Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

4.4 26
by Jennifer Pharr Davis

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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


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

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.)
From the Publisher

"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

VOYA - Ruth Clark
Older teens questioning what they want to do with their lives will be comforted to realize that the author, as a twenty-one-year-old college graduate, pondered the same questions. Davis notes, "The trail provides a place to sort through the fact and fiction of our childhoods"—certainly a process many teens can relate to, even those who are not into backpacking or hiking. Davis embarked on a spiritual soul-searching quest, taking on the thru-hiker name of Odyssa, as she hiked the 2,175-mile-long Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2005. Within the dense descriptions of hiking conditions are snippets of spiritual and personal insights that make wading through the details worthwhile. The self-searching statements such as, "I wanted to retell my story and explain who I was until it made sense," addressing why she wanted to hike alone but meet as many people as possible, are thought provoking. Davis interacted with a wide variety of people on and off the trail during her four-month journey, from those who became friends to the creepy ones she quickly hiked ahead of to avoid. Welcomed or not, these encounters, including discovering a suicide victim in a park pavilion, resulted in further self-discovery. Her spiritual quest as Odyssa pushed the young Davis to her physical breaking point numerous times but resulted in a love of thru-hiking. Davis has since hiked more than 8,000 miles of trails in North America and trekked through six continents. Although not written for young adult readers, older teens who connect with Davis's spiritual journey may find answers to some of their own questions in these pages. Reviewer: Ruth Clark

Product Details

Midpoint Trade Books, Incorporated
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Barnes & Noble
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3 MB

Meet 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. Jennifer holds endurance records including the women's Appalachian Trail record, completing the trail in fifty-seven days.

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Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jennifer Davis was a 21 year old graduate with a degree in ancient languages who planned to hike the 2000 mile Appalachian Trail. Early in the book she says many people talk about hiking the trail but never do it. I guess I'm in that category. She also mentions the trail will change you. And reaching the end, literally and figuratively, she has been changed. She says every day on the trail was an adventure. Not always pleasant with snakes, blizzards and encountering a suicide. But she tells the tale honestly. Anyone planning a 'thru-hike' as she calls it, could use this book as a resource. But the book is more important because of the theme of transformation. She was transformed and the reader would be also. I know I was. I've reread it twice. It's on a shelf with other book that I would never sell or trade or even lend to someone. Kevin O'Neall
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story of personal growth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in a day and a half and didn't want it to end. What an amazing portrayal of her hike. I felt like I was watching her make this journey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Simply put: I liked this book. It wasn't as captivating as Southbound (which I finished before this) but it is also 2-3 times less long, so naturally there are less details. What I especially liked was the fact that Jennifer (or Odyssa) very much shared her own learning experiences - including her motivations and her mistakes. This taught me more about thru-hiking than the book of a superprepared, all-knowing super-person would have. Other reviewers have mentioned that the author seems quick to judge fellow hikers, and I agree to a certain point. A couple of times she makes sweeping comments about groups of people or judges single hikers but from her perspective, and taking in to account that she describes months of experiences in a rather thin book, I can understand how she might think that way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite story about the AT. Everyone should read this book!
Georgia-Mom More than 1 year ago
i felt as if I were on the AT! A good read, very descriptive without being too technical. Really enjoyable even for a non-hiker. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Along with Brysons A Walk in the Woods, this is a must read for AT enthusiasts
Bob_K More than 1 year ago
After reading Bryson's book (A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail), I was hungry for another AT adventure. This book fit the bill. I think Davis is an excellent writer. She was able to capture her hike in a dramatic and interesting manner. The book does not bias toward the "always positive" or "always negative". Instead, she skillfully weaves the two states of mind together and does a good job of showing how her attitude changed along the trail. The other nice thing about the book is her description of the hikers she met along the way. She's not afraid to to say when she did or didn't like another hiker, but she does so respectfully. That was a pleasant surprise because respectfulness is increasingly hard to find in print today. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, I think Davis missed several opportunities to write more dramatically about some of the most incredible moments of her trip. For example, when she gets struck by lightning early in her hike, there was really no literary buildup to the event. It just sort of "happens" in the middle of a paragraph. I also wish she would have spent a little more time on the denouement. After 2,100 miles on the trail hiking toward Katahdin, I would have liked to read a little more about the finish. I felt it ended a little too abruptly. Davis' attitude throughout the book clearly says, "I can choose how I feel." I think it is also an empowering and encouraging book for women and is a great example for everyone--men and women alike--who may feel timid about certain challenges. It was quite refreshing to see Davis come to respect herself for what she could accomplish rather than how she looks. Finally, I would certainly call this a family-friendly book. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find printed matter that isn't full of profane vernacular, and just because I hear it all day long at work doesn't mean I automatically want to read it in my books. No worries here and no need to wonder if that next page will have an F-bomb on it. Becoming Odyssa is pleasantly free of profanities.
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cavmdc More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, very strong story
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DanaCA More than 1 year ago
Such courage and determination. I could only imagine. Very compelling and easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed every book I've read about the AT and this one is no exception.
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KY-Jeannine More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best AT books I have read!!!
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Sonic53 More than 1 year ago
Even if you did not follow Jennifer on her epic speed hike of the AT, you will enjoy this recount of her first NOBO. She started out not real sure of herself or what she was doing, but ended up confident and experienced enough to make her passion her everyday life.
eplusmjohnson More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book and I am sad that it is over. I already want to pick it up and read it all over again. Jen takes you on the journey with her. Her adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail made me laugh out loud, tear up, and made my heart swell. The text flows so smoothly and you really don't want to put the book down. This book is for all ages, no matter if you're a thru-hiker or not. I've only hiked a couple miles on the AT, but I loved reading through Jen's adventures. I loved reading not just about her external hiking experience, but about what she dealt with internally too, both the serious and the hilarious. You will LOVE reading this book and if you're giving this book as a gift, your friend will be thankful for it. It is truly one of the best books I have read. I recommend it especially to book clubs. You will not regret buying this book and you'll keep it in your library for years to come.