Bethany Hughes and Lauren Reed started their trip north from the southern most point in South America in 2015. They’ve come close to 28,000 kilometres, and are now ready to start the last leg of their journey to the Arctic Ocean.
“As soon as the thaw around Jasper allows, we will put in and we’ll paddle the Arctic drainage along the Athabasca River, the Slave River,” said Hughes. “Ideally, to Tuktoyaktuk, but as always, this journey is dependent on what Mother Nature will allow.”
The two purchased a third-hand canoe from the Banff Boy Scouts and are getting it ready for their final leg, which they anticipate will take four months to complete. The journey is totally human powered, so they’ve hiked, bikepacking and floated in a raft or canoe.
“The northern progress has always been non-motorized,” said Hughes. “There have been times when we’ve had to make lateral movements. For example, on the U.S. Mexican border, there was some a power skirmish between the government and the cartels at the time that we were trying to cross, so out of understanding and humility, we made a lateral shift.”
Hughes is from Colorado and Reed lives in Utah. The initial idea to make the trek was dreamed up by Hughes in 2010. She saved as much money as she could to fund the adventure.
“When I first had the calling to this journey, I knew that it would be difficult to stick with,” said Hughes. “So I did the only thing that I thought would be harder than adventuring for five years straight, which was holding down a desk job for five years straight.”
She pitched the story to Reed after they met on the 4,000 kilometre Pacific Crest trail. Reed says she really had to think about the idea in depth before committing, but soon relented.
Reed says like any long hike, there are times where her body and mind are tested to the point where she wants to give up, but she doesn’t make quick decisions.
“My rule for like wanting to quit a trip is, if I want to quit, I get to a town and I take a day off,” she said. “And if I still want to continue, which obviously has happened hundreds of times that I have wanted to quit, then I continue.”
The women titled their adventure ‘Her Odyssey’ and regularly write about who they meet along the way along with their experiences.
“I genuinely have a notebook in my pocket at all times,” said Hughes. “At the end of every day I lay down in the tent and write in the journal.”
When the women aren’t making their trek, they work to finance their next leg. They say donations come from all kinds of unexpected sources and generous followers of their social media platforms, who are impressed by their achievement.
“When I look at the line on the map, it’s incomprehensible to me,” said Hughes. “That’s how I know that this is not a mind or ego-driven project, I know that it is something bigger working through us, we are agents of a larger front of change and this just happens to be our window for that.”
Their mission is a human-powered odyssey, traveling the length of the Americas, connecting the story of the land and its inhabitants, and Reed says many people are inspired by them.
“We need all the people who are inspired to follow their inspiration,” she said. “And find these endeavours that they love and that they get fulfillment out of.”
Learn more about Her Odyssey here: www.her-odyssey.org.