A Weekend with Washington Outdoor Women

October 3, 2018

What do you call a weekend retreat in the woods near Fort Bend, where over 100 women from across Washington get together to hone their outdoor skills—or maybe pick up some new ones? Where you can learn how to properly draw a bow or cast a fly rod; how to read a topographic map or take care of your pup if they’re injured on a hike; how to prioritize and pack your gear for backpacking or fix it if it fails while you’re in the backcountry—and much, much more. Well, I call it a great time, but the official name is Washington Outdoor Women’s fall workshop.

Washington Outdoor Women is a nonprofit organization founded by Ronnie McGlenn over 20 years ago (you may recognize the surname there—Ronnie’s husband John is one of the Coalition’s own cofounders!). She wanted to give women throughout Washington with the opportunity to learn critical traditional outdoor wilderness skills from hunting and gathering to soap making and more! I think it’s fair to say Ronni and John could have given each other a run for their money with the amazing organizations they’ve founded!

Having grown up exploring the wilds of Western Montana, I thought I was pretty outdoors-savvy, but I found myself torn as I perused the list of some 20 classes I could chose from. Should I do the topography and compass class, since my skills there are a bit rusty? Or should I take archery, which sounded like a lot of fun? Well, I confess that the “fun” options won and I still need to refresh my navigational skills!

I eventually settled on archery, outdoor photography, and introduction to big game hunting. I discovered archery was a LOT of fun—but apparently archery ranges are one thing Seattle is a bit short on, so continuing to hone that skill will be challenging. I refreshed my photography skills in anticipation of passing them along to my partner’s daughter, who is also getting into photography. And I learned a bit more about big game hunting—something I’ve been thinking about in order to connect more deeply with nature and practice more sustainable food sourcing.

I learned a lot and gained inspiration in each class, but have to say I was just as inspired in between the classes, chatting with the volunteer instructors and other attendees and hearing their stories. Some came to WOW from Seattle, focused on gaining hunting and fishing skills. Others traveled from the TriCities and couldn’t fathom being hunters or fishers, but were loving the dutch oven cooking and knot tying classes. There was something for everyone that weekend—and the participants reflected that.

They also reflected the truth of the greater outdoors community in Washington: we all come from different places, different walks of life, and different perspectives. And it’s that variety that makes our community so amazing! We don’t have to agree about everything, but we all agree that Washington’s outdoors are something special that needs to be protected!

That’s something that both John and Ronni McGlenn believe very passionately—and something they’ve instilled at the core of both organizations they founded. That’s why we at the Coalition are so proud to have WOW (and the Washington Wildlife Federation, their host organization) as our partners—and we look forward to carrying this partnership on into the future.

And I, personally, am already looking forward to next fall’s workshop, when I promise I’ll be taking that topography class!