Mailbag with Jennifer Pharr Davis: Pick Your Celebrity Thru-Hiker Fantasy League

Welcome to Mailbag with Jennifer Pharr Davis, where we take hikers’ questions and pass them off to the trail legend for her wisdom and analysis. JPD’s newest book, The Pursuit of Endurance is available now.

Have a question for an upcoming Mailbag? Email [email protected] and we’ll pass it on. If your question is chosen for our next Mailbag, we’ll send you a signed copy of JPD’s newest book.

The completion rate for the Appalachian Trail tends to hover just north of 25%. In other words, only one of every four people who starts the trail with the aim to finish in one season will meet that goal. Our question is, if you were able to handpick a fantasy league of hikers from the ranks of well-known celebrities with the goal of creating a roster who could successfully thru-hike a 2,000-mile trail, who would you choose and why?

This week’s mailbag wasn’t submitted via email but it was discussed during a personal gathering with hiker friends. The question generated enough entertainment and debate to at least garner a writeup, and potentially build an algorithm to rank a celebrity’s hiking prowess and then organize a way to legally gamble on the progress of different well-known personalities. It may seem far-fetched but so does picking football players for your team and feeling personally slighted when one of them receives a season-ending concussion. At least this outlet would give thru-hikers something to do besides checking compulsively comparing average annual snowfall or trimming tags out of their clothing to lower their baseweight.

After only a minor amount of consideration, here is my celebrity dream team of thru-hikers—eight household names who I think could successfully thru-hike one of America’s Triple Crown trails.

Jennifer Lawrence

If Katniss Everdeen can overthrow the Capitol then she can hike the Appalachian Trail. Plus, part of the Mockingjay movie was filmed near the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. But that wasn’t J. Law’s first stint in these mountains—she grew up in Kentucky as the daughter of a construction worker and summer camp manager. In her breakout movie Winter’s Bone, she explored and exposed the more haunting parts of Appalachia culture. She’s tough, she knows the terrain, and she has two older brothers. She’s my first pick in the thru-hiker fantasy league.

Michelle Obama

Can’t you just envision Michelle Obama walking down the trail and encouraging other hikers with two simple words: “Let’s Move.” Plus, she’s already a hiker. I know that because I nearly caught up with her while she was enjoying a day hike on the Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina. I was stopped by two men wearing ear pieces and guns. And the fact that her security detail could hardly keep up with her makes me think she wouldn’t have any trouble with the weather windows on the PCT or CDT. 

It may seem far-fetched, but so does picking football players for your imaginary team and feeling slighted when one of them receives a season-ending concussion. At least this outlet would give thru-hikers something to do besides checking compulsively comparing average annual snowfall or trimming tags out of their clothing to lower their baseweight.

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom has a reputation for in Hollywood for being very driven and a fitness fanatic. I just read a book that talked about how he needed a personal lifeguard during his pool workouts because he would often pass out in the water from pushing himself too hard. He also has a history of adventure sports, risk taking, and subsequent injury. According to his Wikipedia page, “Bloom has sustained several injuries: he broke his left arm and cracked his skull three times, broke his nose while playing rugby union, broke his right leg skiing in Switzerland, broke his left leg in a motorbike crash, and broke his right wrist while snowboarding. He also broke his back when he slipped trying to reach a roof terrace of a friend’s house and fell three floors.” If anything, a thru-hike spent traipsing over snowfields and circumventing wildfires should feel tame for Orlando.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart might be the most proven entity on my dream team. She exhibited her hiking and endurance skills by successfully reaching the summit Mount Kilimanjaro, she showed resiliency and adaptability by serving a five-month prison sentence in Alderson, West Virginia, and she has mad people skills as demonstrated her non-traditional business partners and friends such as Snoop Dogg. (If you have not watched “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party” on VH1, it’s worth a town day.) She has the right temperament, social skills, and physical aptitude to do well on any long-distance trails. And just think what she could do with Ramen and tuna!

