That Certain Something About the Outdoors

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Spot the girl. Extra points if you spot the dog!

There’s just something about being outside, I mean really outside, away from crowds and man-made things,  that is hard to pin point. It’s best described as something that eases the mind, awakens the soul, and refreshes the body. In other words, it does a lot of good in a lot of ways. Maybe it’s the fresh, crisp air, or the untrampled, somewhat unexplored ground beneath one’s feet. Maybe it’s the views that are unlike anything ever made by man. Maybe it’s the sounds, or lack thereof, or the wildlife that is just as curious about you as you are of it. Maybe it’s the smells – the pine needles, the wild flowers, the sweet grasses, the dry dirt… Maybe it’s the sense of solitude, or self-sufficiency or a necessity for survival – some primitive instinct that begins to emerge when one is far from civilization.

Whatever it is, it’s something that I like and something that I genuinely believe is a good something. It’s not always realistic to get outside – really outside – all that often. With our fast paced, packed schedules and obligations it can be a challenge to get out into nature even one weekend a month.

So I’ve set out to try to pinpoint some ways in which we can try to capture that something and infuse it into our daily lives. A feeble attempt to bring a little of that certain something about the outdoors home to tie us over and stimulate the senses until our next grand adventure when life allows us a chunk of time in which to get lost in nature.

Here goes:

1. Sight: The outdoors are full of beautiful, pure, natural sights and breathtaking views.

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TrekkingPhotography.com

TrekkingPhotography.com

2. Sound: The sound of the wind rustling through the grass and rustling through the trees. The sound of birds chirping and a stream gurgling…the sound of silence.

Try this! Leave your windows open and let the fresh air and the breeze in. Find a nice Pandora station that plays nature sounds.

3. Smell: In the outdoors your nose is met with natural scents of wild foliage and places untouched by man. They are pure and simple and interesting.

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4. Mind and Soul: Outside, you can unplug and slow things down. There’s no rush and there’s too much to do, see, smell, and hear to even think about updating your Twitter. It’s just you, your thoughts, and your senses.

Try this! Unplug for a bit. Stow away your electronics for a night or a weekend. Take time to just think and to be aware of your surroundings and engage your senses. Take some of the time that you would normally spend on your phone or computer and instead try meditating. Or do something to care for yourself, such as a nice relaxing bath or a yoga class or reading a book you’ve been meaning to get to. Capture some of that slow-paced, quiet, reflection that being outside gives you.

When I’m outside I feel relaxed, happy, curious, and in awe. I think those are good things to feel. So my goal is to try to mimic what I feel when I’m outside in my daily life, even when I’m stuck inside.

11070515_10205339766405452_3832441715362798048_nLet me know what you do to bring that something about the outdoors into YOUR daily life in the comments!

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Grab Your Fears By The Horns

Face your fears and be rewarded.

Face your fears and be rewarded.

I must confess: I am a worrier. As much as I love the wild, I fear it. As much as I long to push my limits, I worry that I will push too far. When I am out getting my adventure on, I am constantly considering every possible way that I might die or be brutally maimed. It’s a constant battle for me. I am far from fearless.

But, that is one thing that I appreciate most about the wild – that it makes you embrace your fears, and sometimes even conquer them. Being afraid is a part of adventure. It’s a part of discovering yourself and what you are capable of, and learning to push through fear is a valuable lesson that can be applied in every aspect of life.

When I’m in the backcountry, miles from civilization, I am afraid of many things. I’m afraid of bears, falling off a cliff, and getting struck by lightning. But I’ve learned that you just have to push through, grab your fears by the horns, and hang on tight. You’ll be in for one hell of a ride if you do! And when you look your fears right in their glowing red eyes, you might just see that you are bigger than them and that they aren’t so scary after all.

Some Things I’ve Learned About Life From My Dog

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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.

 

 

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.

Morning Rituals

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How you start your day is important. What you do, see, feel, hear, smell, or taste first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to get out of that warm bed in the morning, especially during the winter time when those blankets feel extra cozy and the house feels extra chilly.

It’s important to make a conscious decision about how you are going to start each day. You can choose to fill your morning with happy, positive thoughts and rituals. There are little things that you can do in the early hours, when you are fresh out of dream-land and your mind is a clean slate. Here are a few ways to make waking up a little easier:

1. Try making one of your favorite songs your alarm. Waking up to something that makes you happy will get your morning off to a great start.

2. Instead of jumping on facebook first thing in the morning, try meditating on everything that you have to be thankful for. Focusing on the positive things in your life is a great habit to get into.  Look for the good in the day ahead.

