Cornbread, Fried Chicken, & Sweet Tea

Stand on Springer Mountain and head north. That’s the chosen path of a NOBO, or northbound, thru-hiker. However, if you were to stand on Springer Mountain and wander south you would eventually hit my hometown on the Gulf Coast. If you followed the Interstate you’d pass my dad’s pediatric practice where he and my mom worked while I was growing up. You’d pass the car dealership that used to be an old skating rink and the clothing store that used to be the bowling alley; they were the ‘happening’ places to be during middle school in the 90’s. You’d go through the traffic light that was the single light in town when my parents moved there in 1985.


Welcome to South Alabama, home to buttered cornbread, fried chicken, pitchers of sweet tea, and the birth of my love for the outdoors and wild things. It was a love cultivated by my parents on 53 acres of woods in the middle of nowhere, where I ran barefoot, learned how to throw a hatchet and how to chop wood. Our closest neighbors could be found several blocks away down a red dirt road so most of my summer days were spent climbing trees, exploring trails, and taking pictures of cool spiders and road kill (I took pictures of it, my older brother thought it was cool enough to play with with a stick) with my sister and two brothers. There were times I wanted to live closer to town, closer to my friends, but I know now how incredibly blessed I was to grow up where and how I did. As I moved to bigger towns and cities a feeling, almost like a quiet voice in the background, continued to remind me that the woods would always be part of my person, part of my heart.

Now, I live in southeast Kentucky just 5 minutes from Clarks River and a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Land Between the Lakes, a National Recreation Area. It’s here that I made the life-changing decision to join my friend Kimmy (also known as Sprout) on a thru-hike of the 2,189 miles known as the Appalachian Trail. Kimmy is the friend that I went through daycare and middle school with, the friend that I laughed and cried with over boys, bands, and dreams, the friend I watched The Breakfast Club with at 3 o’clock in the morning.


When she first announced in 2014 that she would thru-hike the A.T. in 18 months I was more than a little doubtful. Even a state apart I felt like I knew everything about her. I really didn’t think she had the mental of physical fortitude to undertake such a journey. Then I gave it some more thought and realized three things: 1. we had both changed and grown a lot in the years we spent apart 2. I was more than a little jealous that I couldn’t do a thru-hike too and 3.  I was more than a little tired of being Eeyore, pessimistic about everything.

As soon as Kimmy told me she was thru-hiking I thought I wish I could, but that’s not realistic or possible. Fast-forward close to 10 months later when I thought about it again for the first time in those 10 months and within 48 hours I went from I’ll hike a week or two with her to I’ll make time to do a month with her because I want to make as much of the trip as possible to a full-blown commitment of I’m going all the way, now let’s do this. It’s been about 5 months since I made that decision and started this crazy up-and-down ride to get ready. I can’t pretend to know what the next 3.5 months of preparation hold, but the trail is calling me now more than ever, and I am reminded of growing up in nowhere South Alabama and the peace the woods have always brought me.

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