BOWX: Becoming an Outdoorswoman – Extreme Style by Stephanne
Until recently, if I said “BOW” it was a 100-percent guarantee that I was referring to a tension release-propelled projectile weapon. However, there’s a program called “BOW”, which stands for “Becoming an Outdoorswoman”, that many state wildlife agencies support and provide sanctioned events for. Normal BOW programs surround education on things like learning ATV basics, muzzleloader and other firearm basics, basic archery, reading the woods, nature photography and so on. These classes help to educate women who want to learn more about the nature around us, it increases their knowledge base and provides exposure that they may not otherwise have. I’ve heard that one class was “how to back up a trailer”… this is something I can do, but not do WELL; I promise I’d rather a state agency representative teach me than try to hone my skill with instruction from anyone in my immediate resource base (somehow it’s less stressful when it’s someone I don’t know). So, for someone like me, BOW didn’t really sound like it was something I would be interested in. But, before I digress, let’s move on!
I received an email from my friend Julie about something called BOWX… i.e. BOW Extreme style! I asked her what it was about and she dropped me a brochure and it was actually right up my alley, so I committed myself to the engagement.
I will say that it was with no small amount of trepidation that I drove the almost 3 hours to the Big South Fork area where our weekend’s events would occur. There was no sense of trepidation about the activities; I’m an experienced horseman, fisherman, archer, and a die-hard backpacker – all events that we were participating in. My sense of innate fear came from the fact that, as a solo-recreationist, I was about to spend the weekend with not one, not two, not three… but thirty women I didn’t know. Well, 29, seeing that I did know Julie. But, I set my fear of other things aside and this was not going to be any different. So, let me tell you about the epic BOWX weekend.
First and foremost, make sure you take a moment to read about the amazing venue where the event was held. While the Big South Fork NRRA has stand-alone appeal, the venue where we actually stayed was nothing short of perfect for a BOWX event: a little bit of roughing it with the edge taken off by adding unexpected amenities. The weekend started with a mile hike to the lodge – a hike made much easier by the fact that the TWRA staff trailered our bags to the lodge. It was my first leisure trip to the BSF, so I was “bobble-headed-Stephanne” looking around at nature as we took the easy hike down. When we got there we selected our bunks, retrieved our bags, and before long the dinner bell – an old-fashioned triangle bell – was tolling. We all piled into the dinner hall and enjoyed a home-cooked meal. After the meal, I was casually lingering by the kitchen and offered help to the management staff. Before long we were friends and, as the other ladies took a few hours for a meet-n-greet and local history retelling around the campfire, the staff and I were at the stables feeding and watering the horses. I heard the story-telling was informative and deeply entertaining. The night ended with signing by a fire as a TWRA employee strummed along on his guitar. Finally tired, I wandered to my bunk and slept.
At 5 a.m. my alarm managed to go off, but luckily I silenced it before anyone else was disturbed from slumber. Granted, that only helped somewhat because, soon after I wandered to make myself some instant coffee and enjoy my “quiet on the porch” time, the loudest whippoorwill I’ve ever heard started singing – nonstop for at least 30 minutes. It was enough to wake everyone in my bunkhouse (one of three) up. After a delicious home-cooked breakfast for all of us, we began to split into groups; one for canoeing and horseback riding (which would swap roles for the afternoon) and one for Dutch-oven cooking and hiking. Knowing how often I hike and wanting to do things I don’t have as much opportunity to do, I was with the canoeing and horseback riding group. Now, here’s where BOWX and BOW (most likely) differ:
The canoeing wasn’t a quick or leisurely jaunt across a river or up an easy stream; it was an hour-paddle upstream against a headwind to a shoal where, if you made it in decent time, you had a few moments to fish. There were no guides or men in the canoes with us and experience definitely played into the efficiency and enjoyment of the trip. My canoeing partner – who I knew right away would be much fun because she said “I enjoy being stern” – and I made decent time and were able to spend about 30 minutes fishing. After everyone arrived and had a moment to rest, it was back downstream (and, of course, that wind died down!) to where our lunches were waiting. We hastily ravaged our lunches and then ferried (via canoe) across the river to where our horses lay in wait.
The horseback ride we participated in is not some touristy version of the “hour long, single file follow the leader” that most people are used to. Again, experience in riding horses really provided a benefit and added to the enjoyment. I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to ride one of the “experienced riders only” horses and I had a BLAST. For hours we rode, across creeks and up ridges, through mud and dusty-hard pack. After the long ride, knees screaming and tush complaining, some of us even had an opportunity to extend our ride by helping get the horses up another ridge to a trailer. It was nothing short of the most fun I’ve had in a long time!
Opportunities to enjoy these types of events don’t come along as often as I’d like and I really surprised myself by loving the weekend. I have never seen a group of people so dedicated to helping women learn – gently – how to adapt to nature. Sometimes it’s hard for a person like me to remember that – even if it was eons ago – there were times when I was a first-time canoeist or a first-time horseman. When I was growing up there weren’t a lot of events like this – sometimes you could get exposure through the Girl Scouts or summer camps – but the opportunity to learn more and get out there as an adult wasn’t ever present. The BOW and BOWX provide opportunities for women to enjoy events and the outdoors in a safe, comfortable environment that is conducive to learning and honing skills under the leadership of a group of very helpful, very polite, and exceedingly patient men.
So, that being said, if you know a woman who you think would like these events, share the news. Tell her about it. If she doesn’t want to go alone, recommend she take a friend. In the end, the important part is that we share our love for nature and the outdoors and promote that ever-strong sense of independence, self-sufficiency, and eco-responsibility with people we know!