Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis, Beaufort Books, 2010 $24.95
In western North Carolina, Jennifer Davis is like a movie star.
She holds the women’s record for the fastest completion of the Appalachian Trail – 57 days which means an average more than 38 miles a day. Let’s think about this – that’s running more than a marathon day after day. She was supported by her husband (bless him).
But her book is about her first hike in 2005 which she did in a conventional manner. She carried all her gear but still hiked quickly enough to finish in four months.
After finishing Stanford University as a Classics major, she was independent for the first time and hiking the A.T. was her job. It was not a way to run away from anything.
Davis does not sweeten the A.T. experience. Her shoulders ache, her calves burn after a long climb, her stomach growls She is in great shape but her feet are her nemesis – after a while they bleed and ooze pus. She gets hit by lightning and she discovers something shocking on the trail – I don’t want to spoil it for the reader. But her answer is always to keep walking. Her mantra is Every step I take is closer to Maine.
She writes well – you can tell that she had a good liberal arts education – but she only writes about what she sees and thinks. So don’t expect any history or larger cultural context of the A.T. A recommended read.