Nobody travels on Ashland County roads on a Friday in the dead of winter. I learned this on the morning of Jan. 7, after a resolute snow, traveling the white, fast, forgotten path to Clear Fork Gorge.

Nobody travels on Ashland County roads on a Friday in the dead of winter. I learned this on the morning of Jan. 7, after a resolute snow, traveling the white, fast, forgotten path to Clear Fork Gorge.

The road to the gorge winds tentatively through dense forest to a small parking lot at the top of a steep earthen dam. When I arrived, the entire landscape was silent and stark.

The wind had vanished. Everything was cold and silver, except the hemlocks and the running stream. Not even tires tracks kept me company. It was the kind of trip where you double-check your supplies and tell someone when you expect to come back.

Times like these arenít lonely. You feel only a resounding, overwhelming stillness as you descend, completely alone, into a snow-covered valley.

Thatís how my time outdoors started this year.

It ended in complete opposite fashion.

My last expedition of 2011 was to Holden Arboretum several weeks ago. On an unseasonably warm day, I sat next to a small creek and cracked jokes with my family. We relaxed and ate homemade sandwiches. My mom took photos of my fiancee pretending to push me off a boulder and into the water.

It felt good and easy to be outside that day. I needed no special gear and had no goal other than eventually sauntering back to the car, which was no farther than two miles away at any time.

Itís good to have goals ó sometimes.

In terms of the objectives I set in January, I met two of five. Thatís 40 percent.

I missed the lakeside-daisy bloom, failed to backpack for longer than two nights and never made it to the shores of Michiganís Harbor Country. On paper, I failed.

Yet I kayaked the secretive, permit-only Lake Katharine in May. In February, I rode along as Metro Parks staff brought six bison from The Wilds to Battelle Darby Creek. I climbed up waterfalls, surfed a river in Springfield and rode zip-lines over endangered African animals.

Looking back, I enjoyed myself, savored 12 months bookended by opposites. Maybe thatís the most important objective of all.