Ylva dropped her heavy sacks on the ground and stretched her arms over her head. She let out a yawn and closed her eyes, soaking in the sunlight on her cheeks through a clearing in the branches overhead. Her eyes scanned the nearby trees, searching for the right pair. She needed one small enough to get her started, but it needed to be close enough to its parent tree that she could jump across and continue climbing until she was above the canopy. This was how she plotted her journey now. Ylva spotted the perfect pair and did a few squats to warm up her legs. She wrapped them around a soft white trunk and began to scale. Her muscles flexed with heat as she reached higher and higher until she arrived at the crossing of the branches from the larger tree. This was always the scariest part, but now she was used to it and simply acknowledged the fear and moved forward. The branches were thick with summer growth, but the recent dry season made them seem more brittle, too. A small creature skittered between her legs as she approached its store of nuts. It paused behind her and looked back, desperation in its eyes.
“I’m not after your food little one, I just need a better view.” Ylva quickened the pace and leapt to the next branch. Climbing was easier now as she reached for each higher branch and used her legs to lift her up. In a short time she reached the height of the canopy and got a view of her surroundings for the first time in a number of days. She had been following the same stream for months, hoping it was somehow connected to the river where her village was. She remembered the river as the only thing she enjoyed about the planet when she first arrived and she visited it almost every night, exploring, and sulking. The thought of how many months she had spent trying to be alone on this planet and now the years in which she was forced into isolation was enough to make her burst into laughter. She had to brace herself against a thicker branch to keep from toppling over as she shook. Wiping the tears from her eyes she started to scan the horizon then nearly fell over again when she saw it. A high ridge, a cliff poking through the canopy, and the unmistakable signs of civilization. Smoke was rising, most likely from a new field or new construction project. Lights were flashing in the shadow of the cliff where they had created a small port on the river.
Ylva remained frozen, looking across at the fruit of her labor, the finale of her journey, the victory of her battle. She could be there tonight. The tears flowed again, not from pain, or depression or even laughter, but from relief. “I found the way!” she shouted over the trees.