Jennifer Pharr Davis may not have grown up hiking but since being introduced to the Appalachian Trail at 21 she’s made the outdoor activity her mission in life.
“It was just meaningful and changed my life,” she said while motoring toward Buffalo, Wyoming, for a Tuesday evening talk, her son babbling in the background.
On Wednesday she planned to visit Ranchester, Wyoming, to talk with Bighorn Trail Run competitors at 5 p.m. Then on Thursday she will visit Billings Public Library for a run at 6 p.m. followed by a talk at 7 p.m. promoting her new book, “The Pursuit of Endurance, Harnessing the record-breaking power of strength and resilience,” ($27, Viking) which came out in April.
“She distills complex rituals and histories into easy-to-understand tips and action items that will help you take perseverance to the next level,” according to the book’s promotional material.
Sounds exhausting, right? But it’s nothing compared to the record she set in 2011 by hiking the Appalachian Trail’s 2,185 miles in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, moving at a pace of about 3 to 3.5 mph for 16 to 18 hours a day. The same year she was named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year.
She’s hiked when she was pregnant, and now at age 35 hikes with her two children and husband, Brew Davis, as they have driven from their home in North Carolina to Maine before working their way west during the past two months to promote her new book.
“My daughter, who is 5 ½, has been to all 50 states,” Pharr Davis said.
All along their driving route they make time to stop and stretch their legs for a minimum of a couple of hours.
“I feel very strongly that trails are one of the most affordable and accessible ways to experience solitude,” connect people to the environment and great ways to instigate conservation, she said. “Just seeing how powerful hiking can be in people’s life. You can do it at any stage in life.”
Key to keeping her on the trail is good footwear. Pharr Davis is a big fan of Farm to Feet socks, which have a lifetime guarantee. For shoes she likes Astrals, a lightweight breathable trail shoe that’s more like a sneaker than a boot.
“I don’t believe in waterproof shoes,” she said. “They get wet at some point and never dry.”
Trekking poles are a personal choice, she said, although she likes them for most uses and said they can be a big help for people with knee or joint problems.
She’s not a promoter of pain-relieving anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen to keep pushing on, although when she got shin splints on the Appalachian Trail they helped her through the pain.
Pharr Davis has other speaking plans across Montana and Wyoming in the coming weeks, including: June 15 at noon at The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman and the Dillon Public Library that night; a 2 p.m. talk and then a 3:30 hike at the Helena Public Library; a June 19 talk at Sunlight Sports in Cody, Wyoming, at 6:30 p.m.; and then on to Lander on June 20 for a 6 p.m. talk at Wild Iris Mountain Sports.
She enjoys the expansiveness of the West and its feeling of solitude.
“We love Wyoming,” Pharr Davis said. “I’ve hiked several hundred miles out here.”