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.
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.
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 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 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!
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.
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.
The beard. Enough said.
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.
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