Saturday, October 9, 2010

Women's Wilderness Weekend

I love State Parks. (National Parks are cool too, I just don't get to as many of those.) The quiet and natural spaces, full of hiking trails and fishing ponds and camping spots. Dave and I were handfasted in a State park, and returned to privately renew our vows a year later.
When a local conservationist arranged a Women's Weekend at a local park I jumped at the chance to see a new park and meet a new group of ladies in my area.
We started the chilly morning at Hillview by trying out a backpacking stove to heat water for some hot beverages. These things are tiny, run off of white gas and heat a pot of water really well. It was explained to me that heating water is the extent of cooking while one is backpacking. Hot water + oatmeal and hot water + coffee/tea/cocoa for breakfast and hot water + Dehydrated meal pack for dinner.
We also did a bit of "near country" cooking, as in not the "back-country" backpacking type cooking, with some pie irons and a tasty breakfast pastry from scratch cooked quick in a fire. Pie irons, in case you don't know are the little square/round cooking gadgets common in camping supply stores. Care for them is similar to cast iron, in that you have to coat them with oil and heat them up before use. They are great for campfire cooking, and Dave and I have a couple of them. We've been using them mostly to make grilled cheese sandwiches, so it was awesome to get a new recipe.

After breakfast, as it was still pretty chilly we voted to do some backpacking. Victoria, (the county conservationist) got us all geared up to make it as realistic and informative as possible. We all had internal frame backpacks, with a tent, a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat and our water and snacks in it. We all grabbed a GPS unit and hiked around, maybe a mile or so, stopping to geocache a few times and at one point making an intentional detour up a large hill. We talked about how to properly fit a backpack for ease of wear and walking, we talked about where to spend the money on gear and where to go cheap, and we talked about all of those things as they specifically relate to women. It was wonderful!

The park we were in was beautiful, and we saw a lot of it on the hike, there's a small lake, a sledding hill, a lot of woodland, and even an enclosure with elk. Apparently elk used to live in Iowa, who knew? The bull was in rut and put on quite the show for us. :-D Well, ok probably more for his ladies than for us, but we enjoyed the bugling anyway.

The backpacking got us all warmed up. So, we took a break to make some lunch. We cooked lunch over a third source of camping heat, charcoal. We were using a dutch oven and we made some Bubble-up-pizza. It was cut up biscuit dough, coated in pizza sauce and covered in a cheese topping, but after the hike it tasted like the best pizza ever. I did learn that when you are trying to estimate a bake temp in your dutch oven, every charcoal nugget is about 10-12 degrees worth of heat. So, if you need to bake something at 350, put 15 charcoals on top and 18 on bottom for about 350 degrees. Good stuff to know.

After lunch we took 3 kayaks and a canoe down to the small lake and tried them out. As I'd done canoeing before I was able to snag a kayak to try. I really liked it, much easier than a canoe to control and steer. Less space in it for coolers, but I'm not a 6-pack drinker anyway. :-D

We ended the day with some shooting practice. (My personal favorite :-D) First Victoria set us up with a rifle, just a little .22 and some paper targets 30(ish) feet away. She had us all pick a target and we all got to take 4-5 shots. Then we walked to the targets to evaluate. It took a couple of rounds for some, but we all eventually hit paper. I only shot one round of four, I had a decent grouping, but I was right of the bullseye. (That's my paper in the picture above. the shots are a little hard to see, but there are 2 in the 8 circle.) After we put the rifle away we set up for the bows. Victoria had some (youth I think) compound bows, and we set up 18-20 feet from a big target and took some shots. I love bows; I love the feel of the stance. You can't slouch, you can't be weak through the shoulders, you have to be confident enough to keep your shoulders back and your head up and your left arm straight and strong. I've often thought that women are pressured to adopt postures and stances that minimize them. Postures of crossed legs, crossed arms, leaving the open, stronger postures to men. It's more subtle in countries with strong women's rights, but it's still there if you know to look for it. It hampers women in so many small ways, but is very noticeable when someone holds a bow for the first time. I digress though. As I had some bow training in a college class, I scooted back a bit to try and challenge myself. (It was still too close to really test me, but I enjoyed it anyway.)

The ladies were going to end the day with some shot gun and clay pigeon action. As I had been to the range a couple of weeks prior and shot a 19/25 I decided to take my leave and get home to my boys.

It was a great Saturday; good weather, nice ladies and a lot of fun. The eventual goal is to get a group of us ladies leveled up a bit in our backpacking and camping skills so we can plan some women only backpacking trips to places like the Badlands. There's another Saturday planned in January with topics including dog sledding and cross country skiing. If you're interested, come and join us. :-)

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