I Met Her Out There

I Met Her Out There

Words by Laura Hughes

I left for the Yukon and its rivers in an existential freefall that could only be cured by open space.

 

I left with the words “you’re just not that outdoorsy” clinging and clanging around in the back of my mind. I left for the Yukon wondering not just what I was going to find, but who I was going to find when I got out there.

And I was far less concerned with other wildlife or people I’d meet than who I’d find within myself.

… I was far less concerned with other wildlife or people I’d meet than who I’d find within myself.

Nerves ran wild, telling me I’d come face to face with someone who couldn’t do it: who didn’t see the outdoors as her sanctuary anymore. Whose heart didn’t swell in the presence of mountains. Who didn’t feel more alive in the vast everything of nature’s sweet nothings. I was lost in the worst way, and as is common in the most toxic tales of getting off-course: it had completely snuck up on me.

 

In some ways, two weeks seemed like too brief an interlude to untangle the knots deep within, even out on a river as large and remote as the Alsek. But the moment I inhaled the summer air of the Yukon, I had more clarity than I thought possible.

From the first time my heart sped to match the pace of the river, to the final night I floated past iceberg abstractions in the calm of blue hour, it was obvious:

I met her out there.

I met her out there among the sturdy alder trees, thick and resilient and rooted in place as she climbed blindly through.

I met her on the swift river waters, washing away the self-doubt that didn’t belong to her.

I met her in the callused skin on her fingers and the dark silt wedged under her nails.

I met her in the early morning hours as she groggily caught sight of the sunrise and smiled, because even at 4am the beauty she felt was inside and out.

Photo by Josie Speed

 

I met her in the presence of grizzly bear, and she wasn’t as afraid as I thought she’d be.

I met her on the windy afternoons and rainy evenings she constructed her tent.

I met her on the trail atop glacial vistas as she admired their magnitude and beauty.

I met her as she tied knots she recalled struggling with once that now seemed second nature, and I wondered how she became so proficient while I wasn’t looking.

I met her in every moment she enjoyed by the fire, gazing over the river in awe of alpenglow.

I met her in her surefootedness as she waded through milky waters, cautious but confident and even graceful at times.

Laura laughing, photo by Josie Speed

 

I met her under the thick cover of rain and in every genuine laugh she let out in the face of discomfort and cold.

I met a woman who is alive inside in ways I didn’t know, and who doesn’t need to prove anything to herself because she clearly sees she is enough.

I met a woman I thought I knew once, only stronger, calmer, with heart and instinct and joy I never saw because I didn’t look at her for who she was, even when she showed me.

I met a woman who is alive inside in ways I didn’t know, and who doesn’t need to prove anything to herself because she clearly sees she is enough.

It was a mistake to wander away from her for so long, but it was nothing fresh air, time, and a new challenge couldn’t fix.

And perhaps I didn’t have to go all the way out to the Yukon to meet her, but I’m truly glad I did.

 

Interested in reading more of the nitty gritty trip info? Read Laura’s story on The Outbound for a more detailed trip report.


Laura Hughes is a full-time traveler, photographer, writer, and host/co-producer of the Women On The Road podcast. She loves the human condition and the magic that happens when we choose to be vulnerable with each other, which often translates into her creative work. Laura is powered almost exclusively by kombucha, sunshine, and a few good puns. See more from her on Instagram @howsheviewsit and at howsheviewsit.com.

 

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