How To Cope With Living Far From The Wild

For outdoor lovers, it can be frustrating and even a bit depressing if you live in a place that is far from any wilderness areas. Sure, most cities and towns have parks, but for people who are into backpacking, mountain climbing, and a little peace and quiet, parks just don’t cut it. Ben and I recently moved to an area that is about two hours (minimum) from the nearest mountains. While that is definitely doable for a day trip (and trust me, we’ve spent plenty of days and nights in those mountains!), it’s not exactly convenient. Our ideal situation would be living in a place where we could walk out our back door and be in the mountains or be on a great fly fishing creek.

Over the past year of being an outdoor lover living far from the wild, I’ve learned three tricks for coping. Here you go!

  1. Schedule wilderness time. That’s right…put it on your calendar. Designate days in which you will take the time necessary to get yourself to the mountains. Treat it like an important business meeting and DON’T CANCEL. Just go, no matter how busy you are or how unpleasant the drive sounds. You’ll feel so much better once you are breathing that fresh, wild air. 
  2. Pack ahead of time. Make sure your gear is packed up and ready to go in your vehicle ahead of time. Waking up at 4am in order to hit the road, and then still having to pack up is tough. You’ll be more likely to just scrap your plans and take a raincheck on your adventures. So, pack up the night before or a few days before. You’ll be so glad you did once your alarm goes off. 
  3. Allow as much time as possible. Try to allow yourself as much time in the wild as possible. It will make the long drive feel less grueling. If you can, try to make your excursion an over night one, or better yet, a few nights. 

What are your tips for making time for the great outdoors, even if you live far away from the mountains?

xo, Anna

Review: COOLA Organic Suncare

Stop your search. I have found THE sunscreen brand for us outdoor lovers! Whether you are frolicking in the waves or summiting a peak, COOLA Organic Suncare products will keep your skin protected. 

COOLA products go on smooth and they leave your skin feeling soft, with no greasy residue. AND COOLA believes in the importance of caring as much about what you put ON your body as you do about what you put IN your body. That's why their products use natural and organic ingredients that you can feel good about putting on your skin. 

There is such a wide range of products available from COOLA ranging from lip products, to sprays that set your makeup while offering sun protection, to classic but beautifully scented lotion sunscreens, to light face sunscreens that work well under makeup... They even have a sunscreen spray for your dog

My Recommendation: Get yourself some COOLA! What are you waiting for? 

Here are some of my favorite COOLA products:

       

 

 

 

Working Out to Get Out: Fitness Tips for the Outdoor Enthusiast

1010204_10202919102850376_2540645513967938799_n Spring is right around the corner, can you feel it? Depending on where you are in the country right now, you can probably feel it a bit more than others. Well here in sunny Northern California it feels like Spring is really starting to blossom. With the coming of Spring, I find the motivation to kick my workouts into high gear in anticipation of little dresses, short shorts, and, more importantly, backpacking in the mountains.

The countdown to warm weather and outdoor activities is on. The mountain roads and trails are opening up in just a few short weeks. Now is the time to commit to getting in your best shape so that you can fully enjoy all that the great outdoors has to offer. Because if you hit the trail after a winter of hanging out on your couch without training first, you will be in for a less than stellar surprise.

10359155_10205203339274859_8055588343266801736_nHere are some tips to help you get in shape for your quickly approaching outdoor adventures:

1.  Give your stairs some lovin'.  If you have stairs in your house, use them to your own benefit. Walking or running up and down stairs is great training for hiking. It's also just a great workout in general. Do enough stairs a11000056_10205164531464688_1503326286543275879_nt a fast enough pace and you can get a good cardio session in. Plus, stairs are great for your booty.

2. Walk or jog. Now that the weather is going to be warming up it is a great opportunity to get outside in your neighborhood and go for a quick walk or jog. Just getting your body moving is important, and the fresh air wont hurt either. If the weather's not so nice where you are, get your steps in on a treadmill. If you don't have a treadmill, head to your local gym. No excuses! Walk instead of drive, park farther away from the door when going to the grocery store...find little ways to get yourself moving.

3. Work Out in Your Living Room. Find a fun workout that you can do in your living room before or after work. There are so many online that you can choose from. An online workout, or a fitness DVD, make it easy to fit in a workout without having to commit the time it takes to get to and from where you are going. Just turn on the workout and get to it. (My favorites: www.toneitup.com, barre3 workout DVDs or MyBarre3 online, and Ballet Beautiful. I do 10391415_10205235803006432_9078270789625860469_none or more of these types of workouts every day in preparation for hiking and backpacking.)

4. Rock Your Backpack. A really great (albeit, nerdy) way to train for backpacking is to wear your backpack around the house or out for your walk or jog. You can start out with it empty and gradually add weight to it to build up your strength. It's amazing how heavy your backpack can feel when you haven't worn it for a few months. Best to startil_570xN.674740473_5sw6 wearing it ahead of time to get reacquainted.

5. Squat It Out. Squats are something that you can do anywhere. They will build up your leg strength which is so important for hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, fly fishing, trail running...just about any outdoor activity you can think of. The benefits of squats are unlimited. So do them. Check out this link to make sure that your form is correct. Then, get yourself this amazing tank top.

