There are plenty of memoirs and tales published by people who have hike miles upon miles. You can read them all and find similarities, but through each one you’ll see the world through one individual’s eyes. Jennifer Pharr Davis is one of those inspiring people. Her story, Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail, is a retelling of her 2005 journey on the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Starting in Spring atop Springer Mountain in Georgia and ending on Mount Katahdin in Maine, Jennifer hike the full 2,175* miles of the AT in four and a half months. She had never done a lengthy thru hike and began the trail on her own. Just those two points could make people shy away from the idea of doing any long hike. As a recent college graduate, she had a world of possibilities ahead if her. Time on the trail would show her where to go next in life– or so she thought.
Through trails, trials, and tribulations, Jennifer didn’t find where she was going, but she did find who she was. As an ode to her major in Classics and a nod to Homer’s Odyssy, she took the trail name Odyssa and discovered that she is a traveler, a hiker, a devout Christian, and a lover of the woods and mountains.
I didn’t think I’d be able to relate much to her aside for my love of hiking and the outdoors, but I found that her innocence and naivety matched my own at the time. We both graduated college in 2005, and I had really sheltered myself from people and the world. I was able to recognize her thought process which included hopefulness, doubt, hesitation, and challenges when facing the unknown future and life on a day to day basis. It was reassuring to see how far she had come as well as reflect on my own changes.
Most of us strive to find ourselves. If you’re lucky, throughout your lifelong journey, you’ll even discover new things that make you who you are. And if you’re really, really lucky, you’ll find a path and company that you love and will carry you through that adventure.
*The AT’s official length changes over time. As of 2017, it is 2,190 miles.
**Jennifer went on to set the record for the fastest women’s thru hike on the AT. She established the Blue Ridge Hiking Co, which is based out of Asheville, NC. She is currently hiking the Mountains-to-Sea trail across the width of North Carolina.