I am a long distance hiker, and indeed a short distance one as well. I have published articles for several magazines – Country Walking, Trail and Adventure Travel. My books include The Journey in Between, an account of my 1,000 mile hike on El Camino de Santiago, and The Last Englishman about my 2,650 mile adventure on The Pacific Crest Trail. My next book – Balancing on Blue will be released around Spring of 2015 and chronicles my 2,178 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. I had hoped to have this ready for Spring 2014 but my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike (see below) has been brought forward and nicked that allocated time.
Over the last few years I have hiked around 8,000 miles including El Camino de Santiago (twice), The Pacific Crest Trail, The Appalachian Trail and several national walking routes in this country. What is it about the outdoors? There is something about being out there that amazes me. Human beings have spent the vast proportion of their existence in the wild, the vast proportion. Towns and cities are a creation we invented only recently. Our bodies are still becoming used to them, we are not actually meant to be there. This is why myself, the friends I walk with, run with and most of the people I meet revel in the experience.
It’s the same for a solitary canoeist paddling around Newfoundland. The same for a climber setting foot on top of Everest. A person in a hang glider soaring over the Pyrenees experiences this feeling too, as does a sailor rounding Cape Horn. Yes, it’s about the adventure, the challenge. It is, however, primarily because our bodies realise that that is where we were nurtured, where we spent our infancy, that is where we were raised.
We are meant to be out there, it’s is embedded in us, it is comforting and it is natural. This is why it feels so right.
You can hear an interview with me and David Lintern shortly after I returned from the Appalachian Trail here:
Born in the south of England and having lived on the edge of a small village, the countryside was my playground. Fond memories of Summers spent mucking around in the woods with my mates still stay with me. There were no mobile phones or iPads then, we made our own entertainment.
At 16 I tried my first long walk, taking on the South Downs Way, a 100 mile route through the heart of the Sussex downland. Biking took over during my twenties and I still take the occasional ride but my heart lies in walking. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is the appeal, it’s uncomplicated. I’ve never been one to require an in depth understanding of something to appreciate it, the simpler the better. Walking is the simplest and oldest form of travel. It is designed to get us from one point to another with the minimum of fuss and at a pace that allows us to notice our environment which we would normally miss.
We live in a world where we feel the desire to make everything quicker in order to free up more time, which we then fill with more crap. When it all gets too meaningless for me (which is often) I feel the need to escape. To be part of the great outdoors, with all my belongings strapped to my back, to be able to camp wherever takes my fancy and to have no decisions to make other than where and when to sleep and eat clarifies, simplifies and puts the world in perspective.
The pages on this website detail my walks and other adventures. Come with me and enjoy a little clarification . . .
(Photo: Josh Myers)
Look at what I have in store for you all in 2014!
2013 turned out to be much busier than I expected! I walked EL Camino de Santiago for the second time, a late decision and thoroughly worthwhile but this did delay some plans. Namely, a lot of blog posts, inteviews, gear reviews and the like didn’t make it last year. So, I fully intend to bring them to you all this year.
The book of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike account – Balancing on Blue has been delayed until around the Spring 2015. A memoir of my 2012 thru-hike of the 2,178 mile Appalachian Trail in America, it follows a similar writing style as my other 2 books – The Journey in Between and The Last Englishman. Both are available in the bookshop as paperback or Kindle download.
So, what’s in store? Lots, LOTS of exciting stuff!
Jennifer Pharr Davies
Jennifer is an American long distance hiker and holds the record for the fastest hike of the 2,178 mile Appalachian Trail at 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, set on July 31, 2011. She’s also an author and regularly pops up for public speaking events about her antics. It should prove very interesting.
David has a keen eye for a good photo and won 1st prize in the ‘Mountains and Me’ category at the 10th Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival 2012. He also was responsible for interviewing me after my Appalachian Trail thru-hike this year for his radio feature. David always has an interesting outlook and a different slant on what’s going on and is writing for some of the UK magazines. We were due to arrange this post in 2013 but it was a busy year for him. It will be worth the wait.
(Photo: David Lintern)
We’re going to talk gear because I know you’re all gear geeks at heart. I aim to have a new gear testing section up and live at some point with reviews of some of the best stuff out there. No holds barred, if it’s any good I’ll tell you about it and if it’s rubbish you’ll know as well.
I’ll also have some Q&A posts with the following individuals responsible for some of the best cottage industry gear on the market:
Chris McMaster from ULA Equipment:
ULA have been knocking out some of the best packs on the market for a few years now. Thru-hike the PCT, AT, CDT or whatever floats your boat and you’ll see most hikers carrying a ULA pack. What makes the man tick and how have they managed to corner one of the most difficult sections of the outdoor gear market?
Rod Java from Stickpic:
Rod Java, the brains behind Stickpic talks to me. Rod is responsible for one of the simplest, lightest, cheapest, most useful and original pieces of gear to hit the outdoor market in years. The amount of times I have been asked – ‘How do you manage to film yourself whilst walking’? will be revealed here.
Ron Bell from Mountain Laurel Designs:
We miss out on the some classy gear in the UK because sometimes we just can’t get stuff over here. OK, we can mail order but it is nice to see equipment before parting with our wages. Mountain Laurel Designs produce some amazing hiking gear from cuben fibre shelters; ultra-light weight quilts (a personal favourite of mine as I used one on the Appalachian Trail), and backpacks to name a few. Ron talks to me about how he’s managing to do so well in a competitive market.
Aimee Gasparre from Nalgene:
The company who have managed to take carrying water to a whole new level. Let’s get into Aimee’s head and in particular, what is the reason behind the monumental success of the 32oz Widemouth? This classic water bottle is still going strong after years on the market.
Josh Myers at Trekking Photography:
Josh, or Pockets as he is known is doing some amazing stuff with a camera. I walked with him on the Pacific Crest Trail and he was taking amazing shots back then. Now, his popularity has rocketed and when you look at his work, it is not hard to see why.
He talks to me about his love for outdoor photography, his plans and reveals a few secrets for taking a great shot.