WILMINGTON - It was obvious they were out of their comfort zones.
The three bloggers stood at a pull off on state Route 86 in the Wilmington Notch, the surrounding cliffs obscured by the low, hazy-grey clouds that were supplying the late-afternoon deluge.
The rain seemed inevitable all morning, and now it was coming down steadily. The trio's glances bounced from the sky to their local fly fishing guide, Ken Kalil, and back again.
Craig Zabransky pauses to take a photo for his blog during a hike into the West Branch of the AuSable River.
News photo — Shaun Kittle
"This is the best time to be out there," Kalil said through an enormous grin. "The fish love this."
The others - bloggers Lori Lite, Craig Zabransky and Cailin O'Neill - were in good spirits, but it was clear they needed a little more convincing.
The Lake Placid Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism brought eight bloggers to the region using money from the state's Regional Economic Development Council grant program. On Monday they toured the Plattsburgh area, and Tuesday morning they explored Fort Ticonderoga. Now they were about to stand waist-deep in a slow-moving section of the West Branch of the AuSable River to try their hands at fly fishing. After that, they'd be off to visit other sections of the Adirondacks before their final stop in the Thousand Islands on Friday.
Jayme Lamm: GirlsGetaway.com
Sandy Allen: CanadianBlogHouse.com
Lori Lite: StressFreeKids.com
Erin Musich: TheWorldWanderer.net
Craig Zabransky: StayAdventurous.com
Vanessa Chiasson: TurnipSeedTravel.com
Cailin O'Neil: TravelYourself.ca
Vicky Philpott: VickyFlipflopTravels.com
Kalil explained the basics of the sport as the group pulled waders and boots on to keep their clothes dry.
Lite, who has written about 10 books and made several booklets and CDs on parenting and stress management, explained why she was excited to try fly fishing. She also writes about connecting kids with nature, and the sport seemed to be a good fit.
While writing has been a life-long pursuit, adventure blogging is a new endeavor for her.
"I have a blog that I've done for years, but it's never been on a travel destination," Lite said. "This year, I decided that I'm going to get back to traveling and start living for me again. As a writer, I spend a lot of time alone in my office, and I'm kind of over that now. I want to get out more."
As the group took to the woods en route to the river, Zabransky admitted the experience was outside of his realm of previous experiences. But that's what he's all about.
The full-time blogger has traveled to places like Mexico and South America, and likes to focus more on the culture and mindset of such locales instead of embarking on adrenaline-pumping experiences like sky diving and bungee jumping.
"I've always wanted to fly fish, so I was very keen to come up here and do it," Zabransky said. "Even living in New York, I had no idea we had a world-renowned fly fishing river right here."
Zabransky grew up in Long Island and also lived in Manhattan for a while. He now lives in Florida. His comment speaks to the bigger picture of spreading the word about the Adirondacks. Some of the bloggers who visited have more than 10,000 page visits a month, and that's a lot of exposure.
Kalil led the adventure-seekers across the AuSable, and they laughed and joked as the wadders clung to their legs upon submersion. The rain had tapered off, and Kalil gave them a crash course in casting before taking them to a bend in the river to fish.
They picked up on it quickly and talk of landing a monster soon overcame talk of rain and insects.
O'Neill was the first to venture chest deep in the murky water.
With both eyes glued on her fishing line to check for signs of a nibble, she explained that she wanted to get into acting, but somewhere along the way she realized she "wasn't very good at it." O'Neill turned to videography instead, and she's been busy. She now has more than 100 videos on her YouTube page, and if her GoPro-in-hand fishing technique is any indication, that number is about to go up.
Her blog focuses on traveling to out-of-the-way places and trying different things, especially local cuisine.
"Last weekend I did a sour-toe cocktail in the Yukon," O'Neill said. "It's a shot of something that's 40-plus proof, and you put a human toe in it and you do the shot, but you don't eat the toe. You can drink it quick, you can drink it slow, but the toe must touch your lips."
Yes, it's a real toe, and no, it isn't attached to a living human. According to the story, people donate their toes - some severed through frostbite, others from things like lawnmower mishaps - to the bar in Dawson City that serves the drink.
"It's the closest to cannibalism I ever came," O'Neill said with a laugh. "I won't get any closer."
There were other options available to bloggers who didn't want fish. Sandy Allen of Ottawa opted for the guided hike up Mount Van Hoevenberg instead. Standing near the trailhead on South Meadow Road, she said she'd never been to the Adirondacks before, and she was already planning on returning.
Allen writes a lifestyle blog that includes things like product reviews and events around Ottawa. She's new to travel writing, and it sounds like she'll be returning to that, too.
"I love to tell stories; I love to share things that I do with my readers," Allen said. "This is the ultimate experience for me, being able to experience the Adirondacks and to also share that with my fellow Canadians."