On Growing Up in the Appalachian Mountains: An Intro

One of my relatives used to say that to arrive at the Hill’s household you needed a four-wheel-drive truck, followed by an ATV, followed by a horse, then a donkey, and you have to complete the last section on foot. This was only a slight exaggeration. I was raised on a 100-acre Black Angus cow farm deep in these mountains you all long to hike so badly. At the time, it was almost an hour’s drive to the closest grocer, and if an emergency were to arise, it was just as long to the nearest hospital. If a bad mountain thunderstorm knocked out the power, it could sometimes take weeks before it was repaired. Also, due to the farmhouse’s location deep in a valley, this meant one TV channel (sometimes) and definitely no internet. This means I grew up “un-plugged” and free to roam. While most people my age were playing video games, I was hiking up and down mountains and through valleys with my dog.

How many people are awesome enough to have a baby wild turkey hatch in their hands?

How many people are awesome enough to have a baby wild turkey hatch in their hands?

Growing up in the middle of nowhere means that things like checking yourself everywhere for ticks (everyday, multiple times a day), encountering bears in the woods, traversing difficult terrain, and using the forest as a restroom were already part of my daily life. To my (extremely sheltered) child-hood self…I thought these things were normal. As I grew older and the nearest town started to become more and more developed, I realized otherwise.

My childhood backyard

My childhood backyard

Recently discovered bear tracks near my fire pit on the farm

Recently discovered bear tracks near my fire pit on the farm

Eventually. my folks moved away from that farm and bought 50 acres just on the other side of the same mountain. They live in a self-sustaining manner and a lot of dinners are of garden vegetables and venison. (Yes we hunt, but that’s a story for another day.) The farm is within an hour’s drive of Virginia’s extremely popular Blue Ridge Parkway, (You know, that curvy mountain road which is flushed with tourists who stop at an overlook for selfies and act like they’ve been on a grand adventure), so this how I first became acquainted with the Appalachian Trail. I’ve hiked Sharp-Top (3,862ft) and Flat-Top (3,994 ft) multiple times. However, it was my first hike to McAfee’s Knob this past spring where I heard Katahdin call me for the first time, and I knew I had to see more of the trail. (If you’re reading this, I know you’ve heard it too.)


I heard the mountains call, and I’m answering.

So, that leads us to the present. I’ve already informed my family of my intentions, and I seem to have won their support. I have accumulated roughly seventy-five percent of the gear I need, and am in the process of testing it out on small section hikes and over night camps on the farm, when I’m not working my ass off at one of my two jobs that is. As of now, I’m planning a flip-flop starting in March or early April, beginning in Harpers’ Ferry SOBO to Springer Mountain, then coming back home for a bit then hitting off from Harpers’ Ferry NOBO to Maine. Of course, we all know how these plans change, and I am excited to be keeping you updated through Appalachian Trials!

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Comments 5

  • Ruth Wilson : Sep 17th

    Thanks for sharing a part of yourself Ashley! The beginning of your journey, but not just the AT!
    Look forward to your next post!

  • RC : Sep 18th

    Best of luck on your adventure of a lifetime. Look forward to your posts. I live on farm in s Appalachian mtns,.,paradise. I’ve hiked AT for over 50 yrs but have never hiked n of NC.,so you can tell me all about it.RC

  • Neil : Sep 19th

    Good luck on your hike next year I hope you achieve wat you plan to do but things change,so just
    go with the flow,I hiked it in three sections it was best thing I have done and good luck in finding
    Your Trail name and enjoy the food on the trail. Happy trails. Neil

  • Kelley : Sep 19th

    Enjoy your adventure

  • Hawk : Sep 19th

    All the best. Stay positive. ?


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