 

 

The Adventure of a Big Move

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2015 is off to one heck of a start. It has already brought about some huge changes. My husband and I made the move from Washington to Northern California, and the prepping and planning of the move has kept us crazy busy for the past few months. Big moves, or any big life change for that matter, can be stressful, exciting, and a bit sad too. California is very different from Washington, and while my husband and I had spent some time living in the southern part of the state several years ago, we were fairly unfamiliar with the northern half.

We tackled this move with good attitudes, ready for whatever it might bring. The name of the game is adventure: the adventure of moving to a new place, of leaving things and people behind and of forging ahead to create a new life; the adventure of not knowing what lies ahead; the adventure of discovering new areas to play and roam in; and seeking out adventure wherever it can be found. Our free time has been spent exploring and getting to know our new surroundings. For us, being outdoors and spending time climbing in the mountains and fly fishing on creeks and rivers is of the utmost importance. So the first thing we did on our first weekend off in our new home was to hop in our car and scope out our surroundings. Together, with our little dog in the back seat, we sought out new places to get out in the wild.

Lucky for us, we didn't have to search very long or far. The Sierras are just a quick drive away. Yosemite is right there too, and we plan on spending most of our free days getting lost in those mountains. (Read, a high volume of blog posts documenting our adventures in these places coming your way!)

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it's hard. Here are a few things that I have learned about how to make a big move a little 10996995_10205199781505917_3536395246963317470_neasier:

1. Keep a good attitude and embrace the experience for the adventure that it is. (Having an amazing partner who is right there with you every step of the way doesn't hurt either.) *wink* 

2. Seek out places and things that you love. Get acquainted with the new areas in which you will spend your time and can live out your passions in.

3. Establish a new routine.

4. Find the beauty around you. Find the adventure around you. Explore.

Fall Fly Fishing: Why You Should Do It and Some Tips For Success

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Many anglers make the mistake of thinking that once Fall comes around, it's time to store the fly rod and wait it out until Spring. Not true, my friend. Fall is actually an amazing time to hit the river. The scenery is beautiful, the rivers are lower and easier to wade, fish densities are up due to migratory trout, and there are - as previously referenced - fewer people out there to compete with over fishing room. With a good pair of waders and some trusty boots, all that's left is to bundle up and get out there.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while fly fishing in the Fall:

  • Trout Behavior. Several species of trout spawn in the Fall, and consequentially, they become much more territorial and aggressive than they are in the Summer. This can be a good thing for the Fall time angler. A lot of times in the Fall, fly fishermen will opt for streamers, as spawning trout are more likely to chase after and attack these types of flies because they simulate an intruder in the trout's territory. However, I am here to urge you to give dry flies a chance. Fishing with dry flies in the fall can be fruitful and rewarding. There are still hatches going on through September and October, and trout will feed readily on dry flies, if you play your cards right. Pay attention to the colors and patterns that you choose. Nymphs and streamers, though an easy way to ensure that you catch a fish, wont offer the thrill and challenge that a dry fly will. If you pay attention to water temperature and sunlight, it is still very possible to experience great fishing on dry flies throughout the Fall.
  • Stealth Is Important. In the Fall, the sun is a lot lower in the sky during the day which means longer shadows. As every angler knows, shadows can spell disaster when trying to pull one over on a trout. A longer shadow, combined with lower water levels means that it is much easier for trout to see you coming. And, if a trout sees you coming, that's it. Pay attention to where the sun is, and be mindful of your shadows and where they are being cast. Also, be sure that your clothing helps to camouflage you. Wearing neutral, autumn colors is a good idea. In other words, keep the neon in your closet.
  • Be Aware of Water Temperature. Typically, in the summer time, the best times of the day for fishing are the early morning and the evening. During the day, sunlight shines directly onto the water making it easier for fish to see you. Water temperatures get higher which causes the fish to get lazy, so it is generally agreed upon by anglers to be a good time to sit it out. But in the Fall, the opposite tends to be a good technique. Cooler water temperatures actually may result in the fish getting lethargic in the early morning and evening, and becoming more active mid-day when the temperatures rise a bit.

So, in case you needed any coaxing or motivation, there you have it! Fall is an excellent time to fly fish and it provides anglers like me who enjoy tactical fishing with even more elements to challenge our abilities.

Jump Start Your Spring

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Spring has sprung and it's about time! It was a long winter and it is easy to start feeling a bit stir crazy when your outdoor activities are limited. With the warming of the weather, it's time to start planning those backpacking trips and getting ready for those wilderness climbs. Image

During the winter months it is normal for us to slack on exercise in favor of snuggling up with a blanket by the fire. Nothing wrong with snuggling or blankets or fires, however when spring  rolls around, it can be quite the rude awakening to realize that all of that winter snoozing left you feeling weak, out of breath, and totally unprepared for a long trek. When it's time to load up your pack and head out into the backcountry, you want to be ready.

