The AT50: Hiker Andrew Skurka (#43)
Sports: Long-Distance Hiking, Ultrarunning
Highlights: Completed 6,875-mile Great Western Loop and the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route, 2007 Adventurer of the Year (National Geographic Adventure), 2005 Person of the Year (Backpacker)
Quote: “It’s impossible to think that you’re a special being on this planet when you see first-hand the immensity of mountains, the power of oceans and the longevity of caribou migrations.”
Fun Fact: When he started at Duke University, Skurka wanted to work on Wall Street.
AT50 Point Total: 34
At the relatively tender age of 31, Andrew Skurka has already hiked more than 30,000 miles through some of the world's most remote wildernesses. He usually travels alone, completing some of his most dangerous expeditions—like a 4,700-mile trip through Alaska and the Yukon—on his own power. On that trip, he backpacked, skied and packrafted for six straights months to complete the adventure. And that was just the last in a long string of hare-brained schemes that carried on for eight years while Skurka lived hand-to-mouth and out of his car, in true adventure dirtbag fashion.
None of Skurka's ambitious, long-distance journeys are larks, though. He's not the John Muir type, just waking up one day and striking out for some far away landmark or distant point on the map. He carefully plans and calculates his trips, ensuring that he can travel as fast and as light as possible (think: calorie-per-ounce ratios and tarps instead of tents). The idea is to move through the wilderness unfettered, and engaged with the landscape instead of with gadgets and extra gear and other non-necessities. He calls his technique "ultimate hiking." He's even written a book about it: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide. Now that he's settled down with a house and fiancée, his major expeditions seem to be on hold, though he still travels the country preaching the ultralight religion and inspiring people everywhere to get outside.