How I Got Skunked and Why I’m OK With It!

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Weekend Adventurin’

This past weekend, my husband, Ben, and I sped over to the family cabin in Montana for four days of studying, relaxing, and – of course – fly fishing. We were hoping desperately to time it just right so that we hit the big October Caddis hatch. Unfortunately, the hatch didn’t happen during our stay. Ben had a few great bites and even kept one on the line for a little bit of a fight. But me? I got royally skunked. The fish completely ignored every single thing I threw their way. I got nothin’ – no bites, not even the faintest sign of aquatic life lurking somewhere in a distant deep pool…NOTHING. All I had to show for my time on the river was a huge new blister. I should have been discouraged. I should have been pissed. But you know what? I couldn’t stop smiling a huge stupid grin the whole time I was out there. Yep, I got skunked this weekend, and here is why I am OK with it:

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Heaven.

Even though I wasn’t catching any fish, I was having the time of my life! I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world on a blue ribbon trout fishery; my husband – the love of my life- was just up stream of me; aside from the sound of the rushing water in which I stood, submerged up to my waist, the world was silent around me. I was surrounded by mountains and Aspen trees. A soft wind blew gently through their leaves. Gorgeous blue birds flew over head. The sun beat down, its rays just warm enough to keep me a comfortable temperature, despite the frigid waters of the river pouring against my legs, clad in my Frogg Toggs waders [www.froggtoggs.com]. Yes, despite the lack of fishy conquests, I was content. More than content. I was happy. I was enjoying myself. I was breathing in the fresh, crisp, fall, Montana air. I was with my best friend, fishing in an extraordinary river that runs right by our family cabin…I realized how blessed I am.

See, that is the best part about fly fishing. It allows you to be present in the moment. It allows you to be with someone you love, and yet, alone in a sweet isolation – just you and the river; just the motion of your rod and the gentle, deliberate ‘C’ of your line, swooping overhead. It allows you to feel each rock beneath your booted feet (my boots are from Redington and I love them [www.redington.com]). Fly fishing brings you to some of the most breathtaking places, and lets you see them from a point of view that not many people get to experience – from the middle of a raging river or from a distant shore.

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We still had the best time together!

As Ben and I clambered up the river bank, on the eve of our trip’s end, we smiled at each other. We walked back up the dirt road towards the cabin. Blue birds flitted in the trees and the shadows grew longer as the sun sank lower and lower behind the mountains. Yep, we got skunked. But we still had a damn good time.

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You win this time, Montana!

5 Ways the Backcountry is Good For You

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Backcountry Goodness!

There is always a moment when I first set out on a trail that will lead me winding and twisting for days back into the backcountry. It’s like all the stress of the hustle and bustle of life releases in one giant cleansing breath. I feel lighter. Free. Back to my roots. Backpacking has become a huge hobby of mine and not just for the break from work and the city. Here are five ways that being out in the backcountry, away from society and all creature comforts is GOOD for you!

1. Clear your mind. Get away from the chaos and constant over-stimulation and just be, bra.

2. Breathe in the fresh, clean, pure air of the wild. It’s good for your mind, body, and soul.

3. It makes you have to rough it a bit. In this day and age of everything being readily available and easy to obtain, having to work for your food, shelter, and – to an extent – your very survival is a GOOD thing. Get your hands dirty! You wont regret it.

4. Backcountry adventurin’ is great exercise! Carrying a huge backpack full of gear on your back for 12 miles a day is a workout like no other. AND you are usually  in some of the most stunning landscapes out there so that’s a bonus: amazing view while working out. I’d take that over the gym any day.

5. In the backcountry, you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You might find yourself in some less than ideal situations: a rain storm, a ripped tent, an encounter with a bear… it is GOOD to face your fears and to tackle whatever the wild might throw your way. It gives you the opportunity to surprise even yourself and to do something that you did not even know you were capable of.

So get outside! Breathe in the fresh air! Surprise yourself! The backcountry awaits you!

Good Ol’ John Muir

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Taken on the banks of the Gallatin river by yours truly.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
John Muir

I like to think that this quote by John Muir sums up my thoughts about nature and the importance of getting back to one’s native, primal roots.  We are creatures built for fresh air and great expanses of open country beckoning to be wandered in. It is crucial for us to find a place that is filled with nothing but uncluttered, crowd-free, slow-paced, wind-whispering solitude. Quiet.

I find myself becoming so overwhelmed, and at times I will admit underwhelmed, with the hustle and bustle of modern life in a society that values a job quickly done. I personally just don’t buy into the hype – the so-called “beauty” of a busy city street lined with sky scrapers and spattered with chewed and discarded gum.  While some find that they are most at home in the grey, steel and concrete jungle, I find a part of myself that is repulsed by what has become the “norm”. I tend to shy away from crowds and from things and places that I identify as being so far removed from the natural world in which I feel that I belong.

John Muir speaks truth. Not only was he a great naturalist and an advocate of the preservation of America’s wilderness, but he was wise in his understanding of the essence of human need for open spaces and the wild country. I need to disconnect from society and from the pull of modern life at times. In fact, I may be so bold as to say that we ALL do.  There are weeks that I look ahead to the coming weekend with a giddy excitement like a child awaiting a much-anticipated gift from a beloved parent.  When the sun shoots its first rays of light over the horizon, I am ready with gear packed into the back of a black F-150, speeding towards the mountains and the chance to just simply BE in the great outdoors. I seek a place in which I may wander for days without encountering another human being. I search for a breathtaking view and the feel of a mountain breeze of fresh air blowing against my skin. An uncluttered landscape. Very few sounds to fill my consciousness.

Yep. John Muir had it so right.