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Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail [Kindle Edition]

Jennifer Pharr Davis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (361 customer reviews)

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Book Description

After graduating from college, Jennifer isn't sure what she wants to do with her life. She is drawn to the Appalachian Trail, a 2175-mile footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Though her friends and family think she's crazy, she sets out alone to hike the trail, hoping it will give her time to think about what she wants to do next. The next four months are the most physically and emotionally challenging of her life. She quickly discovers that thru-hiking is harder than she had imagined: coping with blisters and aching shoulders from the 30-pound pack she carries; sleeping on the hard wooden floors of trail shelters; hiking through endless torrents of rain and even a blizzard. With every step she takes, Jennifer transitions from an over-confident college graduate to a student of the trail, braving situations she never imagined before her thru-hike. The trail is full of unexpected kindness, generosity, and humor. And when tragedy strikes, she learns that she can depend on other people to help her in times of need.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Davis is the record holder for the women's supported hike (2,175 miles in 57 days, with someone carrying her supplies) in the Appalachian Trail, which runs between Mount Katahdin in Maine and Springer Mountain in Georgia. The A.T. is not only a hike, but a subculture: a community where everyone has a trail name, where there are well-placed hiker huts, trail-side towns whose main economy is supporting hikers, complicated trail etiquette, regular occurrences of trail magic, and a recurring cast of freaks and Christians, show-offs and loners, and experts and beginners. Though the book opens the night before Davis's record-breaking hike, this is actually the story of her first thru-hike, undertaken as a new college grad who, despite limited hiking experience, felt "called." It's the story of her becoming "Odyssa," her chosen trail name. These days, the word amateur is usually used disparagingly, and in some ways that applies here—the book feels homemade, and the writing is often clunky—but the root of the word is love: amateurs pursue activities for love, not money, and that's what shines through in Davis's record of a difficult, painful, and exhilarating world. (Nov.)


"Many books have been written by thru-hikers, but none measure up to Jennifer Pharr Davis' epic. The Appalachian Trail speed record holder describes her journey from college graduate to a student of the trail in stunningly beautiful detail. Her tales from the trail are full of adventure and inspiration, and her writing is as lyrical as her Odyssey-inspired trail name. She offers concrete, trail-tested advice for aspiring thru-hikers, and she candidly shares her failures and frustrations along with her successes. If you're searching for the one A.T. book that best captures the spirit of the trail, follow in the footsteps of Odyssa." -- Bro Staff, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine

"This is the best AT book I have ever read. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, skinny or fat, outdoorsman or couch potato, if you've ever thought about doing a long-distance hike, then read Davis' book. I would rate this book as more essential to the mental preparation for a long-distance hike than anything else you could do." -Dr. David W. Powers, The Coffee Scholar blog

"As the father of daughters, I enjoyed Jennifer's story. If you're the father of a daughter who's wondering if she can achieve big things - and everyone has doubts from time-to-time, you might want to get a copy for her- it might help get her on the right trail for great things in her life, too." - Jim Shepherd, The Outdoor Wire

"It's refreshing. [Jen]'s very enthusiastic and she inspires other people. She's good for the outdoors." - Gary Eblen, Diamond Brand Outdoors

Product Details

  • File Size: 813 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Beaufort Books; 1 edition (November 15, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004I8VGYO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,179 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
142 of 155 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Praise The Lord And Pass The Appalachian April 29, 2013
Anyone who attempts to take on the Appalachian Trail in one shot is of interest to me, so I pay attention to all of these stories and have enjoyed the individual perspectives of many a thru-hiker. Generally speaking, most approach the trail with an open mind and heart, while naturally being concerned about their own ability to respond the trials the AT might present.

Jennifer Pharr Davis' story starts off well, buoyed by the charm of a young hiker fresh out of college who doesn't even know how to wash her pans properly in the wild, someone who's decided to hike with an old pack she dug out of her parent's basement. She is not "tech-savvy" about her gear as so many hikers are these days, and has to learn almost everything through trial-and-error. In many ways it's the early-on-the-trail, day-to-day inanities like these that are so appealing about tales of thru-hikers.

