Author: Jennifer Pharr Davis
It’s a simple math problem. You want to hike the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 47 days. How many miles of rugged terrain do you need to cover every day? This is the harsh mathematical reality that Jennifer Pharr Davis faced when she set out to set a new speed record over the toughest trail east of the Mississippi River. If you haven’t already found your long division app, I’ll save you the trouble and round up the daunting answer for you to a quadriceps curdling 47 miles per day. That’s right, in the summer of 2011, this 20 something hiking fanatic attempted to walk from Maine to Georgia, averaging 47 miles for 47 consecutive days. Somehow living to write about it, she tells her often gut wrenching story of passion, love and determination in Called Again.
Traversing the wilderness in fourteen different states, the AT has been a mecca for hikers for many decades, serving as the model for numerous similar trails throughout the country. Maintained by the National Park Service and countless volunteers, it’s inspired hundreds of individuals known as thru-hikers to attempt to walk the entire distance in one summer. Having completed the trail twice in the past, breaking the women’s speed record on the second attempt, Davis describes a deep spiritual connection to the trail, linking it with her unwavering Christian faith.
Starting at Mt Katahdin, the highest point in Maine, the Asheville, North Carolina native set out in June of 2011 and headed south over the rock strewn mountainous terrain, supported every step of the way by her ever suffering husband, Brew, who would meet her at designated crossroads to supply food, water and emotional support. Usually camping with Brew along the trail in a tent, she’d rise every morning at 4:45 and start hiking, not stopping until long after dark. Meanwhile, Brew – recovering from recent ACL surgery – would drive to the next rendezvous point, constantly struggling to find his way in the wilderness, keep track of his wife, purchase more supplies, set up the next camp and organize volunteers to walk with Jennifer for a few days or weeks.
Not surprisingly, all does not go smoothly and the couple’s efforts to overcome numerous arduous obstacles – weather, bears, snakes, poison ivy, illness – make for dramatic reading. The combination of physical, psychological, logistical and marital challenges builds throughout, providing a truly suspenseful finish.
A well written chronicle of a remarkable athletic achievement, Called Again also works as a story of religious faith and love. Given that I have been known to balk when athletes credit their success to God’s benevolent intervention, I didn’t really expect to like the book as much as I did. But Davis does a nice job of explaining her personal faith without sales pitch or judgment. It made me want to grab a Cliff Bar, lace up my hiking boots and start walking, although I always keep my mileage in the single digits and am reliably home in time for supper.
— D. Driftless
photos by Jeff Pang (NH) and Nicholas Tonelli (PA)