Here are a few ways to jump-start your spring and get back into the swing of things, physically:

1. Make a list. Write down your goals [i.e. hikes you want to do, backpacking trips you have planned, climbs you want to try, a beachy vacation that you want to get in shape for...]. That way you can see everything laid out before you. If that isn't motivation to whip your butt into gear, I don't know what is.

2. Create a routine. Make a plan of when and where and how often you are going to exercise. If it's before work five times a week, then set your alarm a little earlier and go to bed a little sooner than you normally would the night before. Then, [and this is easier said than done,] stick to it. Routines take anywhere from 21 to 66 days to form, depending on who you ask. So when your alarm goes off at 5:30am or you get home from work at 7:00pm, don't give into the urge to "take the day off". Just do it.

3. Mix up your workout regimen. It's easy to get bored if you do the same work out every day. So, try picking a few different ways to exercise and rotate through them on various days of the week. When prepping for a backcountry adventure, it is important to not only get good cardiovascular exercise in, but also to build up strength and endurance. Try alternating between running, going on hikes, and yoga.

4. Find workouts that you love. If you enjoy what you are doing, you will be more likely to actually do it. All the good intentions in the world wont make you go out for a run if you absolutely hate running. If a spin class is more your thing, do it! If jump roping floats your boat, do that.

I love taking barre3 classes. They are fun and they really build up your strength and endurance - plus you get a great cardio work out, mixed with toning and stretching. Perfection!

And if hiking is the only form of "working out" that you can stand, go hiking more. 

If crowded trails aren't your style, check out my post on "Why It's Good to Get Off the Trail" for some tips on how to find more remote places to hike.

5. Start now! It is not too early to start training for your backpacking trip this June. Start your new exercise routine, and make sure you strap on your loaded pack at every chance you get. Even just walking around your house with it on will build up your strength. You don't want the first time you put on your pack this year to be when you're heading out into the wild for three nights.

This is going to be a great year of outdoor exploration!

Let me know your favorite ways to get physically ready for adventure in the comments below!

Rookie Mistakes

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Rookie mistake: hiking 12 miles up a mountain to a glacier in jeans and a flimsy cotton sweater.

Any time you start a new hobby or try a new activity, you, my friend, are a rookie. Making mistakes comes with the territory. In fact, I can guarantee that when trying something new, you are almost certainly going to mess up or do something stupid at some point, [like leaving all of your soaking wet fly-fishing gear in a plastic tote over the winter and forgetting to hang it out to dry so that when you pull it out in the spring, it is all moldy, or having a perfect shot of a yellow-bellied marmot in Yellowstone, mere feet away from you and forgetting to take the lens cap off of your camera...yep].  And that's ok. We've all been there, and the good part is, mistakes help us to grow and to improve ourselves. Yes, it can be embarrassing at times, and no, nobody wants to look like they don't know what they are doing, especially in front of people who are no longer in the rookie phase. But, as sure-footed, skilled, and cool as some people come across as, they started out as a rookie too. And there are surely things that you do better than they do. So, when trying a new activity, embrace your rookie-ness! Don't be afraid to make mistakes and to give it your all. Have fun with it, learn from it, and let your mistakes and experiences help you to grow. You will be scaling that ice wall, surfing that big wave, and reeling in giant brook trout by the dozens in no time.

Some Things I've Learned About Life From My Dog

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Image Here are just a few things that I have learned about life from my dog:

  • Never pass up an opportunity to get outside and play.
  • When someone you love gets home, always be really excited to see them. Run to greet them at the door, and jump up and down.
  • There is no such thing as too much cuddling.
  • Sleep is important. Get lots of it, whenever and wherever you can. Especially in the sunshine, if at all possible.
  • Never stop being curious.
  • When you wake up in the morning, be super excited to see your loved ones. Give them hugs and kisses, because, a whole night is a long time to not get to hang out with each other.
  • Get excited to meet new people.
  • Food is a great source of joy in life - so eat up and savor every bite.
  • New toys are exciting, but nothing beats quality time with loved ones, playing outside, and really, those old toys work just fine.
  • Driving is more fun with the windows rolled down.
  • Never stop learning new things.
  • Give people you love kisses all the time.
  • Just curl up next to someone who is going through a rough time. Simply being there next to them is sometimes the best comfort you can offer.
  • Lay in the sun whenever you get the chance.
  • Be loyal to the ones you love.
  • Exercise is fun.
  • Nothing beats a day of adventure and exploration, especially if it involves getting really dirty.

 

 

How To Plan An Adventure

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When it comes to planning an adventure, fantasizing and daydreaming are the easy parts. It is the details that become the challenge. Some people are able to just drop everything, jump in their car, and hit the road, seeking out adventure wherever their journey takes them. No preparation, no plans... Something about that is appealing. The unknown. The spontaneity. The risk. But, if you are like me and my husband, Ben, you enjoy mapping out the route you are going to take and pinpointing places in your road atlas that you want to be sure to hit. The planning process is part of the rush that we get from going on an adventure. It is the phase in which we get to look into different areas and learn about their history and their geographical wonders. It adds to the anticipation.

