[at-l] Andrew Skurka article

RockDancer rockdancer97 at comcast.net
Thu Jan 21 07:38:38 CST 2010

Andrew spoke to a group that helped him on his Sea-to-sea walk, in Michigan. I didn't know he was from Mass! Big plans for Alaska coming up. --Arthur

Adventurer speaks to hiking club

Special to the Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY -- It's all about the "Woo-hoo!" moments.

Adventure trekker Andrew Skurka captivated listeners Sunday during his presentation, "Far, Fast and Light," to the Grand Traverse Hiking Club. The spellbound audience at the Boardman River Nature Center enjoyed Skurka's accounts of his life for the past eight years, which has included hiking 23,000 miles -- mostly solo and mostly through remote North American wilderness.

The 28-year-old Massachusetts native and Duke University graduate is in the midst of a speaking tour before he embarks in March on a 5,000-mile adventure in Alaska-Yukon.

Eschewing a Wall Street career to embrace physical and mental challenges beyond most people's imaginations, Skurka relishes it all. Step by step, the miles are punctuated by peak moments when he finds himself behind a gorgeous waterfall, overlooking scenery of indescribable beauty or paddling near a whale sounding in Alaskan waters.

"Whenever I'm out there, I feel alive," he said. "I have a 60-, 70- or 80-year window to experience as much of this world as I can."

Skurka previously came through the area in 2005, during his second major hike (in 2002 he hiked the Appalachian Trail.) Five years ago, he completed a sea-to-sea hike that took him from Cape Gaspe, Quebec, to Cape Alava, Wash. The trip took 339 days and covered 7,800 miles, including the North Country Trail: 4,600 miles across seven states, including Michigan.

Managing his schedule to avoid crossing the Rocky Mountains in winter, he hit Michigan in January and still averaged 20 miles a day on snowshoes. Skurka also hiked other trails on his route and pushed through a 700-mile gap with no trail in North Dakota and Montana.

Members of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club contributed a small piece of support to Skurka, who mailed himself food packages along the route. It would be impossible to carry enough food to sustain such a hike.

Hiking clubs along the route helped as they could with logistics, noted John Heiam, president of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club.

"When he was walking, his information was passed on from chapter to chapter," he said. "One of the places he picked was down in Mesick. As you might imagine, the North Country Trail doesn't run right by a post office. We connected up with him so we could pick him up from the trail take him to the post office and take him back."

Hiking such enormous distances requires a new way of thinking, Skurka told his audience. In part, it is his sense of achievement after completing such off-the-chart accomplishments that keeps him on this life path.

"The idea of hiking from Georgia to Maine on foot or to the Pacific is a mental leap," said Skurka, a proponent of lightweight backpacking. "It's distances we're not able to think about on foot."

After a few more distance hikes following his sea-to-sea excursion, Skurka expanded his repertoire during the last few years. Wanting to slay different "dragons," he added ultra running of 50 or 100 miles at a time as well as pack-rafting. He will be pack rafting through Alaska, paddling a light boat when needed along the trail to increase efficiency.

While an adequate navigator over the years, Skurka more recently has learned to read maps intimately. He can decipher from contour lines and other printed details nearly everything about a terrain that will help him cross it effectively and safely.

Alaska is the dragon's dragon, the upcoming trip through extremely remote and rugged territory making everything else he's done before look like practice. Skurka hopes to complete the excursion by October. He will have food packages shipped to him in remote villages and use a few airdrops along the most remote 1,000-miles stretch.

"Huge rivers, lakes and mountain ranges, nasty weather and no trails," Skurka summarized some of the challenges of the upcoming Alaska adventure. "There's a lot hidden in 100-foot contour lines."

For more information, see www.andrewskurka.com.

Arthur Gaudet (RockDancer)
Rockdancer97 at comcast.net
"The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon."

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