But there is an odd lack of joy in her perception of the glorious world through which she passes, and it doesn't take long for a sort of sourness to creep into her narrative. She is sympathetic to those who seem most like her (a woman she perceives to be in distress, for example, or a fellow Christian hiker) but is shockingly judgmental about everyone else, calling other hikers "left-wing anti-fundamentalist squirrels." She claims such people are everywhere on the trail, and the impression is that she has been subjected to some sort of persecution at their hands; yet she never relays a single incident of any intolerance towards her own religious views. And when she stumbles upon a suicide at a New Jersey shelter, she manages to interpret it as specifically having something to do with her.
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122 of 143 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More than trail experience... in a not-so-great way. October 15, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a young woman interested in thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail by myself, this book is inspiring. Any account of a solo woman hiker is one that I consider worth reading. I hear so often that my solo hiking/camping trips are dangerous, foolhardy, or just downright stupid, but knowing that I am not the only one out there is really nice. However, outside of that fact, I didn't like this book all that much. First of all, Jennifer Davis brings a lot of religion into her story. Not what I bought the book for. I want to hear about her experiences and the trail, not about god making her feel safe at a trail shelter. I also was not impressed with the author's naivete as she set out on her thru-hike. She didn't know that she was supposed to hang her food to discourage bears, and didn't bring a water filter with her... what? How can you set out on a journey like this and not know these things? I wonder if she was exaggerating her inexperience to make her transformation by the end of her hike more dramatic? Which, by the way, was not always for the betterment of her character. As the book progressed she became more judgemental of other hikers, and does an awful lot of praising her own experience and expertise while downsizing others. I especially took offense at a passage where she stops at an outdoors shop to buy a new pack and was helped by a young man who "looked outdoorsy but probably wasn't." No justification for such a judgement, just decided to throw it in there.
For young women who previously haven't read anything about the AT, and don't mind constant inserts of Christian preaching, this book might be worth reading. However, there are other accounts of the AT out there that are SO much better.
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62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read this for the very helpful knowledge regarding footwear, food, and other considerations for packing for the trip, if you intend to hike the AT. The author does a good job of describing trail miseries as well as trail delights. Mostly this could be used as a precautionary tale of things you should not do (really poor nutrition, and stupid ideas about water safety, footwear etc.). The writing is good, but at times is kind of preachy, and seemed reflective of the religion-clouded upbringing of Pharr Davis. For me, her tone took on a decidedly Southern vs. Northern voice as well, and these things coloured my thoughts about her writing.Could be her age, when she did the trail.

I had heard a great build up of this person and her experiences after her first AT hike; I don' t much care for uber- hikers,or speed hiking---but we all use/ experience things differently. C' est la vie, I suppose;except I always understood the reason for the trail was as a respite from the rat race.Hard to escape a fast- paced society if you're trying to set a speed hiking record--- seems kind of backwards.

I mean no disrespect; I thought this was going to be trail adventure writing and had not realized this was also about the author's relationship with her religion or talking to God. Nothing wrong with that, but again, I was not expecting that kind of a read. Of all the people I've ever met hiking,and I've been hiking for over 40 years, I never encountered anyone who talked about their religion or had an attitude pro or con about north vs. South. I do understand this is a personal story, her memoir of her hike, however, and that we are all certainly different.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
It is a very insightful look into the realities of walking the AT.
Published 6 days ago by LAS
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
enjoyed the book
Published 8 days ago by JChiapp
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book!
I read this book right after A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and I enjoyed them both. I enjoyed living vicariously through her on her hike and her stories. Read more
Published 9 days ago by runnergirl27
2.0 out of 5 stars Just Okay
It was an okay read. Nothing terribly exciting, just a recounting of her experiences on her first thru hike on the AT.
Published 9 days ago by DS
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Loved it.....Great adventure
Published 9 days ago by Connie Cole
5.0 out of 5 stars READ THIS IF YOU CAN'T HIKE THE AT
Short of actually being on the trail, this is the next best thing. A highly enjoyable read.
I was there every step of her journey - experienced the awesome sunsets, the... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Jane Barrett
3.0 out of 5 stars Wish I could give it a 2.5 star rating
So this young woman takes a really long backpacking hike on the Appalachian Trail after graduating college to figure out her life. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Thomas Clan
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed it
I was quickly engrossed in her story. As someone who is interested in the outdoors but does not spend enough time there, this made me long to go hiking and just get out there. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Erin A. West
5.0 out of 5 stars A little preachy, but riveting.
I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and her voice is true and clear. She is clearly a Christian and makes it well known, which kind of put me off, but she didn't go on... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Jill D Hogg
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting and easy read
I loved that she faced her fears in a fearful world. I think this would be a good read for younger people. the same age as the writer. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Susan Hornack
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More About the Author

Jennifer Pharr Davis grew up in the North Carolina Mountains, where she developed a love for hiking at a young age. At age twenty-one, Jennifer hiked the entire Appalachian Trail as a solo female and fell in love with long-distance backpacking.

Since then, Jennifer has hiked more than 11,000 miles on six different continents, with North American hikes including the Pacific Crest Trail, Vermont's Long Trail, and the Colorado Trail, and completed three thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail. She has hiked and traveled on six continents; some of the highlights include Mount Kilimanjaro, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and the 600-mile Bibbulmun Track in Australia.

In the summer of 2011, Jennifer topped her own 2008 Women's Endurance Record for the fastest thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, making her the overall record holder for both women and men. Jennifer is the first woman to hold the overall title.

Jennifer hiked from Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Her goal was to hike the entire 2,180-mile faster than the current overall speed record of 47 days, 13 hours and 31 minutes, which she did in 46 days.

To break the record, Jennifer hiked an average of 47 miles a day, camping along the trail. She had trail support from legendary ultra-runner and former AT and Pacific Crest Trail speed record holder David Horton, as well as veteran AT expert Warren Doyle and Davis' husband, Brew Davis. Her hiking and backpacking accomplishments, as well as her influence as an outdoor role model, are remarkable and momentous.

Jennifer is a 2012 National Geographic Top Adventurer of the Year nominee for her record-breaking thru-hike, has been on CNN, The Early Show, NPR numerous times, and was featured in Fitness Magazine and Shape Magazine, among others. Jennifer has also written for Trail Runner magazine,, and is a frequent contributor to Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. Jennifer lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, and is the owner and founder of Blue Ridge Hiking Co.

Jennifer is the author of two memoirs about her experiences on the Appalachian Trail, "Becoming Odyssa" and "Called Again," and has written three guidebooks.

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