Radical Recreation: Go with the flow

Before moving to Alaska, Sabre Hill, an interdisciplinary master’s student with a focus in geographic information system modeling for ecological applications, lived in Colorado where she was exposed to river rafting.

“At the time, I worked at a coffee shop next door to a rafting outfitter and it always just looked like so much fun, I couldn’t resist. After getting the opportunity to go on a multi-day trip in Westwater Canyon in Utah, I was hooked,” Hill said.

With rafting being a major industry in the summer time in Colorado, Hill was attracted to the adventure of rafting and became a guide at Liquid Decent for three seasons.

“Raft guiding is one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. I mean, I got paid to go play on a river all day, can’t really beat that. But truthfully, there was never a dull moment,” Hill said.

Hill favors the experience of the water the most in river rafting.

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Sabre Hill guides a tour group during her time working at Liquid Descent in Colorado. Photo credit: Liquid Descent

“Water itself is an amazing force, it’s strong and powerful, but so beautiful and peaceful at the same time. That’s why I love rafting, because it doesn’t matter how many times you raft the same river, it’s a different experience every time,” Hill said.

With each different experience rafting, some adventures become more difficult than others.

“It didn’t matter how many times I ran the same route, I still got nervous right before some of the big rapids. The feeling you get when you make it through a tough rapid and you have a boat full of stoked people with huge smiles on their faces makes it all worth it,” Hill said.

A challenge for Hill in the rafting industry as a female guide was physical strength compared to male guides.

“For me, I would have to problem solve faster and think of my next move sooner because if I got into a sticky situation I often didn’t have the ability to just muscle us out of it. I was proud that I could guide just as well as the guys despite not being physically as strong,” Hill said.

Hill made the trek to Alaska from Colorado four years ago after deciding she wanted to finish her schooling while experiencing a new place. With family in the Air Force stationed at Joint Base Elemndorf-Richardson, she was able to make that happen.

“What kind of started as a joke between my cousin and I about me moving my life to Alaska and crashing at her house, turned into the reality of me packing my Subaru with everything I could and driving up here,” Hill said.

Growing up in the mountains of Colorado established Hill’s love for outdoor adventures. Besides river rafting, Hill enjoys connecting with nature with friends.

“Just a few weeks ago we went on a walk with our dogs down the street from her house and she was showing me all of these berries and flowers,”Anna Petersen, environment and society major and friend, said. “What made it so cool is that I’ve lived around her neighborhood all my life and she’s been there a few months and already had explored all these different parts and found all these berries I didn’t even know existed in that area. She’s full of information about plants and birds.”

Hill believes that connecting with nature is a form of meditation and her friends would agree.

“Sabre [Hill]’s connection with the outdoors seems deeply rooted. I think she’s the sort of person who goes a little insane after a while if she doesn’t get outside for some Alaskan wilderness exploration, which is why she’s always on a hike or bike or some sort of fun, challenging outing,” Lindsay Hermanns, environment and society major and friend, said.

Hill wants to enjoy the nature surrounding her, and preserve it.

“She cares about the environment she gets to enjoy. She is perusing an education in order to ensure these wild places still hold value, and are still around, for future generations,” Hermanns said.

Hill received her bachelor’s degree at UAA in environment and society, then after traveling for a bit, she wanted to further her schooling.

“I decided I really wanted to keep working toward an environmental scientist career. The Interdisciplinary Graduate program is a great fit for me, and I got my wish granted to continue my research in Alaska,” Hill said.

Hill plans on staying in Alaska because of the similarities to Colorado’s weather and adventure opportunities.