Thursday, December 25, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree!

This year I wanted to create an authentic Christmas memory to last through the ages! I had always wanted to search for and cut down my own Christmas tree, so this year I made my wish a reality.

I wanted to support a local farm. Hutton-Loyd Tree Farm was a perfect fit. This place is the real deal, offering all kinds of fun all year long. They operate a nursery and garden center, host weddings, and even run a private fishing club (which I will be checking out next year).

We packed up the car one Saturday morning and made the hour drive out of Lexington. For me, the drive is half the fun. I love traveling to new places and discovering different towns, farms, and random KY landmarks. As we drove, we passed through Fleming County. Apparently, this county is the Covered Bridge Capitol of KY! You may not know this about me, but I am a geek. Especially for things like antiques, old forts, and covered bridges. I sat at the edge of my seat hoping to drive past, over, or under a covered bridge. We made it to the farm without one covered bridge sighting, but I perked up when I saw the large tree selection!

They have many varieties including White pine, Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Nordmann fir, Norway spruce, and Colorado blue spruce. We walked through the different trees for a very long time searching for the so-called perfect tree. The only problem was that at this farm there were a lot of practically perfect trees! I even tried to "be one with the trees" to see if any tree spoke to me:

That didn't work. So we just picked one - a wonderful Norway Spruce. 

We cut it our selves, dragged the seven foot spruce to the car, tied it to the roof, and were on our merry way! The Hutton-Loyd Tree Farm staff were very helpful throughout the entire process.

I encourage you all to support a local tree farm in your area next year and if you are in Kentucky stop by the Hutton-Loyd farm. It was a blast and is fun for the whole family, including kids of all ages.

Shop Local and Have A Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's a bird... it's a plane... it's a Tenkara Fly Girl!

It's a bird... it's a plane... it's a Tenkara Fly Girl! 

Love my new Tenkara USA T-shirt and Cap

Stay tuned for my latest Tenkara adventure. Well, that is if I catch any fish :)

Mammoth Cave - An Introduction to Caving

A few months ago, I had the chance to do something that I had wanted to attempt for years.  I took the Introduction to Caving Tour at Mammoth Cave National Park.  Mammoth Cave National Park has over 400 miles of explored caves and is the longest cave system in the world. I remember the days when there were only 350 odd miles of cave! (Geez, I sound old.)

First, let me say that I have been to Mammoth Cave every year of my life... for real. Both sets of my grandparents live in the area and my parents ended up moving 30 minutes down the road, so it has become one of my favorite national parks. Favorite doesn't begin to describe it - it has become a second home. After moving away multiple times in my life I am always pulled back to this place! My ancestors have had a strong connection to the cave, my great grandfather helped in the attempted rescue of Floyd Collins, my grandfather worked in the cave as a young man, and my grandmother was even on a popular postcard back in the day! I worked a summer job at the Mammoth Cave Hotel and would happily roll my eyes at families checking in that expected hot tubs, pools, and five star resort services. I would always let these families know that in order to preserve the integrity of the cave system we could not have a pool (something I may have made up) and that it was either this or they could camp. 

Sure, there are parts of the park that I have yet to explore and trails I have yet to hike, but I feel so comfortable there and have pretty much gone on every tour they offer. Except for the Wild Cave Tour. That made me uncomfortable. Not because I am afraid of small spaces or anything, it is more that I have an overactive imagination.  I pictured us plunging into the cave carrying torches and rope, crawling over rocks, and repelling into deep chasms! I thought that maybe I would fall and break both legs and yell to the rest of the group, "Go, save your self. Tell my family that I love them!" But hey, I am a romantic.

So I thought, instead of starting with the Wild Cave Tour (5 miles), I would start with the Introduction to Caving Tour (only 1 mile). Here are a few of the things you need to know before taking the tour:
  • You need proper footwear. They will turn you away if you show up in anything less than sturdy boots with tread.
  • No personal caving gear allowed.
  • Cave is at a constant 50 degree temperature.
  • Your hip/chest measurements cannot be over 42 inches. If you are over that you will get stuck! 
  • If you are claustrophobic, this isn't for you.
  • This tour takes 3.5 hours.
  • They provide coveralls and helmet with light. (I was sad we didn't get torches!)
  • You crawl, a lot.
  • We clean off all of our gear and shoes after the tour to prevent White Nose Syndrome (WNS). This is something new that the park system has been doing over the last few years to help increase the bat population. WNS is a fungal disease that kills millions of bats. For more information about go to or
I get to the park, check in, get suited up and we are off! The funniest part for me was that in the very beginning. The guides make every one climb through the first small passage in the cave. After, they ask if anyone couldn't handle it. We sat there for about five minutes as the group leader stressed the importance of being honest with yourself - this was the last chance to turn around if you were claustrophobic. No one in my group seemed scared, so we pressed on!  We spent the next 3 to 4 hours on our knees, Army crawling, learning about the caves history, and sliding through small openings to other passages. It was a blast! 

I am 100% confident in taking the Wild Cave Tour next year, and encourage you to do the same! They even have a version of this tour for kids 8-12 years old called the Trog Tour.  

