By Blade Outdoors Editor Matt Markey and Blade artist Jeff Basting
Published on Oct. 2, 2016 | Updated 10:30 a. m.
The moment a flame was detected, Heather Franks broke into what she referred to as her “happy dance.” Building a fire with flint and without the use of matches is cause for celebration, especially when the flame rises during a workshop at the Ohio Women’s Outdoor Adventure. “Before I got there, I couldn’t do that to save my life, but we built a fire,” the 37-year-old from Findlay said. “Me and the gal beside me were pretty happy. We learned a new skill, and we did it in a really fun environment.” The event took place recently at Maumee Bay State Park, and 83 women of all ages and backgrounds went through sessions on archery, fishing, backpacking, standup paddleboarding, and many other outdoors skills. “It was all women, and it was so much fun,” Ms. Franks said. “It was a relaxed atmosphere where we could face new challenges and try our luck at a bunch of different outdoor activities.” Valerie Cox from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the outdoors for women workshops have been very successful and wildly popular. In the three years the program has been in operation, 250 women have taken part. Registration for this year’s program was full in less than 24 hours. “It’s an opportunity to meet other women with similar interests and then share the experience with them,” Ms. Franks said. “A lot of my friends don’t have the same interest as I do in these outdoors activities, but this brought women who enjoy the outdoors together.” Jennifer Warnement of Perrysburg got connected with the OWOA event at Maumee Bay through her sister. “Growing up, we were always doing things outdoors. We loved being around the water and hiking, and we still love those things, so this day of outdoors adventures was ideal for us,” she said. Ms. Warnement, 41, took part in the kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and archery and also learned how to make maple syrup.
“It is just a better learning environment when it is all women, and that is definitely one of the reasons I went,” she said. “When it’s all women, everyone is a little more relaxed and it’s a better situation for bonding, I believe. I was new to the kayaking and paddleboarding, and those turned out to be a lot of fun.”
Ms. Warnement said she had not picked up a bow since attending 4-H camp as a kid, but she shot both a compound bow and a crossbow in the archery workshop. While she does not expect to shoot much on her own, she has been kayaking a couple of times since the event, testing her recently acquired skills. “The instructors were all awesome — very patient and very thorough with us — and I think that makes it much easier to pick up something new,” she said. “There is a lot to learn, but I loved it. If I go again, I want to try the power boat course and the personal watercraft (jet ski) sessions.” Ms. Franks said the sailing and paddleboarding workshops introduced her to outdoors skills that she might previously had been hesitant to pick up. “I’ve had this weird fear of water all my life, and to actually get out there and do those things was awesome,” she said. “I told my husband I want a Hobie Cat (sailboat) and a paddleboard for Christmas. But he said I’ll have to pick just one of those.”