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Journey v. Destination

Ralph Waldo Emerson is often credited for having said "it's about the journey, not the destination." What he really said was, "to finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom."

As an avid long distance hiker and backpacker, who has gone on some pretty extended journeys, I have both learned to savor moments within the journey and felt the drive toward and satisfaction at reaching the destination. I've heard and repeated this mantra myself a million or more times.

When I introduced this challenge to the Rugged Outdoors Women Write group, I thought everyone would jump immediately on "Journey" as the preferred topic. But my amazing writer friends surprised me! And then when I started thinking more about my split piece, I quickly realized how inseparable the journey is from the destination. One does not exist without the other-- a journey to nowhere is as meaningless as a destination you were born at.


Journey V. Destination

by Christine Reed

I left home once.

Headed nowhere.

Then turned around.

Came right back.

I needed to feel home again.

Then left again.

Then left again.

Then left again.

I lay alone among flowered meadows.

I watered the desert with my tears.

The ocean washed me away.

I drifted to and from beautiful locations that meant nothing.

My destination was never about a place.

So, I felt lost all the time.

When I realized that what I sought was myself.

The journey could finally begin.

Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman

Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.


The Point of it All

by Meaghan Martin

What happens when your journey doesn’t look the way you thought it would? When it begins with the childhood “what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up’s” and years later when you’re told “you can be whatever you want” you come to realize that you don’t have a vision for your future anymore. While your classmates imagine getting married and starting a family, you can’t see yourself in any of it, because even as a child, you don’t think you’ll be alive for that long.

But then, a broken-down racehorse gives you a reason to stay, and for nearly a decade she

shows you what it means to love, to trust, and to let go. Suddenly you’re somehow still alive in your early twenties and she’s teaching you what it means to die a good death. It was a crash course in how to shepherd someone to the edge of the plane, where she stepped over without you and all you were left with was an empty halter, a braided strand of tail hair, and a shattered heart. She was your anchor and without her you were unmoored in the waves of your grief.

In the wake of that loss, you found community, your people, some of your dearest friends. You began to discover who you are when you fell in love with your best friend. You survived nine years of college, through some of both your darkest and most joyful moments. You learned there are more ways to love than you’d been taught and began to build a family of lovers and partners, creating a structure of love and support that little you only could have imagined, and everything seems to be going to plan.

But what happens when over time, your focus changes, and the paths you thought you were

meant to be on, no longer call to you? You sensed other whispers on the wind, and sometimes out of fear and sometimes out of intuition, you decided to wander in other directions, eventually determining again, that you are on the right path.

You got married. It was something you couldn’t even dream of as a child, but then fought for the right to do as a young adult. On the drive to your wedding venue, you passed a favorite childhood spot by the river. You had a chat in your mind with the little girl version of yourself, and tears filled your eyes as she realized just how very loved she is now.

What happens when the capital P “Plan” you’d been clinging to like shreds of a map, has left you uncertain, paralyzed by indecision and terrified that either of the life-altering outcomes you have to choose between will be the wrong one. How do you know what the next right step in your journey is, when you stand at a fork, and stare into the face of insurmountable uncertainty?

What if instead, you made it your goal to try and live a life that little you would have been proud of? Could you live everyday trying to be the adult she needed – an adult who could see her, love her unconditionally, and show her what was possible for her? What if you realized that every time you appreciate the beauty of a sunrise, the magic of the northern lights, and the breathless beauty of a mountain summit, you are doing things beyond her own wildest dreams? And maybe that’s the point of it all. Maybe your journey isn’t about getting it all right, but instead about living the life you thought you never would.

Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures


The Destination is There

by Anne Whiting

Desires are the foundation stone of destinations. My desire that morning was to not force myself to leave my jacket in the van. I decided that weather changes quickly in the mountains, so it’s always good to carry a jacket, even if hangs around your waist all day long as the sun burns off the cool of the night.

From the parking lot, we couldn’t see our destination of the day. All we could see were trees, the sign for Umbrella Falls, and more trees.

When you have a desire unto a destination, you don’t have to see it to know the destination is there.

