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Outdoors checklist for a new year

Like my father before me, I'm a listmaker. My old man always had a yellow legal pad covered with things for me to do: patch tents, fix lantern, test stove, put new line on the fishing reels, etc. We never did everything we set out to do, but my dad always figured that something was better than nothing at all. And that's how I feel about New Year's resolutions. I'd rather have a dozen big ideas and only follow through on half of them than to have none at all. A batter who hits .500 is an all-star in anybody's book. So this year I vow to:

Sleep on the ground: I camp more than most, yet I still don't sleep in a tent nearly enough to suit my tastes. I probably spend a month out of each year under the stars, but I'd like to double that. Can I log 60 days this year? Not if my wife has anything to say about it.

See more sunrises: There's nothing I love more than being outside — hiking, paddling, fishing — when the sun comes up. I've got my kids trained. They think something is wrong if we don't leave the house when it's still dark. Now I've got the lads in my Boy Scout troop on campouts up and raring to go at 5:59 a.m. Be prepared. You're on Tomalin time.

Simplify: I've got too much stuff. There are times I wish I could live in a tree like my hero Tarzan. All he needed was a sharp knife and a loincloth, though I doubt the latter would complement my middle-age physique. But I can still probably get along with a lot less junk. After all, Lewis and Clark went to the Pacific and back with nothing more than a little beef jerky and a whole lot of attitude.

Take it outside: Believe it or not, there are days when I don't leave the office. I stop by in the morning, start sending emails and answering phone calls, then next thing I know, it's time to pick up the kids and I've wasted another day inside. But this year, things will be different. No matter what, I am going to spend at least one hour a day outside, rain or shine. I suggest you do the same.

Buy buckskin boots: I used to own a pair of knee-high moccasins just like another one of my role models, Davy Crockett, used to wear. Don't know what happened to them, though I have my suspicions that a certain you-know-who might have tossed them out. That's why I need another pair to go with my shorts and Hawaiian shirt.

Follow more rivers: I've paddled from Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp to Bimini in the Bahamas chain of islands. I've traveled the length of the Withlacoochee, Apalachicola and Suwannee. But I have a dozen more waterways that I'd like to explore from beginning to end. How about a river a year until I die? I figure I've got 50 more on my list, so it looks like I'll be sticking around a while.

Cook with cast iron: I took my Outdoor Leadership class from USF St. Petersburg down the Suwannee River in November. Our group of 25 strong ate out of two Dutch ovens for three days and everybody put on weight. Ditch your microwave and get yourself a 12-quart Lodge. It was good enough for the pioneers, it should be good enough for you.

Throw a tomahawk: All of my 12-year-old son's classmates have smartphones, which cost a couple of hundred bucks. So I asked him, "Which would you rather have, a smartphone or a tomahawk, like Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans?" The answer was obvious. Don't worry, we'll only practice in the woods, wearing our knee-high moccasins.

Teach my daughter to shoot: I can't wait to put my 10-year-old through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's hunter safety class. I want her to know firearms and respect firearms, just in case she comes across a knucklehead who thinks he's an expert because he plays a lot of video games.

Hug a tree: I've said it once and I'll say it again: I'm a tree hugger. Many outdoor enthusiasts are preoccupied with season lengths and bag limits. They think environmentalists are the enemy. But ask any biologist the No. 1 problem we face and they'll say, "Habitat, stupid." I love mangrove trees, and I would probably hug them if they weren't covered with all those crabs. More mangroves mean more snook. Get the picture?

Outdoors checklist for a new year 01/02/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 6:12pm]
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