Monday, April 7, 2014

Jennifer Pharr Davis

By Joan

Last week the Fort Worth Library’s main branch presented an evening with author and long-distance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis.
Photo from the author's website

My husband and I arrived early and wandered around the grand building, admiring local artwork in the atrium and finding our way downstairs to the stacks. Upstairs we found Susan and said our hellos, noticing a little girl toddling across the floor as if on a mission. Then we headed to the auditorium to see her mother speak.

From Jennifer Pharr Davis’ website:

Jennifer is the owner and founder of Blue Ridge Hiking Company. Her adventures have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. She has appeared on national television shows such as CNN Headline News, Fox and Friends, the CBS Early Show and the 700 Club. Jennifer has been named Blue Ridge Outdoors Person of the Year and a National Geographic Adventurer of the year. Her Appalachian Trail record was voted Ultrarunning Magazine’s Female Performance of 2011.

In 2012, Jennifer was a National Geographic Adventurer of the year. She’s written two books about her journeys. Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph from her latest journey, and Becoming Odyssa, written after her first thru-hike. Her husband, Brew, wrote 46 Days: Keeping up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail, where he shares his account of the trials, successes, joys, and frustrations of his wife’s journey on the Appalachian Trail.

Jennifer thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail alone when she was just 21. She said she learned more on that trip than on any other, about herself and about her place in the world. She began to feel a part of nature. Despite being filthy and smelly, physically ravaged with cuts and scrapes and bruises, she learned to believe in her own beauty by seeing her reflection in others, rather than in a mirror. 

Hiking became more than a vacation agenda, it became her obsession. After ditching a desk job, she founded her own hiking company, BlueRidge Hiking. Since then she has logged over 12,000 miles on six different continents.  In 2011, she thru-hiked the Appalachian trail in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, reaching her goal to hike the entire 2,180-mile faster than the current overall speed record. The first woman to hold the overall title, she is now the overall record holder for both women and men.
She read brief passages from her books and enthralled us with stories of bear sightings, trail magic and rough terrain. Then she treated us to a photo journey of some of her favorite spots in the world.

Though the pictures were breathtaking, her journey was far from glamorous. On various trips she’s suffered frozen-shut eyes, dehydration and the beginnings of hypothermia. Once when asked by a fellow hiker if she was having fun, she said fun is easy. Fun can be had anytime. The satisfaction of pushing herself through unbelievable circumstances to attain a goal was far more rewarding than fun.

On her record-breaking hike, her husband Brew partnered with her for trail support (he drove as she walked and met her at various stop points with supplies, food and encouragement.) She credits him as the reason she was able to finish the journey. At one point, she was going to give up. She had shin splints and near-hypothermia, once having to walk backward down a mountain because the pain in her legs was so severe. When she finally met up with Brew, he got her warm and dry and told her to give it one more day. If she still wanted to quit after that, they’d drive home together. He knew she needed to get back on the trail to see that she wouldn’t give up. That she couldn’t give up.  

After the talk her husband and darling daughter joined her on stage. Coordinating Jennifer's book tour with travel, they are on a mission to hike as a family in all 50 states. Their daughter toddled across the stage, purposeful and confident. I wonder where she learned that from?

You can purchase her books directly from her website, Blue Ridge Hiking, or on Amazon, Barnes & NoblePowell's and other indies.

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