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J.R. Harris is one of the most prolific solo hikers the world has ever seen. But he’d never tell you that himself.

It was the new summer of 1966, and 22-year-old J.R. Harris sat in a nondescript classroom and put down his pencil. After four years as a student at Queens College—where he majored in psychology, ran track, played tennis, worked as an instructor with the Queens College Outward Bound Program helping inner-city high school students, all while driving a taxi to finance his education—he was done. Done with this final exam; the last thing between him and a higher education degree, making him the first in his family to receive one. “I knew every answer,” he says. “And I thought, ‘I gotta get out of here.’”

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