“I’ve talked to so many of you today who told me this is so out of your comfort zone,” said Yvonne Folck, as she greeted the more than 200 women that sat at her attention. “Well, that’s why this is wonderful. It gets all of us out of our comfort zones.”
I had just flown into blustery Buffalo, N.Y., rented a car, driven to a foreign (and freezing) destination and packed into a room with women I knew were eager to start an adventure. I was at the Wild Women Unite Conference in Grand Island, N.Y.
“I have been developing the largest network of women who want to enjoy the outdoors by providing a fun, safe place to get started,” said the original Wild Woman, Folck.
Here, I joined a group of women from two countries, eight states and 12 New York counties. We were all gathered in an effort to stuff ourselves with all the outdoor knowledge we could learn in two days.
“Being comfortable in the outdoors is about trying new things and instilling confidence,” Folck said.
Sure, I grew up in Alabama where my granddad took me fishing, my dad took me hunting and our family camped occasionally. But, could I nock an arrow correctly, tie a lure on a hook with the right knot or back a boat down the ramp on my own? No way.
And, that’s where I found the Wild Women Unite Conference, a weekend event with 30 workshops meant to teach and train women on the basic knowledge and safety procedures within various outdoor sports, while also providing the opportunity to try different gear and equipment under the guidance of a professional.
I jumped at the chance to hone my skills on the water and with a bow. So, I signed up for my four workshops: boating, fishing, archery and yoga (for a bit of stress relief).
It was a weekend filled with perfect casts (and backlashes), bull’s eyes (and practice shots) and everything in between. But, most importantly, it was a weekend of fellowship with women who care about the outdoors and want to spend their time there, too.
It was mothers and daughters, adventurers and beginners. And, at the heart of it were instructors just as willing to teach as we were to learn.
“I tried my best to interview the instructors to make sure there are quality teachers at this event,” Folck said. “The people who appreciate the concept and want to drive it forward are the best instructors.”
I left New York feeling so fulfilled. Maybe that was the time I spent outside, or the time I spent learning or all of the relationships I made, but the weekend was an accomplishment and an item to cross off my bucket list.
At the beginning of our program, we received a special message from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and her words really hit home at the end of our weekend.
“You all have been a steadfast ally for those of us looking to empower women in New York and across the country,” Gillibrand said. “Many women want to know more about outdoor fitness and sports, and thanks to this important event, women are given the opportunity to learn and compete in an area where we are underrepresented.”
Folck’s New Year’s resolution: If I can get more women outside, they’ll feel the same way I do. That’s my goal and my hope.
Dates are already set for the 2015 weekend — Oct. 2-3 — and registration will open in March.
For more images from our Wild Women weekend, check out my photos here.
To learn more about Wild Women Unite, Folck and her passion for the outdoors, visit www.wildwomenunite.com.