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A season of superlatives is upon us.

October 20, 2014

The library has invited Jennifer Pharr Davis, the current holder of the speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail, to speak (and show pictures) at the SteamPlant November 13th.

Which is soon enough, but before that a couple of other events in Salida will note similar achievements.

First, this Thursday evening the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas will sponsor a program at the SteamPlant by Kevin Fedarko, author of “The Emerald Mile: the epic story of the fastest ride in history through the heart of the Grand Canyon.”

Needless to say, this has been a popular book at the library—the story of using unprecedented run-off from record-setting winter snows to set a record for running the Grand Canyon. A brilliant idea … on paper.

Then, Saturday at the SteamPlant is Women’s Health Day, and the keynote is titled “Little Steps, Big Feat,” by Polly Letofsky. You may know her as the author of “3 mph: the adventures of one woman’s walk around the world.”

Sic. She walked around the world. Polly left Colorado heading West for five years and 14,000 miles. That’s six percent of the distance to the moon.

After these, take a break for normal existence—strolling to the cafe, leaning over the F Street bridge looking for brown trout, taking a book out of the library and then going home for your tea—until Thursday, November 13^th , at 7:00 p.m.

Then you can go back to the SteamPlant and visit with Jennifer Pharr Davis. One thing that caught my attention about Jennifer was a simple exchange after finishing the entire AT: “Do you think I could have done it faster?”

Apparently, a “yes” was all it took to start planning to do it again. Faster. We all know the journey’s the thing, living in the moment, the process, but I’m fairly certain that hiking the AT—2,180 miles—is something I would find myself content to have done. Past tense.

I think it’s remarkable to jump back on such a horse. Surely there’s something else to do. Walk to the cafe again. But really, it’s just 2,180 walks to the cafe, one after another.

Jennifer’s accomplishment is not just about walking. I’m sure there were many hours in which it was, because there were many steps to take, and at a necessary rate (47 miles a day for 46 days), but there are logistical requirements for such an undertaking.

One might imagine a pure and simple existence, a monk walking day after day, moment after moment, but even the Japanese haiku poet Basho, famous for long pilgrimages, had companions. There was support along the way, if only the kindness of strangers.

Which describes our lives, really. Whatever we’re doing, we will pretty soon have to eat and sleep and deal with aches and pains. Take a break; call in sick. Our average speed is much less than three or four mph.

Jennifer’s record-setting hike is about both endurance and relationship, because there was teamwork. (The record for an unsupported hike of the AT is 58 days; it’s nice to have friends.)

Something else that caught my attention about Jennifer’s perspective is her affection for wilderness and her understanding of how vital education is to the continued existence of wild places.

As she says, “People do not protect what they do not value, and it is hard for people to appreciate something that they have never experienced.” She is a big proponent of outdoor recreation.

We’ll remind you, but mark your calendars now.


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