I hope 2012 has been a great year for you. I hope you did everything you planned to do, got in as much time in the out of doors as you wanted, and helped introduce or add to the great outdoor experiences of family and friends. I also hope that you get everything you want/need this Christmas. Our focus at this time of the year once again turns to next year- 2013. In the past I've suggested it's time to make those new year resolutions and your plans for the time you will spend with family and friends in the outdoors.
This year is a little different, with some different kind of suggestions. I don't have to tell anyone how much of a challenge we have all had the past several years. I don't expect things will change much in 2013, although I try to be optimistic. My suggestions for 2013 will focus a little more on those things that provide great satisfaction to the outdoorsman, that cost little or nothing. With the great resources we have it's not difficult to find opportunities to spend quality time in the outdoors with family/friends or by ourselves. Sometimes getting away just by yourself can be great therapy from the challenges and frustrations of life. Here are what I believe are great suggestions:
1. Plan on doing a lot of walking. Walking or hiking the outdoors is very refreshing and invigorating, and can be very peaceful and serene. It should be easy to do, all you need do is commit to the time. Within 5 miles of my home there are parks and recreation areas that provide many trails and tracks that allow me to get away and spend time with the outdoors. I'm not always alone, as others use these same areas, but with the exception of a polite nod or good morning/afternoon,the times tend to be very peaceful and quiet. Although I don't bike, if you do you will likely find great biking trails close to home that offer the same opportunity to enjoy relaxing time outside. If you add family and friends to these nearby adventures you'll have special company and will be continuing your efforts to spread the enjoyment of the outdoors to others.
2. Take"free trips". Well, they may not be exactly free, but it's amazing what is available to you within a few gallons of gas from home. I can be in the North Georgia mountains within an hour from my home. The state is blessed with many hiking trails and waterfalls that are marvels of nature. My wife and I used to hike regularly and we would plan on a Saturday morning departure to a specific park to hike to see a waterfall. We'd pack snacks and drinks and even included "Paco", our 6 pound Yorkie, on our trips. We did have to purchase a pet carry bag for Paco as his short legs would soon run out and he'd get a free ride. We still enjoy the photos we took during these activities. I also have several locations where I trout fish that are wonderful places just to visit when fishing season is out. Quality time,spent in quality locations, within 1-2 hours of home that only cost gas money.
3. Take advantage of "off season" times. If you are an avid hunter or fisherman you probably experience a downturn in your level of excitement between seasons. Yet these"down times" can be the most exciting time to spend in the outdoors. Make plans to do those things you always thought about, but never made the time to do. Post season scouting your deer hunting area can provide great insight into where you might plan to hunt next season. Preseason scouting can prepare you for where you want to set up for the spring gobbler season. Shed hunting will help you see what you may have missed and what is possible for the next deer season. Predator hunting can help hone your shooting skills as well as make your hunting areas safer for the spring fawning season. Walks along your favorite streams will show changes that have occurred; where new dead falls are, creating new pools for the trout. If you fish streamside or bank side, early year visits will allow you the opportunity to"clear out" your favorite spots without the risk of getting into a lot of bugs and snakes.
4. Be a great steward of the outdoors. No matter what activities you may decide toenjoy during off or down seasons, take the opportunity to become a great steward of the land. Always take trashcan liners with you and take the time to pick up what others may leave. While it's easy to shake our heads and tsk, tsk, at those who would leave trash in our outdoors, it's just as easy to pickup that trash to haul out with us. At the very least we won't have to look at the same trash the next time we visit that wonderful spot. I hope 2013 is successful for you, that your passion for the outdoors will continue to grow and you'll find ways to increase your time outside. Happy New Year!