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Walking from sea to sea
The Providence Journal


July 25, 2005

Andrew Skurka stood at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Gaspe, Quebec, last August and dipped a small flask into the seawater. Then, he turned to the west and started walking.

For the next 339 days, the 2.8-ounce flask would serve as inspiration. During quiet times, he could hear the tiny bit of the Atlantic sloshing around in his backpack. "It was at least a daily reminder of where I was going and what the ultimate objective was."

This month, Skurka was again at the water's edge. He unstoppered the flask, drank some of the stagnant seawater and poured some over his head. Then he tipped the container over, and the rest flowed into a tidal pool.

In the Pacific Ocean.

Skurka, 24, of Seekonk, Mass., had become the first person to complete the 7,700-mile Sea-to-Sea Route.

The route, also called C2C, is a proposed a coast-to-coast hiking trail similar to the Appalachian Trail, an established north-south route that runs from Maine to Georgia.

The C2C would not be a single trail, but a network of several existing trails, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, the North Country Trail and the Pacific Northwest Trail, as well as new trails that would tie the network together.

Skurka first learned of the C2C Route in the January 2003 issue of Backpacker magazine. "I read the article and just thought it would be an amazing experience and an amazing challenge."

Because of the pioneering nature of his trip, he was able to arrange sponsors who covered the cost of his food, equipment, lodging and travel. "I basically have hiked across the continent on someone else's dime."

One of the biggest expenses was shoes. Skurka had two pairs of running shoes - not hiking boots - with him at all times, and he switched to new shoes about every five weeks. Although the shoes still looked fine after five weeks, the padding in the soles was worn out by then and would not provide enough cushioning.

He wore running shoes instead of boots in part because he is used to them, having run distance events when he was a student at Duke University. Also, running shoes are much lighter than boots, allowing him to carry a spare pair.

Often on the trip, his feet would get wet, and having dry shoes to change into was a luxury.

"Running shoes and a very lightweight pack are keys to enjoying the outdoors," Skurka said.

The pack he carried weighed 8 pounds, not counting food and water. His equipment included a sleeping bag, a tarp that doubled as a rain poncho, clothing, and personal-hygiene accessories. He cooked on a stove made from a beverage can and fueled by denatured alcohol.

His mother, Karen Skurka, periodically sent him packages of food and other supplies. In wilderness areas, Andrew drank water directly from streams and other sources in wilderness areas. In more inhabited areas, he would knock on the doors of houses along the route to get drinking water. In some cases, he melted snow for water.

He took only a few days off. The total trip took 339 days, 301 of which were spent walking.

Would he make the trip again? "Absolutely. Without a doubt." That is, if he could get permission.

"My mom might not let me do it again," he said, recalling her words when he finished: "I've got the ball and chain waiting in the basement, and you're not going anywhere for a couple of weeks."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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