Back to class: Becoming an Outdoorswoman

This past weekend, I took part in my second Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Michigan event, this time not as a staff writer but just as a participant.

I’ve been looking forward to the summer event ever since the winter one concluded back in February.

The BOW in Michigan program is organized by Department of Natural Resources employee Sharon Pitz, who puts an incredible amount of time and effort into the scheduling of classes and securing of equipment, along with the BOW board that oversees the planning.

Once again, I have to give a big thank you to everyone involved, from the instructors who volunteered their weekend to help us learn something new to the kitchen staff at Bay Cliff Health Camp who cooked amazing meals for us to enjoy.

This time around, I took part in classes on kayaking, fly fishing, edible wild plants and an artistic class on making your own walking stick.

I went with my mother-in-law, an artist in her own right, and we had a great weekend.

With plenty of classes to choose from, I had a hard time deciding on just four. But, I had always wanted to try kayaking and in the past couple of years I’ve really started getting into fishing. I tried trout fishing for the first time last year, and, in turn, tried fishing somewhere other than a lake for the first time. I was really excited to take the fly fishing class, and it turned out to be my favorite. Kayaking was also a blast, and became much easier after I turned the paddles around and stopped using them backwards. I guess it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do something dumb over the three-day weekend.

The wild edibles class was also very interesting. My plant knowledge extends to being able to look at something and say if it’s a tree or not. That’s about it. So, it was nice to learn the names of some of the plants I see every time I’m hiking in the woods, and to learn how they can be used in the unfortunate event that I fall off a cliff, break my leg and have to crawl back to a trailhead. I can safely say I know at least eight different plants that can be used to make ash cakes and several more that will likely be bitter but healthy nonetheless.

The walking stick was a nice way to round out the weekend. (And a welcome one since the temperature went from 80 degrees as I was kayaking on Lake Independence Friday to closer to 40 degrees as I was stripping the bark from my walking stick Sunday morning.).

We also stopped in for a beer at the Lumberjack Tavern and the Thunder Bay Inn, enjoying a little piece of local history made famous by John Voelker’s book, “Anatomy of a Murder” and Otis Preminger’s movie of the same name.

Anyway, it’s difficult to describe in this column how much fun these BOW events are. Some women come back year after year to reunite with friends and family. Some try it out for the first time. Either way, the event brings together an amazing group of women, many of whom inspire me to try new things. I highly suggest to any women out there to attend at least one. Spots fill up fast, so keep an eye out. For more information, visit, or visit the Facebook page at

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is