Returning to the outdoors

I’ve always considered myself an outdoors person.

Born and raised in the U.P., I spent a lot of time in the woods at our family camp and was on my snowmobile as much as possible. As I got older (late high school years) my outdoors time diminished and it wasn’t until I moved back to Gladstone and created a mental list of activities I wanted to do that I realized I wasn’t very outdoorsy anymore.

My years spent in Grand Rapids while attending college had turned me into a bonafide city slicker. So when I came across a program from the DNR called Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW); I jumped at the opportunity to participate with hopes to get back in touch with my inner outdoors woman.

BOW is a program that allows women to explore various outdoor activities that they haven’t had a chance to try or to learn new techniques and sharpen their skills in a non-threatening environment. Classes are taught by passionate and knowledgeable instructors during the three-day weekend event at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay.

The classes I chose were hiking, shotgun, archery and kayaking. I had prior experience with archery, but I don’t have the equipment to be able to pick it up at my leisure, so I was eager to practice my shot again. Needless to say, my memory of the past paints a far better picture than reality. Nevertheless, once I “shook the rust off,” I was pleased with my results; though my bear target probably didn’t appreciate me paralyzing him with a few shots to the spin as I fine-tuned my aim.

My shotgun class was one I was eagerly anticipating because aside from a BB gun when I was young, I had never shot a gun before. I knew I wanted to try shooting after I watched the women’s skeet shooting event in the Olympics last summer. It looked like so much fun. I will admit panic struck me a few days before I was scheduled to head off on my adventure as I started thinking about how the recoil would hurt and being responsible for this powerful weapon. But once I fired my first shot, the anxiety went away…sort of. While I don’t think the Olympics is in my future, I’m still proud of my performance. Also, I can say with confidence, no clay targets were harmed in the making of this film. No really, I didn’t hit a single one, though my ego says give me some more practice and I’ll show those clays who’s boss.

My last class of the weekend was kayaking. This was the piece de resistance for me and my main reason for going to BOW. I’ve always enjoyed being on the water and I wanted to try kayaking, but I was scared to fail. This was my chance to learn from qualified instructors in a structured environment and not care if I ended up paddling in a circle or fell in the water.

One of the best aspects of this whole experience was how everybody was so easy going and encouraging to one another. There wasn’t any judging or negativity as we were all there to learn and have a good time. As it turns out, I’m a pretty good kayaker and I had a blast. I wish I had more time on the water, but that just means I’m hungry for my next expedition.

As I walked the quarter mile path to my car I tried to soak in as much of the atmosphere as possible. Not only had I become an outdoors woman, I met some fabulous ladies along the way. The dread of spending three days with approximately 100 ladies in tight quarters turned into sadness as I would miss my new friends. I’m so glad I participated in Becoming an Outdoors Woman and I would recommend the program to any woman (18 or older) who is even remotely considering attending. You won’t regret it.