3. Prepare for your day the night before. Pack your lunch, get your clothes all laid out, and make sure you have all the ingredients ready for a good breakfast. Prepping the night before will save you from unnecessary stress in the morning.

4. Coffee. Just knowing there is hot coffee waiting for you is good motivation to slip out of that warm bed.

And my last bit of advice…

5. Try very hard, whenever possible, to wake up in the mountains…preferably in time to watch the sunrise. With coffee.

The Tonic of Wildness

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

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That’s it…that is what it is. That is the thing about nature; about the great outdoors. You can never fully comprehend or understand it all. There is always something new and wondrous about it. There is always a new discovery to be made and a brand new experience to be had in the wild.

As we grow older, time goes by faster and faster. I am twenty-five years old and I can honestly say that 2013 has been the fastest year of my life. Research shows that as we grow older, we are less likely to experience new things…things that scare us and amaze us and push us outside of our comfort zone. THAT is why time goes by faster the older we get.

The key to slowing down time is to do something new. So…do something that scares you, or that amazes you.  Do something that pushes you outside of YOUR comfort zone. I turn to nature for my remedy. It is mysterious and unfamiliar. You will always have new experiences in nature. Often times you will be forced to step outside of your comfort zone, even if it is just going without makeup for a few days or sleeping in a tent or climbing to the top of a steep hill to experience an incredible view.

Get your daily dose of the unknown…of the unfathomable. Don’t let life pass you by!

Drink up the “tonic of wildness”!

East for Adventure

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Sunrise in the East

I associate heading East with adventure. I grew up in Western Washington, and aside from a brief stint on the southern Californian coast, that is where I have lived my whole life. Western Washington has beauty and plenty of places to explore, but for me East of the mountains is where true adventure awaits.

My parents and I used to take drives over the mountains to get hamburgers at the little mountain burger stand together. The first time my dad and I fly fished together was on the Yakima river in Eastern Washington. Some of the best backpacking trips and hikes that my husband, Ben, and I have been on have been East of the Cascades. Our family cabin lies to the East, in Montana. I associate “East” with so many good memories.

There is something about cresting the Cascade mountains. The clouds clear up, the trees become more spread out allowing for some great, uninhibited hiking, and the sun is usually shining. Descending on the East side, hills covered in sage brush and pines beckon to me, daring me to take off into them for a day or a week. The rivers flow by the highway, begging for me to cast a fly into their rapids.

To the East is adventure; the unknown; rugged terrain that one can wander through for days. Wild animals roam freely, uninhibited by large crowds or overpopulation encroaching on their country. The East holds an enchantment over me. Whenever I think about going over the mountains I feel an excitement building up inside. Anything is possible.  Anything might happen.

Mountain Peaks and Salty Seas

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Balance is an important thing in life. Sometimes people can take the concept of balance to an unhealthy extreme, but that’s a topic for another day. The balance that I want to talk about is the kind that involves terrain. When it comes to getting out there and exploring the great outdoors and all that it has to offer, don’t limit yourself!

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I think that we all need a healthy serving of mountains, and a side of tropical beach. These two types of terrain are polar opposites in most ways. But both are good for you, both physically and mentally.

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        The mountains are jagged, mysterious, challenging…they allow you solitude and the chance to prove your abilities to yourself. You can conquer new heights, scale new cliff sides, and lose yourself (voluntarily, of course) in the cool forests. Mountain air is clear, crisp, and enlightening. You can listen to the cry of an eagle echoing through canyons, and watch an elk making it’s way through a wide open field. You can wander for hours or days, uncovering new sights that will take your breath away.

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Tropical beaches give you something else. They allow you to feel the sand between your toes. You can submerge yourself in the turquoise waters of the ocean and explore underwater caverns. You can swim with colorful schools of exotic fish, test your nerves in a shark cage, and watch the sun set into the ocean while sipping fresh coconut milk. Salt water does the body and mind good, and nothing beats floating, spread eagle in the sea with the sun beaming down on your smiling face.

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Balance is important when it comes to being an adventurer. To take advantage of nature and appreciate it in its’ full capacity, I suggest making time for both mountain peaks AND salty seas. Trek up that treacherous terrain, stare up at that wide expanse of starry sky as wolves sing you a lullaby, bask in the quiet and the coolness and the unknown of the mountainous wilderness. And lay in the sand, soak up the Vitamin D (with a healthy coating of sunblock, of course), eat fresh, tropical fruit, dive in the sea…

Balance, brah! It’s a beautiful world with so much to offer! Be sure to experience it all!

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Why It’s Good to Get Off the Trail!

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Get off the beaten path and see what’s really out there!

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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Pick a wide open space on the map and go!

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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Beauty awaits you!

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!