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King University News :: Author of "Becoming Odyssa" to Speak at King College & Bristol Public Library

Jennifer Pharr Davis, author and avid hiker, will speak at both King College and the Bristol Public Library on Monday, Dec. 3, as part of the Buechner Institute Lecture Series. The series is co-sponsored by the Bristol Herald Courier.

A graduate of Samford University, Jennifer Pharr Davis completed her first Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2005 at 21 years old. Since then, she has hiked more than 11,000 miles on six continents, completing the Pacific Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, Long Trail, Foothills Trail, Bibbulmun Track, Inca Trail, a summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, and others.

Her adventure memoir, “Becoming Odyssa,” follows Pharr Davis during her travels on the Appalachian Trail. 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.

The book has become a required read of both the freshman and transfer seminar classes at King College as well as a community based read for many across the Tri-Cities.

When we were first discussing the speakers for the fall 2012 Buechner Lecture Series and thinking about whose work might make an interesting and engaging community read, I was immediately struck by what I knew about Jennifer Phar Davis, said Matt Peltier, dean of students for King College.

Since 2011, Davis has been the record holder for completion of the Appalachian Trail, traversing those miles in 46 days in 2008.  But “Becoming Odyssa” is about her first AT trip in 2004, a journey of the mind and spirit as well as the body.  Many readers will discover here a useful reflection on their own trails.

Dr. Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute and chair of the English department at King said of Pharr Davis’ memoir, “Life on the trail was not so much a retreat, an escape, as an attempt to clear the mind and spirit for the years ahead, the winding paths of her life.”  

Brown continued, saying, “On the trek, she learned about the power of the simple, the importance of the basics.  She explored the possibility of the attentive, as opposed to the distracted, life.  She walked into the difference between being and doing, discovering a reverence for life along the way.  She says, echoing Thoreau, that she didn’t miss the news.  (Thoreau says, “The news doesn’t change so the perceiver must.”)  I think it is this change that Davis will still be talking about when she comes to King on Dec. 3.”

A staff member for Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine raved about Pharr Davis’ book, saying, “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.” 

In addition to Pharr Davis' memoir, she was also named a 2012 Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic. She is also the owner of Blue Ridge Hiking Company, an Asheville, North Carolina based outdoor and hiking store and a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Long Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association.  

“Jennifer is not only an accomplished young woman and an incredible athlete, but she is a winsome speaker and lovely person. Hearing her speak is a real treat, and an inspiration,” said Jennifer Holdberg, chair of Buechner Institute National Advisory Board and professor of English for Calvin College. 

“There's something very real and raw about her journey thus far. Her prose isn't overly edited and polished, but instead has a rough and rugged quality about it that makes it feel as though you are a part of her journey,” Peltier commented.

Jennifer Pharr Davis will speak at 9:15 a.m. in King’s Memorial Chapel, and again that same evening at 7 p.m. at the Bristol Public Library. Both events are open to the public and free to attend.  For more information, contact Dale Brown at 423.652.4156 or visit


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