A Walk in the Woods with Andrew Skurka

Andrew Skurka for National Geographic Live!

Andrew Skurka for National Geographic Live!

By Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki Clark

The capacity of the human body never ceases to amaze me. Just today, at a work baby shower, one of my colleagues told me about the regular (she has 5 children to date) 24-hour labors of her cousin. My own body has been through some pretty incredible things as well. Although my winter coat may currently be hiding it a bit, my body has actually completed five marathons, more than once with a bout of laryngitis. Never mind my current distance capacity maxes out at about 3 miles; once, my body was capable of extraordinary feats.

Or so I had thought before meeting Andrew Skurka. Andrew has also done some pretty awesome things with his body, least of which is completing a few marathons. Most recently, the equivalent of one every day, for 176 days in a row. You see, Andrew, National Geographic Adventurer’s 2007 Adventurer of the Year, spent six months hiking, skiing and packrafting the Alaskan wilderness, approximately 4,700 miles of it. He discussed his adventures to a packed audience on Monday as part of the National Geographic Society’s Quest for Adventure Series.

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Skurka is a clean cut, buttoned-up 29 year old, hardly the grizzled typical explorer I’ve seen speak at National Geographic before. His grooming habits are more reminiscent of investment bankers, which is what Skurka intended to do before switching mid-course at Duke University after two summers leading high-adventure camps in North Carolina. After hiking the Appalachian Trail, Skurka was hooked and shortly after graduating completed his first ultra-long distance backpacking trip, walking nearly 7,800 miles from Quebec, Canada to Cape Alava, Washington. In 2007, he followed up his trip with the 6,900 mile long Great Western Loop. All in all, Skurka has journeyed 30,000+ miles through the world’s most remote and wild back country; the equivalent of traveling 1.2 times around the Earth’s equator.

Andrew Skurka

His presentation was fascinating, filled with emotional videos and photos of breakdown moments, grizzly encounters and some of the most pristine wilderness I’d ever seen. And I had the prime seat one row in front of his parents, who I’m pretty sure aren’t completely convinced their son is not totally nuts. Considering he calls himself “risk adverse,” I may agree with them. But after listening to his story, one just has to think ‘Thank God for the crazies.’ After all, it’s people like Skurka that make my life as an armchair adventurer so interesting.

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Pick up this month’s National Geographic to read the full story of Skurka’s Alaskan adventure or visit his web site at www.andrewskurka.com. To attend one of National Geographic’s future events, visit www.nglive.org/dc.

All photos courtesy of Andrew Skurka

***Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki Clark is a professional photographer and the Policy Media Relations Officer for CARE USA.  Like her sister Lindsey, she loves live music and looking at life through the lens of a camera.***

About Niki Clark:
Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki Clark is a part time photographer; full time Red Crosser and 24/7 big sister to fellow puncher Lindsey. She loves travel, puppy kisses (especially from her own, ichabob) and invites to bourbon-orientated events.
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