To begin with, Ben and I work on compiling a list of all of the places that we want to be sure to visit on our trip. We search the web for cool, little known areas. Google maps is great for getting links to pictures that users have uploaded from each area. This allows us to scout the area and get to know the terrain a little bit better. In the case of an area not having any user pictures uploaded, one can assume that not many people have been there. This can be a good thing if your goal is to get away from people and really experience

Be familiar with the terrain.

the wild without the risk of a crowd. The terrain feature in Google maps is a great tool for determining how steep an area might be. This is important when planning backpacking trips.

Once we've pinpointed all of the places that we want to hit, Ben and I work on putting together a route. We'll figure out the most direct [or the most scenic] way to get from point A to point B. After the general route has been mapped out, we start to figure out roughly how much time we are going to need in each place. For instance, a backpacking trip in The Crazies will require four days, and we need to set aside a good couple of days for fly fishing at each river that we will pass.

One of our favorite parts of planning our adventures is learning a bit about the places that we will be visiting. Ben and I research each place that we will be visiting online and sometimes, if there seems to be a lot of history and information available, we even buy a few books. To prepare for an upcoming adventure, Ben bought us a book about Lewis and Clark's journey through the Missouri Breaks. We plan on floating down a good stretch of the Missouri river and camping in some of the spots that Lewis and Clark made their camps. It makes the experience all the more special if you know a little history about where you are going and who has been there before you.

Most importantly, when planning an adventure, be flexible. Because even with all of the careful research and mapping of routes in the world, it is always wise to expect the unexpected. Unpredictability is the very essence of adventure.

Now, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

A good adventure buddy is a must!

Backcountry Initiation

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301071_2158820181857_2917232_n My first taste of the backcountry involved a lot of sweat, a lot of apprehension, and a pack that weighed over a quarter of my body weight. I had done a bit of hiking, but nothing involving a backpack or more than a few miles, and certainly nothing that involved sleeping out in the middle of nowhere. My husband and I had researched a wilderness area called Horseshoe Basin. 12 miles round trip and promising excellent scenery, we figured this would be a great way to initiate me into the world of backpacking. We packed up only the necessities, working hard to eliminate excess weight. We analyzed maps and read up on forums and decided that limiting the amount of water we carried was the best way to cut weight. The area we were going to be hiking in had plenty of streams, and water sources would be abundant. After all was said and done, my pack weighed 30 lbs, and on my barely 100 lb, inexperienced frame, it felt at least five times heavier than it actually was.

My husband and I headed East of the Cascades to Okanogan County. The trail head was at the end of a very long, very windy, very unmaintained “road” near the top of a small mountain. We set out as the sun was just making it’s first appearance over the mountain tops. The air was still chilly and with our packs strapped on tight, we plunged into a thick forested area through which the path wound for what seemed like hours. It was about a mile in that the heat started to scorch us. The sun inched higher and higher into the clear blue sky above the tree tops. The trail broke out of the trees and opened up onto alpine meadows, blooming with colorful wild flowers and tall grasses. It was breathtaking. It was hot.

The straps of my pack began to feel like they were cutting into my shoulders and my hips. My husband plowed on ahead, his stride sure and strong. He didn’t seem to be suffering like I was, although this wasn’t his first rodeo. He was an avid outdoors-man and he was no stranger to the backcountry, or to hauling a heavy load on his back. I felt myself growing weaker by the moment. The alpine meadows gave way to a burned down forest. A wild fire had torn through the mountains not many months before and dead, blackened trees lay scattered for miles in every direction. At least in the alpine meadows I had had the beauty of the flowers and the sweeping view to motivate me. Now, in this barren graveyard of skeleton trees I felt defeated.

I threw down my pack and booked it to a large boulder just off the trail - the only thing remotely close to a shady place to rest. I crouched beside the boulder, rubbing my shoulders, panting, and on the verge of tears. I realized with sinking certainty, that I had been defeated. I did not have what it took to be an adventurer. I had daydreamed that I would embark on my first backcountry quest with undiscovered, unharnessed, unshakeable strength. Now, as I huddled pathetically by a large rock in the middle of an unbelievably hot, desolate wasteland, the acknowledgment of my inexperience and weakness was nausea inducing.

My husband, upon realizing that I was no longer behind him, circled back and found me in my sorry state. With a gentle smile, he asked what was wrong. I told him that I was not cut out for the wild. My pack was too heavy, it was too hot, and my legs felt like jello. I told him that I could not go on and that we should turn back. My husband would have none of it. He gave me the bottle of water that we brought with us, and I drank deeply, sucking down the warm liquid that offered little to no relief from my suffering. I handed the bottle back to him, wiping my mouth with the back of my sweaty hand. My husband stowed the bottle and held out his hand to me. “Let’s go,” he said, confidently. He hauled me to my feet and helped me ease back into the straps of my pack.

