This was my first BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman) Michigan event, and to make the trip more fun (and complement my occasional introvert tendencies) I invited one of my favorite outdoors-loving ladies, Sarah Pike, to come along. Like me, Sarah is left-handed, hates snoring and is chronically early, three of my favorite qualities in a person.
The Bay Cliff Health Camp is a little piece of Upper Peninsula paradise, situated on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior (many of us gathered in the mornings to take in the view before breakfast – see picture above). It was originally founded by two nurses in 1934 as a camp for sick children, and still operates today.
I signed up for three courses: Wilderness Survival, Kayaking, Hiking & Backpacking and Map & Compass. I really wanted to take Mountain Biking and Wilderness First Aid, but alas, there were only so many hours in the day.
Taught by husband and wife team Tara and David, the class was designed to give us the skills to keep us alive for a couple of days — not to survive out in the woods long-term (so much for my dreams of surviving zombie apocalypse). We went through the key elements of a survival kit, built an emergency shelter, tried out several fire starters and emergency tinder (including corn chips and cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly), and learned the single most critical survival skill:tell someone where you’ll be going and when you’ll be back.
After class, Sarah and I promptly forgot this advice jumped on our mountain bikes and pedaled out to a nearby lighthouse before dinner, without telling a soul. We also found this strange Lord-of-the-Rings-gone-wrong marker, which Sarah and Lauren (more on her in a minute) obsessed about all weekend, much to my dismay. I don’t even know why I’m mentioning this, because it will do nothing but encourage them. Whatever, it was so weird I have to share:
Ann, Monica and Linda brought such an amazing energy to the class, I didn’t really mind the fact that the wind was blowing so hard across Lake Independence as to make paddling a real chore. When teaching us how to move our bodies, Linda used the metaphor “Like farting on a bar stool,” which was so awesome and unexpected that I doubt any of us will ever paddle — or sit on a bar stool — the same way again. Lauren, who’s dry sense of humor pretty much made the weekend, took this picture.
After lunch on Saturday was hiking with instructors Kate and Michelle, who were both incredibly knowledgable (and funny, in a very UP-tastic sort of way). Since Kate regularly leads Boy Scouts on backpacking trips, we all got our own frame backpack, and then headed out to a portion of the North Country Trailfor a short hike along the Little Garlic river, which was the highlight of the trip for me. The woods were gorgeous, and I learned about what kind of trail food packs best, what both Kate and Michelle considered their “luxury” items (as a vegetarian, Kate likes her own cooking pot, where Michelle brings a sleeping mat that also converts into a camp chair) and how to read trail blazes along the way.
Map & compass
A very basic course in reading maps and using a compass, this was essentially the third time I’ve tried to learn how to use a compass (the first being when I was in the Army and the second when I participated in an adventure race a few years ago). Guys, I’m REALLY bad with a map. After taking the class, I do feel like I know more about maps & compasses, but I’ve also decided that maybe I’m just a GPS kind of gal.
It’s worth mentioning that on Saturday night Sarah and I, along with our awesome roommate/Forest Service employee/snowboard instructor Tara, decided to go into town for drinks. We met a few rowdy ladies from Toledo (and we thought WE had a long drive), including aforementioned Lauren, at the Lumberjack bar (which was the site of a murder and subsequent Gregory Peck movie). Sarah, Tara and I then went on a rather ambitious night hike with a group from BOW to a local waterfall, which forced me to become friendly with no less than 1,865,402 upper peninsula mosquitos. Thank God for DEET (and Tara, who all but picked the mosquito carcasses out of my eyeballs).
Overall, it was a great experience and a great deal too, at $180. The event was well run, staff friendly, and the facilities were clean and comfortable (we stayed in dorm-style rooms). There were women from all over the state, with plenty of representation from the baby boomer generation. I think Sarah probably would have liked some more advanced classes, but that’s what the Beyond BOW programs are for — I’m looking forward to participating in November’s backing trip in the Porcupine Mountains this fall.
Can’t wait to do it again in the Winter program!
Jill Hinton Wolfe