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

Jennifer Pharr Davis
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (388 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.)

Review

"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: #4,619 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
182 of 207 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Praise The Lord And Pass The Appalachian April 29, 2013
Format:Paperback
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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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great adventure novel November 5, 2010
By SGB11
Format:Hardcover
I loved Becoming Odyssa. It is such a wonderful story that keeps you captivated through the miles covered on the Appalachian Trail. For someone who has not hiked the Trail, it really brought the experience to life. Instead of being a mere guide book, it details the ups and downs of hiking through Davis' flowing prose. I have a friend who plans to hike the AT this spring, and this would be the first book I would recommend. It provides a realistic picture of what to expect. While reading this book, I found myself laughing out loud through many parts, as Davis recounted unseemly rashes, the "women googles" the men on the AT seem to possess after going for some time without seeing the opposite sex, and the funny couples encountered throughout the wilderness.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone. It is a must read for potential through-hikers, but it is so much more than that. I am giving it to my mom, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and a co-worker for Christmas. Despite being in different stages in their lives, they all will appreciate the coming-of-age story of a woman as she dares to encounter new adventures. It makes me want to go out and do something!

Buy this book - you won't be sorry.
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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trail Magic November 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover
While Pharr-Davis is well known locally in the SE Outdoor community for her speed-record setting hike of the Appalachian Trail, it is obvious after reading "Becoming Odyssa" that it is this hike rather, her first thru-hike of the AT as an inexperienced and sheltered young woman, which is the epic journey that has marked her soul the most. Though I'm an avid hiker and resident of Appalachia, I've never really had ambitions to thru-hike the AT, until I read this book, because the rolling accounts of trail magic, serendipitous run-ins, awkward encounters, and quirky hiker pseudonyms revealed to me that the"odyssey" is much more than the physical challenge of mountains and miles, but is truly an epic journey outside of the familiar context of our normal lives; one of gods, mortals, and magic.
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136 of 164 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
One of the best thru hike books I have read,it is very true to the trials you will encounter on the trail,it is a trail not a footpath. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Storm
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring story of finding oneself in nature
For anyone who loves the outdoors, this book is a top choice. Odyessa does a wonderful job of connecting the reader to her experiences on the AT
Published 4 days ago by Frpst
5.0 out of 5 stars This was a great read. I was sad to come to the ...
This was a great read. I was sad to come to the end of the book. "Odyssa's" recounting of her trip made me feel as though I were there going through all the valleys and... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Donna M.
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely delightful
For anyone who has an interest in hiking, especially the Appalachian Trail, this is a must read. The book was eye opening to what is required to thru hike the AT.
Published 9 days ago by Kenneth K.
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventuresome!
I am not a hiker nor do I plan to be, yet this book is one of my favorites. Jennifer's determination lingers in my mind long after I read this book. Read more
Published 9 days ago by sarah parker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brave young woman. Inspiring and well written
Published 10 days ago by M. Marilyn Wettack
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book. Coundn't put it down
wonderful book. Coundn't put it down. I have hiked some of the trail myself and met some of the thru hikers. I did not know exactly what it took to hike the entire trail. Read more
Published 12 days ago by hmiller5651
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written Fresh perspective of the AT.
After having read several AT hiker's books written by men, it was very refreshing to get a woman's perspective. Read more
Published 13 days ago by GG
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed the journey
Was very therapeutic to read about the adversity and hard work of slowly accomplishing a goal while taking in the beauty of nature.
Published 19 days ago by Chris Jenkins
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of a real adventure
Excellent account of a real adventure, four months hiking the Appalachian Trail. Odyssa meets many interesting hikers along the way, and has interesting encounters with... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Irene Lamb
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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, Away.com, 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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