track...but I needed a real ass kicking on the equivalent "gas line"-style climbs.  I chose to sign up rather last minute for a 40 miler on the PA/NJ border.  This race, known as the Tammany 10, involves ten 4-mile repeats up and down Mt. Tammany.  Each ascent has about 1200 feet of gain, but the real kicker is the trail itself.  Anyone who knows trails in Eastern PA, knows that they are all littered with sharp/pointy rocks. Trying to run fast on these types of trails usually ends with a sprained ankled or a terrible wipeout.  While there is a 12 hour time limit for the race, the challenge for the Tammany 10, is to try to complete it in under 10 hours.  In other words, 10 laps, 10k+ gain, in under 10 hours.  Somehow, I managed to complete the challenge, all while not pushing too hard.  I kept it simple, tried to have fun, but most definitely was sick of the climb by loop 6 or 7.  I did finally cross the finish in about 9 and half hours and was awarded with a fresh apple pie, and a celebratory trophy rock. I wrote a pretty detailed race report for the day below:

LINK: TAMMANY 10!

Here are some pics from the day:
Topping out on Mt. Tammany

Beginning the descent

My finishers trophy for the day...

Typical Trail up Mt. Tammany

10 lovely repeats up and down this beast...


Barkley
And so we come to Barkley.  My fourth, and possible final running of the Barkley happened in 2016. I didn't tell many people I was heading back, and decided very early on that I simply wanted to go to immerse myself in the woods...and "enjoy it" as much as possible (which isn't really possible in the normal sense when you're "out there" at Barkley).  Still, I promised myself that I'd give it an honest go and see where it went.  Needless to say, it was a very interesting year, and one that was incredibly emotional for me. I ended up walking off of the course about 2/3 of the way through loop 2.  I was perfectly fine to go on, but simply chose not to. I can't really explain or verbalize why I chose to walk off the course, and why I chose to quit. I just knew it was time.  For what it's worth, I finished my loop one in just over 9 hours, probably still in decent shape to at least get a fun run. I never wrote a race report, but did write these words to the Barkley Email List while people were talking about this year's race.

"For what it’s worth, and by any metric you choose, I don’t think I would have ever been considered a “serious contender”....even in 2012  Sure I had a few thru-hikes, and finished a couple dozen hundreds, but I was far from being anything even remotely close to “elite”.  I think this speaks to how much of it really is absolute and complete mental commitment.  Don’t get me wrong, you should be doing thousands of feet of elevation gain and probably over 100 miles per week…but as I’ve told so many, you really just have to want it completely.  This is perhaps why I’ve failed in my 3 subsequent attempts. I suppose I have simply not truly wanted it like I did in 2012. Of course I would also argue that you have to have some really good luck too. (or perhaps NOT have bad luck).

Honestly for me, it has become so much more about the people and Barkley family than about the course itself.  I have chosen not to write a race report for this year, but if I had to share one sentiment, it’s that I came to a point on loop 2 where I sat down on the trail, looked up at the stars for what seemed like hours, and came to the realization that whatever it is that I had been looking for “out there” for the past 5 years, I had found, and that I was content to walk back to camp with a smile.  There is no way I could possibly verbalize this sentiment and emotion accurately in words (which is why the race report was never written), but I will say that it truly felt like an epiphany of sorts.  The Barkley is a special event, and Frozen Head is a magical place. I think in the end though, it’s the people and their stories that make it what it is.  It’s impossible to NOT think of Barkley fondly, even if I’m recalling pain and misery."

I think this text sums it up rather succinctly, so rather than ramble on any further, I'll post a few pics from this year...and continue on my stroll down 2016's memory lane.

Climbing Rat Jaw on loop 1

Topping out on Rat Jaw

Heading back down Rat Jaw...and greeting John Kelly

Andrew Thompson ('09 finisher) and me enjoying some time by "the yellow gate"

Me and AT laughing over some of the "spectacular failures"

Julian and me helping to get John Kelly out on his loop 5

Fire tower, Loop 5, the whole group trying keep Gary Robbins from quitting

Reunions and Riding
After Barkley, things slowed down a bit through April. I was invited back to my undergraduate Alma Mater (Case Western Reserve University) to give a talk and had a fun nostalgic walk down memory lane as I toured my old campus. I was amazed by the fact that in the 15 years since I'd walked the campus, very little had changed. Even the old coffee house I used to work at was still there, and serving the same pastries.  The talk went very well, and I even spent a day running a 24-hour event just down the road (The O24).  I took it easy at the event, but still walked away with 105 miles.  Not bad considering a took an hour long break over the night, and that it rained for about 18 of the 24 hours.

