In response to the movie Wild being in (select) theaters, I am featuring some Wild Women who are going against the norm when it comes to people’s perception of what a hiker should be. The women featured are some of the most badass hikers, male or female, out there! Today we are featuring Jennifer Pharr Davis. She is most known for breaking the overall supported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has thru hiked the Appalachian Trail three times as well as the Pacific Crest Trail, Long Trail, and hikes internationally. She is the author of three books, owner of Blue Ridge Hiking Company, and a mother!
What advice would you give to women looking to hike on their own?
JPD: My advice to women is to get out and hike. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own or don’t know what you’re doing then try to find a friend or group to explore with. There are are local hiking and trail maintenance clubs throughout the U.S. Check online or with your local outdoor store for opportunities. There are also companies out there who help beginning hikers get their trail legs. If you travel to North Carolina there are great guides at Blue Ridge Hiking Company.
What about concerns friends and family may have?
JPD: I always encourage folks to include their friends and family in the adventure. Even if they’re not hikers. By staying accountable with loved ones and sharing hiking stories with them, it is likely that they will become more supportive of your hobby. After all, fear and concern is often routed in a lack of knowledge or experience.
After you set the women’s supported speed record on the Appalachian Trail you were determined to return to the trail to set the overall supported speed record. Why?
JPD: After setting the women’s record, I knew I still had something left to give. I went back to try for the overall record, but more than that I went back to try and find my best on the trail and to discover what it really felt like to give 100%
Everyone focuses on the facts and figures of you and your husband Brew’s record. What is one thing people don’t know about hiking an average of 47 miles a day for 46 days?
JPD: My book, Called Again, details what the record was all about and what it meant to me. People focus way too much on the end results and the numbers, and not the steps that we took to yield those results. They don’t realize how much training, planning, strategy, and positive thinking went into the record. Maybe one stat that folks should focus on more is that among the folks who helped us along the way we had the combined knowledge and passion of over 35 completed A.T. Thru-hikes. It was wisdom and heart that got us down the trail in record time, not speed or strength.
We share the same view on the phrase “hike your own hike”. Can you explain this to Trail to Summit readers?
JPD: H.Y.O.H. Is a nice sentiment that is most often used out of context. I have heard it most frequently following a strong opinion, such as “you should never hike with a dog, but hike your own hike.” My general philosophy for hiking is not H.Y.O.H. Because again, even though it is a great concept, people often use it to support techniques that are sometimes not ethical. For example, someone not following “Leave no Trace” principles might quip H.Y.O.H. I think that everyone first needs to respect others, respect the environment, and respect themselves. If you are working within those guidelines then by all means H.Y.O.H.
What do you cherish most about your hikes?
JPD: I cherish being in nature, embracing simplicity, finding time to think, and connecting spiritually.
How has having a daughter changed your life as a hiker? What have you learned from hiking with your daughter that you never knew before?
JPD: We hike a lot slower, but we still get out on the trail A LOT. We have hiked with our daughter in ALL 50 states. And she’s not even 2-years old. I have leaned that hiking with a kid on your back makes the mountains seem a lot taller. I have become pretty good at singing kids songs and hiking. And I have gained a better appreciation for the details of the wilderness.
Are there other female hikers you look up to or go to for support?
JPD: Liz Thomas (Snorkel) and Heather Anderson (Anish) are two kick-ass female hikers. I would love to go on an overnight with the two of them sometime. Cindy Ross has incorporated hiking and writing into her life in a way that I admire. And then there’s always Peace Pilgrim and Grandma Gatewood, two female pioneers of long-distance hiking.
JPD: I’m looking forward to going home after our 18-month book tour, wiring more books, planting a garden, and working on some local hiking challenges with the Carolina Mountain Club.
Last modified: October 19, 2015