GRAYLING – In the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade mountain range seven outdoor enthusiasts were gathered around a glowing campfire in March of 2004.
As outdoors lovers their conversation drifted to the potential loss of their favorite “stomping grounds” to development, pollution and closure. Being a group with diverse interests from hunting to fishing and just enjoying the opportunity to hike the pure trails of nature, they recognized what was missing was an organization that could see and serve the larger picture of conservation issues rather than focus on a single aspect of nature. They wanted to create a voice for the “silent wilderness”.
From the smoke of that mountain campfire has grown a nation-wide force of over 23,000 members that are dedicated to preserving our total environment in its natural condition. In 2016 the Michigan Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers was formed in Gaylord.
One of their most recent initiatives was to bring more women into the outdoor sports. To that end, Sarah Topp and Amber Casey, two Directors of the Michigan chapter, partnered with the Grayling Sportsman’s Club to offer a ladies “Cast and Blast” weekend where women from throughout the state could sample a “smorgasbord” of outdoor activities.
Participants from Traverse City, Ann Arbor, Commerce Township, Grand Rapids, Cedar Springs and other several other Michigan communities set up camp at the Lake Margrethe Campground and enjoyed a Friday night “Meet and Greet” around the campfire.
Saturday dawned under threatening skies with a promise of heat and humidity of the scale, but everyone gathered at the Grayling Sportsman’s Club Saturday noon where Sportsman’s Club Instructors tutored in both skeet and trap shooting.
A few hours later Rebecca Sunshine, professional river guide, instructed the ladies on rigging a fly rod using ten brand new rods and reels donated by Orvis. Unfortunately, just as casting practice was to start, the skies opened up so it was inside to learn knot tying and the skills need to tie a feathered hook that would tempt a wily trout from under a log jam.
After dinner at the Sportsman’s Club, the ladies returned to the campground to enjoy another evening around the campfire. Sunday morning dawned bright and cooler. Several of the ladies headed for the Manistee River to apply what they had learned on the River’s trout population before packing up for the trip home with new skills that will help them more fully enjoy the great out-of-doors.
Many outdoor product companies contributed to making this first ladies’ weekend a huge success. Jays Sporting Goods, Gates Lodge, Rolling Oaks Brewery, UMPQUA fly tying supplies, Orvis and several others. In the final analysis the weekend was a great success and according to both Sarah and Amber, will become a repeat event. All involved seem to agree that the future of the outdoor sports lies with increasing the number of ladies that participate and enjoy all aspects of the great out-of-doors.
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