2021 Year in Review

Previous years:   2017  |   2018  |   2019  |   2020

It’s that time of year when people like me fire up their laptops, open a blank doc, look back on everything that’s happened over the past year, and boldly extrapolate into the next. Fifth annual review here, that’s a quick half a decade working on this site. Once again looking back not just in terms of exploration, but also in the growth of this site. The exploration highlights of the year:

  • Waramaug’s Overlook
  • Finishing the Narragansett Trail
  • Scantic River Powder Hollow ruins

2021 was a tale of two halves (as you’ll read about below) exploring rarely-visited Wildlife Management Areas and well known highlights like the Steep Rock Preserve.  Everyone wanted to be outdoors as soon as spring arrived, packing the trails though dropped back to normal levels over the summer.  I made a few new hiking friends, filmed a couple TV interviews for WFSB, appeared on the Backyard Road Trips podcast, and weathered The Great Delisting. 

See every location I visited this year on my 2021 page

Looking Back

What Went Well

  • The first half of the year
    • The first six months of the year were firing on all cylinders – exploring, making movies, writing newsletters, updating info, and interacting with many new interesting people.
  • The site actually made a profit!
    • The cost of running the domain, server, and traffic feels pretty modest to me but it’s certainly not $0. This year thanks to t-shirt sales and Buy Me A Coffee donations, the site actually made more than it cost to run! Huge thank you to my supporters
  • Connecting with you
    • Maybe only second favorite to the feeling of discovery is meeting and interacting with like-minded people. This year was great for emailing back and forth with people building new trails, asking questions, or just sharing cool discoveriesMeeting Jim and Zach as a guest on their podcast Backyard Road TripsSmall world connections on the trail, locals hiking their favorite trails who are also aware of the site

What Didn’t Go Well

  • The Great Delisting
    • In July I noticed that views were dropping significantly over the course of the month. As I dug into why, I figured out that Google had been delisting my pages for essentially not loading fast enough in their updated ‘Core Web Vitals’ standards. The vast majority of my traffic comes through specific Google searches and as the site was progressively delisted, traffic dropped from a high of 1k+ views per day to fewer than a 100 from the smattering of links and direct connections around this corner of the web (thanks CTMQ!).
    • It was pretty disheartening to see, technical to fix, and I don’t think still fully resolved but after a few months of my tweaking, Google’s algorithms seem to rebuilding links to my pages.
  • The second half of the year
    • I explored about 100 new places in 2020 and only about 65 in 2021 thanks to this slow second half.  I put out no newsletters, no social media, and rarely updated the site as I broke and fixed things trying to make it faster.
  • Not taking the next leap in my videos
    • I put out 22 new movies in 2021, including 10 in 10 days in Sept/Oct and a couple I’m actually quite proud of. But, none quite lived up to the vision I have for the level of quality they should reach. Some are certainly just me going out into the woods to explore, but I aspire to having a few flow more like a multimedia video essay that really tells the story of the place.

Looking Forward

I don’t usually enjoy hiking in the winter quite as much unless there is fresh fallen snow so I usually spend the time doing research.  So, I’ve accumulated a swath of old news articles, state park commission reports, assorted pdfs, and a handful of books to go through in my downtime. 

I think it might also be time to recommit to Explore Connecticut: Season 1

A few may remember back to 2017, when I had a vague idea for a series of deep dives into Connecticut’s top hikes.  I didn’t feel ready to do it then and have sat on those ideas for a few years now.  Given that I was down about not taking any leaps forward in my movies last year, it seems that now is the time to revisit.

Here’s the original title I made back in 2017

What does the rest of the year hold? I expect a whole bunch of new exploration and a challenge or two along the way.  Happy New Year, here’s to an adventurous 2022!

As always please send all comments, questions, old books, season one episode requests, and Core Web Vitals hacks to matt@explorect.org