Andrew Skurka – Blazing a New Trail Across the West

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Andrew Skurka

Andrew Skurka is a highly accomplished adventure athlete who is most well known for his long-distance solo backpacking trips, including the 4,700-mile Alaska-Yukon Expedition, the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop, and the 7,775-mile Sea-to-Sea Route. He has also completed countless fast and light trips throughout the Sierras, Wind River Range, Zion National Park, and Appalachian Trail, just to name a few. Andrew has been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside Magazine and National Geographic Adventure, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker Magazine.

Andrew is also a published author, having written The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Tips to Hit the Trail, and he is close to finishing the manuscript for the book’s second edition. He also writes extensively on his personal blog, which is full of detailed, information-rich articles about backpacking, gear reviews, and other endurance-related content. On top of everything else, Andrew is a guide, speaker, and accomplished ultra-runner, having placed second in the Leadville 100 and third in the Run Rabbit Run 100. Just this past weekend (6/25/16), he placed fourth at the San Juan Solstice 50-Mile Trail Run, one of the most difficult 50-milers in the country.

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Andrew deep in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Brooks Range, AK

Andrew is a great guy, and we had a very fun conversation.  We obviously talk a lot about many of his long-distance backpacking adventures, but we also dig into some of the mental and emotional aspects of traveling through such remote areas for long periods of time completely alone. We talk about his personal background and how he became interested in adventure sports, and also about his decision to forgo a traditional career in finance or consulting to carve out a career centered around the outdoors and adventure. As usual, I ask about his favorite books, favorite documentaries, and favorite locations in the West.

Thanks to Andrew for joining me, and thanks to you for listening to the podcast. Enjoy!

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Andrew preparing his pack raft. Kenai Fjords National Park, AK

All photographs courtesy of Andrew Skurka


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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

3:20 – How Andrew describes his work
5:00 – Overview of Andrew’s notable trips
6:30 – “Short is the new long” trips
8:30 – Alaska-Yukon Expedition and other trips
10:35 – Details of the Great Western Loop trip
14:05 – Details of the Alaska-Yukon Expedition
16:30 – A scary grizzly bear encounter
17:45 – Methods for avoiding distractions, fear, uncertainty
19:35 – Adjusting from expedition life to “normal” life
22:10 – Andrew’s personal background
24:50 – Pursuing an “outside the norm” career after college
27:55 – Advice to folks pursing non-traditional careers
28:25 – Advice to his 22-year old self
30:10 – Specific mistakes that became long-term positives
33:00 – Advice to novice hikers
34:10 – Importance of first-hand experience
36:27 – Andrew’s current life and projects
38:45 – Approach to writing
40:45 – Thoughts on ultra-running
45:50 – Favorite books
48:55 – Favorite blogs and websites
50:25 – Favorite locations in the West
52:50 – Biggest threats facing the West
55:00 – Andrew’s request of listeners
56:10 – Connect with Andrew online

Information Referenced

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