Its almost time to zip the duffel on 2012 and on all those cool day trips, weekenders, vacations and other adventures in the great funhouse we call Idaho and the Northwest.
Zimo and I are looking back on the year to share some of our favorite outings. Next week, you will get a glimpse of our plans for 2013.
Not that were going to be loafing around on the couch this winter. After all, Idahos outdoors is a four-season wonderland.
But looking back at 2012 gets us motivated to plan for 2013 and get a few trips blocked onto the new calendar. You can see some of our plans in the Jan. 3 edition of Idaho Outdoors.
Here are some outings we enjoyed in 2012.
IDAHO LOOP MOTORCYCLE RIDE
My 960-mile motorcycle ride through Idaho and a corner of Montana was the highlight of my summer.
It was a chance to once again see the amazing scenery Idaho has to offer, and seeing it all on backroads on a motorcycle made it all the more fun.
Brothers Dave and Mike Heimer and I passed through Prairie, Sun Valley, Copper Basin, Mackay, Challis, North Fork, Grangeville, Riggins and more.
The crux of the ride was the 100-mile long Magruder Corridor, which cuts between the Frank Church and Selway/Bitterroot wilderness areas.
The trip was much more than a motorcycle ride. We saw deer, bear and moose. We dodged wildfires and caught trout.
The gist of the ride was exploring a few overlooked corners of Idaho, and it gave me lots of ideas for future trips. Copper Basin is on my short list of places to explore more thoroughly, and there are more. I feel like I barely met Panther Creek, because smoke and searing summer heat kept me from really getting to know the place.
You can read the whole story at idahostatesman.com by searching for cycles and scenery.
BACKYARD FISHING ADVENTURES
Every year, I try to hit a few new fishing spots, but it can be expensive and time consuming if I have to travel halfway across the state to find them.
One of my favorite ways to try new spots is to explore ponds in Southwest Idaho. It has become a spring tradition, and Ive been amazed at the fishing opportunity.
I usually seek out ponds with bass and bluegill, which most of them have. Sometimes I shore fish or use a float tube or similar craft.
I dont want to name the ponds I discovered last spring because that would spoil the fun of exploration.
But they not only have good fishing, they also have some surprisingly large fish. Knowing those fish are there adds to the challenge. To survive long enough to get big, those fish have to be pretty smart and elusive.
Ponds also tend to be pretty kid- and beginner-friendly if they have bluegill, and I spent many evenings catching those scrappy little fish.
So yeah, despite having some great fishing trips returning to my old favorite haunts, discovering new ponds was a highlight.
In a few months, I will be out looking for some more. Or to be honest, I already am. Heres a hint: Google Earth is your friend. [0x0b]
MOUNTAIN BIKE ROAD TRIPS
Loading the bike into the truck and leaving Boise to go riding felt odd considering all the trails we have available in the Treasure Valley.
But road trips to Sun Valley and McCall last summer were definitely worth the gas money.
Idaho has some amazing trails, and the mountain biking in those areas keeps getting better, as I discovered.
One of the highlights was riding the trails at Jug Mountain Ranch near McCall and going straight from the trails to the golf course clubhouse for lunch. It was like country club mountain biking without a country club attitude. I never realized how cool it is to ride from the trailhead to the patio for a burger and beer.
Weaving through the tight trees in Bear Basin in McCall is so different than the wide-open spaces of the Foothills. Crossing through aspen groves near Sun Valley and seeing the Smoky Mountains in the distance was like something out of the Alps.
Even getting rubber legs from the altitude was fun in a strange way. I was tested on several occasions, and it made me vow to be a better rider when I head up there next summer.
I already have a few trails picked out, and Sun Valley is seeking approval for new mountain bike trails at the resort. I dont know if they will be ready next summer, but I know I will be.
UPPER PRIEST LAKE
Finally, after exploring Idaho for 48 years, I got to canoe the Thorofare between Priest and Upper Priest lakes in August.
Ill never forget that trip.
The waterway takes canoeists and touring kayakers on a secluded adventure far from the busy, touristy 23,000-acre lake, which is lined with resorts and cabins.
Ive always wondered about the Thorofare and how difficult it might be.
No problem. Getting to Upper Priest Lake, which lies in an awe-inspiring setting at the base of 7,600-foot Selkirk Mountain peaks, is an easy paddle of about 2.5 to 3 miles to the little lake.
Canoeists and kayakers launch from the white, sandy beaches of the Lionhead unit of Priest Lake State Park and paddle about a half-mile across the large lake.
Within minutes, youre paddling along the Thorofare and leaving behind signs of civilization. You are entering the Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area, which is protected from development.
Soon youre taking in natures perfume the sweet smell of the cedar, hemlock and white pine forest.
Youve got to try it. And maybe youll see a moose wading in the waters a short distance from your canoe.
You can do a day trip to the upper lake and back or camp overnight on the smaller lake.
Its an all-day drive from the Boise area to Priest Lake on U.S. 95. You can opt to make it a two-day drive by camping somewhere along the way.
Go to idahostatesman.com and search for Upper Priest Lake.
The name alone Kleinschmidt Grade is intriguing.
Ive thought about driving this road out of Hells Canyon for years and never got around to it.
In late June, my wife and I and some friends took a three-day trek on the road and into the Cuprum-Sheep Rock country, and we were not disappointed.
At times, the trucks tires on the drivers side were inches from the edge of a 1,000-foot dropoff while the side-view mirror on the passenger side came pretty close to scraping a craggy rock wall.
But hey, thats a summer adventure.
The grade coming up from Hells Canyon Reservoir into the mountains is an exciting adventure.
One thing about the Kleinschmidt Grade, youve got to keep looking uphill in anticipation of other rigs while looking for turnouts.
Thats not easy as the road winds in hairpin turns and climbs about 2,200 feet in less than 5 miles.
But one thing about it, the drive is a pretty quick way to get out of the heat of the canyon and reach the cool mountain meadows and creeks, and see panoramic views of the western Idaho mountains and the Seven Devils Mountains.
The Kleinschmidt Grade fascinates history buffs and backroads explorers, too.
Just the name makes you wonder. In the late 1880s, entrepreneur Albert Kleinschmidt built the road to haul copper and gold from the Seven Devils area to the Snake River.
To get started planning your Kleinschmidt adventure, go to idahostatesman.com and search for Kleinschmidt.
I like relaxing rivers where you get a lot of camping and hiking in addition to pleasant floating.
Idaho has lots of rivers, but its still fun to poach one from across the border. Oregons 40-mile adventure on the Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers fits that bill.
Everything about the float trip on the wild and scenic river system in northeastern Oregon is relaxing, from wildlife watching to camping to morel picking.
The run is one of only a few multiday, wild, scenic wilderness rivers in the West where you dont have to fill out an application in winter and hope to get a permit in a lottery.
The float is also great for families and youth groups.
The best time to run the rivers is late May through most of the summer.
In the high water of the early season, youll want large rafts. As the flows taper off you can think about smaller rafts, inflatable kayaks or canoes.
Check out the details by going to idahostatesman.com and searching for Grande Ronde.
Have fun outdoors in 2013.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors, Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445,Twitter: @zimosoutdoors