Independent-spirited Tieton women take pride in outdoor adventures with Sisters on the Fly
TIETON, Wash. — No men, no kids, be nice & have fun: these are the rules the sisterhood lives by.
“We are crazy,” Michelle Wyles said. “We are just having a grand time.”
Michelle is a proud member of Sisters on the Fly, which she fondly refers to as “a sorority for old ladies.”
Sisters on the Fly claims to be the largest women’s organization in the United States with a focus on outdoor recreation. Its mission is to offer women empowerment and sisterhood through “exceptional outdoor adventures,” according to its website.
Women gather across the country to go hiking, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking — and camp out in decked-out, vintage travel trailers.
The organization was founded in 1999, by sisters Rebecca Clarke and Maurrie Sussman, after a long day of fishing.
Over a glass of wine back at camp, the sisters got to thinking about how much fun they were having. They decided to invite some female friends on their next trip, which would be the first of many trips for the Sisters on the Fly.
“They love one another, they’re very supportive of one another,” Michelle said. “They truly make lasting friendships.”
Michelle was one of 15 women who showed their trailers Saturday at the first ever Tieton Vintage Trailer Rally. Michelle grew up in the little town of Tieton, a place she’s happy to call her hometown.
“Mine is not vintage, but I am vintage and so it all kind of works together,” Michelle said.
Others had to travel hundreds of miles to get there — something Michelle says they’re used to doing.
“It’s pretty independent-spirited women that are willing to do this,” Michelle said. “A lot of these are vintage and they’re kind of scary to get from one spot to the next.”
Unless someone’s had the mechanics of the trailer, it’s possible that it could break down, get stuck or have some other disasters happen on the road.
“Things have gone wrong…but I can hook up my trailer in 15 minutes and unhook it in 10 all by myself and that makes me happy,” Michelle said.
While the event was not affiliated with Sisters on the Fly, the rally’s organizer Jane Gutting and many of the participants are full-fledged members.
Jane introduced Michelle to the sisterhood more than a year ago. In that time, Michelle said she’s been floored by the relationships she’s fostered in the group.
For about six years, Jane has been a member of Sisters on the Fly: in that time, she’s been able to take on new challenges and go on all sorts of adventures.
“I’ve traveled down the Colorado River in a raft and I’ve camped for three-and-a-half weeks in a tent doing that trip,” Jane said. “I’ve done a lot of mountain climbing and tent camping.”
Jane found out about the organization through another group, Casting for Recovery, which teaches women with breast cancer about fly fishing. She had breast cancer at the time and had joined because she wanted to learn how to fly fish.
When Jane learned Sisters on the Fly made donations to Casting for Recovery, she decided to give it a try. She says camping in a vintage trailer not only brings her joy, but also brings joy to those around her.
“The immediate reaction from anyone that walks by is a big smile on their face,” Jane said. “I think some of them think we’re crazy and others are envious.”
Jane wanted to make more people smile, which is part of why she pitched the idea of bringing women and their vintage trailers for a show at Tieton Square to the city council. It was the first time she’d organized such an event.
“The city council was excited and they approved the idea,” Jane said. “And so we’re here to raise money for the Tieton Food Bank.”
Event participants and attendees raised $600 for the city’s food bank. Jane says it was the first time Tieton has had a vintage trailer rally and that she hopes to bring it back next year.
For women like Michelle and Jane, the appeal of Sisters on the Fly — along with adventure, support and friendships — is the enduring qualities of friendships made in the sisterhood.
“The best part is sitting around the campfire at night with a bunch of fabulous women, where you’re getting away from home, getting away from your responsibilities, leaving your cares behind and just seeing how much we all have in common,” Jane said.