And we carried on. With every step, my body ached more, and the sun beat down harder. But then, gradually, something amazing happened. I realized that despite my discomfort, I was pushing on, keeping up with my husband, and feeling more and more capable by the minute. The landscape changed again and we began winding in between tall cliffs and more alpine meadows. Patches of snow appeared sporadically in the shadowy  places. The heat became more bearable and I didn’t mind the burning in my shoulders and hips so much. I realized that my body was very capable of doing this. I had only to push through my mental barriers to release the adventurer strength within me. I was backpacking! I breathed in the fresh, mountain air and looked around me as I walked, drinking in the beauty of the backcountry - so remote and so unlike any place I had ever been.

Finally, we wound down the side of a cliff, came around a corner, and there it was: our destination. A beautiful valley lay before us, and on the opposite side, a grassy mountainside rose up into a bright blue sky. My husband and I smiled at each other. We trekked across the valley and up the other mountainside, where we found a relatively flat bank with a killer view. We set up camp, built our own water filtration system out of t-shirts, gravel, grass, and some charcoal that my husband had grabbed from the burned out forest we passed through earlier. The water that we filtered was the cleanest tasting water I had ever had the pleasure of guzzling.

That night we sat on the mountainside and watched the sunset together. The last blazing light of the day lit the wildflowers around us on fire so that they glowed in a supernatural way. It was so quiet. So still. The air was so crisp. The sun finally slipped behind a distant peak. It was a brand new world that I was in. In that moment, the backcountry welcomed me with open arms as one of it’s own. I fell in love on that mountainside, both with my husband all over again for believing in the strength that I had inside of me, even when I didn’t, and with the backcountry and all it stood for and all it had to offer. The wild places wove their way into my soul and I’ve never looked back.

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Ode to Freeze-dried Suppers

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If you've been in the backcountry over night, you know what I'm talking about when I say that there are few things that taste as good as a re-hydrated meal eaten right out of the bag in the middle of nowhere after a long day of hiking. Dehydrated meals are a must for any true backpacker. And boy, do we love them. Here are the top reasons why freeze-dried meals are the shizz:

1. There is no better way to pack in the calories needed for long days of trekking it through the wild.

2. They provide you with a hot meal at the end of a long day. Think how nice a warm pouch of Chili Mac would be after a 12 mile hike, eaten as the sun starts setting over the mountains and that cool night air starts to creep in. You can't beat it. Hot meal. A must.

3. Some of them actually taste really good. Try these meals from Mountain House: Chicken a la King, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Beef Stroganoff, Chili Mac with Beef, or Mac and Cheese. Steer clear of the 'Breakfast' options...just my advice.

4. Easy clean up when you eat right out of the bag! No bowls required. Just rinse the bag out when you're done, roll it up small, and stuff it in your pack. No muss no fuss.

5. They fill you up. No really. You wont be hungry after downing a Mountain House Entree pouch.

Freeze-dried suppers are a life saver on a cool, wilderness night. That's why we, the adventurers, the explorers, the backcountry men [and women], love them so.

Why I Fly Fish

"With My Silken Line and delicate hook, I wander in a myriad of ripples And find freedom."

Emperor Li Yu, 6th Century

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I get a wide array of responses when people find out that I am a fly fisherwoman. I have had other women tell me that I am an inspiration. I have been told that I motivate other women to get outside, try new things, and seek out adventure. On the other hand, I have been told that I am weird for getting into fly fishing. A lot of women don't get the appeal of the sport, or of the great outdoors at all for that matter. To them, my behavior is deviant; strange even.

I can't really explain why fly fishing has captured me the way that it has. At best, I can try to put into words what draws me to it and what thrills me about it. It has something to do with the art and the science of it; of being outdoors in some of the most beautiful places that are inaccessible to those who are not willing to get their feet wet. It is the feel of a rod, swaying gracefully with every forward and backward motion of my forearm, and the elegant curve of line arching overhead. It's something about how it requires me to read the various movements of the river, and how it forces me to think like a fish, targeting it with a precise and calculated deception. It has to do with the feel of the river flowing against my legs and the cool chill of the water, emanating through my waders. It's the firm, slick rocks under foot that I must carefully maneuver over in my deliberate trek upstream. It's the way my muscles ache and my palms burn at the end of a long day on the river. And of course...it is the sudden tightening of the line that comes simultaneously with the shattering eruption of a trout breaking the surface from somewhere deep below and grabbing hold of that fly that I placed ever-so intentionally overhead for him.

Fly fishing is a muscle burning, life changing, soul rejuvenating, gut wrenching, exhilarating, freedom finding, beautiful sport. I'm hooked.

Rocks, Ice, and Fog: First Hike of 2014

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photo 2 My husband, Ben, and I spent our New Year's Eve a little differently than most 25 year olds probably did. We had an early dinner at my parents' house and then headed back home where we proceeded to spend the evening packing feverishly for our first adventure photo 1of the new year. We meticulously laid out our gear, inspecting it with great care. Ben's new Kuiu [www.kuiu.com] pack was filled with water, Cliff bars, and extra layers for us to throw on if needed. Our hiking boots were set out side by side. We had the New York New Year's Eve coverage playing on my laptop in the background and at 12am Eastern time (9pm for us), we watched the ball drop, shared a New Year's kiss and then called it a night.

