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PARKS COURSE PREPARES WOMEN TO TAME THE WILDERNESS.

Byline: Karyn Hunt Associated Press

You're walking in the woods and you realize you've lost your way. It's dusk, the temperature is dropping and you're alone. What do you do?

Burst into tears and wish your boyfriend was there to whisk you away in his manly arms? Send telepathic messages to your husband to pick you up in the family station wagon with a Big Mac and strawberry shake in hand? Yell as loud as you can for Ranger Rick?

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Women can take care of themselves in the wilderness - without the help of men. That's the message behind a new California State Parks program called ``Women in the Outdoors'' that aims to instill outdoors skills and confidence in women who grew up hearing they shouldn't venture into the wilds without a male.

The first of the wilderness seminars brought 94 women ages 16 to 60-plus to the Mendocino Woodlands in May. The women spent three days in the lush coastal redwood forests learning survival skills, wilderness first aid, map and compass techniques as well as outdoor cooking.

``Women are not a part of someone: They are people in and of themselves and they cannot depend on others to help them,'' said 39-year-old Lilli Ann Papaloukas, who works as a legal assistant for Matson Navigation and had never camped before.

She planned to pass on that message by teaching her daughter's Girl Scout troop and starting an outdoors program at her daughter's school.

The fully booked, $238-per-person seminar represented a new direction for the park service as well as the women. It was one in a series of new events, such as rock-climbing, snowshoeing and stargazing, for which the department will charge admission to generate revenue.

Women from as far away as Philadelphia, Toronto and Beverly Hills converged on the rustic compound of log cabins and nature trails on an unusually warm weekend.

Some had never slept outside. Others had always relied on men to set up the tent and chart the route. Several were frustrated that they had nobody to enjoy the outdoors with, because their husbands and boyfriends considered ``roughing it'' choosing the Ramada Inn over the Marriott.

One participant, 59-year-old Judith Bell of Sacramento, was a self-described ``couch potato'' who wants to buy a motorcycle and ride across the United States when she retires from her state job as a Department of Education analyst. She needed to learn some of the skills she will use along the way.

``It's given me some goals and something to look forward to doing,'' Bell said at the end of the weekend.

Jennie Keast, a 45-year-old single mother from Ventura, wanted to take her two daughters camping but had never been taught how to use a camp stove or what to do if approached by a bear or mountain lion.

Ironically, the fear of lions and bears had done less to keep most of the participants out of the woods than another two-legged predator: men along the trail who might take advantage of the solitude and isolation to assault women hiking alone or in pairs.

Knowing they can depend on themselves opens up a new opportunity for growth, says Julie Carville, who led wildflower walks and philosophized on the need to spend time alone with nature.

By the end of the weekend, most of the participants echoed her sentiments. They had erected tents on their own, cooked brownies and cinnamon rolls on a camp stove and administered emergency first aid to one another.

In the unlikely event that one should lose her way, she knew by Sunday afternoon how to read shadows and stars to determine her direction. She knew how to start a fire, set up a shelter, signal a rescue airplane and guide it through a landing.

More importantly, she learned to keep calm, when to stay put and when to move on, weighing the potential dangers of an unexpected storm, an animal attack, hypothermia and any other factors that might arise.

That process of setting priorities and the confidence they gained is as important to survival as anything else, instructor Marilyn Muse said.

``In the final analysis,'' she said, ``it is my firm belief that survival is a state of mind.''

On Location

The next ``Women in the Outdoors'' program is scheduled for Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 at Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. The program includes accommodations (participants provide sleeping bags, towels and transportation), all meals and a variety of courses including rock climbing, cooking, hiking, kayaking and basics of backpacking. Cost is $275 per person. Reservations: (800) 401-4775.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos, Box

Photo: (1--color) Linda Nelson, left, of Philadelphia, and daughter Stephanie Whitlock of Toronto learn to light a portable gas stove during the ``Women in the Outdoors'' program.

(2--color) Linda Nelson, left, of Philadelphia and Debra Haber of San Francisco canoe on the Big River in Mendocino during the state-sponsored outdoors program for women.

(3) Hermine Beck of Beverly Hills sports a splint for a simulated broken arm during wilderness course.

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Box: On Location (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Travel
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 15, 1997
Words:854
Previous Article:THE STATE'S GREAT OUTDOORS: CALIFORNIA'S NETWORK OF BEACHES, FORESTS, SITES REVS UP FOR TOURISTS.
Next Article:TOURS ETC. : TOUR IS OFF TO OKTOBERFEST.


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