Becoming an Outdoors Woman

In the midst of getting ready for summer cruising, I had the opportunity to go with friends to a Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) weekend up in Juneau. BOW is an international program, and many US states and Canadian provinces offer programs – and you can attend one in any place you want. A friend has gone to one of these before, in the Alaska interior, and she recommended it very highly. BOW is a chance to get away and take some short classes on various outdoors topics ranging from wild foraging to deer hunting, fly fishing, boat trailering, chainsaw use, pack rafting, shooting, field dressing game, as well as pickling and smoking your meat or catch. We each got to choose four classes our of the 24 offered for the weekend retreat, which was held at a camp north of Juneau. We camped in small cabins with bunk beds, no electricity, and a small wood stove for heat, but there were two bath houses with flush toilets and plenty of hot water.

About 90 women gathered in a parking lot for the bus ride north, and we were dropped off at a boat launch ramp. A tractor towing a big trailer was there to take our gear to camp, but we had to hike the 2.5 miles in. Luckily it was low tide so we could cut some corners… and now you see why we always hike in our tall brown boots. (I apologize for the photos – I only had my phone for a camera.

After a little get-to-know-you session and lunch, we were all off to our various classes. I started with a gun safety class, which was part lecture and part practice with .22 rifles. We got to see examples of blown-out gun barrels from overloading, and we learned good, safe habits. And we had FUN plinking at targets. Some gals had never held a gun before, so it was gratifying to see them get a little comfortable and hit some targets.

Before dinner the Dutch Oven Techniques students treated us to their afternoon’s efforts – yum!

After dinner we heard a lecture about foraging – learning how many things in the forest and on the beach are edible, and how best to prepare them. It was a very interesting talk… and it makes it easier to grab a handy snack out on the trail. The first evening wrapped up with a bonfire on the beach and s’mores… classic!

For me, the next day started with a ride on the flatbed trailer (like a hayride, without the hay) to the range for the shotgun class.

We learned to shoot trap and to handle the different types of shotguns, and everyone managed to break some clays during the 3.5 hour session.

My afternoon class was pack rafting – I wanted to learn more about these highly portable, lightweight boats. We loaded up packs with paddles, life jackets and 4 lb. boats for a hike along the creek. We learned about reading rapids, snacked on edible plants along the way, and finally got to our put-in point.

The boats are fun – there’s a neat little nylon bag you can use to help inflate it, so the whole process goes fairly quickly.

More learning… more FUN! In the evening we had an hour to visit various skill sessions such as fire starting (a cotton ball dipped in Vaseline or coated with candle wax, or a bit of steel wool and a 9v battery works wonders!)…

…spin casting, knot tying, and scat id.

The front sample is from a moose – you definitely want to know if one of those grumpy guys is around!

The sun is setting around 9pm these days, so I stopped to get a photo before I fell into my sleeping bag. What a gorgeous setting!

The final morning session for me was a survival class. It wasn’t intended to teach us how to survive for a week; it was geared towards day hiking where you have to spend a night or two in the field unexpectedly. Among other things, we learned to identify good shelter spots and how to find materials to start a fire, even in the rain (we live in a rainforest, after all). We built kits to carry in a day pack for such emergencies, and we got the chance to put some of our skills into practice. We each started a fire with limited materials, and you can see that some people were pretty proud of their accomplishment!

All in all, everyone had a wonderful time, learned a lot, and gained some confidence with new hands-on skills and practice. I would go again in a heartbeat. Next time, I’m definitely taking the chainsaw class!


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