Durango native Ben Seale always enjoyed a good hike in the woods.
Now the transplanted Alaskan has taken his hiking/trail running to an Alaskan extreme.
Seale, 36, recently completed the unprecedented Duffs Trail Challenge in the Skagway area 12 different Alaska trails, 85 miles, one weekend.
Several of the trails are accessible only by the famed White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, a narrow gauge cousin to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
We have these water bottles up here from Duffs (Backcountry Outfitters), and they have a little map showing the 12 trails, Seale said in a telephone interview with The Durango Herald.
An avid hiker and trail runner who had completed the Yukon Trail Marathon six times, Seale said he turned to his wife, Heather, and said: I ... think I could do 12 in one weekend. Thats how it all started.
Seale, who spends the summers working on the White Pass railroad, spends the winters with his family in Logan, Utah.
Duffs Backcountry Outfitters, who normally project the 12 Skagway-area trails as a summer-long hiking project, jumped on board with Seale and his weekend ambitions.
Manager Kristin Wagner and associate Mamo Ling created the Ben Seale Outdoors Man of Steel promotion, and Seale responded by running through the Klondike to complete the project in two-and-a-half days.
I had to work that Friday. So after about an 11-hour day on the train, I ran the first two trails from Skagway, Seale said.
Extended summer light helped his cause, he said.
The next day he ran more of the legendary trails formerly traversed by miners in the gold rush.
And he had company on each of the trails.
Pace runners and friends assisted.
The Skagway fire chief ran one trail with Seale.
Amanda Jensen, a Skagway native and collegiate runner at Utah State, where Seale is adding to his education, ran another section. She joined him on the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail.
I had great support and great friends run with me, Seale said.
Skagway is a real tight-knit community, he said.
Everyone, it seemed, wanted to help.
One pal from the White Pass train went out on one trail and left a note of encouragement for Seale.
The Duffs support team was amazing. They had someone on every trail, Seale said.
He said the trails and terrain are different from the San Juans where he grew up in one of the Four Corners most athletic families ever.
Father Johnnie Seale played major league baseball.
Mother Pepi Seale started womens athletics at Fort Lewis College and is in the schools athletic hall of fame.
Brother Marvin Seale played minor league baseball after a stellar prep career in all sports.
Ben Seale wrestled his way from Durango High School to Fort Lewis, which then dropped wrestling.
Ben Seale, also a top baseball player, was undaunted.
He coached the high school wrestlers and worked his way onto the Fort Lewis football team.
He eventually gravitated to running marathons and trail races.
Hes raced in the Extreme Trail Series in Moab. He ran the St. George Marathon in a personal record of 2 hours, 59 minutes, 15 seconds.
He completed the Boston Marathon in 2009 in 3:06:11.
But he didnt have to worry about bears in Boston.
You carry bear spray with you all the time up here, he said. There are a lot of big bears.
He ran down the species small and brown, bigger and brown, coastal black bears and grizzlies.
No encounters on this expedition, he said.
I didnt really expect much when I finished it, said Seale, who wrapped up the 85-mile effort on a Sunday afternoon and was greeted by Heather and their two daughters (Kinley and Piper).
I thought it would be a good challenge. I like a challenge.
But the best thing about it is, it really brought the community out. They got involved, Seale said.
Now, I see someone, and he says, I just hiked such-and-such trail like you did, Seale said.
It got a lot of people interested in getting out, he said of Skagway, which is kind of like Silverton ... except its on the ocean, and the rain forest is right there.
So whats next for the Skagway Outdoors Man of Steel?
Softball ... we play a lot of softball up here.