Jennifer Pharr Davis has set the unofficial speed record for hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.
Jennifer Pharr Davis has set the unofficial speed record for hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Barbara Pharr/AP
Every year, approximately 2 million people hike some portion of the Appalachian Trail. Then there are the hikers who walk the entire way — more than 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia — and take an average of six months to do it.
But in July 2011, Asheville, N.C., native Jennifer Pharr Davis set a new unofficial record when she hiked the entire length of the trail in just 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes.
Davis says many people assume she was moving too quickly to enjoy the natural world around her. But in fact, she tells NPR's Neal Conan, her days on the trail started before sunrise and finished around sunset, giving her plenty of time to soak up the scenery.
"This summer I was only out there 46 days, and I saw 36 bears," Davis says, more than she ever has on previous hikes.
In the national hiking community, Davis is now recognized as a record holder, but there's no organization that keeps official tabs on travel times. And, Davis says, it shouldn't be anyone's job to monitor the walkers.
"This is still based on the honor system," she says, "and it is an amateur sport."