Epic adventurer Jennifer Pharr Davis to speak in Steamboat on Monday
Steamboat Springs — “One more step, one more mile, don’t worry about this afternoon or tomorrow.” This mantra was one of many Jennifer Pharr Davis repeated every day.
Starting her day in the wee hours of the morning and finishing late in the evening, on a daily basis she would average about 50 miles through a variety of outdoor conditions. She hiked onward with minimal sleep and consumed as many as 7,000 calories daily for 46 days in a row.
This was the life Davis lived in summer 2011 as she set the record on the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, for one of the fastest supported thru-hike times, finishing in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes.
She became the fastest person to hike the trail and the first woman to ever set the mark.
For her accomplishment of this physically and emotionally demanding feat, she was named one of the 2012 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year.
While her story is not about records or numbers, Davis said, it’s more about endurance, hope and faith. She also has written a number of books: three North Carolina guidebooks and two Appalachian Trail memoirs, “Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail” along with “Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph.”
On Monday, she will visit Bud Werner Memorial Library for a free community talk about the challenges and lessons that were present as she persevered on the trail.
“Her record on the Appalachian Trail was no small feat, and I think this is the kind of commitment and training that many of Steamboat’s hard-core athletes will admire and probably relate to,” said Jennie Lay, the adult programs coordinator at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Seeking personal discovery after graduating college, Davis hoped to find answers from the trail as she attempted to hike each mile by herself.
“I needed that connection to nature,” she said Wednesday afternoon, just as she was about to set out on a hike in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with her family on their way to Colorado. “It gave me strength and inspiration through my surroundings.”
Those four months on the trail, she said, she encountered some of the most physical and emotional challenges of her life, everything from blisters and aching shoulders to rain, blizzards and even being struck by lightning.
That first hike was when she remembers truly falling in love with the Appalachian Trail, even with its obstacles.
“The trail taught me to hold on to hope,” she said about the humbling experience. “It provides you solitude and beauty — not necessarily silence, but a chance to escape the busyness of everyday life.”
After her first attempt on the trail, she set out for a second time in 2008 from June 20 to Aug. 16. She was supported by her husband, Brew Davis, and set a record time of 57 days, 8 hours and 38 minutes.
With love and support, she said, it was her husband who got her through some of the worst days. She remembered a particular day vividly on her third attempt of the trail when she felt like giving up because of shin splints and sickness. He told her to keep going just a day and a half longer to see how she felt.
“I didn’t think I could set the record still, but I wanted to keep going as I started to feel better,” she said. “It was a very pivotal moment. My husband deserves more credit than I do. His support always allowed me to keep going and preserving.”
Each time she ventures into the outdoors, she relives her life on the trail.
“It’s very liberating every time I go into the woods,” she said. “Whenever I’m dealing with problems in my life, I feel like that forward movement helps me work through obstacles.”
Although she has hiked more than 12,000 miles on six continents as well as trails all across the U.S., the Appalachian Trail holds a special place in her heart.
Davis spends most of her time pursuing her passion as one of the founders of Blue Ridge Hiking Co., guiding hikes and educating people about the outdoors.
“The trail is constantly changing,” she said. “It’s above and beyond anything else I have ever done. I will never get bored with it. Some days, I will feel strong, and others, it may feel like Mount Everest. Every season and every day I go to hike, it’s a new experience.”
In the midst of a community with a fondness for nature, passion for trails and a plethora of devoted runners and hikers, this adventurer’s talk will resonate with many.
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