Wanderers find happy trail

More than 600 turn out for inaugural event

Melissa Federspill

Staff writer

The connotation of “wander” embodies the spirit of roaming, voyaging and touring, a journey. To wander is to take time to explore, to drift and experience life outside of one’s normal routines.

Six-hundred women from across Texas and beyond personified this ideology by attending the first annual Women Who Wander outdoor retreat on March 29-31.

The retreat offered women a weekend of guided excursions, classes, panel discussions, dining and music all held at various locations in Uvalde County.

Courses and excursions included but were not limited to hiking, kayaking, painting, yoga, cooking, guided meditation, archery, self defense, and paddle boarding.

Proceeds from the retreat benefitted the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, specifically the Gear up for Game Wardens program. The funding total raised from this event is still being calculated.

Over 40 game wardens participated in the event, leading classes, demonstrations, excursions and providing assistance to attendees.

The two-day event kicked off on Friday afternoon at the Frio Country Resort in Concan complete with dinner, entertainment, a star party, and fiesta clad alpacas.

As the expeditions commenced on Saturday, women were dispersed to their assigned sessions. For a mid-day break, wanderers could return to the Frio Country Resort to nosh, catch a presentation or visit a pop-up wellness clinic aptly housed in a vintage airstream.

Joining a group of women embarking on a kayak excursion, banter along the trip ranged from fear to frolic.

There was an abundance of smiling, encouraging, laughing, and an unspoken feeling of support. Solidarity was palpable. In conversation, a fellow kayaker said she chose to attend the retreat to get away from her daily life.

As a mother, sister, daughter and professional, she said this event provided a chance to get out and do something with her sisters, experience nature and catch a reprieve from daily life.

This first-ever event was founded by five women with ties to Uvalde County. Cassandra Perry, Rachel Kellner, Annabell McNew, Jamie Holmes and Shannon Beasley curated the gathering in an effort to highlight all that Uvalde County has to offer, and raise awareness about the work of the Texas Game Wardens.

Co-founder Annabell McNew said that the event created an economic impact across the region.

“We held this event post spring break, and pre-peak tourism season, hoping to spur economic activity, said McNew. “Neighboring communities benefitted from the influx of shoppers and travelers, and many of the lodging partners in the region reported an increase of occupancy rates over last year.”

Jamie Holmes, of Frio Country Resort, said that all of their 113 properties, which include cabins and private homes, were at 100 percent capacity.

She also commented that due to a large number of women attending the event by themselves, they allowed all the single women to house together if they chose that option.

“It was really neat the way everyone came together and was willing to share space with other attendees,” said Holmes.

McNew said that the event exceeded expectations. “We had our hiccups, given the inaugural year, but we were overwhelmed by the support we received,” she said.  “We loved seeing women from ages 21-80 connecting with nature and exploring, and we will be bringing this event back to Uvalde County next year.

“Our goal for next year is to expand the reach and exposure geographically.”

Preliminary feedback is that many want to return, create a tradition, and invite more family and friends to experience the benefits of wandering.

mfederspill@ulnnow.com, 830-278-3335

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