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Shortly after sunrise this morning, 26-year old Andrew Skurka embarked on his journey to become the first person to complete the Great Western Loop, a 6,875-mile network of five existing long-distance hiking trails and a self-made segment through the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts. Skurka is attempting this hike to promote the â€œless is moreâ€ lifestyle and to draw attention to the effects of global warming on America’s most iconic wild lands.
Skurka’s odyssey began at Grandview Point on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, and he anticipates returning there seven months later in November 2007 after having passed through many of the most cherished and pristine areas of the Lower 48, including 12 National Parks and over 75 wilderness areas. The Great Western Loop highlights the cumulative magnificence of America’s West, its long-distance trail system, and its National Parks, while also highlighting the environmental and ecological threats that they all share.
â€œThese areas are part of our national identity and are a treasured escape for millions of people from increasingly hectic and complex lives. Through our reckless environmental behavior, policies, and attitudes, we are adversely affecting America’s most cherished and pristine wild lands,â€ Skurka said shortly before his departure. â€œThe outdoor experience we’ll have in America’s West will probably be vastly different in the future. Iconic features of our National Parks and wilderness areas are going to be compromised: no glaciers in Glacier National Park, no Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park, fewer grizzlies in Yellowstone, less snowpack in the Sierra and Cascades.â€
Skurka’s latest adventure is the equivalent of running over 262 marathons a day for 210 days. Unlike other endurance athletes, Skurka has no support crew by his side to aid him through the trials he will encounter, including hundreds of miles of isolated desert with no water sources, early and late season snowstorms in the Rockies, Cascades, and Sierras, and remote locations where an injury could be fatal.
An experienced backpacker and GoLite athlete, Skurka is best known for being the first person to complete the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route, a transcontinental network of long-distance hiking trails from Quebec to Washington, which he completed in just over 11 months in 2005. He was named â€œPerson of the Yearâ€ in 2005 by Backpacker Magazine for this accomplishment, was featured in Men’s Journal “2005 Adventure Hall of Fame,” was keynote speaker at the Explorer’s Club annual dinner, and received an Everest Award for “Expedition of the Year” at the Teva Mountain Games in 2006. An environmentalist and ambassador for the outdoors, Skurka graduated from Duke University in 2003 with a double major in economics and political science.
To learn how you can hike with Skurka, to follow his progress, and to read more about his Great Western Loop adventure, visit www.andrewskurka.com. To learn more about GoLite, their products, athletes, and environmental practices, visit them at www.golite.com.
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