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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hike The 2180-Mile Long Appalachian Trail In Record Time, Write A Book


Interview With Author Jennifer Pharr Davis

1.      Jennifer, what is your new book about? The book tells the story of hiking the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail in 46 Days - an average of 47 miles per day. That said, readers will be surprised at how relational and relatable the story comes across. At its core, this is a book about overcoming obstacles and going through hard times with the ones that you love. And hopefully it will make people want to get outdoors and hike! Maybe not 47 miles a day, but perhaps 4.7 miles in a day?

2.      That is amazing? What inspired you to hike the Appalachian Trail? I love the Appalachian Trail! I fell in love with this long-distance footpath when I hiked the trail as a solo 21-year old backpacker. It absolutely changed my life - and for the better. I want to have a lifelong relationship with the trail and trying to set the overall record was a way for me to experience the trail in a new and unique way. I love being in nature and pushing my boundaries physically, mentally and emotionally. The record attempt certainly allowed for that. Now, I am a mom and working on experiencing the trail piece by piece as a section hiker, which I love!

3.      In what is believed to be a record, you did 2180 miles in just 46 days. How did you maintain a daily pace of 47 miles by foot? Well, I tried really hard not to think about being out there for 46 days or having to hike 47 miles a day! Instead I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I constantly told myself, "You can hike one more mile. Just go one more mile." And that is really all the record was: it was hiking 2,181 miles, one mile at a time.

4.      What were the conditions like and how did you deal with taking a month and a half off from your day to day life? The conditions were HOT. I started in mid-June, so I had to contend with the summer heat throughout the trip. The Pennsylvania rocks are not a fun place to be in 100 degree heat. I experienced an average amount of rain that summer, mostly in the form of afternoon thundershowers. Perhaps the toughest conditions came when hiking through the Presidentials. I hiked through a day and a half of rain capped off by a sleet storm on Franconia Ridge.   I have spent every summer since I was twenty-one on a long distance trail. And   before that I was a camper and counselor at a summer camp. My body, my mind, my entire being yearns to be outdoors for a significant amount of time each year. In fact, I start to go stir crazy starting in April. Beyond becoming a better backpacker, I have also gotten pretty efficient at taking care of business and bills, renting out our house, and packing up our belongings!

5.      What insights or life lessons did you learn from this experience? The journey enhanced my faith, strengthened my relationship with my husband and allowed me to fall even more in love with the trail. People think that I must not have appreciated or taken in my surroundings because of my daily mileage. But that is not true. In a way, I relied more heavy on my natural surroundings. I depended on the wilderness for inspiration and strength. I may have taken in waterfalls and sunsets in motion, but I drank in every view like it was Gatorade for my soul.

6.      What does your company, Blue Ridge Hiking Co, do? We get people outdoors! We encourage people to hit the trails through writing, speaking, and guiding. I now have five books, including three North Carolina Guidebooks. Our company offers guided day and overnight trips near Asheville, NC. And I hit the road often to give talks and workshops. It is a great feeling to give a presentation at a school or business and have people rush up to me afterwards and say that now that want to go hiking too!

7.      Which was more challenging-- the physical toll of the hike or the mental payload of writing a book? They both require many of the same attributes: persistence, patience, and self-confidence. Putting yourself out there, on the trail or in a memoir, are both very vulnerable positions. You are opening yourself up to failure and criticism. But in both pursuits I know that I am following my heart and doing what I love. So I consider myself to be pretty fortunate. I guess to answer your question, both objectives are challenging, but writing a book is probably better for my health.

8.      When people tell you to "go take a hike", are those the best words you can hear? Ha! Yes. I definitely wouldn't be offended. But that said, I am pretty sassy and my goal is to get other people outdoors, so I would probably respond, "No! YOU need to go take a hike!" 

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013

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