Woman in the wilderness

BIG BAY – Maybe it’s the influence of the fictional archer and heroine of “The Hunger Games,” Katniss Everdeen, who inspired women to sign up for the upcoming summer Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program.

Or maybe it’s simply wanting to try the unknown or acquire a new skill set in areas not traditionally considered “women’s activities.”

Whatever the reason, the 17th Annual BOW summer program, scheduled for May 30-June 1 at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, has brought in prospective students who want to cast a fly or go biking in a natural setting .

Sponsored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the BOW program offers instruction in more than two dozen types of outdoor activities.

Sharon Pitz, event coordinator, said the archery segment already has four full classes. (Maybe many women want to be like Katniss after all.) However, the variety of activities to be taught include kayaking, wilderness first aid and survival, lake and fly-fishing, fly-tying, geocaching, shooting spots, boating, mountain biking and the new stand-up paddleboating, among others.

If anyone’s a bit intimidated, Pitz noted, “We have really great instructors.”

Activities also take place, she said, in a safe environment.

Volunteer BOW instructors provide basic and advanced instruction tailored to each participant’s ability so they learn the basics in a short period of time, according to a DNR news release.

Students will be housed in a universally accessible dorm-style facility with many amenities, including a pool, sauna, tennis courts, hiking and biking trails and easy access to Lake Superior.

The program also includes special evening programs such as group bonfires, hikes and more.

Pitz said she believes participants learn the new skills easily.

“It’s a good learning experience, stepping out of their box, their comfort zone, then trying something new,” Pitz said.

Pitz passed along a few comments from women who had gone through the BOW program. They include:

– “Awesome experiences, empowering and great way to learn new things and make few friends.”

– “I was very impressed with the instructors’ knowledge and their obvious excitement and passion for their respective activity.”

– “A weekend to spend with my sister to try new activities, gain new skills and gain confidence.”

– “I had no expectations as this was my first BOW experience, so I was ‘wide open’ to the whole concept. I loved it and I’m bringing someone with me the next time!”

Pitz noted the DNR has run BOW in the Upper Peninsula since 1998, with more than 2,700 women coming through the U.P. program. Since the BOW program in the Lower Peninsula no longer is being offered, Pitz said the U.P. program is the only one in Michigan.

Pitz also pointed out the program draws women from all over the United States, with this year’s event attracting participants from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, New Mexico and Florida.

Pitz said many students even bought their own equipment after finishing the program.

The BOW program, she said, is the first step to learning those skills.

“I think it’s very important,” Pitz said. “It’s not just the men who can do this type of stuff.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.