We awoke early before the sun. While other people were in bed, recovering from the night's festivities, we filled our thermoses with hot coffee, grabbed some protein bars, loaded up the truck and hit the road with our little dog, Gunner, heading East. There wasn't much snow on the pass as we made our way through the mountains. But towards the top we noticed a thin sheen of black ice shimmering ever so slightly in the emerging sunlight. A sneaky, deadly thing, black ice.

We pulled off at the top of the pass into a deserted parking lot. No black ice there - instead, it was covered in a thick, obvious layer of ice, coated in a fine blanket of frost. The truck skidded over it's surface as we came to a stop. We wanted to let Gunner out for a break from the car ride. Ben, Gunner, and I each took our turn wiping out on the ice as we tried to walk around a bit to stretch our legs. Laughing, we all piled back into the truck and proceeded on...

East for Adventure!

We stopped for a quick breakfast before heading into the Swakane valley near Chelan. Winding our way back into the valley, we passed through mountains that rose up majestically on either side of the windy dirt road. The tops of the mountains disappeared into the dense fog that blanketed the valley high over head, allowing only a pale, filtered light through from the sun.

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Finally, we saw a place on the south side of the valley where the mountain split and a type of ravine offered access deep into the mountains. We parked the truck, checked our gear, and let Gunner loose, letting him lead the way. The ravine was rocky, icy, and foggy. We picked our way carefully over the ground, climbing up higher and higher. Our hiking boots skidded on the loose rocks that would have been hazardous on their own, even had they not been covered in slick ice and snow.

There was no view from the top other than the sides of the mountains that rose up around us, but those were awe inspiring enough. As we paused for a breather somewhere near the top, surrounded by quiet and stillness and crisp air, we couldn't think of a better way to start a new year, together, just the two of us in this peaceful place. We breathed in the mountain air, took in the uninterrupted silence, and basked in the ice cold breeze. We watched Gunner sniffing around, exploring his surroundings, equally as entranced with the place as we were.

We made our way back down the ravine, through the frost coated grasses of the valley, and back to the truck. We drove back over the mountains in bliss, laughing and recounting the beautiful day that we had had and the amazing new adventure that had kicked off 2014. A successful exploration that set the tone for the rest of the year to come - one full of adventure, pushing our limits, and grabbing life by the horns; and most importantly we started the year off together, doing what we love with the one we love...and with our little dog too.

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3 Ways to Keep Up Your Summertime Momentum!

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It's easy to fall into a gloomy funk once the warm, adventure conducive days of summer begin to fade away. How is an outdoor enthusiast supposed to survive an icey, cold winter, deprived of camping, hiking, or backcountry adventure?

Well, the answer is that you don't have to, my friend! Outdoor exploration is possible in the cold winter months. You have to be a bit more hardcore, but snowy adventures can be the most magical and can make for some of the best stories.

Not everyone is into the idea of camping or backpacking in the snow. I don't blame you. It's cold. But there are other ways that you can get your nature-boost in the wild during the winter without sleeping on icy ground.

So, bundle up! Here are 3 ways to keep up your summer time momentum all the way through the coldest of months:

  1. Lace up your boots, throw on an extra layer of wool socks, and hike! Don't let a little snow stop you. One of my husband's and my favorite hikes was an entirely new experience when we did it in the snow. The hike winds up a steep, switch-back path to the top of a mountain. At the top, there is a beautiful lake, surrounded by jagged peaks. When we did the hike in January, the way up the mountain was completely empty. No other hikers dared to attempt the snowy, icy climb. When we made it to the top, the lake had been transformed from when we had seen it last during the summer months. It was magical, and it became a fond, special memory for us. [I'm not like most bloggers...I'll let you in on a secret: if you live in Washington, check out Lake Serene off of Highway 2 for a beautiful, challenging day hike.]
  2. Snowshoe... cover snowy ground in a fun, efficient way. Explore a new silent, snowy world, blanketed in white. Snowshoeing is great exercise and it is such a good way to wander over otherwise tricky to traverse, snow drift covered land.
  3. Sled...and I don't mean that little old wooden thing from when you were a kid. I'm talking about snowmobiles, which are often referred to as sleds by those who are in the know. And now you know. You can rent sleds at many different resorts and shops during the winter time. They are an excellent way to get a fix when you have the need for speed. You can also cover a lot more ground than you can on foot or on snowshoes. My husband was a snowmobile guide one winter. We took sleds out together for the first time a few years back and it was such an incredible rush! There is so much power in those machines and you can glide over the snow and charge up icy mountains like it's nothing. I highly recommend giving it a try. You'll be hooked.

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Don't let the shorter days and cooler temps keep you huddling, defeated indoors. Try something new! Go have a chilly adventure and breathe in the cool, fresh air! It will thrill you!

Why It's Good to Get Off the Trail!

Image Trekking it up a well-beaten path, brushing shoulders with an endless stream of hiking-stick-wielders and finally making it to the top of the trail, only to be lost in a crowd doesn't do much for me as far as getting my zen on. It's hard to be one with the wild and revel in the sweet rawness of nature when there are multiple groups of hikers munching on picnic lunches at the top of the mountain.