Once back in New England, I spent my free time tinkering with an old scooter I picked up for a few hundred bucks. It was fun riding it around the hills of Vermont and up to work every day. I miss riding a motorcycle...and while the scooter is only a 125cc little machine, it's enough to satiate my desire to go riding.  Some day, I will finally buy my dream Enduro Bike and start taking long x-country trips.  For now though, I'm content with my little twist-n-go Scooter. I wrote a journal entry about April below.


Doing laps at the O24

Finally enjoying a break from the rain!

My talk announcement at CWRU

Giving my talk to a room full of students and staff

Tinkering with Scootie

Scootie...all fixed up and ready to ride

3 Days at the Fair
In May, I was off to make yet another appearance at the 3 Days at the Fair event.  I've participated in this event for the 3 years...each time in the full 72 hour event.  Each year I've run, I've done better than the previous, but always unable to attain the 250 mile mark.  Last year, I came oh so close with a final tally of 248...shy by just 2 miles.  This year I was DETERMINED to finally achieve the mythical 250. This year would also be different in that my mother had agreed to come out for the three days and walk as much as she could. She had it in her mind from day one that she'd walk 101 miles (101 being the minimum requirement to achieve the belt buckle).  My training was going well up to the event, but not really any more than usual.  I figured 250 would be really tough to hit, but I'd try as hard as I could. My mom and I made it to NJ on Wednesday night (after a rather interesting last-minute clutch repair on my car), and then settled in for a Thursday morning start.

The race went as usual...many ups and downs, but early on the morning of the final day, about an hour before the raced ended, I crossed the timing mat with 250 total miles. I remember a wave emotion coming over me as my 4-year quest to hit 250 finally came to an end.  I was so filled with adrenaline and goose-bump endorphins...that I ran another 7 miles at 9 min/mile pace to finish out with 257 for the event.  My mom did end up also hitting her goal of 101 miles and was awarded her very first belt buckle.  My four year total for the event now stands at 982 miles.  This means I only need to hit 18 miles this year in order to finally receive my 1000-mile buckle.  I'm not sure which race I will be running yet at the 2017 event, but I can guarantee whatever I do, it will contain at least 18 miles. I wrote a detailed race report linked below:


Coming through after another mile loop

Eerie fog on the 2nd morning

At the finish...mom and me celebrating our results

Data for the full event...showing my naps and down times

Plot showing this year (orange) compared to past 3 years
231, 246, 248, and 257 miles total

National Ice Core Lab and Colorado 14ers
After Memorial Day, I was off to Colorado for a two-month stint. The primary focus would be to analyze ice cores that recently came back from the South Pole ice coring project that I have been a part of.  Of course with any trip to Colorado, I always do my best to slip in whatever hiking and running I can...usually including several ascents of 14ers. This year would be no different. I would end up summiting a whole slew of new 14ers, bringing my total up to 29 of the 60 total that I want to complete. In addition, I re-hiked several other 14ers, and was able to spend a few days playing on mountains with fellow Barkley finisher Jared Campbell. I wrote a very long report of what I called my 14 Frenzy, which highlights all of the incredibly specific details of each of my new 14er ascents.

LINK: 14er FRENZY

In addition, the lab work went incredibly well, and I was able to analyze and prepare most of my samples.  Below are some of the highlight pics:

Ice Core analysis

Picture of Ice Core Bubbles in a sample

Jared and me on Princeton

Scrambling up the South ridge to Princeton (summit in background)

Looking over to Mt. Oxford

Mt. Oxford

Mt. Belford

Coming off of Mt. Harvard, looking to Mt. Columbia

Mt. Sneffels

Mt. Shavano

Adventures in Geographical Oddities
The other big theme while out in Colorado and on the return home, was my exploration of what I like to call "Geographical Oddities".  I wrote two VERY LONG and detailed entries about my adventures out West and on the drive home to seek out strange and peculiar geographical places.  A lot of these places were on my bucket list of "places to see", but many were simply spots that I discovered along the way. I also managed to tag several new state high points and triple points.  Probably one of the most notable components to these adventures was my visiting of my very last state of the 50, North Dakota. 

