I never bothered to learn what fly fishing was, because, frankly, it never came up. I don’t know anyone who specifically does it and talks about it, and it hasn’t come up in newspapers or literature. So, as far as I was concerned, fly fishing was the snarky way of saying you swallowed a fly because your mouth was open. Or something.

On Friday, I had the pleasure of learning a bit about the sport from Kris and Daren (of Foundant, the greatest grants management tool ever*). The goal is to catch fish using a flexible rod with attached line that has a really gross looking fake fly on the end. Wikipedia actually sums up the way to cast quite nicely:

The type of cast used when fishing varies according to the conditions. The most common cast is the forward cast, where the angler whisks the fly into the air, back over the shoulder until the line is nearly straight, then forward, using primarily the forearm. The objective of this motion is to “load” (bend) the rod tip with stored energy, then transmit that energy to the line, resulting in the fly line (and the attached fly) being cast for an appreciable distance. However, just bending the rod and releasing it to jerk the fly line forward (like a bowstring or a catapult) will not propel the fly line and fly very far. More important is the movement of the rod through an arc acting as a lever, magnifying the hand movement of the caster (of about a foot) to an arc at the rod tip of several feet. 

I had a tough time with the bringing it back part. I think even though I knew I had to stop and bring that momentum forward, I kept bringing the rod too far back (like I was serving in tennis), which made for a less swift motion. Plus, I kept turning to watch it, which is probably fine as a beginner, but also most certainly interrupts the rhythm. I would also get so excited if it looked good that I wouldn’t keep it going. When Daren and Kris were casting the line, the motion and rod were basically silent, which is what you want; let’s just say mine was noisy. (surprise!) You can click on the photos to learn a wee bit more, and below is the evidence of all these things, and probably more:

If nothing else, it was really fun to try something so different and be taught by folks who are really passionate about it. I’m going to look forward to trying it again (maybe by water?) the next time I’m in Montana**.

*There will be a future work-week post about this; stay tuned and message me if you have any questions about the product!

**Driver to the airport told me there are direct flights out of Newark now. It was a beautiful place with the nicest of people; I’m not ruling it out for a long weekend!

Germs we don’t give a second thought to.

Many women who fear the germs of public toilet seats don’t think twice about placing their purses down on the floor of the bathroom stall. Not only that, they also set them on the floor while riding the bus, or while dining at a restaurant, or while dancing at a nightclub, or on the bedspread at a hotel (see above). And then, when they get home, they set that same purse on the kitchen counter or the dining room table while they rifle through the daily mail or check their phone messages.

Nelson Laboratories of Salt Lake City tested a random selection of ladies’ purses: those belonging to moms, executive types, and swinging singles. What did they find? Pseudomonas, staphylococcus aurous, salmonella, and e-coli. Many of the handbags had fecal contamination, and those belonging to the women that frequented dance clubs also had traces of vomit. In layman’s terms, the pocketbooks were infested with harmful bacteria, the types that can cause all sorts of infections.

I’m guilty as charged, although it does cross my mind and I’m often grossed out by this. 

But wait! That’s not all! Here’s a list of things dirtier than a toilet seat! Sad thing: there’s not much (within the realm of social norms) that we can really do to avoid most of it. Redeeming thing: nothing dreadfully horrible has been spread by these vectors to the masses. Thing that’s good to do: wash hands* and not panic.

*while pushing a rigged foot petal to turn on the faucet.

This photoset and post is from my friend Kate, who is currently traveling through parts of Africa. This post struck me as simultaneously sad and beautiful. 

One of my highlights last week was my trip to the Elephant orphanage in the Nairobi National Park. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/ is a center where they take care of orphaned elephants. Many have been orphaned due to the illegal tusking industry that has killed their mothers. The center is an important place because baby elephants require a very specific kind of care from their mothers that is extremely hard to emulate. For example, they consume only their mother’s milk for the first 2 years of life. The milk content also changes over time to adapt to the baby’s different growing needs. So to rear baby elephants, the center has to make sure there is someone available to feed them milk every three hours of their first two years of life.

However, the problem is that elephants are emotional and get attached, even to humans. If the baby gets too attached to a human, then it will not be able to readjust to the wild. So, the elephant orphanage has a system in which there are 24/7 caretakers that rotate so that someone is around the elephants at all times, but it is always a different person. This means that even at night, a caretaker sleeps in the elephant’s stall so that he can feed the baby every three hours. In addition, the baby elephants are only open to public viewing for one hour each day, 11am-12pm, so that they do not get too accustomed to crowds of humans.

The one hour I got to spend watching them was utterly entertaining and adorable. Here is a taste of what it was like. 

Awesome Day Trip: Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck Ridge is a mountain just off Metro North with fairly rigorous hiking options. Armed with water, some empty coffee cups, Burts Bees Chapstick, and two bananas, Valerie and I hiked the white to blue to yellow trails, covering well over 6.5 miles of strenuous trail (not including the highway, which was a whole other story). There were a lot of boulders in the beginning, but it well worth the climb for this super cool tree:

and for this fantastically camouflaged and bumpy frog:

and for the randomly placed but gorgeous flowering trees:

The best moment was thinking we were alone on a beautiful peak (and therefore, singing and jumping around), only to realize we were not, and our company – Duke frat boys – saying nothing.

The worst moment was right in the beginning when we approached a terrible smell and I saw a dead doe right next to us and reacted by pushing Valerie out of harm’s way – into the road. We’re all alive, but the doe is still dead, and that was a bummer, and I’m a sort of bad friend with the best intentions.

The most unexpected friend we made was a striped chipmunk named Roosevelt.

The oddest moment in nature we experienced was a chirping rock. There of course was probably a cricket-like bug in a deep crevice, but it was truly bizarre how loud it was and hidden the noisemaker was. I also now think that rocks chirp because they are actually birds, which is probably not true, but I suppose one never knows.

The countries we saw people from for almost-sure were Germany, Australia, Korea, and England. We also might have seen some people from up to 6 other countries, but who’s counting. The number of children plus whiny adults we saw was 3.

The most fun fact we learned from walking-stick-style hikers is (that’s not even so fun) is that Emily Post, etiquette ‘queen’, stipulates that faced with a thin trail and traffic, folks hiking up have the right of way. [Editor’s note: her website doesn’t seem to actually advise this.]

The scariest moment wasn’t even on the hike, but on the road when we walked some miles to Cold Spring, because there were no sidewalks and many speeding cars and a dark tunnel. But, all was rewarded at Whistling Willies, where they had the most hearty and delicious veggie burger I’ve ever had.

This is a fabulous day trip from NYC that is both refreshing and exhausting. Make sure the weather will hold out before you go, and then GO!

Special Feature! Our Hiking Trading Cards: Limited Edition Only.

Valerie, completing mini-Stonehenge.

Me, wondering how to follow the white trail without being Alice in Wonderland.

This guy looks happy studying abroad! You can too! Primarily catered to college students, but also to high school and post-grad kids-at-heart, Abroad 101 is the new leader in figuring out where to go, how to best do it, and what you need to know (nothing more, nothing less). It’s peer written, so information is relevant and recent, but university approved, so they buy it too. Just like Kix. Everyone knows someone who can use this service, so pass it along!