Just for Girls: Become an Outdoors Woman in Alaska!

Do you want to learn to do a bunch of cool outdoorsy type things, but haven’t had the chance yet?  Are you taking an Alaska RV vacation?

Enter….BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman)!!!

Photo courtesy of BOW Alaska
Photo courtesy of BOW Alaska

BOW exists all across the country, not just in Alaska.  However, I’m going to write about my experiences with the Alaska BOW.  A friend of mine, Tiffany, invited me to go to BOW with her last year.  She had been talking it up for several years and our schedules finally meshed this year, so we could both sign up to go!

They don't usually do pink, but they chose it specifically to honor one of the ADF&G employees who helps with BOW every year.
They don’t usually do pink, but they chose it specifically to honor one of the ADF&G employees who helps with BOW every year.

BOW was started back in the 90’s.  You can read a detailed history at the hyperlink above, but basically, it boils down to the fact that women like to learn the techniques of outdoor activities in a non-competitive learning environment taught by other women.

In Alaska, BOW is held in March and August.  In March, they have wintertime activities like skijoring, cross country skiing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, snowmachining (or snowmobiling to the rest of the country).  In August, they offer summertime activities.  Here’s a list of all of the classes they offered last August at the BOW I attended.

My registration goodies!
My registration goodies!
  • Firearms, Field Optics, Shotgun, Pistol, Rifle, Archery, Hunting Prep and Packing, Field Dressing, Trapping, Bow Hunting, Moose Hunting, Track & Sign, Game Meat Processing
  • What’s in the Woods, Pond to Pan, Dutch Oven Cooking, Wild Edibles, Backpack Chef
  • Boating, Canoeing, Kayaking
  • Fly Tying, On-lake Fly Fishing, On-lake Spin Fishing, Fly Fishing,  Smoking Fish, Salmon Fishing
  • Map & Compass, GPS, Geogaching, Survival, No 911 First Aid,
  • Rappelling,  Outdoor Photography, Birding in Alaska, Fur Sewing, Backpacking, Chainsaws.

The workshops take place over the course of a three day weekend.  You arrive, register and settle into your cabin or campsite on Friday morning, followed by lunch and then your first session.  They can accommodate SMALL RV’s.  If you opt to tent it, bring your own, they provide a campsite only.  On Saturday, you have two sessions and three meals.  On Sunday there is a morning session and two meals.

  • Additional activities are offered on Friday and Saturday evenings.  You can generally choose between going on a hike, target practice, kayaking on the lake, etc.
  • In addition to these activities they also have group activities.
    • One night they offer a skills event where they set up 10-12 activity tables and you spend 5-10 minutes learning a new skill; like identifying poisonous plants, learning how to make moose calls, how to tie special knots, identification of different fish or animals and how to make a fire starter kit.
    • The second night, they have a “talent show” where you demonstrate skills you’ve learned over the course of the weekend.  My team won first place and we received miniature cast iron skillets as trophies!
We won the Talent Show, check out of cast iron skillet trophies!
We won the Talent Show, check out our cast iron skillet trophies!

So you may wonder what classes I took last year.  I started out on Friday afternoon with the class I was most excited about; Fur Sewing!!

Started out by cutting the pattern out of the pelt
Started out by cutting the pattern out of the pelt

Before moving to Alaska, I was pretty indifferent about the use of fur.  In Alaska, lots of people hunt and trap, so they make use of the fur as well, in an effort not to waste any part of the animal.  In this class, we made beaver fur headbands!

This was so much fun to sew and much easier than I anticipated.
This was so much fun to sew and much easier than I anticipated.

It was an amazing class!  I learned so much, the teacher was a professional furrier from Fairbanks with many years of experience.

The fur sewing class
The fur sewing class

She was patient and kind, had lots of suggestions for how to make the process easier and an abundance of patience while helping nine women learn to work with fur for the first time.

Ta-Da!  The finished product!
Ta-Da! The finished product!

On Saturday, I took the Survival class and the Pistol class.  The survival class was fun, we put together fire making kits, had a contest putting together makeshift tents and learning that if you paint matches with nail polish they become waterproof.

The pistol class was taught by a former Para-Olympics Competitor and his wife who competed in the Olympics, both in gun competition.  They discussed safety, shooting techniques and gun care after which we had ample opportunity to practice shooting a variety of pistols.

Please Note:  Successful completion of a certified Hunter Education Course is required before participating in the firearms classes.  This course can be completed prior to arriving at BOW or can be completed at BOW but it will take up one of your sessions.

My first gun, a fun and inexpensive to shoot Ruger .22LR
My first gun, a fun and inexpensive to shoot Ruger 10/22.

When we moved to Alaska, I had no experience with guns.  After spending years carrying guns for bear protection, taking hunter safety education classes and using guns on our hunting trips, my level of comfort has dramatically increased.  Despite all of this, I had never gotten as comfortable with handguns as I was with rifles and shotguns.

I absolutely have never wanted to be one of those idiots who owns a gun they don’t know how to use, hence the class.  Not only did I gain comfort and skill in shooting a pistol, but I also had the chance to shoot with six different types of guns and learned a great deal about which gun I might like for myself.  Not to mention it was really cool to have the opportunity to learn from two Olympians!

Handgun shooting range, I learned so much.
Handgun shooting range, I learned so much.

On Sunday morning, I took a Game Meat Processing class.  When we  hunt, we quarter out our harvest in the field and take it to Indian Valley Meats for processing. This is mostly due to time constraints along with the fact that it takes quite the investment to obtain all of the equipment you need.  However, we’ve talked about processing our own meat, so I decided to take this class and hopefully gain a bit of experience in preparation for the day when we begin processing and packaging our own meats.