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Popular trails can be beautiful. They can offer a very fulfilling and rewarding experience, and often time the destination is spectacular - that is why they are so popular, after all! But I've developed a deep curiosity for what lies beyond the beaten path. I think about how many hundreds, even thousands of hikers have walked the busy trails and paths.  I wonder then in comparison how many people have seen what lies over the ridge off to the left, or if anyone has made it to the top of the far, snow-capped mountain off in the distance. Those are the places that draw me in. That is what I crave; that solitude in nature and to see places that not everyone has been to and not everyone could make it to.

To get off the trail is a whole new type of adventure...one that you are in control of! You don't know where the path will take you because there is no path. You determine where you end up and how you get there. It's a thrill and it is a great way to really separate yourself from the craziness of the crowds.

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It can be harder to find the path less traveled sometimes, or to know where to even begin blazing your own trail. Take time to do some research. My husband, Ben, and I use Google Maps to find large areas of wilderness without a trail  or road running through it. We'll drive back into the area as far as we can and then ditch the car and take off on foot for miles and miles, creating our own experience in the back country, away from the crowds and headed for new, untainted destinations.

When ditching the trail, make sure you are prepared. Always bring enough food, water, and shelter, and make sure you've got yourself a good dose of flexibility, because when you get off the beaten path, you never know what might happen or what you might find...and that's the fun in it!

Five Ways to Get Outside - No Excuses!

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420104_10200816078676086_1002214786_n I am all about getting outside, doing something adventurous, trying new things, staying active, and pushing my limits. I think everyone should! The world is such a big, beautiful place just waiting to be explored. There is so much out there in nature that we can (and should!) take advantage of.

Now, I know some people who are used to watching tv on the weekends and going to the nearest mall for entertainment might not know quite where to start when it comes to getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors. Six years ago I wouldn't have known where to start either. Outdoor activities seemed fairly unattainable and, frankly, undesirable. Too much work, dirt, and risk. However, over the past few years I have learned that getting outside is not only GOOD for a person's mind, body, and soul, but it can be easy and oh-so-fun!

So, for those of you who just need some ideas of where to start, here you go. Five ways to get outside and enjoy the bountiful playground of the wild!

1. Go hiking! Such great exercise, AND you get to breathe in the fresh air of the great outdoors. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the malls and the crowds; get off your couch; grab a friend, or go alone... There are so many trails out there. Just Google hiking trails in your area and I guarantee you will find some great options, regardless of your skill level. Whether it's a short little walk through the woods, a 5 mile trek up a mountain, or a 3 day backpacking trip in the back country, getting moving and exploring in the great outdoors will do you good.  I would argue that there is hardly anything better for you than getting out into nature, walking through a forest or up a mountain, connecting with the wild, breathing in the pure air, and getting some exercise. Plus, making it to the end of a trail is such a rewarding experience! You will be proud of yourself AND the view from the top is almost ALWAYS worth the sweat.

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2. Ride a bike! If you don't have one, rent one! Pick your desired level of intensity and gogogo! Go for a nice, level ride on a paved path, or pick a mountain and charge it. Get out there, test your limits. Put the pedal to the metal!

3. SUP! Stand Up Paddleboarding is one of my new favorite things to do. It is an excellent source of exercise for your whole body, AND it allows you to get out on the water anywhere there is a body of water near by. There is something so relaxing and grounding about being out on the water on a paddleboard. Whether you are catching waves in the ocean, or cutting across a glassy lake, you will get a good work out AND get outside. You can paddleboard all year round too. Just bundle up in the winter time and hit the lake. I love being out on the water on a clear, calm, winter day. You can rent paddleboards all over the place. Again, just Google SUP rentals in your area. My board is from Perfect Wave Surf Shop [www.perfectwave.com].

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4. Bouldering! What is bouldering, you might ask? Well, it is a form of rock climbing that does not use ropes or harnesses. Raw, baby. Just you, gripping a rock wall with your bare hands. Talk about extreme. This is a great way to test yourself and push yourself to new limits. Conquer your fear! I'm terrified of heights, but hey, what better way to get over that than to climb a rock wall with no safety net? Best part about it: no gear required! Worst part about it: no gear required!

5. Go fishing! Fishing is a huge passion of mine. I am a fly fisher-woman myself, but there are all different kinds of fishing that you can learn. Whether you hit the nearest lake with a spinning reel and some PowerBait, or go squid jigging off a pier in the ocean, you are bound to have a great time, especially if you bring a buddy along. But seriously, try fly fishing...it's the best.

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So, no excuses! There are so many things to try and so many ways to get yourself outside! Go! Have the adventures that you have been yearning for! Make them happen! Push yourself, conquer your fears, and make yourself proud!

The Start of a Beautiful Obsession

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Image We had 11 days set aside and a wide open road ahead of us. My husband, Ben, and I took off before the crack of dawn on a fly fishing trip that would take us all over South West Montana. It was my first fly fishing trip and I was more excited for it than I could ever begin to explain. I had spent the past year practicing casting in the backyard. I had taken an excellent fly fishing class through Creekside Angling Company [www.fishcreekside.com]  and I had been avidly following the incredible April Vokey of Fly Gal Ventures [www.flygal.ca]. I was ready.  Armed with my new Redington rod and reel [www.redington.com] and Fishpond chest pack [www.fishpondusa.com], I expected to step out into the river, throw out one of the nifty new casts I had been taught in my class and land a monster.