We rock-hopped over Newton Creek to see even more trees. The creek is famous for its floods in 2006, which carried truck-sized boulders downstream, taking out (more) trees and blocking the nearby highway. But it was here that we also glimpsed our destination for the day: Mt. Hood.

It’s strange how devastation can create the way to see the destination clearly.

Up through still more trees to Elk Meadows, most popular as an overnight destination for backpackers. We tiptoed by their tents and skirted around blooming lupines in the forest. But oddly, despite knowing our destination – what it looked like, where it was, and how we’d get there via a trail – we couldn’t see it. Why? More trees, of course.

I inched myself along the trunk of a dead tree out into the grass of the meadow, hoping for a glimpse of the big mountain. It was there, all right, though you couldn’t see it from the path.

Sometimes, you have to get off the right path to be able to see where you’re going.

By the time we broke the treeline, some two hours later, our destination wasn’t any closer to being in sight. Besides a few more trees, roots staunchly entwined in the ridge’s crumbling dirt and rocks, Mt. Hood had vanished entirely within a hazy mist of a cloudbank.

“It’s out there,” I said. “It’s that-a-way-some-way-somewhere.”

Pass the ruins of the CCC hut in the lingering remains of the forest. Crest the ridge. Peer around the stunted, windswept branches of a fir tree standing loftily at the place where the Timberline Trail turns to avoid crashing down the mountainside into Newton Canyon, the moraine of Mt. Hood’s largest glacier. We ate lunch on a boulder, staring at the clouds.

The destination was out there, somewhere. Instead of being distant, now it was close, but it was no less a nebulous somewhere than when we had seen it from the fringe of trees around the meadow.

You can shoot for a bullseye and follow the light in the darkness, but when you get near, the destination may still not be in full view.

I pressed on up the ridge. The views were amazing – trees, of course, and wildflowers on the ridge, the canyon far below, the green of the sunbaked plains far away. But the clouds shifted and swirled, and I could only catch a glimpse of snow – sometimes. We turned around at the waterfall. The trail was about to plunge back into the trees, and all hope of reaching the real destination – whatever that might be – would be swept downhill with the trail.

Sometimes, when you can’t find the destination, you have to make it up as you go.

I knew we hadn’t actually made it. We had come to the right place, but the destination wasn’t where I thought it would be. I had followed the destination on the hope that it would be there – on the trust that those who told me about it were speaking the truth – on the faith that it would be even better than I had dreamed.

Back down the backbone of the ridge. I had been so sure – so sure – that the partially-formed, yet certain, destination was there. It had to be. But I hadn’t found it. Or maybe I had found it, and it hadn’t lived up to my expectations.

Destinations can be like that. Too good to be true. Blown out of proportion. A figment of my imagination.

Pause one more time at the point where I would leave the ridge. Give the destination one last chance. Allow the blood and sweat and tears of the last season to bleed over to underline the beauty of the next step of the journey. That’s what destinations are all about – not so much “arriving” as a pause to rejoice in how far you’ve come, to heal the wounds of what it took to get here, to know the next is possible, and to plot the path that’s to come.

And in the moment of quietness, as the seasons turn, sometimes the clouds part.

The splendor of Mt. Hood shone in the afternoon sun, the glaciers sparkling and deeply cut with blue beneath, the crags gray and majestic and offset by blinding white snow. I gaped. I fumbled for my camera. I cried. The destination was there, bold and awesome, right before my eyes.

Far beyond my wildest dreams, better than my best hope, more astonishing than I could have dared to believe – the destination was there. We’re here! We did it! Seeing it with our own eyes, feeling it with everything in us, arriving at the perfect time – the destination that was always there was finally here, with us.

The destination is there!

