WHITEHORSE, Yukon—A Yukon woman set a new benchmark for a solo, unsupported expedition to the grocery store last week. Eva Holland, an adventure racer, overcame numerous obstacles in reaching her local market for provisions and returning safely home again.
The vision for the expedition came together when her car went into the shop for an unexpected brake job. “I knew then that I had an opportunity to really do something special,” Holland says. In desperate need of groceries before the full force of the coronavirus hit her area, she decided to set out overland.
Hauling empty packs, Holland traversed the icy subarctic route from her home to the bus stop: roughly one-third of a mile, in temperatures that hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit. She then rode the bus for two miles, disembarked, and approached the grocery store. (When pressed by Outside about her use of public transportation, which would normally disqualify an expedition from using the “unsupported” label, Holland said she was guided by Colin O’Brady’s more expansive definition of the term.)
At the grocery store, Holland encountered her crisis: a fiber-optic outage had knocked out the internet, and registers could not accept payment by credit or debit cards. It was chaos, and some felt there was no way forward. Undeterred, Holland improvised a traverse south for half a mile to the bank, withdrew cash via a human teller, and circled back. “My strength was still good at this point,” Holland recalls. “I was behind schedule, but I still felt confident I could complete the expedition.”
Back at the store, Holland navigated aisles largely stripped of items like evaporated milk, rice, and canned tomatoes. (She was, however, able to secure the last carton of chicken broth.) It was modestly busy with shoppers but the more challenging obstacles were the employees, who were heroically restocking the shelves from large carts loaded with eggs, canned soups, and other essentials. How did Holland maintain safe social-distancing space?
“My reflexes were solid,” Holland says. “I was able to maneuver around them.”
Checkout was mercifully easier than Holland anticipated. The lines—carefully spaced, socially distant lines!—were only five or six shoppers deep, rather than the ten or twelve that our seasoned adventurer had prepared for. Soon Holland was clear. With the summit behind her, she loaded her packs for the return trip.
That’s when things got really hard.
After dragging her heavy load out of the store and to the bus stop, Holland waited in vain for public transit that never showed. (Anyone who’s ever waited for resupply knows that feeling.) With temperatures dropping, Holland made another half-mile southbound traverse, fully loaded, to the main bus depot.
“There were moments when I felt like breaking,” Holland later said, admitting that she came close to calling a cab. “But ultimately, I was able to just take it step by step and focus on doing the work, just man-hauling down to Main Street.”
Once she caught a bus at the depot, all that remained was a final leg of overland travel to her home to finish the expedition. (Spoiler: she made it.) But for Holland, it’s not really about bragging rights.
“I learned so much about myself along the way,” she says. “What I’ll remember is the journey.”
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