Dan Nicholas Park welcomes group of adventurous Sisters on the Fly campers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 23, 2023

CHINA GROVE — An unusual group of women adventurers, Sisters on the Fly, that has groups across the U.S. and Canada, also happens to have a southeast branch, and as the summer of 2023 draws to a close, that division has finished up its annual trip to Dan Nicholas Park and Bear Poplar Store for barn quilt painting.

The organizer, sister Lynn Ferrell from Cow Pen, S.C., has a daughter, Jenny, who lives in China Grove, and that was the initial connection to the area, but the barn quilt painting is a surprisingly strong draw.

Ferrell joined Sisters on the Fly in 2017, and she started the barn quilt tour four years ago. This year, 16 sisters from the group joined her, the farthest coming from Gainesville, Georgia. In years past, they have come from as far as Florida.

“Every year I have an almost new set of women,” said Ferrell. “I have a few that come every year, but most of them are new to the adventure.”

The store has a massive community quilt on display and every year, Ferrell brings a group of women to meet quilt mastermind and store owner Elsie Bennett. The women enjoy a prepared lunch then spend an afternoon learning how to paint barn quilt squares.

Sisters on the Fly has two rules: no men, and be nice. A third used to be no pets, but that’s no longer absolute. It all started in 1999, when two sisters, Maurrie Sussman and Becky Clarke, decided to keep up a tradition they started with their father. A Marine, a fly fisherman and an outdoorsman, he took his daughters on camping trips, teaching them to enjoy the trips and how to fly fish. Since its inception, the organization has grown to include branches from one coast to the other and stretching north into Canada, and it is now an official corporation, trademark included.

Participants can use tents or campers, all of which are decorated with personality and creativity, in many ways living up to the term “glamping,” and every year, this group stays several days at Dan Nicholas Park, which Ferrell says is “wonderful, with large camp sites and a lot of trees. It’s wonderfully peaceful and we enjoy it every time we come.”

Ferrell herself started out with a vintage mini camper, which many members have.

“I started with a 1962 Little Gem, and it came with ants painted all over it,” she said. “I wasn’t too crazy about it at first, but the owner that sold it to me made me promise to leave it as it was, and it grew on me. It was named the Ant Bed Lodge, and although I’ve since sold it, for a long time everywhere I went, people would say “oh, here’s the Ant Bed Lodge.” It was nice to be recognized.

The group has published a book, “Sisters on the Fly,” which includes numerous photos and stories of the women’s adventures. They have been featured on The Today Show and on Oprah. They often refer to themselves as “Girl Scouts with martinis,” and their love of outdoors and adventurous natures have taken them to numerous places around the country and the world.

“I just love the diversity of the women that join,” said Ferrell. “Many of them still work, some are divorced, some widowed, some just chose to be single, never marrying. We share a bond no matter the differences.”

At the end of next summer, look for the well-decorated campers and tents and the group of independent, adventuresome women as they come back to visit China Grove and Dan Nicholas Park.