The first of these two trips I took with C as a somewhat of an ad-hoc vacation. We managed to knock off a few high points, tri-state corners, national parks, poles of inaccessibility and geographical centers....just to name a few.  It would take forever to rehash this entire trip, so instead I'll link to the trip report below and show some of my favorite pictures.  My personal favorite part of this adventure was probably visiting the North American Pole of Inaccessibility....minus all of the black fly bites and ticks of course.


A herd of Buffalo in Custer State Park

Looking majestically over to Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

Small prairie house with North Dakota's high point in the background (White Butte)

One of many Geographical Centers

Another Geographical Center

USGS Benchmark at the US Geographical Center

Free water at Wall Drug

How youuu doin'

Badlands National Park

Fat Prairie Dog

Pole of Inaccessibility Documentation

At the Pole!

Leaving my cardboard marker for the next wandering explorer

Carhenge

Nebraska High Point (Panorama Point)

Nebraska - Colorado - Wyoming Tri-state Point

Boxwork ceiling in Wind Cave

State number 50!!!

White Butte ND...state high point!

Harney Peak SD (now named Black Elk Peak)....state high point!

USGS benchmark on Harney Peak (Black Elk Peak)

Perfect timing during a storm photo in the Badlands

Lovely stratigraphy in the Badlands

Chimney Rock (Now I have the Oregon Trail theme song in my head!)

Scott's Bluff and an Oregon Trail wagon

Adventures in Geographical Oddities Part 2
The second chapter to my bizarre exploration of peculiar places came on my return trip from Colorado.  Rather than hop on my scheduled flight, I chose instead to drive my rental car back to Boston and see as many unusual places as possible along the way. I carved an incredibly circuitous route on my journey home, visiting such odd places as Beaver Island in Isle Royale National Park, three separate "Geographical Centers", many additional tri-state and high points, and even Mackinac Island. It was a ridiculous road trip, but I checked off many boxes along the way and had a blast of an adventure. Here was the very-lengthy and detailed write-up I did about it and some highlight pictures:


Road Trip route

Centroid Geographical Center of the US

Geographical Center of the 48 - Lebanon KS

Actual Geographical center of the 48 in cornfield in Lebanon KS

Geodetic Center of the US

The Exclave of Carter Lake IA

IA / SD / MN tri-state point

On top of Minnesota (Eagle Mtn)

Sunset view from a peer in Northern MN

Canoeing in Isle Royale National Park

video
The Solitude of Isle Royale National Park

Nearing the High pint of Wisconsin

A very late night visit to the top of Michigan

A sunny day on Mackinac Island.

High Point Frenzy
Another major theme of 2016 was that of attaining more state high points. I entered the year with 27 total state Highpoints. This past year I hit 8 more...so as it stands right now I'm sitting pretty at 35 total state high points (plus Washington DC).  The good news is that this means I'm down to only 15 remaining state high points. The bad news is that 5 of those 15 are incredibly difficult (AK, WA, MT, WY, OR)...with a couple others not far behind (ID and UT).  Other than a block of states around the deep south, and of course Illinois (with it's wacky date restrictions)...I really only have the "tough ones" out west left to do. I'm hoping to at least tackle Utah and maybe...just maybe either Wyoming or Montana this upcoming summer depending on my skill level and my time.  I've read quite extensively on how to climb Both Gannett and Granite Peaks safely.  King's Peak in UT shouldn't be difficult, but does require a very long hike....and therefore time. I did most of these new high points while out West in Colorado, but also managed to finally tag Mt. Marcy in NY and both Boundary Peak and Humphrey's Peak on my way back from a meeting in San Diego.  Of all the highpoints I managed to hit this past year, I would say both Eagle Mountain MN, and Mt. Arvon MI were among the best...mostly due to their remote nature and the wee hour of the night that I tagged them.  Putting these two aside though, my absolute favorite was easily White Butte ND. I simply loved that high point.  I sat up there in the tall grass on the on the slope just off of the summit and took a short nap with C.  The temperature and breeze were just perfect. It was simply quite soothing and peaceful. That high point will always be incredibly special to me.  Below are a few pics from my 2016 highpointing adventures...

