Back in April, I went to an eco-festival. While there, I picked up a flyer for the 64th Becoming an Outdoors Woman (B.O.W.) workshops hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Once I started reading more about it, I was hooked. I signed up for the workshops six months early, and I’ve eagerly been anticipating them ever since.
Well, they finally arrived!! This weekend, I drove to West Palm, and I became an outdoors woman. I will admit that I dislike the name of the event. I feel like it should accompany a tampon commercial. An outdoorsy tampon commercial, but still…
I joined 80 women from across the state, and beyond, at the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp to learn outdoorsy skills during a series of 3.5 hour workshops, primarily led by highly skilled volunteers, and enjoy the company of other women who enjoy the outdoors. People came from as far as Virginia, Louisiana, and New Jersey to attend these workshops! Ages of participants ranged from 20s to perhaps into the 80s. Child free women, mothers, and grandmothers were present. There were a lot of cancer survivors in attendance. There were mostly white women in attendance, but there was a bit of cultural diversity as well. Two women had been to B.O.W. six times!! Ultimately, there were a whole lot of women there to do things that, stereotypically, aren’t considered to be very womanly. Seeing and interacting with all of these woman was quite inspiring!
I arrived in time for lunch on Friday. After lunch, my first class was Basic Wilderness Survival. During that workshop we made fire in a variety of different ways. The pyromaniac in me loved that. We made shelters out of survival blankets and palm fronds. We learned some ways to determine direction if you are lacking a compass. While I don’t think I’ll be wandering into undeveloped land anytime soon, I do think that if I got turned around on a trail that I could keep it together until I got myself un-lost or help came.
After class was dinner. Everyone talked about the activities they participated in: what they liked, what they didn’t, what they want to try next time. I asked a lot of women what drew them to the event.
“It sounded like fun.”
“Some friends did it before, and I couldn’t attend that time. So here I am now!”
“It’s relevant to my career.”
Nothing too out of the ordinary, I guess. Just a bunch of women who wanted to get into the outdoors and feel more empowered when they do so.
After dinner, there were activities. We had a laughing yoga session, which felt very silly. This, of course, was exactly the point. It was refreshing laughing with these ladies from across Florida. I had a shotgun training session after that. Then, there was a bonfire, and too many s’mores while talking around the fire. Classes started up at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, so it was early-to-bed for me.
Saturday morning: Basic Archery Skills!!! I was really excited about this class. I shot archery in high school gym class, and I liked it then. I never really picked up the hobby, because I thought it would be cost prohibited. I’ve only unleashed my mad archery skills sporadically at Renaissance faires (see below), so I was pretty excited to get a real chance to try the sport. I loved it! We got to try our hands at shooting compound and recurve bows, but the recurve bow was my favorite. I wasn’t great, but I hit the target more often than I didn’t. It’s definitely a challenge making your body work with the bow. And it’s elegant. It reminds me of tango. There are so many things to be paying attention to make it perfect, yet it is still a lot of fun while trying to put those pieces together. I’m considering buying a bow and integrating archery into my repertoire of living daringly hobbies… Variety is the spice of life after all!!
