Appalachian Trail record setter has world at her feet

Jennifer Pharr Davis and her daughter pause for a photo with Reg.

After walking 12,000 miles on six continents, Jennifer Pharr Davis has her heart with Brew, her husband of six years, and their toddler daughter.

During her talk at the Ashland Library Wednesday, though, it was clear that part of her longed to be back on the trail.

In 2011, Jennifer hiked the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail in a record 46 days. National Geographic named her Adventurer of the Year.

Her first trek was at the age of 21 and it was one of three times she has walked the entire Appalachian. It took her five months. She learned “it all starts with a single step.”

After the first walk, she said she longed to be back on the trail. “I missed how beautiful I felt on the trail…you can do so much more than you once thought was possible.”

Her message in Ashland: “Go outside! You grow so much through things that are not in your control.”

She is quick to credit her husband and many others for their support during her record-setting walk. They met her at the crossroads with food, clean clothes and other necessities. Her journey started in Maine and ended in Georgia. She endured shin splints, saw 36 bears and logged two 60-mile days.

She remembered one particularly painful day when she told Brew she was quitting. He told her to “suck it up” and give it at least one more day. It was an example, she says, of how you have to go backwards before you can go forward.

In ten years, her walks have included the Pacific Crest Trail, the 600-mile Bibblemun Track in Australia, the Inca Trail in Peru, Mount Kilimanjaro and the West Highland Way in Scotland. Only one continent, Antarctica, has escaped her feet and it is unlikely to change anytime soon. She says she cannot take the cold.

Her stop in Ashland came near the end of a 50-state speaking and book-signing tour that ends later this month in Las Vegas. She is the owner and founder of the Blue Ridge Hiking Company and lives in Asheville, N.C.

In Sue's and my copy of Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph, her story about her record-setting walk, Jennifer wrote, “Keep going and travel light!”





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