The 11-Year Quest to Find the Middle of Nowhere

  A couple from Florida got sick of trekking into the backcountry only to contend with hordes of other people. So they embarked on a search for the most remote spots in every state.

“I was walking down a very crowded Florida beach on a training hike,” Ryan says, “and I was in my late thirties. Something was welling up inside me. I knew I wanted to do something grandiose that’d never been done, and then I thought, ‘How can I get as far away from this circus as possible? Remote.’ And the word kept reverberating in my head over and over.” He and Rebecca, as wildlife scientists and serial backpackers, decided they would stand at the most remote point in every state and document the wildest parts of our national wildernesses.

“You cannot get more than five miles from a road within the vast majority of America’s wilderness,” says Ryan, an ecologist with the Tallahassee, Florida–based nonprofit Coastal Plains Institute. Less if you count trails and cabins. He and Rebecca, a wildlife biologist also with the institute, are the only people to have stood at the remotest coordinates in almost all of America’s backcountry.

Rebecca, a pro with the graphical information system (GIS) satellite cartography tool, calculated the coordinates in each state farthest from roads and settlements. The Means began hiking to them and recording data, like whether the spot had cell service and visible human impacts. “We’ve been in lightning storms, snowstorms, hailstorms,” Rebecca says. “Extreme cold, extreme heat. We haven’t had a real vacation since 2009.”

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