Ben has been fly fishing all of his life and he is (and I'm not being biased here, I swear) nothing short of exceptional. He has a gift and I have watched him weave magic with a rod, reaching far out into the flowing expanse of a stream, laying the fly just so on the slick film of the surface. Nothing is more thrilling than that moment when a trout, drifting against the current deep below and upon gazing upward sees the fly that was so intentionally presented before it, acts upon it, surging up and seizing that fly in its mouth. It has taken the bait. It has been fooled. I have seen Ben do this time and time again. He had coached me and encouraged me and helped build my excitement. Now was my chance. It was my turn to show off my new skills and join the elite league of dry-fly fishermen.

We reached our first destination, the family cabin,  around dinner time. The cabin sits off the beaten path, way back in the mountains outside of Missoula. My father-in-law and mother-in-law live at the cabin for about six months out of the year and they were waiting for us when we pulled up. We were ready to pass out from exhaustion. It is about an eight-hour drive from our home in the Pacific Northwest to the cabin and we were beat. No fishing for us that night. We scarfed down a home cooked meal, courtesy of my mother-in-law and hit the sack.

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The next morning we woke up bright and early. My excitement was through the roof. This was it. We geared up and hit the river. The family cabin sits on a blue ribbon fly fishing river. I stepped into the water, all April-Vokey wannabe and began unfurling my line in the way that I had practiced so many times back home. I tried desperately to imitate what I had seen my fly fishing instructor do; what I had seen Ben do; what I had seen April Vokey do in her videos. Nothing. My line kept getting tangled, I kept hearing Ben and my father-in-law yelling at me from down stream, "Keep moving!". Cast, pull in line, take two steps up river, repeat. After a few hours the sun was high over head and it was beating down with an intense heat. My father-in-law and Ben had each already caught several fish and I was still 0 for 0. My hands were sore and blisters were starting to form. I was getting a sunburn on my arms and I was starving. My bubble was completely burst. Ben made his way up to me and asked how it was going and if I was about ready to head in for the day to await the evening hatch. I felt tears stinging my eyes (I know, I know, pathetic) and I looked at him and said, "I don't think I have what it takes!". Ben smiled and laughed at me gently. He put his arm around me and reassured me that I did have what it takes and that we would try again that evening. Reluctantly, I allowed myself to be led back into shore and we began the long hike back down along the riverbank towards the cabin.

I was beat. Defeated. Discouraged. Disillusioned. I felt betrayed by April Vokey. By anyone who made fly fishing look easy. It was NOT easy. I had been as fooled as a fish buying into the illusion of a fly drifting peacefully on the surface of a creek. Dumb. I ate a big lunch, tried to take a nap, but ended up laying awake for about an hour dreading having to face defeat on the river once more that evening.

The air got cooler, the sun got lower. It was time. We trekked back out to the river and I will admit, my attitude was less than positive. But, upon entering the waters nestled between the mountains in a quiet, tranquil valley...something felt different than it had that morning.  It was just me and Ben on the river that night. My father-in-law had stayed back at the cabin with my mother-in-law. Ben let me get up-stream of him a ways. All I could hear was the sound of the river rushing around me. The sky took on a pinkish hue as the sun set lower and lower. I cast my line out, pulled it in, took two steps up-stream, repeated. I felt myself beginning to relax. I was enjoying myself. I was still not catching a dang thing, but I was loving the feel of the rod in my hand and the pull of the smooth line against my fingers. A bald eagle soared lazily overhead, low enough in the air for me to see every detail of its beautiful body and the contrast of its stark white head. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, took two steps upstream and cast out my line.

*Bam* The next bit is a tad fuzzy, it all happened so fast. The thrill of feeling a trout hit the line, the rush of the dance, wrangling that powerful, squirming body out of its watery lair. I was squealing uncontrollably and hysterically.  Ben began making his way as quickly as possible upstream towards me shouting, "Stay calm! You've got this, bring the fish in close to you!" Well ladies and gents, after a few life-changing minutes I was sliding my hand down the line, grasping that dear, blessed Purple Haze [a type of dry fly] and lifting a 13-inch rainbow trout out of the water. I took the fish in my hands, grinning stupidly from ear to ear while Ben laughed and congratulated me. I have never seen him so proud of me and THAT alone was the best thing in the world. I removed the fly from the trout's mouth and stared at it, gripping it (undoubtedly a bit TOO tightly) in my shaking hands.

The start of a beautiful obsession.

Ben snapped a few shots of my first conquest and then I gently lowered the fish back into the river, facing it up-stream, holding it loosely until it found its strength and powered its way out of my hands and out of my sight. It was the start of a beautiful obsession and a damn good fly fishing trip during which many more fish were to be caught and now I officially have the fever. The fly fishing fever, that is.