Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Becoming an Outdoor Woman Workshop

Recently I participated in a nationwide workshop called Becoming an Outdoor Woman. It's a weekend long workshop that focuses on teaching woman a variety of outdoor skills in a positive and fun environment. The BOW workshop that I attended was in Custer, South Dakota at the Outlaw Ranch and was sponsored by SD Game, Fish and Parks. When I signed up for BOW I selected four courses that I wanted to attend and get hands-on experience with. For my first BOW I chose Wild Game Cooking, Dutch Oven Cooking, Birding and ID and Map & Compass. There were so many options that it was hard to narrow it down to just four!

The weekend kicked off with an orientation. There were about 100 women who were there to participate and probably another 30 people who were instructors. It turned out that the majority of women were attending for their first time just like me, which made me feel a bit better. After our welcome we all headed to the location of the first class. I apparently has been daydreaming when an announcement was made that my first class, Wild Game Cooking, had changed locations. I went to the old spot and waited at the picnic tables with another lady, Gerri. We started talking and exchanging stories about how we had come to be there. She was great company and before long we realized that we must have missed something. Without any trouble we were able to find the rest of our class and a weekend of fun began.

Wild Game Cooking

There were about 8 other woman enrolled in this class with me. Most of them either had a bit of experience cooking wild game or none at all. I'd had a bit, mostly deer and moose, but when I read on the brochure that snow goose would be involved I knew that this was a class where I would be learning something.

Wild Game Cooking, Retrieved from BOW Facebook, 9.11
Since the classes are 3-4 hours long we had time to prepare an entire meal. We made deer steak salad, where the deer had been marinated in a mustard sauce. We also made poppers with snow goose, some of the meat had been soaked in a milk brine and some in a salt brine. It was amazing how we could really taste the difference between the two. I also had never used a brine before and so this was a totally new way to spice up meat. We also enjoyed a pate made with pheasant. It was amazing and the recipe was very simple. I think that I could make this with wild turkey too. We learned how to make a sun-dried tomato elk tenderloin which was phenomenal. The last thing that we made was a pheasant and chukar soup. We actually got to field dress the birds that were used in the soup. That was something I had never done. It was surprising easy and really not that messy. What a skill I got to learn!

At the end they provided us with all of the recipes that we had made and additionally BOW had purchased a full Wild Game Cooking cookbook for each of us. This was a very delicious and education class! I've brought the ideas home and can't wait for some new game to experiment on!

Dutch Oven Cooking

I attended Dutch Oven Cooking on Saturday morning. The class was taught by The Patrick Sister who are two of the funniest, sweetest ladies I have ever met. They told us about their start at cooking in dutch ovens which coincidentally enough was about 10 years before at a BOW workshop.  They walked us through the history of dutch oven cooking and showed us the variety of dutch ovens out there. Then we got to cooking.

Scotch Eggs Dutch Oven Style, 9.11
There was a group about 10-12 ladies and we broke into groups of 2-3 to each make a meal. As a group we made chocolate bread pudding, scotch eggs, apple turnovers, breakfast pizza rolls and a spinach quiche. For a group of women with barely any experience we did a fantastic job. Everything came out perfectly delicious.

We each walked away with the confidence and ability to cook up a great meal in a dutch oven. The Patrick Sisters also gave us each a copy of their recently published Full Circle Dutch Oven Cookbook. I can't wait to take this class again next year!

Bird ID and Birding

Saturday after lunch I went to Birding and Bird ID taught by Lynn Purdy and Maggie Engler, two very knowledgeable women. I decided to take this class because I'm not a South Dakota native and so I'm not very familiar with the birds in the Hills. I had and still do have a lot to learn but I'm more inspired than ever. 

There were maybe 10 people in this class and after a brief orientation we grabbed a pair of binoculars we headed outside. Even though the class was mid-afternoon we were still able to see a few birds. I learned to name some birds I had been seeing around Outlaw Ranch and a bird that's only found in the Hills. It was really fun to watch the birds playing in the pasture or to try to pick them out of the thickets or just to find them eating on the ground. It's amazing what you don't see!

Birding and Bird ID, Retrieved from BOW Facebook, 9.11
After spending some time outside we ventured back to the warmth and wrapped up. Lynn and Maggie provided us with posters, birding lists and books on landscaping for wildlife in our own backyard. I learned so much and walked away with a ton of resources. I'm very happy that I took this class and had the opportunity to meet Lynn and Maggie. It was very fun!

Later that evening there was a feast prepared by the SD Conservation Officers Association. This is something that they do each year at BOW to raise awareness about events they do throughout the year and to raise money. Over the past few years whenever a bighorn or mountain goat was hit the Conservation Officers tried to save the meat for occasions like this. A few years ago a moose (which are incredibly rare in the Hills) was poached and the SDCOA salvaged it and had some meat saved for the BOW dinner. When someone had taken well over their limit on walleye and perch the fish were confiscated and saved for the dinner. That night I saw the most diverse and delicious array of wild game. They served walleye, perch, wild turkey, mule deer, moose, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep. There may have been other meats but I was so excited to try mountain goat and bighorn sheep that everything else was eclipsed. I'm pretty sure that I had elk, too, but I can't be sure. To support their cause and to show my appreciation I purchased a t-shirt for myself and my husband. There was no way that he was going to believe my night without some hard evidence.