For more information on any tour at Mammoth Cave go to there website: 

Final thought. I am trying to get out of my comfort zone, branch out, and experience new things. I feel that mixing it up and trying something - even in a place that feels like home - can be a good thing. At first, I was apprehensive about going and doing something new alone. What was the result? Nothing but fun.   Here are some photos from that day:


Group in front of me. How low can you go!?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bourbon and Horses and Tenkara? Oh, my!

So far, Kentucky has revealed to me the traditional staples of the state like horses, basketball, bourbon, coal, and climbing.  I have done the distillery tours, hopped on the bourbon trail, placed a bet at Keeneland, and had a blast doing it all! However, months after returning to the Bluegrass State I had not found a stream to fish Tenkara.  I started day dreaming of living in Utah once again where trout streams are seconds away from Salt Lake City. Ok, so maybe I wasn't day dreaming, but I was pretty mad at myself for not taking advantage of the easy access I had to ideal Tenkara fly fishing while in Utah.

And then it happened! I went on a hike that happily turned into a fishing trip. I found my own "honey hole" that was pretty amazing located in . . . well, that's my secret. But I can share pictures of the unexpected joyous occasion:
Casting alongside Baloo, the best fishing partner I know!

 I went out with Tenkara USA's Rhodo. I like using the Rhodo because it is so light in hand and, like all Tenkara rods, it is very easy to take on a hike. The kebari, or fly, I used was a purple and blue affair called a Dinky Dye. The best part of the trip was successfully reading the water - casting to any place I would live if I was a trout!

The fun didn't stop there! Unfortunately, I dropped my iPhone in the stream* attempting to take some pictures. Luckily, this was followed by the discovery of a wonderful gourmet hot dog and beer joint on the way home! Overall, it was a great day!
Even though they featured amazing local and craft beers I had to go with some Dr. Pepper!

*No iPhones were harmed in the making of this post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Appalachian Tenkara Jam - A Tenkara Awakening!

You love Tenkara, don't you? You love grabbing a rod and getting outside, right? You love the simplicity of rockin' out with your rod out, huh? Oh wait, you don't know what Tenkara is? Well you are missing out!

I discovered Tenkara through, ahem, a guy. At first I resisted picking up Tenkara because Rob, my husband and Tenkara Guide, had found it first. But I was secretly interested. For those of you who don't know, Tenkara is fly fishing with just a fly, line, and rod. Don't freak out, but there is no reel. It is an elegant and wonderful way to get outside and catch fish. The first place I started researching Tenkara for myself was on the Tenkara Bum and Tenkara USA websites. Tenkara Bum was developed by Chris Stewart, and Tenkara USA was founded by Daniel Gallhardo. Both were early adopters of Tenkara, and responsible for introducing it to the USA. I was happy to meet both Chris and Daniel at the Tenkara Summit in 2012. However, at that time I was still suppressing my interest in Tenkara. I would occasionally go fishing, and when interrogated by my husband would comment, "I am having an okay time," or, "This is fun, I guess." Here is a photo from those dark times of Tenkara in my life:

Then, in 2014, something changed. Maybe it was was love, or maybe it was pure hate and the desire to out-fish Rob. Or maybe it was a personal quest to stop avoiding new chances and trying new things. Whatever it was, it made me come out of the Tenkara closet.

Rob came to me in September and asked me if I wanted to have a Tenkara weekended together in October. I jumped at the chance! I pictured a romantic weekend of camping and fishing as I schooled him in the art of Tenkara. Then I found out it was the Appalachian Tenkara Jam (ATJ). I thought to myself, "Even better. I can ditch Rob and meet other Tenkara fans." So we packed up the car and headed to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina for the first ever Appalachian Tenkara Jam!

Day one of the ATJ was packed full of interesting presentations, vendors, and fellow fisher men and women!  I was happy to see so many vendors in one place, like Badger Tenkara, Tenkara Customs, Riverworks Tenkara, Zen Fly Fishing, and old standbys like Tenkara Bum, Zimmerbuilt and Tenkara USA sold by Mountain Tenkara. I was also impressed at the lengths the ATJ founders, Jason Sparks and Lance Milks, took to make sure you felt comfortable joining in the fun and learning new techniques. I loved all the presentations and took away an important unified message from all of them - make Tenkara yours! What I mean by that (and what I think they meant) is that you should pick the rod that you like, the fly you prefer, and the line you want and just get out and have fun. Tenkara isn't about a perfect combination of rod, line, and fly but is more about what works for you.

For those of you who missed out here are a list of the presenters:

Jason Sparks - gave a great introduction to Tenkara for all of us beginners, and I was able to learn more about Tenkara's history.
Adam Omernick - Zen Fly Fishing Gear - Lines!
Lance Milks - Kebari (fly) - He may have inspired me to tie some flies - maybe.
Tom Sadler - Mossy Creek. Now I want to become a Tenkara pirate. Enough said.
Al Alborn - spoke about the wonderful organization Healing Waters and his favorite fishing in VA.
Matt Sment - Badger Tenkara. I learned about fishing in Wisconsin and reading the water to find fish. Also, Wisconsin has a major cow problem :)
Robert Worthing -  Not sure about this one... I kinda fell asleep. Just kidding, interesting presentation on landing big fish!

