Get Out & About, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Speeding Through the Appalachians With Jennifer Pharr Davis

Every year, hundreds of hikers attempt to traverse the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. The typical journey takes at least four months. In 2011, long-distance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis accomplished it in a little over 46 days. She became the trail’s overall speed record holder and the first woman to do so.

Thursday evening, Davis visits the National Geographic Museum to share her story about this incredible achievement. National Geographic is giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky WeLoveDC reader for the event. (See the end of the article for instructions on how to enter.) Davis sat down with WeLoveDC to talk about her accomplishment and time on the trail.

What inspired you to attempt the fastest hike of the Trail?

I had hiked the trail twice before, once in 2005 as a traditional thru-hike taking 4 months, and again in 2008 where I tried to set a new women’s record. I did that, hiking the trail in 58 days and averaging 38 miles per day. But coming off Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia where I finished my hike, I knew instantly that I had a lot left in the tank and that I hadn’t pushed myself to the max. So I immediately starting contemplating the possibility of doing it faster and of possibly trying to break the overall record of 47 days.

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Get Out & About, The Great Outdoors, Travel

The Insider’s Guide: Bear. Church. Rock?

When I’m hit with an urge to get outdoors, you might find me cruising down Route 29 towards Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah is the most extensive wilderness space easily accessible to DC, and encircles almost 200,000 untouched acres of Northern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

The places that I visit most often in the park are Old Rag Mountain, a challenging day hike with rock scrambling sections and breathtaking summit views, and Skyline Drive, a 105-mile undulating, ridge-hugging highway that’s best to drive in the spring or fall when tree colors are changing. I’m sure I’ll be returning to both spots soon, but on an early spring day I convinced a couple of friends to try a destination we’d never been to before.

We got a late start on the day (as we usually do), and overshot our intended noon departure time by almost an hour, sailing down Constitution Ave heading west out of the city. As anyone familiar with I-66 might expect though, we quickly found ourselves in traffic. How that road has backups on it seven days a week I’ll never understand, but it did eventually ease up and we decided that with the sun staying out well past 7:00, we’d still have time to complete the four hour hike as planned.
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Adventures, Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Life in the Capital, The District, The Features, The Great Outdoors

DC Letterboxing


photo courtesy of flickr user Wendy Copley

Hidden around DC, secretly placed in strategic, calculated locales are small, weatherproof boxes containing logbooks and stamps; only the dedicated group know of their existence and they are constantly trying to follow a trail of secret clues to uncover them. While this may sound like the latest Spy Museum game or a CIA operation, it’s actually hobby called letterboxing and its covertly going on right under our noses in our beloved city.

Here’s how it works. Originating, across the pond,  in Dartmoor, England, letterboxing, like its hi-tech sibling geocaching, is a combination of hiking, puzzle solving, treasure hunting and thrill seeking. In this game, “placers” hide small waterproof containers in interesting locales, e.g. along the Capital Crescent Trail, near the Jefferson Memorial, behind a loose Eastern Market brick, etc., and then leave small clues to its whereabouts on websites, or in letterboxing newsletters or through word of mouth.  Continue reading

The Daily Feed, The Great Outdoors

Theodore Roosevelt Island in Snow


Speaking of unhikable, unbikable paths, commenter Phil noted that Theodore Roosevelt Island trails are still a mess of snow and fallen trees and branches. I got to see that firsthand over the weekend; most of the island is still shin-deep in snow, and the boardwalk remains uncleared of branches and ankle-to-shin deep accumulation, with an unevenly packed path in the middle thanks to occasional daring joggers. Hard to walk, but pretty to look at.

More photos after the jump: Continue reading

The Features, The Great Outdoors

Fall in DC: Foliage Proves It’s More Than An Urban Legend


I’m more productive on the weekends than I should be. My weekly personal promise of “taking the weekend to be lazy and sleep in past my alarm” never happens. This is a direct cause of the DC fall — or lack thereof.

Fall in DC is a myth. An urban legend. One that this once Chicago-resident finds hard to believe exists. Why, you might ask? Because it’s not cold yet. And when I say cold, I mean it hasn’t reached below 40 more than a handful of times yet this season — maybe even less than that handful. But DC does have one thing that Chicago fall doesn’t — fantastic fall foliage that lasts longer than a few days — proving that fall in DC is, in fact, a reality.

This stuff is gorgeous and covers the entire palate of possible colors. Some trees are still green and continue to maintain their springtime youthfulness. But it’s the mature yet stoic beauty of the leaf that appears to be on fire who strikes my fancy. Just one dying leaf has the ability to shout, “Look at me! Look at me!” We’ve got Mother Nature to thank for this one. Well — her and the DC National Park Trail Service. Continue reading

The Daily Feed, We Green DC

National Trails Day: Get Out

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘chrismeller’
Tomorrow’s supposed to be beautiful — and it’s National Trails Day, with a variety of hikes and trail maintenance events in and around town.

Among the other fun (and useful) choices is a journey to Ice Mountain, where you can find ice even in the summer; locals once used it to make ice cream and lemonade. You need a guide to visit this Nature Conservancy land in West Virginia that’s about 2 hours away, and a day trip leaves Arlington tomorrow morning (it’s course # 643741A).

In all my years hiking this area, I’ve never heard of Ice Mountain before, but it sounds cool (yeah, ha, ha). Happy trails!

The Daily Feed, The Great Outdoors

Theodore Roosevelt Island Weekend Fall Color Report


Meh. I was expecting a lot more fiery red and orange but so far Theodore Roosevelt Island is still mostly green; just some yellow around the edges, with just a few trees here and there going bright red. The marsh area has a lot more color to it, but I think it’ll be another weekend or two before you get the kind of Fall color that makes local news.

You can get to Theodore Roosevelt Island with Metro and a brief walk. Just get off at Rosslyn, walk over to Key Bridge, turn right on the trail just before the bridge, and walk till you see a parking lot and footbridge. It’s nice. Try it if you haven’t yet. The earlier you can go in the morning, the greater the chance of seeing some wildlife. As it is, we did see a snake.