Banff Film Festival
Watch Bighorns Butt Heads
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA
This is the largest state park in California, and while it’s mostly desert, there are 8,000-foot mountains, too. And here, mountains actually mean bighorns (borego is the Spanish name for bighorn). And with bighorns, this time of year means fighting over females. In summer, Coyote Creek is too damn hot–but in winter, you can follow it to find sheep. parks.ca.gov
Tramp in New Zealand
Mt. Aspiring National Park
Parts of this area get 200 inches of rain a year, but starting early in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, the precip tapers off. Unfortunately, crowds increase: The most famous trail on the South Island, the 24-mile-long Routeburn Track–stunning scenery, blankets of buttercups–sees 10,000 trekkers a year. A better bet: the weeklong Five Pass loop, from the head of Lake Wakatipu through grassy river valleys and up over snowy saddles. Along the way, you’ll bump into maybe two Kiwis (and their bottle of whisky). Even better: The park is full of rustic huts. Best: You can get an all-you-can-stay hut pass for about 70 bucks (doc.govt.nz).
Ring in 2009
Cape Mendocino, CA
This is the westernmost spot–and last sun-kissed coastline–in the continental U.S. The best camping is at 14-site Mattole Beach, 11 miles south. Settle in as the sun dips below the Pacific and closes the book on 2008 ($8; 707-825-2300).
Life List: Baja
Sea kayak the coast of Baja
Step 1: January
Las Lecciones Españolas
It’s already a week into 2008. You’re leaving for Baja in 119 days (and, if you’re doing Torres, 340). And you can’t live off Taco Bell spanglish. At least not where you’re going. ¿Entienda? Sign up for a local language course–or go DIY with a comprehensive audio class from pimsleur.com (from $25).
Step 2: February
Build Paddling Strength
Start with 10 pushups a day, and build up to 50. Ask if your gym has a kayak erg–it’s like a rowing machine, but specific to paddling. (A rowing machine still works, as does an arm bike.) If you don’t train, says NOLS guru Heather Scurman, “you’re going to spend the first couple of days physically challenged.”
Step 3: April
Go to Sea-Kayak Boot Camp
Rescues and strokes. Reading wind and waves. Predicting tides. Open-water navigation. With Kayak Academy, you’ll learn your basics–all in the midst of Washington’s classic San Juan Islands (kayakacademy.com). Check paddling.net/schools for classes closer to home.