TROY - The 12th annual Women in the Wilds event was held Aug. 11 at Mt. Pisgah State Park, Troy, and brought a record 247 women - myself included - to the park on a beautiful day filled with fun classes, education, exercise, gorgeous scenery and socialization.
Mother Nature was kind during this year's event, providing beautiful weather for the attendees to enjoy their day at the park, unlike what was endured last year.
"Our first year we had 41 women in attendance and it rained all day, but those women stuck it out," said Nicole Harris, event coordinator. "Last year we had 244 women and it rained all day, and the women still stuck it out."
Sun-Gazette staffer Julie Reppert takes aim at a target during an archery class at the Women in the Wilds event held at Mt. Pisgah State Park on Aug. 11.
The day began with breakfast for all participants at the Hilltop Pavilion from 7:30 to 8 a.m., followed by a welcome from Harris.
This year, I attended my first WITW event and, as I made my way from class to class, I met other first-timers, as well as veterans. The ages of the attendees ranged from teenagers to women in their 80s - proving you can be a "wild woman" at any age.
Harris and a committee of 32 women began meeting and planning for the event in March, deciding on instructors and programs to offer to the attendees.
Advance registration was required, and participants chose the classes in which they wanted to participate out of a total of 19 subjects.
The women attended four classes, each of which were 1 1/2 hours long.
Classes included archery, ATV safety, basket weaving, blueprint for successful living, canoeing and kayaking, crocheting, dreamcatchers, dutch oven and campfire cooking, floral design, fly tying, herbs for everyone, hiking and backpacking, nature shields, self defense, shooting events, stress management and relaxation, survivor, tree of life pendant and women in the woods.
Some of the classes vary from year to year, and with repeat attendees, event staff tries to keep coming up with fresh ideas for classes, while consistently offering staples such as archery, shooting, canoeing and kayaking, and some type of fishing class, every year, Harris said.
"We find instructors by word-of-mouth," Harris said. "I also try to find women instructors. We want to make sure the ladies feel comfortable trying new activities in a beautiful outdoor setting at Mt. Pisgah State Park. Many of our instructors are local to Bradford County,"
The classes I attended included archery, which I had never done before. I discovered that I love it!
I also participated in the herbs for everyone class, where I made herb vinegar and received a parsley plant and a bunch of recipes to take home; tree of life, where I made a beautiful tree pendant using wire and beads; and hiking and backpacking, where I learned a lot of things I didn't know about heading out into the wild on foot.
Out of the four classes I attended, I believe my favorite was archery. I actually grew up around the sport. Many family members shoot, but I never did myself.
I didn't know how much I liked it until my arrows started hitting the target, one after another. I also got to shoot a crossbow.
The instructors for the class were great - David and Christine Vough, of Athens, along with their two young sons, Jon and Ben, and their family friend, Corissa Reed. They all were very friendly and helpful and provided a great learning environment for all of the women.
I learned two tricks on how to find my dominant eye, resulting in my left-handed stance. I even went five-for-five in one of my rounds. Not too bad for a newbie!
One class you can bet to see year after year at WITW is shooting events. The events taught in the class this year included sporting clays, black powder, .22 shoot and handguns.
Marilyn Jones, a five-time instructor with WITW, has been working with firearms since she was 12 years old.
"The premise behind this part of the Women in the Wilds event is, teach the basics of firearm safety, how various types of firearms work and get some hands-on training with these different firearms," Jones said. "Women are finding a new niche in the shooting sports and finding they are pretty darn good at it."
Shooting sports always is one of the most popular events, and this year there were 78 women signed up to attend the class.
New to this year's event was Blueprint for Successful Living, taught by Dr. Marcia S. Kesten, a chiropractor who practices in East Smithfield.
Kesten is a WITW participant turned instructor, who enjoys teaching others about healthy living. She designed the class herself.
"Back in the '80s, people were beginning to be more interested in self-help tools than seeking professional advice - at least the group that would more likely go to a chiropractor," Kesten said. "That is when I developed Blueprint for Successful Living. I spoke about diet, exercise, supplements, meditation."
A few things attendees of her class learned about were healthy eating, specific exercises, how to treat tendonitis, acupuncture pressure points for acute problems and foot flexology.
The Tree of Life event had the largest number of attendees, with 82 women. Other popular events were dutch oven and campfire cooking, 79 attendees; herbs for everyone, 77; basket weaving, 76; and canoeing and kayaking, 74.
Other activities and demonstrations included Friends of Mt. Pisgah State Park, Carl Young, president; reiki, Tina Tillotson; massages, Beth Fisher and Sandy Swick; rock wall climbing, Sgt. First Class Reginald Falls, of the National Guard; Pro-Care Physical Therapy, Duke Opdyke and Dr. Michelle Wilson; and Bradford County Dairy Royalty, who served cheese and cracker samples at lunch time.
Women in the Wilds is sponsored by the Friends of Mt. Pisgah State Park, and all money raised through registration fees, raffles, auctions and other activities stays at the park.
This year, the event raised more than $10,000 for a new pavilion to be built at the park, according to Harris.
Throughout the day, the women were encouraged to recycle all trash and receptacles were provided for recyclables, compostable items and trash. As a result of the green efforts by all of the women, the event produced only three bags of trash, Harris said.
Harris said she loves seeing the women come together and network. She also is very passionate about recycling and keeping the park a green environment.
"I enjoy bringing women together in a beautiful outdoor setting to try or rediscover activities that relate to conservation education."
To learn more about Mt. Pisgah or Women in the Wilds, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/mountpisgah.