The Norman Transcript

May 12, 2014

Hiker speaks on 2,181-mile journey

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — As families celebrated Mother’s Day and Oklahoma basketball fans cheered on the Thunder on Sunday, record-setting hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis thanked individuals in Norman for showing up for her presentation.

Pharr Davis presented her books, “Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph” and “Becoming Odyssa” to a crowd of about 20 at the Norman Public Library, taking them through her adventures as a hiker. More specifically, she discussed her 2,181-mile journey of the Appalachian Trail in just 46 days. She was named 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year after her feat.

Pharr Davis, or “Odyssa” as her fellow trail mates call her, averaged about 47 miles a day while setting the record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She overcame the torturing pain of shin splints, limping her way to mountain summits and hiking or “scrambling” backwards down them to reduce the pain, and also overcame mild hypothermia after refusing to stop during a torrential downpour which turned to a sleet storm at the top of one summit.

She told attendees she could remember when she would plant her foot and her leg would buckle. Or when she became so cold and so stiff she could barely move her joints. After the harrowing beginning, Pharr Davis even decided she wanted to quit.

What she didn’t expect was for her husband, Brew, to tell her she couldn’t quit just yet. He pushed her to go one more day. She started the day counting down the hours until she would finally be finished, but by the end of that day she knew that she had to keep trekking in order to figure out what her limits were.

For her, exploration no longer meant seeing new places, but rather exploring her limits. It was that motivation that pushed her to find out what she could accomplish.

On the journey she saw about 36 bears, hiked 16 to 17 hours a day and was trying to consume 6,000 calories a day, but found out the value of a trail could never be found in numbers.

“Its value was found in the experience,” she said.

During this adventure, her husband helped by driving ahead to an area where he would set up camp or go on errands for her getting groceries or whatever was needed. He also kept a blog about the experience, which was later published as a book.

“When I wasn’t doing anything meaningful I would worry,” he said.

During the presentation, attendees were able to see pictures the couple took during this adventure and other adventures as well. Pharr Davis has hiked on every continent except Antarctica.

She has hiked in South Africa, Australia, Peru, along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Pacific Crest which spans across California, Oregon and Washington, and trails across Europe.

The Appalachian Trail was by far the most difficult and humbling experience for her. Before her record-setting adventure in 2011 she had hiked it twice before. Once when she was 21, whenever she became “Odyssa”, and once with her husband 12 days after they were married.

Both of her books and her husband’s book, which they call the “Trailogy” were for sale at the library after the presentation.

Jessica Bruha


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