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Ultramarathoner sets Appalachian Trail speed record

TRAILS — Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, 41, finished the Appalachian Trail today in a supported speed-record time of 46 days, 8 hours and 8 minutes.

That's only three hours faster on the 2,189-mile route than the record set by Jennifer Pharr Davis in 2011 when she was 28 years old.

  • Davis has this reaction to the word that her AT record would be broken.

Jurek averaged about 50 miles a day on the historic trail that crosses 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

Jurek is well-known in long-distance running, having seven consecutive wins from 1999 to 2005 in the Western States Endurance Run – a prestigious 100-mile race held in California.

He also holds two titles from the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile course that markets itself as "the world's toughest footrace."

The Appalachian Trail record isn’t his first. In 2010, Jurek set the U.S. record for most miles run in 24 hours — 165.7 miles. He has also won the 153 mile Spartathlon, according to his website.

A Seattle man set the Pacific Crest Trail supported speed record last year.

Hiking trail record breaker speaks at library tonight

HIKING — A world-class hiker who's put her pen where her feet were is giving a program about her latest book TONIGHT, 7:30 p.m. at the Moran Prairie Library.

Jennifer Pharr Davis first hiked the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail as a 21-year-old college graduate, all on her own.

Her most recent book, Called Again, tells the story of setting the 46-day record for the trail and growing closer to her husband (her support crew), in the process.

The program she'll be presenting speaks to inspiration, love and endurance in tales from the trail.

Girl, 13, youngest to complete triple crown of long-distance hiking

HIKING – Reed “Sunshine” Gjonnes, 13, hiking with her father, Eric “Balls” Gjonnes, has become the youngest person to complete the triple crown of long-distance hiking.

The pair from Salem, Ore., through-hiked the 2,652 mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2011, the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail in 2012, and this month they finished the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail.

Sunshine turned 13 years old one month into this year’s trek.

They finished the CDT on Sept. 6 with what Sunshine blogged was “an easy” 27 miles” in Glacier National Park to the U.S.-Canada border at Waterton Lakes National Park.

She said their pace picked up a bit with the sight of a grizzly bear, and she mentioned that:

“Our tent smelled so bad last night from three days of wet socks (mostly Dad's). I could hardly breathe it was so bad. 

Appalachian Trail proposal seeks link to Gulf of Mexico

HIKING — A proposed extension of the Appalachian Trail could add add a few hundred miles of foot trail — and possibly a canoeing option — to link the trail all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The nonprofit organization Trust for Public Land has been working for years to acquire land along the Chattahoochee River in the southeastern United States, where the Appalachian Trail (AT) ends at its southernmost point. The organization intends to make this land available to the National Park Service and other partners for an extension of the AT that would lead all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Currently, the 2,184-mile AT begins in the middle of Maine and ends in northern Georgia. It crosses the Chattahoochee River’s uppermost headwaters. Curt Soper, the Georgia-Alabama state director of the Trust for Public Land, told ABC News that the non-profit envisions Appalachian hikers being able to continue on a trail down along the river to the Gulf of Mexico at the shores of Florida.

Woman breaks Appalachian Trail speed-hiking record

HIKING — Striding along at a rate of nearly two marathons A DAY, Jennifer Pharr Davis has set an unofficial record for the fastest assisted hike of the entire Appalachian Trail from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia.

She saw 36 bears, moose, porcupines and every sunrise and sunset during an epic 2,180 mile journey that lasted 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. Friends and spouse supported her effort so she could trek equipped with a daypack or less.

She went through five pairs of hybrid hiking and running shoes while averaging about 47 miles a day, or nearly two marathons, breaking the previous record set by a man six years ago by just over 24 hours.

And she suffered nearly a week of dysentery in the early portion of her trek, giving a new twist to "the trots."

‘Fastest is so relative,’ Davis told the Associated Press on Tuesday after estimating she had slept about 30 of the past 48 hours. ‘My average was 3 mph. So what are you not going to see at 3 mph?’

She emerged from the woods on Sunday and walked to the granite slab on Springer at the trail's southern end. Her parents and dozens of other family members and friends were cheering her on.

‘There were a lot of tears,’ Davis said. ‘Everyone was like: “Are those happy tears?” I just said they're everything tears. I'm so happy. In a way, I'm sad it's over.

Of course, this isn't Jennifer's first hiking experience.  Here's one of my previous posts on Davis' adventures with links for background.

Woman hot-footing toward speed record on Appalachian Trail

BACKPACKING — Ultra hiking specialist Jennifer Pharr Davis of North Carolina is trying to break her own speed record of 57 days, 8 hours, 35 minutes  as she attempts to go from Maine to Georgia on the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail.

Davis, who began her supported trek in midJune is also mindful of the men’s record of 47 days, 13 hours, 31 minutes.

