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Here’s what the world’s best-known long-distance hiker, ANDREW SKURKA, can teach you about leading your Scouts on a day hike—or a 100-miler.

by stephen regenold photogr a phs by nadia borowski scot t

THE AUDACITY OF ANDREW SKURKA struck the outdoors world with full force late in the summer of 2005. It was then, with Skurka fresh off what had amounted to a nearly 8,000-mile hike, that reports began circulating about a “kid” who had backpacked solo across the entire continent. Starting in Quebec, Skurka—just

23 years old, a former Scout, and a recent graduate of Duke University— filled a small flask with water from the Atlantic Ocean. He then shoul- dered a backpack and walked west. A transcontinental wilderness route sketched on a series of maps served as his sole guide into the unknown journey ahead. Eleven months later, at a misty

beach in Washington State, Skurka emerged from the trees skinny and wet. He marched into the ocean shallows. He uncapped his flask and dumped its contents over his head, the briny waters of the Atlantic from months back mingling with the Pacific Ocean below. It was a symbolic closure to a feat Skurka would later refer to as his “coming-of-age hike.”

Andrew Skurka was born in 1981,

and he grew up in Seekonk, Mass., an area with “very limited outdoor recreation opportunities.” As a boy, he rode his mountain bike and explored swamps near his home. He joined Scouting. During college, Skurka spent summers as a camp counselor in North Carolina. Skurka, who turns 31 this March, has a dozen significant expeditions under his backpacking belt. In a rare trajectory, during just a few years, Skurka ascended from workaday backpacker to bona fide explorer status, includ- ing the coronation as “Adventurer of the Year” by no less than the National Geographic Society in 2007. The Quebec-to-Washington

walk—dubbed the “Sea-to-Sea Route”—followed trail systems and pathless stretches in a serpentine line across the country. It required ultralight backpacking technique and months with 30-plus mile days strung one after the next. “I need the challenge of a long trip, the physical and athletic compo- nent,” Skurka says. “I push the limits to see what my limits are.”

Andrew Skurka has backpacked, packrafted, and skied into the national spotlight. Deservedly so, considering the 30,000 miles under his belt, including trips like an 800-mile hike from Arches National Park to the Grand Canyon (above). His adventures have been covered on Fox News, NPR, and in many magazines and newspapers.

His latest feat—the 4,680-mile

“Alaska-Yukon Expedition,” which entailed traveling by foot, ski, and packraft alone for 176 days straight— pushed Skurka to the edge. Scouting caught up with the backpacking super- star on a rare hiatus from hiking to talk about Alaska, wilderness techniques, gear, and how knowledge from his extreme feats can apply to the average Scout troop or crew heading into the woods on a weekend trip.



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