Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
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 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.
Mooch, determined to get to katahdin as soon as possible, bluntly stated, “Listen, Odyssa, Nightwalker is still weak. He needs to take the ferry and I want to take the ferry, so if you ford, you ford alone. I know you’ll probably be fine fording the river, but what if something does happen? What if you get injured or step on a rock wrong or whatever? We’re a week away from Katahdin; it’s not worth the risk.” Mooch made a good point, and sometimes the worst thing about being part of a group is
as they hiked away from the parking lot in blue jeans and cotton t-shirts, with packs that were twice as big as mine. I was eager to set out as well, but I wasn’t willing to enter the park until I exploited an earlier discovery. Poking around the Visitor Center that morning, I had found an open restroom. In the corner, much to my delight, there was a working shower stall. More than food, warmth, or shelter, what I longed for the most was a hot shower. When I stepped into the steaming cascade,
them with controlled burns and grazing livestock. Because there are no trees on top of a bald, there’s no protection from storms or strong winds. As I stumbled my way to the summit, I was beaten down by the fierce currents. The only way I could make progress without toppling over was to struggle forward with my head down and body leaning at a sixty-degree angle into the oncoming wind. In the rare moments when I was able to glance up and take in the view, I was captivated and left in tears.
death alone on the trail. I could deal with it in my own time and think through it completely. I didn’t have to repress thoughts of the suicide and try to go on with everyday life. Instead, I was forced to face it head on. I was forced to think about what had happened, what I had seen, and then I could start to work my way through it, one step at a time. I have never been through a day where I experienced such a vast array of emotions. At first, I was angry with the victim, but then I was moved
miserable sections.” “Well, we can meet you at the road in an hour and a half if you want,” they suggested. I was out of the water and hiking almost immediately. I knew Raptor was right behind me, and I felt certain that he would be more than willing to ride into town and split a hotel room with me. I was right, and five minutes after Raptor arrived at the road, Rob and Sarah pulled up in their Jeep. I didn’t even know the name of the town where we stayed that evening, I just knew it was off