Book review: Becoming Odyssa, Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail


This is the first book review on The Active Explorer, and I couldn’t have had an easier one to write — I absolutely loved this book!  ~ Erika


Becoming Odyssa

Becoming Odyssa

I felt brave the first time I stepped onto the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) solo. Let’s face it — it’s different for a chick on the trail than for a guy. I’d been backpacking all of my adult life, had good gear, and was in excellent shape, but I still had apprehensions. Now I have a completely new concept of brave.

I just finished reading Jennifer Pharr Davis’ book, Becoming Odyssa, and I’m both humbled and inspired by the account of her 2,181-mile thru-hike from Georgia to Maine in 2005. It is one of the best accounts of hiking the A.T. I’ve read. Both humorous and gritty, her writing style doesn’t pull punches.

From the beginning, she honestly shared her total lack of backpacking experience and many screw-ups as she set out from the southern end of the Appalachian Trail with a borrowed backpack. I caught myself laughing out loud while reading about her missteps and breaches of trail etiquette (hint – backpackers really don’t like picking pasta out of the water supply).

As she put miles behind her, she learned the “ropes,” made friends, attracted a stalker, suffered injury, and witnessed both tragedy and great human kindness. Throughout the book, I sensed her growing both spiritually, and as an athlete, as she continued to put one foot in front of the other for hundreds, then thousands of miles.

Never did she give the false impression that it was an easy journey, hence the gritty description. Davis recounted the pain, falls, foot infections and bug bites with complete candor, something I appreciated as I contemplate my own thru-hike. However, the overall tone of the book was one of personal growth and it left me feeling encouraged that I really could follow in her steps (literally).

In spite of thinking, “I’m never doing this again!” after reaching the trail’s terminus at  Mt. Katahdin in Maine, Davis went on to thru-hike the A.T. two more times, setting a record for the fastest thru-hike of 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes in July, 2011. I’ll do the math for you: that’s an intense 46.9 miles per day! Previously, Andrew Thompson who finished in 47 days, 13 hours and 31 minutes, held the record.

Becoming Odyssa is a compelling read for hikers and non-hikers alike, and I suspect I’ll read it again (that’s a big thumbs-up from me).


I’d like to thank Jennifer Pharr Davis for providing me with a signed copy of her book, which is on temporary loan to my sister. Read more about Davis’ recent record-breaking hike HERE.

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  1. Pingback: Nature Book Review: Becoming Odyssa « A Hiker's Experience

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