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Women-only travel in Wisconsin beckons outdoorswomen and the adventure-minded

Nov 05, 2018 06:10AM ● By Editor

Today, upwards of 100 women come together for the two-day tour, some even staying on to log more miles through mid-week. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Travel Wisconsin)

By Travel Wisconsin - November 5, 2018

Today’s women-only getaways are increasingly about exploration, adventure and empowerment. The winter travel options are remarkable, from hunting for food and becoming an outdoorswoman to snowmobiling, ice fishing, winter hiking and biking, dog sledding and more.

Helping Women Build Skills for the Outdoors

Peggy Farrell has been helping women master skills so they can confidently enjoy nature for more than 20 years. She is the coordinator of Wisconsin’s “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program, or BOW for short, an education program in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and its Treehaven Field Station. The first workshop, held back in 1991, filled to capacity with more than 100 women participating, and the program is still going strong with twice-a-year workshops at Treehaven and Beyond BOW events sprinkled throughout the year. The Wisconsin BOW program even became the model for programs in more than 40 states, with program directors coming to Wisconsin, the birthplace of the program, for training.

“In 1991, there was a conference at UW-Stevens Point to find out why women were underrepresented in hunting and fishing and we brainstormed about barriers to women participating in outdoor activities, with lack of educational opportunities the common denominator,” explained Farrell. “Over the years we’ve seen a lot more diversity in age, walks of life, ethnicity and people with disabilities,” added Farrell.

Today women can sign up for multi-day courses with 20-plus classes covering fly fishing, shotgun and rifle shooting, wildlife habitat, paddling, hiking, hammock camping, nature photography and more. The Beyond BOW series allows participants to delve into single topics including charter fishing, kayaking and archery.

When asked what participants get out of the program, Farrell did not hesitate. “Camaraderie, with everyone cheering on everyone else,” she said. “It builds confidence and better self-esteem when you try something you didn’t feel you were good at and realize you can do it.” She also mentioned the chance to do something new and the lure of the outdoors.

The next workshop is set for Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and focuses on learning to hunt deer. After that it’s the Winter BOW Workshop, Feb. 15-19, that will provide instruction on ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and rifle markswoman, Dutch-oven cooking, winter survival and may even include sleeping outside in snow caves. It’s one of the most popular BOW workshops in the nation.

Today upwards of 100 women come together for the two-day tour some even staying on to log more miles through mid-week

The Flying Femmes Snowmobile Club

Back in the 1970s, to earn membership into the Eagle River women’s snowmobile club known as The Flying Femmes, you had to trail-tour on snowmobile. The group’s first trip was a 307-mile, two-day tour. While it was just a few avid women snowmobilers that first time around, word spread, membership grew, and the tour became an annual weekend event now known as “Women on Snow.”

Today, upwards of 100 women come together for the two-day tour, some even staying on to log more miles through mid-week. Julie LaRiviere is a board member of Women on Snow and helps with the event logistics. She’s been snowmobiling the Northwoods of Wisconsin since she was a kid and said the concept of an all-women snowmobile group was about empowerment.

“If a sled breaks down on the trail, we fix it,” said LaRiviere. “First-timers don’t feel intimidated and we check on everyone to make sure they’re comfortable.”

While the equipment has changed over the years, with machines getting lighter and easier to handle, LaRiviere says the camaraderie has not, and that is what’s getting more women into the sport and keeps them coming back.

As for LaRiviere, she likes how snowmobiling allows you to unplug. “Driving your own sled, being out in nature especially after a fresh snowfall, it’s just so peaceful, just you and your sled and nature.” In case you were wondering, some of her favorite snowmobile trails are in St. Germain. 

The 2019 ride is set for the weekend of Jan. 25-27 in Eagle River.    

Fishing Events Just for Women

Meet Barb Carey of Oxford, Wis. and founder of WI Women Fish. She’s been planning women’s fishing events for more than a dozen years now. As she tells it, she started small with a group of about 20 who liked to fish and wanted to improve their skills. They didn’t even have a boat, so they focused on shore fishing. Today, their Fall Fish Camp sells out 70 spots in just a few days, plus they have events throughout the year. These days they’re venturing out on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, a far cry from being tied to the shore without a boat.

Carey said the organization is one where women can gain confidence without a hint of competition. In other words, they happily share their fishing hot spots with each other.

Carey noted that lifelong friendships are made among women who share the same passion for the outdoors. “We see sunrises and sunsets, eagles and bears, there’s the excitement of catching a big fish surrounded by beauty and separated from the turmoil of the rest of the world.”

Empowering through Hiking and Snowshoeing

Last spring, five women in the Milwaukee area with a shared goal to empower women through hiking formed Women Hiking Wisconsin. Just a year later, they’ve had hikers ages 8 to 80 participate in their group hikes, with the largest hike drawing 50 women, some bringing their dogs too, at Governor Nelson State Park. The group hike schedule varies but they’re aiming for at least one per month.

Come winter, they do combo hike/snowshoe outings. “We don’t shy away because of the snow,” said Diana Kraus, one of the founders.

Kraus is a big fan of the hiking in Door County, while Sarah Christiaansen, another of the founders, likes the northwest part of the state with its waterfalls, mentioning Copper Falls and Amnicon Falls by name.

Elizabeth Saksefski, another of the founding group, said Women Hiking Wisconsin has given her greater awareness of how precious the environment is and how important it is to make sure it is available for generations to come. “We are so lucky to have so many natural and protected areas for recreation, miles of trails, and state parks that we can enjoy,” said Saksefski.

Shared Love of Two Wheels

Lai King Moy started Cadence, an all-women’s biking team, last year in Milwaukee. Her foray into biking commenced with commuting – she commutes 365 days per year. Cadence rides run May into September, but the riders connect over the winter with fat tire bike rides and cycling indoors.

King Moy has lots of favorite rides, including the Ride Across Wisconsin with riders covering 175 miles in one day, and a route from Milwaukee’s Estabrook Park to Port Washington.   

“For me, it’s the ability to take it all in in a way you can’t do in other forms of transportation that are more passive,” said King Moy. “You can say hi to every cow, see smiles, and gain an appreciation for the land and the surroundings.”   

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