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Hiker recalls pain, beauty of Appalachian Trail

Jennifer Pharr Davis, National Geographic's Adventurer of the Year, spoke Monday at Williamsport Memorial Library

July 15, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Jennifer Pharr Davis speaks to a crowd at the Washington County Free Library in Williamsport Monday. Davis completed the Appalachian Trail, achieving the record of fastest through hiker with a time of 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. Pharr Davis has also hiked on six other continents and was named one of National Geographic's Adventurers of the Year in 2012.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — On Monday night, Jennifer Pharr Davis recalled the debilitating condition of the shin splints she suffered in her record-setting completion of the Appalachian Trail in 2011.

Davis told a crowd at Williamsport Memorial Library that the pain was intense and the condition so severe that she sometimes collapsed while hiking the trail.

She hiked through torrential rain and sleet, and at one time wanted to quit, only to be coaxed on by her husband, Brew.

“Every day out there was the hardest day of my life,” Davis told about 65 people at the library as part of a tour in support of her book “Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph.” 

Davis — who has been selected as a National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year — completed the 2,181-mile trail from Maine to Georgia in 46 days, setting an overall record.

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It was a supported hike, meaning her husband would meet her at points along the trail to make her dinner and provide other support.

Davis’s new book is about challenges she and her husband faced together, including rugged mountains, raging rivers, 100-degree heat and illness.

Davis, who has hiked thousands of miles in six continents, spoke about her experiences and included photographs of some of the moments.

But the Asheville, N.C., resident said the Appalachian Trail, which crosses through parts of the Tri-State area, holds a special place in her heart.

Davis talked about how other hikes on the trail transformed her, such as making her aware of her own beauty.

When she was on the trail, Davis said she was not bombarded with media messages about how she was supposed to look, and realized that she was a “part of creation and belonged out there.”

Davis’ walked the length of the trail in June and July of 2011.

Davis also referred to her imaginative clothing in an attempt to survive on the trail, and how she battled unbearable conditions.

When her shin splints started, she started feeling a pain between her knee and ankle in one leg. She started shifting her weight to her other leg before the condition deteriorated to the point that she began falling to the ground, Davis said.

She also referred to her love of the trail, where one segment can be different from the next. A hiker might move through dense fog on one section of the trail, then hit that section in another hike on a clear day, exposing a beautiful vista.

Davis’ husband joined her Monday, holding their 8-month-old daughter, Charley.

National Geographic selects about a dozen such standout adventurers a year, Davis’ husband said.

He said his wife averaged 16 to 17 hours a day in her record-setting effort.

“She wanted to see what her body would do,” Brew Davis said.

Despite the 2011 feat, Davis is still looking for more challenges.

She told the audience her goal is to hike in all 50 states.

“I have not found my limits, not even close,” Davis said.

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