Anne Whiting has been creating adventure opportunities through trail guides since 2010. She publishes her guides on her blog and in book form. When not dreaming up new trails, she likes to play music with her band and dabble in digital art and website development. Follow Anne’s past and present adventures on Facebook, MeWe, Patreon, and Instagram @viewjunkieanne


tuesday morning haikus : written in the company of [rugged, outdoors] women :

by Bronwyn Preece

journeying, i am

to unfold process : verbing

compass, map in hand

still ... moving in place

declinations of rhythm

point south north east west

i am [a] process

journey of destinations

directions holding

i am journeying

verb : to unfold [a] process

without map, compass

an east west north south

rhythm of declination

moving in place ... still

processing, i am

destinations of journeys

holding directions ...

Bronwyn Preece is honoured and privileged to live on the unceded Traditional Territories of

the Lil’wat # and Squamish Peoples in Whistler, BC. This awareness brings with it many levels of responsibility, humbleness, transparency, and collaborative possibilities. She is a site-sensitive poetic-pirate and multi-disciplinary, community-engaged arts practitioner. She holds a PhD in Performance, along with an MA and BFA in Applied Theatre. She has taught, facilitated workshops and performed internationally. She is the author of Gulf Islands Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2012); and the forthcoming knee deep in high water: riding the Muskwa-Kechika, expedition poems (Caitlin Press, 2023) and Sea to Sky Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2023); along with multiple academic and artistic publications. She is an avid solo, backcountry-backpacker who writes on the trail, with the word gratitude tattooed on her arm. Find her on instagram @poetichiker and Facebook at Bronwyn Preece.


A Childhood Journey Forms a Woman’s Life

by Sierra Eberly

My childhood was spent exploring the wilderness surrounding our little cabin in the woods of Northeastern Washington. We didn’t have electricity, and we pulled water from our well by hand daily. We had a garden and chickens and goats. Our driveway was two miles long, off the gravel county road that was questionably maintained.

I was homeschooled after the second grade and was an only child. When I wasn’t learning

about proper grammar or trying to understand what hell the alphabet has to do with math

problems, I would be outside, so long as mother nature gave me survivable weather conditions. Yes, I said survivable.

Every day was a new journey. I never had a destination in mind other than being back home for dinner.

I had an entire network of trails out my backdoor, but these weren’t the trails we are accustomed to now. These were game trails carved through the forest with the sharp, cloven hooves of whitetail deer. Paths followed by coyotes chasing the scent of a snowshoe hare, black bears eating thimbleberries, and other creatures of the night hunting for their meals.

Their journeys were also mine in a sense.

I explored the trails daily, bringing plaster of Paris in my fanny pack with me to take impressions of the wild animal tracks I came across. I’d mix the chalky substance with puddle water to make a paste, and gingerly pour it into the cavity that various mammals left behind. It takes some time to harden, so sometimes I’d have to return the next day to pull my prize from the earth and proudly bring it home to show my parents.

I imagined their journeys frozen in time. Sometimes I would name the animal and tell myself a story about its journey along the trails, often mere minutes before me.

These trails are where my love for trail running began. I would name every trail, using yarn to tie note cards on the branches that hung over them. Some days I would run along the trails as fast as possible, using my hands to whip myself around trees that lined the twisted paths.

Some days I would sit quietly for hours, waiting for the deer to walk by, and see how close they would come towards me before they caught my scent. When they ran away with their tails raised, showing white flags to warn others of possible danger, I would move to the next spot and continue my journey for the day.

I never cared where I ended up. It all was exciting and beautiful and new. The journey fed my


Often I wonder if this is why I’m never really focused on a specific destination in my life as an

adult. The journey is always more interesting. More times than not, if I do have a destination in mind, it doesn’t end up as I expected, so I just move along once I get there.

As a grown woman, my core still is constantly being drawn to the journey. I often don’t know

where I’ll be or what I’m doing tomorrow. I don’t have a retirement plan or a vision board. I’m

here to experience life the best I can while I have the means to do so. I’m on a journey for

myself, with no destination other than happiness.

Cliché, I know, but it’s my truth that has been ingrained in my identity for as long as I can

remember. The journey is my destination, the catalyst to my happiness, and what ignites my

desire to continue traversing life.

Sierra is a trail runner and backpacker who lives full-time in her campervan with her dog, Snow. She started her own copywriting bu