Map and Compass

On Sunday morning I attended my last class, Map and Compass. I was pretty confidant going in that I could work with a compass because for my jobs I had always been required to keep a bearing and to draw maps but what I wasn't used to was working my way around a map and taking bearings straight from it.

We started out learning to identify map symbols and how to read the contour lines. I really learned a lot. For example, I learned how to read which was a stream flows by the contour lines that run through it. After that we learned how to take a bearing from maps and how to adjust for true north. There's a lot to think about when you are trying to get somewhere with just a map and compass!

Map and Compass 9.11
When we got that down we headed outside to try out our new skills on real terrain. First, we practiced reading the bearing and matching it to our pace. That was fun and once we got that down we were set upon a real course that brought us all around Outlaw Ranch. There were five checkpoints that we had to find and with a little group help we found all five. We had to navigate around a lake, up to a rock outcropping, across a pasture, to a small meandering stream and then back to where we had started. It was awesome! Map and compass work is a really great way to encourage team work and build confidence!

After we had completed the course we were all gifted the compass that we had worked with. This was great because the compasses were small, simple and could be used to read any 1:24,000 scaled map. I can't wait to pass on some of my new skills to my friends!

After the weekend had come to a wrap I was truly sad to be heading home. The women that I had met over the course of the weekend were all so spirited and fun that it actually brought a tear to my eye to know that I would have to wait a whole year to have another experience like this. Becoming an Outdoor Woman had been a successful weekend. I had learned several new skills and my confidence in being outside and learning new things was high. Now, I am counting down until next year and I hope that some of my friends will come with me. It's something that every woman should experience!

Thank you to all the people who made this weekend possible. Thank you to every women who brought their great attitudes and made this a great experience. I hope to see you all again!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spearfish Canyon Revisted & the Termesphere Gallery

Annie Falls has been calling our names for a few weeks now and first thing Sunday morning Josh, myself and our friend, Matt Kinsey, made our way there. We turned off Spearfish Canyon onto Annie Creek Road and parked at a slight turnoff a couple miles in. The trail head is on the left and easy to miss.

From the natural platform at the top we were surveying the falls and the canyon. Josh took off down the crazy decline towards the fall and Matt and I spied another route down. I thought that I would try to bring Wu down this new route so that we could all spend some time playing in the creek.  Matt went down the same way as Josh to let him know that Wu and I would be attempting a new descent.

9.11 Annie Falls
The new trail is to the left of the natural platform where you can view Annie Falls. At first I didn't think that it would be so bad but it turned out to be pretty steep. Wu was a champion as we hiked down. There was a trail as the route had been used by game and a few people but it was still fairly subjective. We came to one spot where Wu had some trouble until he got the nerve to just do it.

Once we were at the creek it was considerably easier to walk and it was a nice surprise to see Josh and Matt heading our way down another waterfall. At some point there had been a rockslide and the loose rock had created a lower fall. It was awesome how the water flowed through the crevasses and pooled in basins.

It was here that we discovered the carcass of a coyote that had fallen from the cliffs above.The bones were sun-bleached and surprisingly, nearly intact. It was an interesting sight but it also put into perspective how we really needed to pay attention to our footing during these adventures. Wet rock and pine needles make things a little slick.

9.11 Matt at Annie Falls
We played around in the creek for some time. Taking pictures and exploring. At Annie Falls we found the geocache that's stashed there. Josh made the find. We all signed the log book and left a few trade items. It's a good hide and making it more difficult are the canyon walls which bounce the GPS signal around. Good times!

We took the route that Wu and I had taken down on our way up again. In only one spot (a different one than before) did Wu get nervous but he atacked it with his usual bear-ness and ran circles around us. This is a more dog friendly route than the regularly used trail but I would only recommend it for very athletic dogs who are just a bit crazy.

By the time that we were heading out a few families showed up to enjoy the falls. We took off north to Community Caves. Since it was a recent find, Matt hadn't been there before and it was on our 'to see' list.

We parked at a large parking lot about 3 miles south of the Northern Entrance to Spearfish Canyon. Before we had made it to the trail we passed a family who told us that it was quite crowed today. They were right. The hike took about 15 minutes and thankfully we were able to enjoy it without the trail being crowded. The hike up follows a ravine and is moderately difficult. The climb is beautiful: leading from a dry creek bed up to the forest canopy.

9.11 Family Picture at Community Caves
At the top the large overhang houses a number of caverns. There's a waterfall that falls over the lip and flows down the trail. We relaxed here for a bit. There's not much to do at the top beyond exploring the caverns and enjoying the views.