Saturday afternoon was shotgun shooting. I was excited, but nervous, about this workshop. I’m not really all that comfortable around guns. I’ve only ever gone shooting once, and that was with my ex- and some friends during Christmas 2008. I only hit one of the clay pigeons… As the class progressed, I was afraid that trend might continue. But eventually I, and the other women, got the hang of it. The first two times I got up to shoot, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was really nervous, and I think that was affecting my shot (amongst other things). After getting up a few more times I started relaxing. I started developing an eye for the clay pigeon. Eventually I hit one: huzzah!! Then another. As the end of class was drawing near, the instructor wanted us to use the remainder of the clay pigeons in the machine. They gave me and two other women boxes of shells, and they started pulling the pigeons one after the other. No one else wanted to shoot, so to two other women and I went through about 150 clay pigeons. I hit some of mine, I missed some, but I definitely hit more than one. It’s damn satisfying when you see that bird explode upon impact. I might go shooting sporadically, but it’s not something I’ll pick up as a regular hobby…
After shotguns and dinner, it was silent auction time. Participants brought things to auction off, and the proceeds go towards scholarships for women who can’t afford to pay the full price of attendance at the workshops. I donated a painting, and I bid on a knife. This nebulous “Cheri” and I were going back and forth on the bidding for it. As it drew near to the time the bidding was going to close, I checked my bid and I outbid Cheri once more. I meandered around the tables, and I heard: “Argh! Who’s this Christy Foust person?!” I smiled, turned away, and hid my name tag so that Cheri wouldn’t see who I was. Once she walked away, I casually went back over and outbid Cheri once more… We finally ended up running into one another and talking. I admitted I was at my limit for the knife. She conceded defeat, until someone else threw their money in the pot. Ultimately Cheri walked away with the prize. She lives relatively nearby, so I’m hoping she’ll let me see my lost prize when we meet-up again.
After the silent auction, there was a demonstration with a bunch of different Florida animals: gopher tortoise, skunk, opossum, alligator, etc… I was itching for the no lights, no talking night hike though, and we left after the demonstration was over. The weather was cool, but gorgeous for it. I was underdressed for the 50-degree temperatures. (I just wasn’t expecting it to be that cool in South Florida!) Once we got moving I was comfortable though. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky: just a half moon and plenty of stars. We didn’t see any critters, and we had to navigate around some muck, but the hike was just wonderful. It was refreshing and relaxing. It was just what I wanted and needed after a few stressful weeks at school/work. After the hike, I went to the bonfire for a little while. I had a s’mores or two, but I was sleepy so I opted for bed. That 4″ mattress felt like heaven…
With the time change, 6:30 a.m. didn’t feel quite so early this morning. My class for today was: Reading the Woods. We got to see some common skulls that one might see while hiking in Florida, examples of scat (which is a fancy name for poop, for those not in the know), learned to ID some rash-inducing plants (e.g. Brazilian pepper and poison ivy), learned what the venomous snakes in Florida look like, etc… (I learned that wombat poop is cubical. Weird.) After this preliminary information, we went for a hike. During the hike we learned a lot of information that could be useful if you needed to survive in the woods: plants you could potentially eat if you were starving, ways to read the contours of the land via the plant life, plants that have some medicinal qualities. We saw bobcat, squirrel, and raccoon scat. It was a really nice hike, with a lot of great information and a lot of laughter.
After Reading the Woods, it was time to pack up and head home. I said a few good-byes, and I got some reassurances from a few women from nearby towns that we would meet-up sometime soon for outdoorsy activities. I do hope that we keep our B.O.W. connection. Certainly it would be nice to have some people to go shoot bows and arrows and/or shotguns with!
I’m really, really, really glad that I participated in this event. Normally I won’t take a long weekend during the semester, because I feel like I should wait until a break. I’m glad I did something that I really wanted to do, and I feel rejuvenated for doing it.
I’m also glad I got to stretch my comfort zone by trying new things, or trying old things more fully. I learned so much from every class, and I’m really grateful for all of the instructors. Many of them are volunteers who teach at B.O.W. solely because they love it. All of the instructors I had did a great job. I got to meet a lot of wonderful people. Interacting with strangers always stretches my comfort zone, but it is always worth it. I’m hoping I made some new, long-term friends.
It was a really great weekend.
FYI – They have these events all over the country. Wherever you are, I recommend trying it out. I recommend it especially if you think it’s not your cup of tea!! Get some girlfriends together and go become outdoors women! There are so many workshops to choose from. The ones I choose to do are just a small subsample. Others include: fishing, primitive cooking, kayaking, hand guns, personal safety, outdoor photography, first aid, map & compass basics, geocaching, aquatic ecology, and more! The price is really reasonable, so go learn new things and play outside!