Explore hiking trails, environmental issues, recreational funding challenges and trail maintenance in Central Pennsylvania with Jim Foster.
I’ve been a “trail junkie” for about seven years now. It’s not a new sentiment, but the best thing about being a part of the trail community is not the trails themselves, but the wonderful people you meet along the way.
Last Sunday, at a trails meeting in West Virginia, I met a young lady named Liz Thomas. Liz is what is known as a “triple crowner”. This means she has thru-hiked the three best known long distance trails in the U.S., the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail. Last year, Liz, whose trail name in “Snorkel”, hiked the AT for a second time, this time capturing the woman’s record for an unassisted thru-hike. An unassisted thru-hike is when you backpack the entire 2,184 miles without any assistance. She did it in eighty and one-half days.
Folks who have not done any long distance backpacking may find it difficult to understand how stunning an achievement that is. I am very proud of having thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail five years ago in five months and two days, or about 153 days. Liz did it in a little more than half that time.
It’s now my honor to be able to call two of the best female hikers in the world my friends. Last year I met Jennifer Pharr Davis. In 2011, Jen (trail name “Odyssia”) set the overall record (male OR female) for an assisted thru-hike, at about forty six and a half days. An assisted hike is when you just carry the clothing, food, etc. you need for that day and one or more people assists you along the way. Jen has been assisted on her two A.T. thru-hikes by her husband Brew and some friends. Her book, “Becoming Odyssia” tells the story of their great adventure.
But, beyond the stupendous achievements of these trail Goddesses, I was impressed at how modest and self-effacing they both are. When I told Liz that I knew Jen, here is what Liz had to say: “She (Jen Davis) is truly my hero and such an inspiration--I'm so sad that twice we've been in the same place and missed each other. I met her husband and crew in the Whites, but was getting a package while she was resupplying for the next stretch so missed her. We were both also at the Outdoor Retailer show, but missed each other by a few hours. She is an awesome person and I hope to meet her someday soon!"
I passed this on to Jen, and this is how she responded: “It's funny how small the trail world can be. Liz is a friend with one of the thru-hikers I climbed Katahdin with on my first thru-hike in 2005. I think her accomplishment is awesome!”
When thinking about meeting both of these fine young ladies, two words come to mind. The first is “awe” at their immense physical accomplishments. But, perhaps more importantly, the second is “class”. Each of them is confident enough in her own abilities and achievements that she is happy to give full credit to the achievements of others. To me, that is the definition of classy.
What a credit to the trail community both Liz and Jen are. Now, one of my goals in life is to get them together in one spot to meet each other in person. Hopefully, it will be at the Appalachian Trail Museum, and soon.
picture: A pair of trail legends, Jennifer Pharr Davis "Odyssia" and Mary Parry "Trail Angel Mary" in 2011