It's a very interesting geological feature and worth the hike. We haven't seen anything quite like this anywhere else in the Hills. But ofcourse when something is this unique word gets around and as a result there were a lot more people at the caves than we were hoping for. Our visit was short but it was still a lot of fun. 

Our last stop of the afternoon was at the Termesphere Gallery. It's tucked away on Christensen Drive on the outskirts of Spearfish. We have passed a hundred times and always said that we'd do it soon. Well, soon came Sunday afternoon.

From the road it's almost impossible to see the buildings that make up the gallery and the Termes family home but the glimpses you get allude to something architecturally unique. The dirt driveway leads up to the front doors and you finally get to see the geometric building that houses the gallery.

9.11 The Termesphere Gallery 
The Termesphere was first created by Dick Termes thirty something years ago. On a globe he paints with a six-point perspective which isn't something easily explained in words. You could say that he paints everything he sees in every direction from his one point. It's something you should see. Each Termesphere is an optical illusion and a mathmatical piece of art.

Around the Northern Black Hills there are Termespheres on display all over the place. We had seen the ones at Saloon #10, Spearfish Chamber of Commerce, the Deadwood Visitor Center, and the Spearfish City Park and each was hypnotizing. Each piece is amazing but to have the greatest Termesphere experience you should visit the gallery. A lifetime of Termespheres are on display to enjoy.

Our entrance to the gallery was by donation and they told us that they are open whenever they're home. After feeling the impact of all of the Termespheres and finding our favorites, we realized that this is one of our best finds yet and we will surely be returning!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Places We've Seen

Since Josh and I began our geocaching explorations, we have come across a few unknown spots that completely surprised us. We would be on our way to find a cache and all of a sudden there was an amazing canyon or waterfall ahead. All we could think was "How have we never been here before?" Intriguing us more was that our friends hadn't heard of these places either.

One afternoon Josh and I explored the Whitewood Creek Reclamation Area which is located behind Schade Winery, at the beginning of Boulder Canyon in Deadwood. There's a dirt road that follows the creek back towards Whitewood and it looks like it dead-ends in a storage yard but alas, it winds to the right and heads into the canyon.

We crossed a couple of trestles and slowly made our way along the creek. The canyon walls rise up hundreds of feet on the left and the creek flows on the right. There's not much for traffic in this area, because it is a dead-end which makes it even more peaceful and relaxing. Maybe two miles in there is a large man-made wall which acts as a retainer but also gives easy access to the creek. To get on top of the wall you have to drive through an 100 foot crevasse. It's awesome.

We had heard about a railroad tunnel in this area. Our eyes were pealed for any sign of it. The road continues for a few miles more but eventually ends at private property. As were were turning around I saw a large black void.

8.11 Josh at Whitewood Creek Train Tunnel  
It's at moments like this that I know Josh loves me. I started hooting about a tunnel and how we should walk to it. It was ridiculous but he obliged and we set off down the road.
8.11 Whitewood Creek Train Tunnel

We had found the old abandoned train tunnel! The entrance was gated but it was still really cool to be able to see through it and to imagine a train rolling through there. I wish that there was information on the land owner because we would love to hike above it and around the area (and obviously to get inside)!

After playing for a bit we headed back to town. On the way out we spotted several hiking trails that we had missed on the way in. We are going to go back later to hike and explore a bit more.

During the week I had been geocaching on Annie Creek Rd. and found a great spot. I didn't investigate at the time because I wanted to do it with Josh and we were able to make it there just a few days later.

9.11 View of Annie Falls from landing
Annie Creek Road is about 2 miles North of Cheyenne Crossing in Spearfish Canyon. It's a little dirt road just before a sharp corner. The road seems to be laid on an old railroad bed and in a few spots they are surfacing. There's a nice hiking trail that follows along the left side and can lead you to some great views. About a mile or so in there's a small pulloff on the right and a steep pebble path on the left.

We parked there and Josh, myself and Wu made our way down the path. For a few yards it's rocky and steep but it leads to a natural landing. Lining the edge were huge boulders that made perfect benches. Josh sat out with his legs over the edge but it was a bit too high for me.

From there we overlooked a waterfall that fell onto a large boulder and split the stream of water in two. The path down to the creek is a bit trecherous but it's worth it. There's some climbing and the pine needles can make it a little slick.

8.11 Josh at Annie Falls
It was so steep that we had to leave Wu at the top. Josh told him to stay and we hiked down. The creek was really easy to cross and we didn't get our feet wet. We enjoyed the waterfall and were in total delight over the new hike we could do here.

There a bit of space by the creek and it would be a beautiful area to eat lunch, which we will be sure to do. After taking a few photos and realizing that Wu was waiting we climbed back up.

To our delight the dog was still there and when we crested the top he let us know that he won't be left behind again. This wasn't a hike for young kids or dogs but it was a good challenge for us and we have started to try to find a route up the creek instead of down that steep incline.

We made it back to the car and kept exploring the Canyon. It was a perfect way to have started the day.