FARMINGTON — Adventure athlete Andrew Skurka will speak about his travels next week at San Juan College in Farmington.
The 32-year-old Colorado man has been named "Adventurer of the Year" by both Outside magazine and National Geographic Adventure, and Backpacker magazine has named him its "Person of the Year."
On Wednesday, Skurka, now also a guide, author and speaker, will offer two free clinics.
Skurka started his adventurous lifestyle with a backpacking trip in 2002 to the Appalachian Mountains. He was in college at the time and said he went looking for a neat experience before he graduated.
"I thought I'd spend most of my life under fluorescent lights in an office. It was a nice experience, and I haven't stopped," Skurka said in a phone interview last week from his home in Boulder, Colo.
Skurka has backpacked, skied and pack rafted more than 30,000 miles through some of the world's most respected backcountry and wilderness areas.
He is most known for his solo, long-distance backpacking trips, particularly his 4,700-mile, six-month Alaska-Yukon expedition. He also completed a 6,875-mile, seven-month trip of the Great Western Loop, a hiking trail through the western U.S. that links five trails, including the Pacific Crest, the Pacific Northwest, the Continental Divide, the Grand Enchantment and the Arizona trails. Skurka also spent 11 months on the 7,775-mile Sea-to-Sea Route, which crosses North America from Quebec to Washington state.
His clinics in Farmington will kick off a hiking and walking challenge the Professional Staff Association is offering to college staff, students and their friends and family.
After Skurka's presentation, the association will challenge teams to hike or walk 500 miles from March 13 to May 8. The challenge is an effort to get faculty, staff and students active and outdoors.
JD Tanner, the director of the college's Health and Human Performance Center, said the college wanted to do something fun that would also improve health and wellness for the staff and their families. He said bringing in a speaker like Skurka provides good motivation.
"He basically lives a life of health and wellness through what he does," Tanner said of Skurka. "He promotes adventure, and it is all connected."
Tanner also hopes hearing Skurka's stories and seeing his pictures will inspire staff.
"This is what can be accomplished by health and wellness, and we have it right here on our doorstep, so let's go out and do it," he said.
The Four Corners has an abundance of outdoor opportunities, and Skurka believes the biggest challenge is just getting outside and experiencing nature on your own terms.
"Forcing yourself to break your current routine and start integrating it, most people find it to be a really positive experience," he said. "A refreshing break from day to day busyness."
Skurka also talks about pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone.
"For me, I always push myself with anything I do," he said. "It is about getting myself out of my comfort zone, and, when I am there, I learn things."