The most useful skill you can have writing an outdoors column - or, for that matter, enjoying the outdoors at all - is planning. So much of your trip will be at the mercy of the natural world that you've got to start with clear goals.

The most useful skill you can have writing an outdoors column - or, for that matter, enjoying the outdoors at all - is planning. So much of your trip will be at the mercy of the natural world that you've got to start with clear goals.

Here are five of mine for the New Year.

5. Visit Harbor Country . This region in southwestern Michigan is an outdoor paradise of sun, sand, surf and extreme sports. A handful of small resort towns on the Lake Michigan coast, about six hours from Columbus, boast regular swells, sun-drenched beaches and a laid-back seaside vibe. Oh, and sandboarding.

4. See the lakeside daisies bloom. The nation's only natural population of this bright yellow wildflower lies in an old limestone quarry on Marblehead Peninsula. Ohio's rarest flower blooms in May, and entire fields track the sun across the sky in unison each day for about a week.

3. Take a three-day backpacking trip . I've conquered popular Ohio backpacking trails like Zaleski, Wildcat Hollow, Burr Oak and Twin Valley, which are perfect for a short weekend trip. This year, I'd like to do something longer and more difficult, like the south loop of the Shawnee State Forest Backpack Trail. Those 27.5 miles run through remote, hilly woods and over creeks lined with lush, green hemlocks.

2. Paddle 150 miles . Buying a kayak opened up an entirely new world of Great Lakes, quiet streams and hundreds of waterways in between. On the top of my 2011 to-do list are the secretive fingers of Wolf Run Lake, located north of Marietta, and the permit-only waters of Lake Katharine in Jackson County.

1. Attempt r iver surfing . The most interesting e-mail I got last year was from Josh Quinn, owner of Tigertree in the Short North, who urged me to buy a foam surfboard on eBay, borrow a wetsuit and join TigerWave. That's his new river-surfing project.

Like me, Quinn learned to surf in Southern California (supreme stoke, bro!) and now wants to take the sport onto standing waves in local streams fueled by dam releases. I put this in writing: I'm in, dude.

Looking to start off the New Year by hiking, biking, exploring, camping or paddling? Your first stop should be at the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.