GO! Girls Outdoors

A resource for women in Outdoor Education and Recreation

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Gear

Gear Resources
Gear manufacturers have realised that lots of women like the outdoors and they're different shapes from men. Here's what's out there, and where you can buy it.

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Travel

Travel Resources
A selection of travel resources especially for women who love to travel. Includes a list of online communities if you do it yourself, or companies if you need a little help.

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Surfing

Surfing Resources
Listed here are some links to resources from all over the world that cater to women who love surfing.

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Hiking/Tramping

Hiking Resources
Extended walks are great for the mind and spirit and lots of women love to take part in them. Check out these resources and get inspired to go on a walking adventure.

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Snow Sports

Snow Sports Resources
Skiing, snowboarding, backcountry, polar expeditions - all done in the snow and all done by lots of amazing women.  Check out these resources to find out more...

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Kayaking/Canoeing

Kayaking Resources
White water, surfing, sea kayaking, sprint racing, marathon racing, multisport, fishing...is there anything you can't do from a kayak? Explore these resources!

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Cycling

Cycling Resources
A list of resources for all sorts of cycling - mountain biking, road biking, touring, racing, recreation and commuting - all specific to women.

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Climbing

Climbing Resources
Women can (and have) achieved incredible things in climbing. Listed in this section are a collection of climbing and moutaineering resources that are useful and inspiring for all climbers.

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Organisations

Organisations
A list of organisations that cater exclusively to women, or run trips exclusively for women. A great way to find a women-specific adventure in your area.

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Outdoor Industry

Outdoor Industry Resources
Looking for resources to help you plan programs, companies and organisations that cater for women or organisations you can join? Look no further...

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A genuine Canuckistani experience - Maple Sugarbush

tn_P3160358.JPGMmmmmmmm....maple syrup!  I have a Canadian Dad so we grew up with the good stuff on our pancakes and I learnt from an early age that imitation maple syrup is for the ignorant people.  Even though we’re in Canada almost completely out of the tourist season, we did hit on exactly the right time to experience the annual Sugarbush which is when all the maple syrup farms put on a festival to celebrate the tapping of the trees.  The one we went to at White Meadows Farm was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far.

 

I always knew that maple syrup came from trees and that it was made by boiling down the sap but I never really thought past that to the logistics of the whole escapade.  And are there ever logistics!  You’d think it would be a simple process - tap the tree, boil down the sap to syrup, put it in a bottle and eat it.  Perhaps you’d even think that making some pancakes would be the hardest bit.  However, if you thought that then you’ve obviously never been to a maple syrup farm in the throes of the annual Sugarbush.

 

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We arrived at White Meadows (which is kind of in the middle of nowhere) to find that there were hundreds and hundreds of people there.  It was a Sunday afternoon but still...were all these people really just coming to see how maple syrup was made?!  There were lots and lots of kids and we felt a bit silly asking for two adult tickets so we broadened our Australian accents and tried to look a bit okka-tourist so the ticket girl would know we were from out of town.

 

tn_P3160355.JPGThe line up for the hay wagon ride was a bit long, so from the ticket van we went directly to the petting zoo where they had alpacas, goats, sheep, cows and colourful singing chickens.  The kids were feeding the animals but we felt we were experienced enough to leave that part because we’d been feeding the four cats at Uncle Paul’s place.  Instead we fed ourselves with maple flavoured kettle corn...yum yum. 

 

We got aboard the hay wagon for our trip over to the maple forest and as we walked in we spotted a tin bucket attached to a maple tree.  Inside the bucket - lo and tn_P3160369.JPGbehold - was maple sap!  It had a big ice block in it because it had been frozen but you could see the maple sap dripping from the tap into the bucket.  We were impressed.  How easy was this!  We could get some maple trees for home and make our own maple syrup - all you need is a drill and a bucket and a saucepan and a good waffle iron.  We could start the first Tasmanian maple syrup farm (Tasmap), work for a couple of months a year, fund GO! Girls Outdoors and have a never ending supply of maple syrup for our pancakes.  The only problem we could see was that the name Tasmap is already taken.