For perspective, to set her record of 57 days she had to average a brisk pace of 38 miles per day every day for two months.

She knows what she's up against on the 2,181-mile footpath. Davis hiked end to end (called a thru-hike) from south to north in 2005 before setting the speed record three years later going north to south.

Read on for more details.

Long-distance lady finds life lessons on trail

BACKPACKING — Women (especially) looking for hiking inspiration can score big with a book by an iron-woman who worked her way up the hiking status ranks before setting the supported Appalachian Trail women's record of 57 days to cover 2,175 miles.

That's a brisk average pace of 38 miles per day every day for two months from Georgia to Maine.

Jennifer Pharr (now Pharr-Davis) has captured that epic and the trail leading to it in her book "Becoming Odyssa-Epic Adventures On the Appalachian Trail."  Blisters and body odor were among the least of her foes.

She'd already hiked the AT plus 9,000 miles on trails across six continents before she worked up to the record-setting effort. All the way she was hiking toward her dreams and goals from "over-confident college graduate" to the owner and operator of Blue Ridge Hiking Company in Asheville, North Carolina.

She makes the case for the long-distance hiker's mantra: Living with less, on the trail and in everyday life, is living free.

And her story reaffirms that wilderness can hold many unexpected life lessons, whether it's at the hand of shocking electric storms or in the tight quarters of a trail shelter with disagreeable companions.


Appalachian Trail: End-to-end in five minutes

Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.

HIKING - Under the trail name "Fester," Virginia hiker Kevin Gallagher hiked the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Then he compiled some 4,000 photos into a stop-motion video called Green Tunnel, which gives a view of the trail from end to end in five minutes.

It's pretty clear that the scenery just gets better and better as one heads north into Main to the trail terminus at Mount Katadyn.

Appalachian tale


    Taking the red-eye morning flight, I watched the watery April sun rise in the sky as I left the Inland northwest and flew across the country.
    My work took me east, but there was another, stronger, pull. I needed to see the mountains again. Not the jagged, new mountains of the west. But the old, old mountains of the east.
     I spent two days driving though the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And in some ways, it was two days spent driving through my own head.
    Mile after mile, the familiar landmarks caught my eye. I haven’t been in the area for years but I was surprised by the instant recognition. I had no idea how deeply, and how permanently, the scenery - the mountains and rivers and coves, the tumbledown cabins and ruins of old farms and homesteads - had been etched into my mind. Passing the traditional National Park signs, reading the road signs, with their poetic names like Nantahala, Pisgah, Maggie Valley, Cades Cove and Cherokee, I was lost in the traces of other journeys.
    As a child, on family road trips, in the days before seat belts, I daydreamed in the back of the family station wagon, winding along the serpentine roads, following the curves of the ancient mountains covered with dense forests. My grandfather loved the Smoky Mountains and whenever possible he drove us there. Long weekend getaways meant a midnight departure so that we could reach the park just as the sun rose. In the summer, the car was packed with the big canvas tent, Coleman stove and cooler, folding aluminum lawn chairs and a big iron skillet; all the necessary equipment for a week or two of camping by Deep Creek.
    In my memory,  the mountains were deep and dark and mysterious.  Clouds rested in valleys between peaks and we often drove right through them as we climbed. Lush green undergrowth crowded the narrow roads and the air fell cool and moist through the open window onto my upturned face.
    Later, as a new bride, married to a man who’d spent his own time exploring the Appalachian forests, I returned.  Our honeymoon was a pilgrimage to the mountains and we spent the first week of our marriage hiking the trails and driving the scenic roads.
    Then, a few years later, when the children came along, we carried them to the mountaintops, as if to hold them up and show the Gods what we had created.
    And now, well into middle-age, with an almost empty nest and a marriage as weathered and tested as any granite face, I had to go back.  I wanted to meet the mountains on my own terms.
    So, I drove. And I looked out the windows at a landscape that changed has very little while I have changed so much. I leaned into familiar hairpin curves meeting my own history in the tight turns. I turned my face up to the gentle spring rain. I surrendered to the ghosts.
    Flying home at the end of the week, I looked out the airplane window and thought about the impact the Smoky Mountains have had on my life.  Tall and quiet and filled with tradition, they are the shadowy guardians of my sweetest memories.
    Now, a continent away, I live between two different mountain ranges. To the west, the Cascades throw up their snowy peaks and sleeping volcanoes. To the east, the Rockies, a great wall of razored stone, claim the horizon. They are signposts whenever I travel around the region I now call home.
    But deep inside me, in the secret place the little girl, the bride and the new mother still live, a range of rolling, hazy mountains own the landscape.
    As my plane approached and the patchwork of land beneath the wing grew closer and closer until we touched down, I was glad to be back. But I was equally grateful to have had another chance to go back to the old places, the old mountains, to follow my own Appalachian Trail.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com