If you listened to any of the podcasts about the preparation for my hike, you know that my buddy “Mighty Blue” enjoys questioning the wisdom of my decision to start in late February, even though I’m starting in the south at Springer Mountain. In preparing this post I was encouraged to learn that Jennifer Pharr Davis, now an iconic figure figure of the AT, started her first thru-hike just a week or so later than my plan. I also learned that, like me, Warren Doyle (who has now hiked the AT 17 times, more than any other person) played a role in her Appalachian Trail adventures. I was inspired by a talk he gave in 1974 – after his first thru-hike, which itself set a speed record. Jennifer attended Doyle’s “Appalachian Trail Institute” – a multiple day “school” where Doyle teaches wannabe thru-hikers the skills he think they need to take on the challenge.
Now the differences. Jennifer was 21 years old when she did that first thru-hike in 2005. I’m a little older. Three years later, she established a new speed record for a supported hike of the AT by a woman – covering the approx. 2,200 miles in 57 days, 8 hours. I expect to take 150 days or more. In 2011, she returned to the AT and established a new record, for either gender, completing the Trail in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes.
Enough with comparisons, Jennifer has now written a number of books, including Becoming Odyssa about her 2005 hike (still among the better AT memoirs), Called Again about her 2011 record-breaking hike/run (and her husbands tireless support of that goal), and, very recently, The Pursuit of Endurance, a look at and observations from many of the world’s greatest endurance athletes. Jennifer has received numerous awards for her accomplishments and as an “adventurer.” Today, Jennifer serves on the board of the ATC and runs a hiking and guiding enterprise in North Carolina.
Considering Jennifer’s remarkable accomplishments and her association with the AT, it is no wonder I was both excited and humbled when she made the first donation to RTK’s AT Challenge.
P.S. Jennifer’s photograph at the Katahdin sign is the featured image for this podcast post, “Setting Records.”
Last modified: January 24, 2018