Wild Women "Outdoors-Woman' weekend is all about building confidence, trust, friendship, weight and body odor. Babes in the woods it is not.

September 21, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Three days without a shower, 55 blindfolds and 125 pounds of candy are all you need to turn 109 women into one female force of nature.

The "Becoming an Outdoors-Woman" weekend, sponsored by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources last week at Sandy Hill Park in Cecil County, is designed to help women become self-sufficient outdoors and inhale as much food as possible in a three-day period.

A mix of indoor seminars and hands-on classes in everything from fly fishing to small-motorboat handling, the weekend offered bonding, bloating and body odor.

Put your stereotypes on hold. Nobody whined about the lack of a mall (there was no need, what with all the "Becoming an Outdoors-Woman" merchandise for sale in the Bay Lodge meeting center). No, "ick, a mosquito," or, "yucky, a worm."

No stilettos and panty hose, either; just a bland bunch of baggy T's, shorts, jeans and boots, with the occasional J. Crew cover girl.

There was nothing that screamed "woman" about the event, though we were concerned that an underwire bra might throw off our compass bearings. And it's kind of hard to shoot a bow and arrow when you have breasts. The only things that belied our ruggedness were the cell phones and pagers.

OK, now take your stereotypes off hold. For this girlie, urban, walking cliche with a penchant for platform sneakers and a limited roughing-it resume, it was a little different.

I went to sixth-grade camp reluctantly. I also went to the desert in my grandpa's orange VW van many moons ago. That's it.

The only fishing I'd ever done was for compliments.

So I was in for a moderated "Deliverance." I didn't have to squeal like a pig, but I did learn to talk like a turkey, among other things.

Here's what the weekend taught me.

Be more prepared than the Boy Scouts:

If you're a smoker facing three days of estrogen exile, take more than one pack of cigarettes.

Especially if you encounter former smokers so giddy about hanging with the girls that they're inspired to smoke a few of yours.

"Here I am smoking, like in junior high," said Karen Lazar, 52, lighting up her, or, rather, my second consecutive Marlboro Light while sitting on a picnic table.

The striking Annapolis resident, multi-toned silver hair pulled into a thick ponytail, said she quit years ago but likes to sneak one every now and then. I was happy to be an enabler.

Also, read the information on what to take before you go. Fifteen minutes into the drive to the camp, I realized I was supposed to take bed linens. My driver graciously turned the car around. I ran up to my apartment and shoved what was on my bed into a trash bag.

L Don't take a plug-in alarm clock if there is no electricity.

Choosing a "late" cabin is a mistake. My cabin-mates giggled and tittered late into the night like schoolgirls, talking about everything from orgasms to the Starr report.

Scope the clean bathrooms:

Grown women were not meant to use bathrooms designed for outdoorsy 10-year-old boys. The stalls were so small that your knees hit the door when you sat on the toilet. One woman had to be informed that the urinal was, indeed, not a sink.

Some outdoorswomen looked at the bright side.

"If we had outhouses, that would be pretty gross," said Heather Creason, 23. The Littlestown, Pa., resident is the manager of Claire's Boutique in Towson.

Hello! Anyone notice the swank bathrooms in the Bay Lodge? They were clean, huge and air-conditioned. I had some of my best times of the entire weekend in those bathrooms.

But they had no showers. And what passed for showers was enough to make one resolve not to take one.

"The water was hot for approximately 25 seconds," said Diane Prince, 42, from Bethesda.

Shunning the shower became a badge of outdoorswoman honor.

Turkey hunting is a lot like dating:

"You're going to talk to this turkey," said camouflage-hat-clad Denny Price, the instructor for "Let's Talk Turkey." "You're going to be able to tell what he's saying to you."

The sit-down seminar gave a step-by-step approach to hunting turkey. We all got out our own manual turkey calls.

Tuned to sound like randy female turkeys, they are convenient for both turkey hunting and bar crawling. Basically, they think they're going to have sex, and then you kill them.

The tips for hunting sounded more like a motivational dating class than instruction on how to bag wild game, which is kind of the same thing anyway.

1. You don't want to be too far away from the turkey, because you don't want a hen coming in between him and you.

2. You may have to talk trash to a hen to send her away.

3. If he doesn't call -- I mean, gobble -- back every time, don't get angry.

The class was filled with seasoned deer hunters way into the subject matter. Nothing made them flinch. Not even when Denny informed us that the best way to kill a turkey with a bow and arrow is to shoot the arrow directly into its butt.

I fell asleep.

When I woke up, it was time for a raffle.

I won a deluxe turkey-hunting getaway. I was glad the other women didn't have their guns.

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