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23 March, 2014

Interview with Mountaineer Wim Smets

Climbing Mount Everest

Next month I will do the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek and will go till the top of Kala Patthar located at an altitude of 18,193 ft (5,545 m). Climbing to the Roof of the World - the top of the Mount Everest - is an incredible achievement; one that definitely fascinates me. I will probably never make it to the top myself but one of my fellow citizens - Wim Smets - did. This adventurous spirit climbed the highest mountains in the world, did a North Pole expedition, ran the Sahara marathon ... When we met for a drink in our hometown Antwerp-Belgium, I had the chance to interview this inspiring person for my new blog. You can read the complete interview here.

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10 March, 2014

Iceland's Popular Golden Circle Route

Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park,
Before our visit to the fairytale South Coast of Iceland where we also went ice climbing, we took the popular Golden Circle route including Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, the famous Gullfoss Waterfall, the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, the Kerio volcano crater and endless magnificent landscapes. Upon our arrival in Iceland, we rented a 4x4 drive and drove this famous route ourselves instead of taking a tour.
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03 March, 2014

Appalachian Trail Record Holder Jennifer Pharr Davis

Jennifer Pharr Davis, overall Appalachian Trail record holder

Jennifer Pharr Davis is the Appalachian Trail overall Record holder. she hiked this nearly 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long trail in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. For 46 straight days, Jennifer hiked about 17 hours - averaging 47 miles (75 km) - a day. What an amazing achievement! 

Interview with Jennifer Pharr Davis

The Appalachian Trail is a nearly 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long marked trail running from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin in Maine. The trail is famous for its many hikers, most of them being section hikers, hiking a section of the trail at the time.

There are however also hundreds of determined thru-hikers every year attempting to complete the trail in one trek. The majority of the thru-hikers that succeed take 4 to 6 months to complete the trail.

Jennifer Pharr Davis hiked the complete Appalachian Trail 3 times. She became an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker in 2005, set the Woman’s Appalachian Trail record in 2008 (57 days - 8 hours or about 38 miles/61 km a day) and set the overall Trail Record (46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes or about 47 miles/75 km a day) in 2011. She was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year after this impressive achievement.

For decades, men held the Appalachian Trail record and for the last 2 decades mainly male ultra runners held the record. So Jennifer Pharr Davis amazed the world with her 2011 overall Appalachian Trail record, as not only is she a woman but also a hiker instead of a runner. Since then, several people tried to break her record but no one has succeeded up till today. 

When did you start long-distance hiking?
When I was a kid, my parents took my brothers and me often on day hikes. I also did a few school backpacking trips but only became a real long-distance hiker after college when I decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. This was in 2005; I was 21 years old and ready for some adventure before settling down.

How did your first Appalachian Trail thru-hike change your life?
I hiked the trail by myself this first time in 2005, it were the hardest 5 months of my life. I did not know much about long-distance backpacking at that time and experienced for the first time in my life real hunger and thirst, real pain, and freezing nights. Despite all this, it made me feel more alive than I ever did. The longer I was on the trail the more I realized that I could do a lot more than I once thought was possible. I also got to really know myself during the trail; I started the trail as the naïve Jen but came back as the confident, experienced and self-reliant Odyssa, my trail name. 

What did you do after your first thru-hike?
I got a great job working in a museum and my boss allowed me to take off in the summers to hike. I also wrote a book about my 5 months on the trail, Becoming Odyssa.  I did the Kilimanjaro summit trek in 2006 and hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2007. In 2008, it became very clear to me that my passion was hiking and that I wanted to do something with that full time, so I started my own company, Blue Ridge Hiking Company.  2008 was also the year I got married to my lovely husband Brew and the year I set the Woman’s Appalachian Trail record.

What made you want to try for the overall Appalachian Trail record in 2011?
Before starting a family with my husband, I wanted to express my love to this trail by trying this exciting and demanding challenge. I wanted to pour everything I had out on the trail and the only reason I could do it is cause my wonderful husband was willing to support me along the way.

In addition the Appalachian Mountains are home to me, there’s comfort when I’m hiking around in these mountains. I want to have a lifelong relationship with this trail, therefore I want to do it again one day with my kids and once again when Brew and I retire.

What was your lowest point on the trail?
There was a moment when I actually quit. I contracted horrible shin splits and had hypothermia. The pain was unbearable, I felt like this was it … no more. My fantastic husband talked me passed it and only a few miles further I already started to feel a bit better. I never thought about quitting again.

What were the highlights?
I love wildlife, so each time I encountered wildlife was a highlight for me.  In total I saw 36 black bears!

How did a typical day on the trail looked like?
I was every day – for 46 straight days – on the trail and hiked for 16 or 17 hours straight averaging 47 miles/75 km a day and forced myself to consume 6,000 calories a day. I slept on the trail for about 6 hours a night to save time. My husband Brew was always there to encourage and support me; I couldn’t have done it without him!

How did setting the overall Appalachian Trail record change your life?
Well, it didn’t really change my external environment. My friends, job, and back account are all about the same as they were before the hike. But the record definitely changed me. In short, it made me fall more in love with my husband, and the wilderness. It deepened my faith and made me even more grateful for the many wonderful people in my life. And hiking so quickly for so long, makes it much more fun to now hike slow with my 15-month old daughter.

What’s next?
Well, I have a new book, Called Again that is about the record hike. We are traveling and promoting the new book, and my husband and I are trying to hike in all 50 states with our daughter. We have already hiked in 36 states together. Hopefully, by the time our daughter, Charley, is two we will have hiked in every state in the United States.

Thank you very much for this inspiring interview Jennifer

Freya - Holiday Nomad, a Travel and Photo Blog

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