I love hiking and that passion first began with a trail, not just any trail but a 2100 mile long trail that stretch from Georgia to Maine…that’s right, folks, the Appalachian Trail (or the AT). My very first backpacking trip was when I was 12 and we hiked in to Trail Days (a huge festival that revolves around the AT, it’s held in Damascus, VA every year). There I fell in love with backpacking, the AT and thru hikers…and I swore that one day, when I grew up I’d be a thru hiker. Sadly, that day hasn’t come yet, but…I still hold out hope that it will.
Since it’s been 15 plus years since that first encounter, I’ve read many, many books about thru hiking (yes, including Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods) and after a while they just kind of start to blend together…almost seems like all thru hikers kinda have that same few experiences and decide to write a book about their life changing experiences. I’m not saying that it’s not life changing to thru hike, I’m sure it is, but considering thousands of people do it (or at least attempt to) every year it just doesn’t seem that special anymore…at least not special enough to write a book about. But…every once in a while a book comes out about the AT that is truly different, truly unique…and Becoming Odyssa is truly one of those books.
I love Jennifer’s candor…her struggles that she faces. The fact that she doesn’t for one moment attempt to “prove” what an experienced backpacker she is…in fact, she isn’t, and that is part of the fun! Plus, most of her stories are unique…she doesn’t talk about getting blisters from wearing brand new boots, she doesn’t just decide to hike and then do it. She researches, she actually tries to guarantee that she’ll do good…yet, mishaps happen, and there’s not much you can do to prepare for them…like her eyelashes freezing shut or the dead body she finds…how exactly are you suppose to prepare for that?
Her writing style is relaxed…it’s fun, laid back, kinda like you’re just two friends kicked back around a campfire sharing stories…and that is what makes this such an incredible book…it’s also what will make you itch to ditch everything and go hiking, or was that just me?
And the best part about reading this book? Is where she claims she’d never have a desire to hike the AT again…so funny considering that she has now done it 3 times. The first time as a regular thru hiker (and the story she tells in this book), the second time she set the women’s record for fastest thru hike, and the third time she set the overall record for fastest thru hike…and the first woman to hold such honor.
I saw her speak a few years ago and she is as fascinating as a speaker as she is a writer, so if you ever get a chance to see her speak you totally should!