 

Buoyed up by our impending success as maple syrup farmers, we started our walk through the forest.  White Meadows had thoughtfully set up high school kids in costumes to tell us all about the making of maple syrup through the ages.  The first two kids were by a fire dressed in fake fur and they told us about how the First Nations people made maple syrup.  The kids took rocks from a fire and put them in a hollowed out log that contained the sap, which was how they evaporated the water and concentrated the sap into syrup.  Maple syrup was a fantastic source of energy and nutrition and was used in cooking or made into a sweet drink.  To get rid of all the ash and dirt that got into the syrup, they would crack in a turkey egg which apparently acts like a sponge and collects all the dirt. 

 

tn_P3160359.JPGThis looked a bit too much like hard work so we needed to move on to some more modern technology - after all, this is what we’d be using to make our Maptas maple syrup.  The pioneers drilled holes in the trees by hand, collected the sap in wooden buckets, then used a series of cauldrons to reduce the sap into syrup over a big fire.  The maple sugar was important to the pioneers because other types of sugar were hard to come by and very expensive.  In fact, the whole family would come and camp out by the “sugar shack” while the maple syrup and maple sugar were being made.  The kids at the pioneer camp told us that it took the pioneers seven days to boil down the sap to syrup!  Basically the process is the same today - note the use of the word ‘basically’ there.  Today the sap is boiled down in large pans or evaporators over a very, very hot fire and takes a lot less time.  It takes 40L of maple sap to make 1L of syrup - the sap comes out of the tree at 2-3% sugar and is reduced until it’s around 66% sugar, depending on the grade of syrup. 

 

The reason the maple tree is so good for making  syrup is because the sap has a high sugar content (compared to other trees), and because the sap is stn_P3160362.JPGtored in the roots of the tree when it gets cold.  We were in Ontario in the spring time, which means that temperatures go below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.  This is perfect for collecting maple sap, because at night the sap goes down into the roots to prevent it freezing and during the day it goes up into the leaves to provide the energy that drives photosynthesis.  Along comes the maple syrup farmer with his (or her) drill and tap and interrupts this process, drawing off some of the sap as it travels up and down the tree.  The best thing is that the trees aren’t harmed - as long as you plug up the hole when you’re finished and drill in a different place the next year, the tree doesn’t suffer at all.

 

tn_P3160364.JPGThe most incredible thing about modern maple syrup production is the system of taps and pipes that spreads through the maple forest.  The thing that astounded me was the amount of sap that was pouring out of the trees. tn_P3160367.JPG Each tree is measured to see how many taps it can hold, then it’s connected to the harvesting system.  Tubes go from the trees to a main line that runs downhill through the forest, collecting sap from all the trees as it goes, down to a huge collecting tank.  Sometimes the sap has to travel uphill so a series of smaller tubes connect the two main lines.  The science teacher in me was figuring out a fantastic physics lesson!

 

So - to the maple syrup farm that will fund GO! Girls Outdoors in the years to come.  What did we learn from the fur-clad teenagers in the maple forest?  Well, unless you have the tubes and a huge collecting tank, you’d be emptying the buckets all the time.  And since you need a climate that provides a consistent fluctuation above and below freezing point, we’re going to have to live tn_P3160363.JPGhigh up in the mountains.  Also, a mature sugar maple tree produces about 40L of sap per year (which remember makes 1L of maple syrup) so I think we’re going to need a fair bit of land for our syrup farm...and we’ll have to plant a fair few trees on it and wait a fair amount of time for them to grow big enough to tap.  Still, we firmly believe it can be done so watch out for GO! Maple, coming soon to a boutique supermarket near you.

 

Anyone out there keen to sponsor GO! Girls Outdoors while we wait for the trees to grow?

GO! Girls Outdoors

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