White Butte, ND

Hawkeye Point, IA

Eagle Mountain, MN

Timm's Hill, WI

Mt. Arvon, MI

Mt. Marcy, NY

Boundary Peak, NV

Humphrey's Peak, AZ

Humphrey's Peak, AZ (in 50+ mph winds)

video
50+ mph winds on Humphreys

My Current High Points Visited Map


Nunavut
By far my most bizarre, and memorable adventure of 2016, was my ridiculous and rather whimsical road trip up to James Bay Canada...and my visit to Nunavut. I wrote probably my longest, and most thought-out journal entry for the entire year related to this trip. This was a trip that I had been planning for years, that I finally found time to squeeze in during September.  The timing was just right and I managed to drive the 2000 mile, round-trip adventure in just over 4 days (complete with packrafting on James Bay).  The whole idea for this trip was to visit the Canadian Province of Nunavut, without having to fly. Turns out it is actually possible, as all of the islands within James Bay are technically part of Nunavut and not Quebec or Manitoba. The very long story short is that I drove up to Northern Canada (Quebec actually), and then pack rafted out to a small island in the James bay a few miles off of the coast.  I spent a few hours on this island, and then packrafted back and drove home.  It seems like a very long way to drive for a short visit to a remote island....but it was the most fun I've had in a very long time.  There are no words to describe how excited I was about this trip.  Below is the link to my long write up about this trip (as well as some very interesting geographical trivia regarding Canada), and then some highlight photos.

LINK: NUNAVUT

Starting the James Bay Road

Cree Nation of Chisasibi QC

Looking out on the James Bay

Packraft inflated and ready to go!

On the beach of Nunavut!

On "Tiny Island, Nunavut" in the James Bay

Official Documentation on Tiny Island

GPS Proof

Packraft on the Rocky Beach of a 2nd James Bay Island

Beautiful Gneiss with glacial groove

In the packraft

A black bear saying hi

Antarctica
Another strange thing happened this year.  I deployed to Antarctica again for what would be my 7th deployment...BUT, only for 3 weeks.  This meant I got to go down to the ice, but still be back for my birthday AND for the Holidays.  My deployment revolved around a simple project centered right around "town" in McMurdo...which also meant no flights out to any field camps.......at least that's what I thought.

I made it into McMurdo on schedule with my work partner, and we began running a series of radar and GPS profiles on the side of a steep glacier near the station. It was a lot of fun and meant I got to learn both the operation of radar instrumentation, but also proper glacier traverse and rescue techniques. We spent an entire day going over proper rope techniques, crevasse rescue, and self-arresting.  The project was going well, until I got an email from NSF asking if I would fly to South Pole immediately to prepare an ice core presentation for the pending visit of Secretary of State John Kerry.  While I was excited to go back to South Pole, I felt bad about leaving my work partner and project.  I did end up boondoggling to pole, only to be stranded there due to weather.  Secretary Kerry never made it either, so it was a total bust. Still, it meant I got to essentially end the year the same way I started it....at South Pole Station.  One of the really exciting parts about my trip to pole, was that I flew there in the smaller "Bassler" (a DC3).  This plane flies much lower than the C130, so I was able to see the TransAntarctic Mountains up close and personal.  I never wrote any journal entry about this deployment as it was so short. 

When I left South Pole this year, I truly felt like it may be the last time I'll ever see it. It's very unlikely that I'll ever be back...although I wouldn't say impossible.  Who knows. I do hope to make it back somewhere in Antarctica though.

Here are some pics from the deployment:

Deployment number 7

Prepping for our radar survey (my coworker on left, mountaineer on right)

Leading the team along the ice (Mt. Erebus in background)

My coworker pulling the 100 MHz radar sled

Enjoying the wonderful weather!

One of our Survey Tracks with a few other features labeled

Boarding the DC3 for South Pole

View of Beardmore Glaicer from plane window

Look UP at the TransAntarctic Mountains

Ice core I prepared for Secretary Kerry's visit

Talk I prepared for Secretary Kerry's Visit

Deja Vu ....at the bottom of the world

Visiting the Ceremonial Pole as well...

