I just read about Andrew Skurka's presentation to the vaunted ranks of The Explorer's Club. The 26-year-old already had made short work of a long list of epic North American trails - the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route in 11 months, the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 45 days, the 487-mile Colorado Trail in 14.5 days. Yawn.
So what's left to explore? What other "been there, done that" flags can be planted?
It would be have to be a creative take on what's already out there, only "lighter, longer and faster."
Skurka recently passed through Colorado on his 6,875-mile "Great Western Loop" from the Grand Canyon, up the Pacific Crest Trail, east across the Pacific Northwest Trail down the Continental Divide Trail and back west to the Canyon.
It seems the next great adventurers are those pushing their own internal physical limits while doing the same "firsts," only more so, with less.
Scot Ward thought he'd come up with an important personal test. He would ride his bike from Kentucky and then hike the entirety of the Colorado Trail.
But when he strolled into Copper Mountain and met Gary Gianetti for a cup of coffee, he found out about an even grander adventure he knew he had to be part of. Ward, a professional driver, felt like his own insatiable appetite to reach lofty goals was the only one that could match Gianetti's, if Gianetti was to complete his personal crucible for a cause - cycling 100 miles in every state in 50 consecutive days, raising funds for cancer research and awareness for healthy lifestyles.
I've written about Gianetti before. His raw ambition demands respect. Plus, you have to respect a guy who pulls an "Into the Wild" and sells off his possessions to buy a Dodge Caravan. I had a car accident last winter that put me in a rented, two-wheel drive Ford Freestar. Trust me, there is nothing cool about being a twenty-something male driving a minivan in a ski town.
I joked about this with Gary when he came through Steamboat on Sept. 25. Hearing about the final rides ahead - dropping the van in Vegas, flying to Portland, then Alaska, back to Washington, across Idaho and Montana, back to Vegas, to California, then fly to Hawaii - it made no sense.
There was no way they could cross those distances, make all the rides without incident and then hit all the flight times. Someone, something, some tendon, would snap. Ward and Gianetti seemed at the end of their ropes, frustrated, exhausted and grumbling at one other, two strangers pitted together, around the clock, across the county in the same van. I had my doubts.
But Saturday morning, like every other morning of the last 50, Gary woke at 4:45 a.m. and updated his blog. Except this entry was from Hawaii, poised to complete mile No. 5,000.
He's earned the right to put up a flag on the beach as proof of a new summit reached and human limit surpassed.