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.

Try this! Decorate your home with landscape pictures, natural colors, and accents that bring aspects of the outside in. Check out Trekking Photography’s work.

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.

Try this! Bring the scent of the great outdoors inside with Juniper Ridge Wilderness Perfume. Cabin Spray: $40

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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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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.

Autumn Transitions

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Sometimes it seems like the end of summer comes so abruptly. One day you are wearing your cutoffs, summer dresses, and tank tops, and the very next day you are bundling up in wool sweaters and scarves. The arrival of Autumn can be sudden and extreme, and it can be hard to cope with the fact that it is now officially time to rotate out your wardrobe in preparation for the colder months ahead. Especially for the outdoor adventurer, the end of summer can be a somewhat gloomy prospect. It marks the end of carefree, dry, summer explorations, and promises less predictable and sometimes less pleasant weather that can tend to feel like it will inhibit all outside activities. But never fear! The arrival of Autumn does not need to mean the end of your adventures!

Here are some ways to help with your transition out of summer and into the colder weather that awaits us:

  • Beef Up Your Cold Weather Inventory! Just because the weather is turning, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get outside and have the time of your life. But it does mean that you need to make some changes to the gear you bring along. Take inventory of your cold weather gear. Make sure you have adequate rain accommodations, like waterproof clothing, gaiters, and shelter. Switch your light weight quilt out for your 0 degree sleeping bag. Stock up on a Merino Wool hat, base layers, and socks. And be sure to throw in hand warmers, instant coffee, and some Mountain House meals – because nothing beats a hot meal on a cold night in the backcountry. If done right, a cool Autumn night spent under the stars can be an unbeatable experience. The key is preparedness.
  • Commit To Your Adventures. The thing is, in the summer time it is easy to go camping on a whim, or throw your fly rod in the back seat and head out to the river for the day. The sun is shining, the weather is great, and the cold isn’t a factor. As the seasons turn though, it can be harder to find the motivation to step into the river or head up into the mountains when it’s chilly out. So, the solution is to make solid plans for your adventures, pack up all of your cold weather gear (that you have already taken inventory of and ensured that you have), and -this is the important part- DO IT! Just do it. No excuses. A little cold is certainly worth the memories you will make. Mark your adventures on your calendar so that it is harder for you to back out. Commit to getting outside, even in the colder months. As long as you have the right gear, you will be comfortable and have a great time.
  • Find Motivation In the Season. Autumn can be one of the most beautiful times of the year to get out into nature. With the changing colors and crisp, clear air, you will find scenery that you wont get in the Summer. Autumn is an excellent time to hit the river for fly fishing. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that with the end of Summer, it is time to store your fly rod. The view from the middle of a river surrounded by yellow Aspens is something that you just have to see to believe. And you wont see it if you don’t get out there. So find motivation in those seasonal sights and go explore!

Don’t let the cooler days get you down. Prepare, plan, and then go have some bright, fall-colored, brisk, cool-weather adventures!

Fly Gal

Check out the interview that the WWDClub did with Wild Writes founder Anna M. Cohen!

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We had the pleasure of sending off a few interview-style questions to one of our followers, Anna M. Cohen. Her love for fly fishing inspired us to ask some tips and stories to share with you! “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”

Here is how the interview went:

1. How did you get into fly fishing? Was it a family tradition or did you venture out to learn on your own?:
My dad is a fly fisherman, but I never really tried fly fishing growing up – not seriously at least. I didn’t begin to fly fish for real until I met my husband. He is a fly fishing fanatic, and he is also extremely good at it. His passion is what really peaked my interest in the sport. My husband was a patient teacher. With his help…

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Going Off the Grid: Why It’s Good For You

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One thing [of many] that I love about being at our family cabin in Montana, is the fact that it is completely off the grid. When I first went out there years ago, it was a bit of a shock for me. I was very much accustomed to the creature comforts of modern life, and the fact that I had to use a compost toilet in an outhouse, initially seemed like a sick joke.

But, as the years have gone by, I have grown to appreciate the beauty of the simultaneous simplicity and complexity that being off the grid provides. The only power is solar power [when you choose to hook it up] and the water all comes from a well. When my husband and I go out there, just the two of us and our dog, Gunner, we often choose to not to have electricity in order to fully immerse ourselves in the “Off the Grid Experience”.

After our most recent trip to the cabin, I have come up with some reasons why going completely off the grid is good to do every once in a while – for your body and your soul.

1. Fewer distractions.

Going off the grid means no TV, no cell phone service, and no internet. It means you have to find ways to entertain yourself – ways that are, in my opinion, seemingly more in tune with a primal part of humans. Read a book [or two, or three…], go for a hike, go fishing, go for a walk, play a board game, simply sit and talk with a loved one, or just enjoy the silence and watch nature going about its business around you.

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2. Quality time.

I love being at the cabin with my husband because there are no distractions. We are able to really be together and have long conversations and play games together and enjoy little things, like a herd of 23 deer grazing right outside the cabin. We get to share the work that comes with being off the grid, like hand washing dishes and making a fire in the wood burning stove. It’s magical, in a way, to spend a weekend entirely cut off from the rest of the world. Especially with the one you love.

3. Candlelight.

One of my favorite parts of being off the grid is having to use candlelight at night. My husband and I ate our dinners by candlelight. We lit a dozen candles and spread them out all around the cabin, filling the place with a warm, flickering glow. The wood burning stove crackled and heated the cabin, making it cozy. Candlelight is so calming and beautiful.

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4. Work for it!

Being off the grid is a lot of work. A LOT. You have to chop wood for the fire, especially in the cold months. Without a fire, the cabin is freezing, so always having a bunch of wood on hand is a must. You have to empty the compost toilet. Enough said about that. You have to hand wash dishes with well water, which is a task that I avoid feverishly at home, thanks to my dishwasher. Cooking takes longer, so you have to plan meals ahead accordingly. But the good thing about all of the work that goes into being off the grid, is that it makes you appreciate that fire, and the ingenious nature of that compost toilet, and that food that you slaved away over, and those sparkling clean dishes, in ways that you never would if you hadn’t had to work so hard for them.

5. Appreciate nature.10306182_10203066990667479_5290437805133571472_n

Over a four-day weekend at the cabin a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I saw countless deer, a herd of 37 elk, four moose, and a bunch of bighorn sheep. It is incredible to be able to be so close to wildlife and to observe it in its natural state. It’s a rush!

If given the opportunity, my recommendation would be to take advantage of a chance to get off the grid for a few days. It makes you appreciate the little things, and it allows you to quiet your mind and focus on the present. Going off the grid is hard work, but the reward is more than worth it.

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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”!

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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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!

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.