Ask the Expert: A.T. Speed Record Holder Jennifer Pharr Davis

TrailheadJennifer Pharr Davis holds the women’s Appalachian Trail thru-hike speed record and owns Blue Ridge Hiking Company, where she trains potential thru hikers for their 2,000-mile journey.

I don’t have easy access to a trail system. What exercises can I do to train for my upcoming long distance hike?
Training before hitting the trail is one of the best ways to increase your chances of completing a successful thru-hike. Preparation with your pack is key. To train for my first AT thru-hike in 2005 I set up a wooden chair in front of the TV, loaded my pack with 20-30 pounds, popped in a movie, and then went to work stepping up and down off the chair.  Another great way to train is to find a local high school or college football stadium and spend time traveling up and down the stadium stairs with your pack. Anything that combines climbing and a pack will yield immediate results on the trail.

What’s the most difficult section of the Appalachian Trail?
Pennsylvania is considered the hottest, rockiest state for thru-hikers. It is lined with limited views, and geological formations that are riddled with snakes. Maine, the northernmost state of the trail, offers another difficult section. The rugged terrain and burly climbs on this 280-mile stretch will leave south-bounders feeling disheartened and north-bounders feeling deflated.  Maine offers notoriously bug-infested summers, river fords, slick bog-logs, and marshy terrain. The weather is erratic and threatening above tree-line, and there are fewer trail towns and resources than in the neighboring White Mountains of New Hampshire. Oh, and if you need further proof of Maine’s masochism, then consider Mahoosuc Notch, where the pedestrian pathway evolves into a mile-long exercise in bouldering and contortionism.

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