Chris Pratt

One of the most important things to bring on a thru-hike is a sense of humor, and there isn’t pack large enough to fit Chris Pratt’s good-natured comedy.  Plus, before being named one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Men and claiming a spot as one of TIME Magazine’s top 100 influencers, Chris lived the hiker-trash life as a homeless surf bum in Hawaii. He remembers this time fondly telling The Independent, “We just drank and smoked weed and worked minimal hours, just enough to cover gas, food, and fishing supplies.” I have a few trail friends who might be able to relate. Chris Pratt is also known for his ability to gain and lose 40 pounds in a matter of weeks for different acting roles. He is legit Hollywood Hiker Trash.

Simone Biles

She’ll probably want to stick with gymnastics for a few more years, but when she’s done dominating world competitions I would love to see her bound up and down mountains on a long trail. Just think how she would navigate the AT rock scrambles in Maine in New Hampshire, or slip under and over the boulders of Mahoosuc Notch, or dance over the rocks in Pennsylvania. On the trail, balance, flexibility, and coordination are as important as strength and endurance. Simone has them all, plus an amazing smile. In my experience, the hikers on long trails who smile the most tend to make it to the end.

James Harden

The beard. Enough said.

Geno Auriemma

Sometimes the key to success on a six-month hike is staying motivated. With over 1,000 Division I wins as the UCONN Women’s Basketball Head Coach, and 11 National Championship titles, Geno knows how to inspire, motivate and persevere. He also knows how to work as a team and cultivate the best in other people. Regardless of whether you hike solo or in a group, it is important to recognize that your ability to be successful on a long trail is in fact a team effort comprised of support from home and on the trail. The most important factor on a fantasy league, a real team, or a community of hikers is to remember that a strong team will always do better and be better than a strong individual. We all have different backgrounds, opinions, and hiking styles but in order to complete a long trail, we need to be able to help one another and work with conservation groups to protect and preserve the trail for our use and the experience of generations to come. In that sense, everyone is on my fantasy team.

Follow-up Question: Which well-known personality do you think is best suited for thru hiking. List your answer in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of Jennifer’s latest book, “The Pursuit of Endurance.”

Looking for more? Find our entire collection of Jennifer’s sage wisdom here.


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 6

  • Scott Brotherton : Sep 12th

    Jennifer Garner – I’m pretty sure she is/has some outdoorsy-ness in her
    LeBron…C’Mon what can’t LeBron do ?
    Bob Vila – Hmmm. he is my elder representative.
    Matthew McConaughey – Also seems to have a down to earth outdoorsy persona
    Ted Nugent – Gonzo !
    Justin Timberlake – IDK, he seems like a pretty normal guys guy..
    Zac Brown – I think he has a charity or related non-profit (?) &
    Gal Gadot – I mean, she’s Wonder Woman !!

    • Jennifer Pharr Davis : Sep 12th

      I thought about Lebron and JT but ultimately they didn’t make the cut. Not sure they have what it takes. But JT’s better half, Jessica Biel? Yes.

  • Scott Brotherton : Sep 12th

    That was just off the top of my head – now you got me thinking about it … lol – Good ? Though

  • Kieara : Sep 12th

    Pauly Shore would be my number one pick! Look how well he adapted to farm life!

  • scott : Sep 13th

    Kristen Bell – Female Actor division, for any Frozen weather
    Jason Momoa – Male Actor division, for any Water crossings
    George Strait – Male Singer division, for the tunes – a real cowboy
    Anna Kendrick – Female singer, for pitch perfect tent setups
    JJ Watt – Male Pro Athlete, a beast
    Naomi Osaka – Female Pro Athlete, she may need a break

  • Bret Kampf : Sep 17th

    How about dream team…
    Chuck Norris: Team Captain
    Chris Farley: Morale Officer
    Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson): Shelter and pretty much all things outdoors
    Kevin Hart: Pace setter and motivational speaker
    Anthony Bourdain: team chef
    Dwayne The Rock Johnson: cause he could get us a table at any restaurant and he can carry the bulky items
    And lastly Jennifer Pharr Davis, of course


What Do You Think?