Saying goodbye to Pole again

Decade
Once back from Antarctica, the year was near an end. I arrived home just 2 days before my 40th birthday and was able to celebrate in my own home with C. It was really nice to not be 7000 miles away on some icy continent. Reaching 40 was a bit of a sobering moment, but also a reflective one. I found myself reminiscing quite a bit about the past 10 years and thinking just how much my life had changed.  I thought of where'd I'd be if I didn't have the courage to start over and how happy I am that I did.  I wrote a short post about all of this, and really reflected on the few moments that have been most precious to me since 2006..and when I turned 30.

Here's the link for that post and a few pictures:

LINK: THE DECADE

My first real thru-hike in 2006, the Quehanna Trail in PA

Turning 30...playing a set at a local bar in Cleveland

Graduating with my PhD

Finishing the impossible...

...and sharing my life

I had a few other notable posts throughout the year. In one I found myself thinking back quite a bit to my many Barkley runs and I decided to finally share my essays publicly. For whatever reason, I just felt like sharing, and I hope that others might understand a little bit better why someone like me seeks out events like the Barkley. That post can be found here: 

LINK: THE ESSAYS

I also posted about my Ultrarunning Lottery attempts just a few weeks ago...and the incredible odds that I seem to continuously defy in both the Western States AND Hardrock Lotteries.  That post can be found here:


Christmas and New Years
This of course brings us up to this past two weeks. It was a pretty subdued Holiday season for me. I first spent a quiet week at home and had a nice little Christmas.  We picked up a beautiful little tree from a local place down the street, exchanged a few gifts in the morning and then relaxed. The next day we flew down to Florida where we spent a few days with family and just enjoying the time off.

Over the course of the two weeks I also managed to see Glen Phillips play live in a very small venue in Cambridge MA. This was the first time I've seen him play live since a show back in 2005 in Cleveland.  While in Florida I also had fun visiting the Bok Tower (the highest point in Peninsular Florida...if that counts). Mostly I just wanted to see and smell the beautiful gardens there. It was a bit peculiar being in warm Florida for Christmas...but I was definitely ok with it.

A week later on New Year's Eve, C and I kept our goofy tradition of going to weird places on New Year's Eve alive...by driving out to the Hull Peninsula near Boston, and then taking a night hike out to the tip of World's End park.  So far our New Year's Eve visits have included:

2013/14: Late night drive to Niagara Falls during the "Polar Vortex", and standing on the Goat Island Bridge, all alone at the stroke of midnight

2014/15: Watching the final sunset of 2014 from the back of a Ferry heading to Okracoke Island along the North Carolina Outer Banks. This sunset was particularly odd as it was over water, but on the East Coast of the US. Then later, we celebrated at the stroke of midnight outside a small motel looking out over the ocean with no one else around.

2016/17: Driving out to the Hull peninsula to again watch the sunset over water on the East Coast.  Later we hiked alone out on the World's End peninsula near Boston and celebrated the end of an amazing year by walking along a low-tide rocky beach.

...oh, and I had some of the best Sushi I have ever experienced at a small Japanese restaurant in Auberndale MA.

And that's about it really. It was definitely an incredible year and one filled with a lot of fun geographical adventures. I really spent a lot of time seeking out new places and checked a lot of boxes off on my "to do" list. I think the highlight was probably the Nunavut trip as it really struck a special chord with me and was so utterly fulfilling.

I already have quite a few bold goals for 2017 that I'm quite excited about. I'd love to share the details, but for now, I think I'll keep these ideas to myself.  So with that, I'll sign off and wish you all an wonderful new year.  

Never stop exploring and always keep adventuring everyone....

Farewell to 2016,

-john

Glen Phillips live at Club Passim (Cambridge)

Our little 2016 Christmas

Bok Tower in Florida...with it's reflection.

The same picture turned upside down...oh how eerie the sky looks!

Sushi from Auberndale MA

Where we drove on New Year's Eve to watch the sun set

Sunset to the West over water....on the East Coast...weird

Our little headlamp hike after sunset on New Year's Eve 

Final Hike of 2016