Not the usual way most people based in Scandinavia start their year but January 2012 had me sea kayaking in the North Sea off the west coast of Norway with my good friend Mark. Thanks to his skills and experience I didn't start 2012 by dying. I capsized in relatively calm conditions and contemplated life upside down, submerged, clinging to my paddle and wondering, 'Do they have killer whales in Norway?'.
2012's ski season was a total bust. Lack of decent snow and inspiration had me off my skis for the most time since arriving in Norway. Ski sessions were reduced to day trips on crusty, wind-blown, icy trails and no multi-day trips. Not a situation I am keen to repeat in 2013.
I took advantage of Alpacka's annual Christmas sale and took the plunge into packrafting this year. March had me keeping a keen eye on the weather forecast and at the first sign of a thaw I rolled the wee boat into my backpack, jumped on a bus and a couple of hours later I was paddling recently unfrozen lakes and grinning from ear to ear.
My first overnight trip with the packraft was a rewarding experience of learning to cope with being continually damp and having to carry all the chattels that go along with using the little rubber wonder-craft. It was so much fun to explore the blue areas of maps that had always previously been a barrier.
April produced probably my favourite trip of the year, a long weekend packrafting and backpacking the local hills that are studded with lakes. I started off in brilliant but icy sunshine but awoke the last morning to Winter's last hurrah of wet snow. Challenging, beautiful and intimate.
Highlight of my working year was our long weekend field trip to the wildlife centre and hill farm at Lonedrag. Chaperoning 50+ goats and 24 kids across the moors to the summer hill farm was far less stressful than expected thanks to goats who knew where they were going, wonderful kids and unseasonably warm conditions as we followed the retreating snow up the hillsides.
Peak summer backpacking season might have been remembered for the epic bog and bug-fest that was our trip to explore Vassfaret by packraft with Beni and Marco but I also fondly remember my trip to Kokskogen with Thomas. Still plenty of bugs but I also remember sunlight and summer breezes. The trips were polar opposites in scope, simplicity and pack weights but sharing both experiences with new and old friends was the memorable factor. Going solo is rewarding but sharing laughter and tears with friends is something I want to concentrate more on in 2013.
Bikes re-entered my life in the summer. After a lifetime of cycling I had gone over a year without riding a bike and the arrival of my Salsa Fargo rekindled my love affair with two-wheeled propulsion. Gone are the days of racing, training and stunts and in place I combined bike travel with camping. My adventure along the Rallervegen with Donn, Jen and Anne was amazing. Snow, sunshine, Snickers and comradeship.
Late August and back to work. A new contract with an old class was a welcome reason to endure the return to daily rituals and commuting. Summer's glut of freedom receded to happy memories and an air of change swept in.
It wasn't too long to wait for the first holiday of the academic year which brought a mixed bag of illness, seasonal change, the first frosts and a wonderful bikepacking tour of the rugged islands of Lindås and Radøy. Frozen toes, quiet roads and the most colourful and immersive Autumn I have ever enjoyed.
November rain. November seems to be a month many Scandinavians deplore. Cold and wet, the dreams of summer dashed while the hopes for snow-fueled adventures are still lingering just out of reach. Odd and I decided on a super quick bikepacking trip that turned out to be super wet. Despite the conditions it was the communion with my 'gear twin' and fellow Bergen resident that I remember. I'm sure our matching Fargos enjoyed meeting one another too...
December arrived and with it some periodic snow between the cyclic thaws. Regular weekend training rides, one quick evening ski and a hike into the mountains over thin snow, carrying, not wearing, my snowshoes. School finished for the holidays, the rain returned and ideas and dreams for 2013 churn in my head...