Now that she’s broken records and published books, what’s next for super-hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis?
by Mick Kelly
In late January, Jennifer Pharr Davis was in the running for the National Geographic People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year award for 2012. But she still had her feet planted firmly on the ground. “Sometimes I laugh that I’m in the same category as these adventurers,” says the 28-year-old Hendersonville native, explaining that her competition for the prize was an American climber, Cory Richards, who nearly died in a Class 4 avalanche on an 8,000-meter Pakistani peak. Oh yeah, and two Nepalis who launched a paraglider from the top of Mount Everest before kayaking the Ganges River. “Maybe I can go for the most-likely-not-to-die award,” she jokes. (Technically, even if she doesn’t win People’s Choice this month, Davis is still a 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.)
Still, she’s being painfully modest. Pharr Davis is now undoubtedly one of the world’s best outdoor athletes and one of Western North Carolina’s newly famous citizens. Last July, she broke both the men’s and women’s speed records for hiking the Appalachian Trail, bounding across the mountains battling shin splints, sleet storms and bouts of diarrhea. She covered the 2,180-mile trail in just 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, beating the men’s record by 26 hours. Last summer, she did interviews with NPR, Men’s Journal, The New York Times and CBS News.
The longtime hiker made VERVE’s 30 Under 30 list even before she broke the record. When we first interviewed Pharr Davis in late 2010, she had just published a memoir, Becoming Odyssa, about her first AT thru-hike (sales of which have now spiked). In December last year, her husband Brew Davis published his side of the story, about supporting Jen on her record-setting trek. His book, sold locally and on Amazon.com, is 46 Days: Keeping Up With Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail.
What could possibly come next for the peripatetic young couple? Hiking, of course. And a small media empire of magazine articles and guidebooks. Jen will rest her legs but will do speaking gigs at 25 venues around the Southeast in the next three months. By spring, she’ll be leading hiking groups, and by summer, she and hubby will hit the trails again. This time, he gets to choose. “Last summer was a huge goal of mine and something I’d been working towards,” she says of her epic journey from Georgia to Maine. “My husband gets to choose the trails we hike this summer. He wants to go over to Europe and hike in the Alps or around the Mediterranean. I’ll just go along for the ride.”
For more on Jennifer Pharr Davis and her hikes, books and speaking tour, check out www.blueridgehikingco.com.