NIAGARA FALLS NY - A hike in the woods is rejuvenating for both body and soul, a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But no one in the world hikes quite like Jennifer Pharr Davis. The North Carolina native has hiked around the world, totaling over 11,000 miles, and holds a number of endurance records.
Her most impressive feat is her record for hiking the Appalachian Trail. In 2008, Davis broke the world record for hiking the trail by covering 2,181 miles in 46 days ! That's almost 47 miles a day, shattering the previous record held by a male hiker by 26 hours ! But Davis isn't in it for the fame, her mission is one of much greater importance." I grew up playing mainstream sports," Davis relates. "And I had role models to look up to, and I think there should be outdoor role models for people to look up to, and especially women and girls to look up to, so I love that I've gotten media and press because it's a really worthwhile story to tell."
Davis was in Western New York recently to lead a hike along the Niagara Gorge. She says it ranks high on the impressive list of places she's trekked. "
It's amazing, this is really a bucket list destination for outdoor enthusiasts and recreationalists and hikers ! I think the difference is you feel nature in different ways, and here, it's so visceral, it's so strong and loud, sometimes your experience with nature is very quiet and peaceful but here it just sort of fills you with adrenaline."
Barry Virgilio, an Environmental Educator with NY State Parks agrees. " The gorge is a beautiful place, and to have someone who's had the experience of hiking different places to be here with us is a great story."
Motherhood has not slowed Davis one bit. She brought her 7 month old daughter on the hike with her. " She's my buddy and she comes along, and again, I want her to be her own person, so I say, she can do whatever she wants to do, but she's got to tell me, until then she's going to come along on the trail."
Her accomplishments were not planned that way. Like so many who are touched by Mother Nature, the calling seemed to come of it's own accord.Jennifer said it came shortly after graduating from college. " I wanted an adventure, and I needed time to figure out what career path I was going to take, I certainly didn't think it was going to be the trail, but when I got out there I was struck , after being in college and finishing my formal education, I was learning things on the trail that were just as important or more important than anything I learned in school, and so I wanted to be someone who could teach or share those messages."
Davis says that message is one that can be experienced by anyone willing to get outdoors and take a walk in the woods." When I go out there and I'm leading hikes or I'm writing books about the trail, it's not really my message, it's the message of the wilderness, and that is universal, and it can speak to everyone."
Virgilio concurs." Especially now these days with electronics and everything , everyone's inside on the computer, which is great, but no one wants to get outside again,a lot of young kids especially, we try to get the programs, you know get outside, get away from your computer, it's very important to enjoy what you have around you."
For Davis, her journey now transcends the thrill of long distance hiking , beyond achieving world records . The lessons learned on the trail have changed her life forever.
" It's been a blessing to me to find and discover the trail, especially at an early age, and now it's almost a responsibility to share that story with other people."
Jennifer Pharr Davis has written two books and has a fascinating website recounting her trek along the Appalachian Trail. You can find it all at her website, www.jenniferpharrdavis.tumblr.com