From the Best of NG Live Collection: Get the inside story of the gear—and the grit—needed by National Geographic grantee Andrew Skurka for his six-month, 4,700-mile expedition through Alaska and the Yukon.

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  • This video was filmed on March 14, 2011 as part of the National Geographic Live! Lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.


    National Geographic Explorer Andrew Skurka is an accomplished adventure athlete, speaker, guide, and writer. The 31-year-old is most well known for his solo long-distance backpacking trips, notably the 4,700-mile (7,564 kilometer) 6-month Alaska-Yukon Expedition, the 6,875-mile (11,064 kilometer) 7-month Great Western Loop, and the 7,775-mile (12,513 kilometer) 11-month Sea-to-Sea Route. In total, he has backpacked, skied, and packrafted 30,000 miles through many of the world’s most prized backcountry and wilderness areas—the equivalent of traveling 1.2 times around Earth’s equator!


    • Introduction (start-01:35 min.)
    • Parents' expectations and a different life path (01:36-02:20 min.)
    • The start of long-distance backpacking: the Appalachian Trail (02:21-02:53 min.)
    • Hiking the Sea-to-Sea route and the Great Western Loop (02:54-04:20 min.)
    • Learning how to travel off trail (04:21-05:55 min.)
    • Planning the next trip: Alaska (05:56-08:09 min.)
    • March: starting the Alaska-Yukon Expedition (08:10-09:44 min.)
    • A frozen landscape and brutal conditions (09:45-11:14 min.)
    • Video: skiing the Alaskan mountain range (11:15-13:18 min.)
    • Video: summer in the Alaskan bush and bear encounters (13:19-16:08 min.)
    • The Lost Coast: beach walking and terror (16:09-18:00 min.)
    • Off trail routes and the importance of reading maps (18:01-20:49 min.)
    • Game trails and the ability to move, eat, and sleep (20:50-23:46 min.)
    • Meticulous planning and the path of least resistance (23:47-26:00 min.)
    • Extreme wilderness (26:01-26:50 min.)
    • Video: swarming bugs (26:51-28:26 min.)
    • The "aha!" moment: feeling like the last person on Earth (28:27-31:49 min.)
    • Return to Kotzebue, Alaska (31:50-32:55 min.)


    Strategies for Using Video in a Variety of Learning Environments

    • Have students preview several of the videos and choose the one they find most inspiring. Have students describe in writing a conversation they might have with the speaker(s).
    • Freeze the video on a relevant image. Have students observe details in the still image and jot down predictions of what the full video might address. Discuss students’ ideas before and after watching the video.
    • Pose an open-ended question before students watch the video, and have them discuss their ideas before and after in small groups.
    • Have students determine what they think the key message of this video is. Was the speaker effective in getting his or her message across?
    • Show a short clip to engage students during class, and then have students watch the full video at home and write a paragraph responding to the content or a question you give them.
    • Have students note statements that represent facts or opinions, including where it’s difficult to tell the difference. What further research might help distinguish facts and opinions? How might the speaker’s viewpoint compare with others’ viewpoints about a topic?
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    caribou Noun

    large deer native to North America.

    cross-country skiing Noun

    sport where athletes on skis race across a relatively flat landscape.

    fjord Noun

    long, narrow ocean inlet between steep slopes.

    Encyclopedic Entry: fjord
    glacier Noun

    mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: glacier
    kayak Noun

    small canoe made watertight around the waist of the occupant and moved in the water with a single paddle.

    pack ice Noun

    large area of drift ice, or ice not attached to a shoreline.

    travel Noun

    movement from one place to another.

    wilderness Noun

    environment that has remained essentially undisturbed by human activity.

    Encyclopedic Entry: wilderness
    wildlife Noun

    organisms living in a natural environment.