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My Camping Goals For 2012

Tom Kaiser
January 6, 2012
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Like many, I find the idea of New Year’s resolutions to be annoying and more of a marketing ploy than something people actually seek to accomplish. Then again, when else does a person take a break to examine where they’re at and what they’d like to change? We’re conditioned by society to use our after-Christmas hangovers as a time to get serious about what we’ve done wrong, what we’re missing or how we can improve. I’m turning 30 next month, so I’ve got these kind of things rolling through my brain. I’m setting some goals for the year.

Last January I resolved to cook more and, specifically, to find more uses for horseradish. I sure do enjoy that stuff. This year I’m getting more serious: I want to camp more than I ever have before. I plan to meet this goal by visiting new places far and near and spending more time camping than ever. I’ve already begun assembling my wish list.

Tom’s 2012 Adventure List

I am very excited to return to California's Imperial Sand Dunes to camp in the sand and ride ATVs in the massive dunes.

1. Imperial Sand Dunes – Southern California

This one’s easy, because I’ve already booked my flight to the LA/Ontario International Airport in the San Bernardino Valley. A massive field of towering sand mountains along the California-Mexico border, the Imperial Sand Dunes (a.k.a. Glamis) is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.

It’s the desert of your dreams — endless, mysterious, relentless wind, and it’s one of the most amazing places for off-road riding. I’ll be joining some of my friends in the ATV industry to camp in toy hauler trailers in the sand, ride Yamaha’s latest sport quads in the dunes with some of the best riders in the industry and enjoying great cooking and horseshoes around the fire at night. I am a lucky guy to go on this trip, and I am bursting with excitement.

 

Upper Michigan's scenic Lake of the Clouds (on New Years Day). I can't wait to explore this area in the summer.

2. Porcupine Mountains – Upper Peninsula of Michigan

I also write for Snow Goer magazine, which covers the snowmobile industry, and my co-worker John and I drove up from Minneapolis to the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan for some snowmobile testing on New Years Day.

While Minnesota is largely devoid of snow cover because of this absurdly warm winter, it was a raging winter wonderland in the U.P. We stayed at a resort called Fish Tales on the western shore of Lake Gogebic. From there, we rode north to the peninsula’s north shore of Lake Superior. With the high winds of the winter storm, the lake was incredibly angry. It was a bit scary to see its power, picturing what would happen if a person made its way into such cold, turbulent waters.

We then rode eight miles east to Lake of the Clouds within the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Hiking up a hill in 15+ pounds of snowmobile gear was well worth the view from the cliffs looking down on the lake. Surrounded by large hills (by Midwestern standards), this place is a real gem. I immediately pictured myself camping here and spending a day swimming in the lake and exploring its shores. I will do this in 2012.

Aside from wanting to revisit Lake of the Clouds, I want to spend more time in the Upper Peninsula in general. The more I see, the more I think this is one of the most exciting parts of the country for outdoor lovers. White water in every direction, Lake Superior, sprawling forests and a charming, rural culture that is very welcoming.

 

Preparing to hit the Flambeau River on a kayak trip.

3. Lake of the Falls – Northeastern Wisconsin

Part of the massive Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in northeastern Wisconsin — the so-called crown jewel of the state — Lake of the Falls County Park is my favorite place, and my favorite annual trip. I’m from northern Wisconsin, and this isolated, small-scale campground is just perfect for my kind of camping.

With beautiful and spacious sites located along the waterfall-fed lake, this is a great place for fishing, swimming and all the other attractions in the area. My favorite? Whitewater kayaking along the Flambeau River toward Park Falls, my hometown.

Even though I grew up 30 miles down the road, my friends and I always find new places to explore in the area. Two years ago we went on a waterfall tour in the area, and the many falls we visited (including Superior Falls on the Wisconsin-Michigan border) only scratched the surface of the cascading water in this area.

 

Lovely during late fall, but I bet the Ozarks are amazing in the summer - especially the rushing rivers.

4. Ozark Mountains

On a recent trip for MotorHome magazine, I visited Branson, Missouri and the surrounding area, including the beautiful Ozark Mountains. I went horseback riding in the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, visited the sprawling Silver Dollar City, went on a river cruise with the Branson Ducks and rode a glass-ceiling train across the border into Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains.

It was such a beautiful area, and I would love to return for some whitewater kayaking and camping. A local couple I met told me about all their favorite places, and it sounds like it would be well worth a return visit. My ATV buddy Cody Smith has also recommended checking the Ozarks during the summer.

I’m thinking this would be a great excuse to commandeer a motorhome, fill it with food and camping gear, strap on a trailer (for pulling the ‘yaks) and drive down with some friends. It’s all about killing birds with multiple stones…

 

Nick and Matt pondering the wonder of these scenic, rocky BWCA shores.

5. Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area

I’ve lived in Minnesota since 2000, I write for Camping Life magazine and, yet, I still have not experienced the allegedly spectacular Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area in the far northern part of the state. That is unacceptable. It’s only four hours away. Most of my friends are annual visitors. I’m very excited to play around on the rocky shorelines. That’s always my favorite part of the BWCA photos I see in friends’ albums. There’s not much else to say about this one. It’s a personal failing that I intent to correct.

Fantasy List

Sometimes, as a magazine editor, I’m able to put together some amazing trips – and I’m very fortunate for those opportunities. Just like anyone else, though, I have a list of places I really want to visit, but haven’t been able to find a way to make them happen … yet.

1. Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, in the summer.

Last winter, on assignment for Snow Goer, I flew into Halifax, Nova Scotia, met up with some snowmobilers, drove north onto the island of Cape Breton and had a fabulous time snowmobiling this unusual, beautiful place. The locals were some of the friendliest people I’ve met in all of my travels, and I really hope to return in the summer to explore the Cabot Trail that encircles this large island. I picture renting a convertible, driving the rugged coastline, camping along the Atlantic shore and falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves. I would also stop to visit some of the people I enjoyed meeting on my first visit.

2. Zion National Park

I am a Utah enthusiast, and have been lucky enough to visit many diverse parts of this state. From Salt Lake City, through the central highlands near Richfield and down to Moab, Utah is stunning from top to bottom. It feels like a place I could retire someday. In the meantime, I want to see as much as I can. Next on my list is Zion National Park in the southwest corner of the state.

3. Colorado

My Colorado experience is limited to dozens of exotic visits to the Denver International Airport. That is sad and unacceptable. Any recommendations? To me, it looks like the entire state is one big adventure. I need to find a way to get here.

My goal for 2011 was exploring the possibilities of horseradish. This year, I think I'll get even crazier.

In closing, I’ll tell you that there’s really no reason to use mayonnaise on a sandwich. Horseradish mustard will do just fine, and is much less unhealthy. As for increasing my camping intake, well, there’s only good side effects, and I can’t wait to reap the upcoming relaxation and adventure. Also, I hope to attempt indoor rock climbing. What do you have planned for 2012?

Tom Kaiser

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