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Make Camping a Resolution for 2012

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Hiker at a crossroads looking at a map

A good friend from Maine named Jack recently shared a tradition from his youth with me. Rather than attend a New Year's Eve party like most people, Jack's parents took their sons on a hiking and camping trip to the top of a mountain near the coast of eastern Maine. From there, bundled in thermal underwear, wool socks, and full winter gear, they could be among the first people in America to witness the dawn of the New Year. After sunrise they made their way back to the car and headed home, resolving to make the trip again in another twelve months.

It was a remarkable sight to witness - the sun's rays rounding the horizon as shades of pink and purple illuminated their oil black surroundings. Some years the air was still enough to watch their foggy breaths whirl away and evaporate. Other years, gale force winds stung and battered them so fiercely that they had to seek shelter on the leeward sides of boulders and trees. After sunrise they made their way back to the car and headed home, resolving to make the trip again in another twelve months regardless of the weather. Eventually Jack and his brother moved away for school and work, but they still fondly recall the time spent shivering on a windy mountainside with their folks.

Celebrating the New Year allows us to take account of our successes and where we have stumbled, and to try to prepare for what's to come. We realize what is important and what isn't, really. Ask yourself, where are you devoting your energy? Do you work late? Have you returned to school to get a better education? Are you nurturing your relationship with your family? Are you taking care of yourself? Do you have enough fun?

Recently, and rather suddenly, my grandmother passed away, leaving my family and me stunned and heartbroken. She balanced work, school, family, and health with finesse and one overarching goal in mind: be able to spend time with her loved ones. I will always remember her through the experiences we shared - traveling to Alaska on a cruise, sailing in the Bahamas, taking road trips to unfamiliar places in California, Tennessee, and Iowa. She and my grandfather were bitten by the travel bug early in life and strived to visit new states, regions, and countries whenever they had the chance. Traveling and sharing her unique encounters with us was among her favorite pastimes, and making friends along the way was second-nature.

In following her example, I'm challenging myself (and all of you camping road trippers) to seek out more experiences in 2012. Drive or bike to a place you've never been, plan a rafting trip with your friends and camp out under the stars, take your niece or nephew to a state park and show them how to build a fire. Whatever you do, get up, go out, and do something strange, weird, new, and exciting. My goal is to discover Utah this spring. Zion, Moab, and Arches National Parks are all there. Park City, Brian Head, and Sun Valley provide excellent places to snowboard. There's also rafting, golf, hiking, biking, and countless other ways to stay busy.

Perhaps it sounds cliché, but none of us is getting any younger. 2012 is the year to pack up your RV and take that cross-country road trip. 2012 is the year to connect with your son or daughter. There are 3.79 million square miles of America out there, and 2012 is your year. I suggest you get started immediately.

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