Caping and quartering our 2012 caribou harvest.
Caping and quartering our 2012 caribou harvest.

This was a good class, the teacher that was originally scheduled cancelled at the last minute due to emergency and the remaining instructors improvised in putting the class together for us.  We learned how to cut the meat from the bone and how to cut roasts and such.

I would’ve preferred a bit more info on the different types of cuts and whatnot, but it was a great starting point.  We processed two elk during our class that had been field dressed by the women taking that class earlier in the day.  The meat was split up amongst everyone taking the field dressing and meat processing classes, so I came home with about 10 lbs of elk. Yum!

The food was decent, I’m not a picky eater in the sense of not liking foods.  However, as you may have figured out from some of our other posts, we don’t eat much in the way of processed foods.  I found their buffets to be heavily laden with sodium rich cuisine.   No one else seemed to take note of this issue, I think I’m just sensitive.  Next time though, I’ll probably take some oatmeal, fruits and snacks of my own to limit the number of meals I eat there.

The staff is great, the volunteer instructors are AMAZING.  Many of them are women, though as I have already mentioned they have a handful of male teachers.

Lost Lake Boy Scout Camp, Alaska

The facilities are a little rugged, so be prepared.  If you decide to stay in the cabins, you’ll bunk with 3-10 other women.  There is electricity, so you can charge your phone (and if you’re like me, your Kindle so you can read in the evenings).  There are bathrooms nearby with cold showers and running water in the sinks.  The restrooms have vault toilets (i.e., non-flushing toilets), but it’s clean.  Be forewarned that once you unpack your bags from your car at your cabin and then park it, they ask you to walk everywhere and not drive, so be prepared to get some exercise.

BOW Cabins
BOW Cabins.  Courtesy of www.wildnatureimages.com

You’re probably wondering what a weekend at this awesome place is going to cost you.  Well, here are the fees charged in 2014 for the summer workshop to give you a rough idea.  If you are interested in attending in 2015, I encourage you to contact them ASAP.  Get on the list to receive their registration forms by email when they come out in late March/early April.  The classes are first come first serve and as I learned, the best classes fill up within a day or two of opening, so don’t wait!

You can contact the BOW staff at 459-7275 or dawn.wood@alaska.gov.

Fees

  • $250 Registration for tent by 7/11/2014
  • $275 Registration for a cabin by 7/11/2014
  • $50 late registration fee AFTER 7/11/2014
  • $50 Field Dressing or Processing Game Meat fee
    • (The fee is only $50 whether you take one or both classes)
  • $50 Fur Sewing fee
  • $10 Rappelling fee

What to Bring

  1. Sun block (Sunright provides sun protections without the toxic effects of many popular sun blocks.  It is amazing and great for sensitive skin, so have a look.)
  2. Bug dope (This is linked to Burt’s Bees Bug Spray, which you may think might not work, but it’s all I’ve ever used in Alaska and I LOVE it!)
  3. Flashlight (I love that you can get this waterproof flashlight in all kinds of cool colors!)
  4. Headlamp (I’ve always teased Ben and called these dork torches, but when you’re trying to set up your tent in the dusk or need to pee in the dark, it’s pretty helpful to have your hands free.)
  5. Towel (I’ve carried towels like this since my first backpacking trip to Europe.  They dry quickly and you can use the hook and attach them to the outside of your pack so they dry while you hike.  I like this one in particular because you can get BIG ones to wrap up in after a shower and it comes with a carry sac to keep the towel clean.)
  6. Sleeping Bag (I used to always carry Kelty mummy style sleeping bags.  That was until I slept in my husband’s flannel lined extra large sleeping bag.  For cabin bunk beds, they are wide enough to cover the beds, my legs aren’t constricted, but the flannel keeps you warm on cool AK summer nights.)
  7. Pillow
  8. Toiletries in a bag you can hang from a hook.  (I like this bag b/c it rolls up, has plastic compartments to control any spills that occur and best of all it hangs up so it doesn’t sit on dirty/wet countertops in communal bathrooms).
  9. Jacket (The jacket I like to take to BOW is from Costco, they don’t make it anymore.  However, I like it because it’s waterproof, fleece lined, front zip with zippered pockets.  Be sure to bring a jacket like this on your AK trip.)

For water related classes

  1. Swimsuit (This is my favorite swimsuit, I am always in the water; swimming, diving, water skiing, so I have a whole drawer full of Speedo swimsuits.  It’s great because they fit well, hold everything in place, but look young and hip.)
  2. Quick dry clothes (I know these pants are for men, but Ben has worn these exact pants for years around the water and won’t wear anything else.  I’ve tried his on.  They are definitely comfortable.  They run a bit small, so be sure to go up a size.  This at least gives you an idea of what to look for.)
  3. Water shoes that dry quickly (I don’t know how I could live up here in the summertime without my Keen sandals.  They are comfortable, they can get wet, they dry quickly and they can also be worn for hiking.  You won’t regret getting these!)

For Chainsaw class

  1. Leather boots

If you want to learn more about general packing guidelines for your Alaska Trip, check out my posts on the topic:  Packing for Alaska p. 1 and Packing for Alaska p. 2

Other related websites:

If you’re looking to expand your outdoor horizons a bit and relive Girl Scouts Summer Camp, this is the place for you!  If you decide to go, be sure to let us know which classes you sign up for in the comments below!!  There are lakes and places for your family to camp nearby if you decide to do this on you RV vacation in Alaska.  They won’t even know you’re gone 😉  They can also opt to stay in Fairbanks if they want to, you’ll be less than 50 miles from there.

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