I particularly enjoyed learning how to build your own Tenkara rod with Tenkara Customs.  I enjoyed it so much that I bought my own Tenkara rod kit as a gift for a family member, but have since decided to keep it for myself. I can always buy another. 

Day two of the ATJ provided a chance to see Tenkara in action with casting clinics and on stream help. Matt Sment from Badger Tenkara took the time to show me and some other beginners how to rig the line, tippet, and fly to the rod. This was important to me so I could be independent on the water. Matt was also a great teacher when showing me how to cast and land fish. After day two, I felt truly self sufficient and even went on to catch three fish that day!

Overall, I had a great time at the Appalachian Tenkara Jam. I feel confident that I can go out to any stream by myself and fish Tenkara. I hope to find some streams in my home state of Kentucky to fish and have more Tenkara posts in the future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I Put the Wildcat in KY!

Go Cats!

If you are from Kentucky you are either a fan of the Big Blue Nation or you are nothing. So it was no surprise to me that the next outing I picked was surreptitiously named Wildcat Trail No. 228.  Then I did what any true Kentucky Basketball fan would do once arriving to the trailhead... kinda. I chanted the years (in chronological order) of the 8 national championship we had won, did a good luck dance, and dedicated my hike to Adolph Rupp. After all of the compulsory crazed fan ceremonies and rituals were done I was able to hit the trail!

Overall, the Wildcat loop was a easy 5.3 mile jaunt in the woods, which gave me and the pups time to truly appreciate the scenery and nature around us. About 0.5 miles into the trail you come to an old overgrown road and take a right. Shortly after this, the trail forks. You may go left to continue the trail, or right to see a small family cemetery.  The day I was hiking a tree had fallen blocking the left fork so I choose the right fork at first and was able to see the cemetery. There were many old and new tombstones and one even paying tribute to a Sergeant in the US Army.

We continued past the fallen tree on the left side of the forked trail and were able to navigate trough many overgrown and fallen trees for the remainder of our hike. Things of note along the trail included the numerous fungi, flora, and rock formations that we encountered. I especially enjoyed the rhododendron and the various mushrooms we discovered.

We also took a slight detour off of the trail to Swift Creek and let the dogs cool down with a quick swim. It also gave Rob and I and chance to see if the creek was fish-able, but I couldn't spot a single fish.

 Mourning our lack of fishing options, we hopped back on the trail and quickly finished the rest of the hike.  We emerged on pavement near the Parch Corn Creek trailhead. A short 1 mile jog along the road completed the loop, depositing us back at our car. It was a great day for a hike on a beautiful trail that would make any member of the Big Blue Nation proud!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arches... in Kentucky?

When you think about seeing natural arches you automatically think of Arches National Park in Utah. Right? Most likely you picture these arches...

I had a great time visiting Arches in Utah. I loved the red rock and all of the formations and would love to go back.  So when my husband mentioned that he wanted to go check out the arches near us I thought he may have hit his head. You see we had just moved from Salt Lake City, UT, to Lexington, KY, for his job. I did what I always do (ignored him) and figured he had just temporarily forgotten where he was now. However, I was pleasantly surprised when he wasn't kidding.

Since moving to my home state of KY, I had been sort of depressed because I felt I had missed out on all of the amazing national parks, hiking, fishing, and backpacking that Utah and the surrounding states had to offer. I had never been to Bryce or hiked the narrows in Zion! I didn't fish the Green or the Provo nearly enough! What was I to do now? So this time I vowed that I was going to get outside and take advantage of all the wonderful trips and treks that I could... even out here in KY.

We headed out with our two pups to Red River Gorge which is located about an hour away from our home in Lexington, KY. We stopped the car at the Auxier Ridge Trailhead and got ready to start our 4 mile (out and back) hike toward Double Arch. With the first few steps I noticed something I didn't when hiking in Utah - humidity. After an easy mile I was dripping in sweat which had tricked my mind and my thighs into thinking we had been hiking for 10 miles! Despite their fuzzy coats, the dogs (and my husband) didn't seem phased by the heat, so I pressed on to the Double Arch Trailhead!

As we walked on, I became lost in thought and in the beauty of the trail. I hadn't realized how much I missed the green while living in Utah. When compared to the red deserts of Utah, I felt as if I was hiking in a jungle. I was so lost in thought that I almost missed the double arch. A quick look up and to the left, and there they were! Rounding the end of the cliffline, we climbed a set of stairs to reach the top of the arches, and were rewarded with an amazing 360 degree view.

I had a great time, and found I am just as happy with bluegrass cliffs as I am with red rock ones. My trip to Double Arch made me look forward to getting back into hiking, backpacking, and fishing again. And this time I will make sure to take advantage of all of the wonderful resources near me! I hope you follow me as I try to explore as much of the wild outdoors as possible.