Tiffany Richards first visited our homestead way back in 2007. During her brief stay she became completely enamored with our wonderful wilderness setting. Ever since that visit she & I have desired to create an experiential event for women only…We were finally able to see that vision made manifest this August, when Mystic Mountain hosted our first annual WILD WOMEN event!!
In her role as the owner & operator of a martial arts dojo in the Phoenix valley, “the Peaceful Warrior”, Richards guides & supports people in discovering & drawing from their inner strengths in order to reach new levels of self-empowerment. As the owner of her other business, the BackRub Co., Richards educates & encourages clients to pursue optimal health by providing facials & massage services & conducting classes in creating DIY all natural bath & body care products.
On August 23rd, five brave ladies placed their trust in Richards’ leadership abilities, following her out of their comfort zones & into the Alaskan “Bush!” Although the commercial air travel to the island of Kodiak was pretty standard fare, the adventure began with the very next leg of their journey as they boarded a DeHavilland Beaver, a very small plane that takes off & lands on the water. This mode of travel is quite common in Alaska & affords passengers incredible bird’s-eye views of the Alaskan Outback, of which I consider the “Emerald Isle” to be the virtual crown jewel! The gals were in the highly capable hands of Andrew Airways’ pilot Willie Fulton, who did a tremendous job as tour guide, offering factoids & quips along the way & took a little extra time to view the whales that were feeding in Marmot Bay.
After getting the ladies settled in their ocean-view cabins we discussed the week ahead over a lovely dinner of Alaskan wild salmon & a beautiful salad, freshly plucked from our organic gardens. We decided to keep the itinerary rather loose to allow room for spontaneity, not to mention adaptability to our island’s erratic weather changes! After breakfast the next morning we hiked a couple miles through the dense Sitka Spruce forests that we are surrounded by, stopping along the way to pick Sulfur Mushrooms (a.k.a. Chicken of the Woods). There is nothing in this area that even closely resembles these particular fungi so they are a great ‘shroom for beginner pickers & yes, they really DO “taste like chicken!!” After a bit of beachcombing & gathering some delicious Goosetongue which grows along the coastline, we were able to hitch a ride home from our supersweet commercial fisherman neighbor, Adam.
The highlight of the next day was showing the women how we “lay out the groundline”, the local style of halibut fishing for subsistence purposes. Even though some of gals were vegetarians everyone still wanted to participate in each step of the process, so after putting on full raingear in preparation for a misty day outdoors, we baited the hooks with chunks of fresh salmon (thanks again, Adam!) & boarded the skiff for a short boat ride out into our front “yard.” After setting the gear we went back to camp & enjoyed some lessons in how to make your own Kefir & Kombucha & how to grow sprouts at home. The ladies were all pleasantly surprised to learn how simple & delicious these procedures are & I am excited to hear back from them to see who’s continuing these new practices at home! A few hours later we ran back out into the bay & pulled the groundline, harvesting four small halibut, what we locals call “chickens!” (I have NO idea why! They do NOT taste like chicken!! LOL!) Stan demonstrated how simple it is to fillet a halibut & we put some aside for that evening’s meal, vacuum-packing the rest for dinners in the future.
The following day presented us with picture-perfect bluebird weather so we decided to take a lengthy kayaking excursion. To accommodate the ladies’ varying levels of fitness we had our handsome chauffeur drop us & our boats off up in the head of Dry Spruce Bay where there is a rock with a hole in it that we paddled through. We toodled around the bay for a couple hours before summoning our ride home, just as it started to rain.
We switched things up the next day with a bivouac from one end of Bare Island to the other, first observing the homestead of a local medicine woman & a couple other holiday-only cabins in the area. We picked some Oyster mushrooms & talked to a beautiful Sitka Blacktail doe as we made our way through the woods, finally arriving on the east end of the island where there are the ruins of a fox farm that operated from 1917 till around the ‘60’s and where an abandoned fishing boat dominates the beach.
Later, while some of the ladies opted to remain in camp & chill’ax with a good book, a great view & the company of our free-range turkeys, a few of the other gals followed me up the mountainside for a short but challenging up & down hike across the face of Kupreanoff. The reward for our efforts was some refreshing time spent meditating at the serene moss-covered waterfall in the back corner of our meadow.
After hiking back to camp it was nice to crack a cold Alaskan-brewed beer pulled from the crystal-clear, spring-fed creek that gives us not only running & drinking water but also provides us with free electricity via our micro-hydroelectric system.
As we awaited the arrival of the float plane in the last hours of the ladies’ visit, the grand finale was the opportunity to enjoy outdoor massages alongside the creek. Listening to the birdsong & babbling brook while a trained professional kneaded my muscles was for me truly one of the highlights of the weeklong adventure! Definitely gotta include that in next year’s ladies-only event!! At the round-table discussion on that last morning several valuable suggestions were made that will likely also be incorporated into the WildWomen2017 event, such as encouraging participants to take part in meal prep so they can learn some of the methods & recipes that we had utilized, assigning chores such as collecting the eggs from the chicken coop each day, picking fresh organic produce from our gardens for the day’s meals, & cutting & carrying firewood for the sauna woodstove.
As I bid farewell to these fantastic females, I gave the ladies HUGE props for stepping outside their comfort zones & for trying so many new things! I can't wait to do it all again many times over next summer. Perhaps you can join us!!
Check out the lovely Thank You note we received from one of the participants! Awwww! We SO appreciate the feedback & hope to see you again soon!