It's with an incomprehensible amount of excitement and unending high-pitched little girl squeals that
Alli Huggins, Sydney Vaught, and I (Shelby Cook) would like to announce the birth of our brain child:
ACMNP on the Appalachian Trail! We are absolutely ecstatic to announce that, this coming spring and summer,
we will be attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail with the intention of embodying and extending the
ministry of Jesus Christ along the way! Quite simply, we want to walk with people because Jesus did, and we
want to invite you all to come along with us on this journey! But before we log any miles, we want to introduce
ourselves and our vision to you!
For all of us, hiking the AT has been on our hearts for a few years, even prior to our first exposures to
ACMNP. However, it’s been through ACMNP, through relationships made and passions revealed and defined,
that this dream began to unfold and take shape. After connecting with Alli almost a year ago (and later, with
Sydney, too) and not only realizing that there could be a huge ministry opportunity in undertaking the
Appalachian Trail, but that we had the ability to create a way to execute that, it became very clear that,
in addition to our individual goals and hopes for hiking the AT, God had given us a collective vision that
we needed to pursue. Going for a 2,200 mile walk is either called insanity or a pilgrimage—people don’t
just get up and start walking that far for nothing. It’s a search for reconciliation of some unsettled
subconscious place within, a thirst that keeps on until fulfilled. We believe that it’s in the stillness of nature,
in the silence of separation from the busyness of our world, that we become aware of Something beyond
ourselves. We believe the Holy Spirit uses these spaces to intersect our lives, draw us near, and satisfy.
It’s our hope that, in pursuing this calling to the Appalachian Trail, we will be a conduit to help facilitate this
connection, and in turn, introduce fellow hikers to our Jesus, God in flesh, come to be with us, to WALK with
us, even when we stink (both figuratively and quite literally!).
This collective vision has been the dominant driving force for all of us in getting ready for the Trail this
spring; however, we all have individual hopes and goals, too, and that makes this even more beautiful. We have
both a collective vision and individual goals, and those contributions will make us a great force together on the
AT. Here’s a little more about us!
Shelby Cook: I’m originally from a small town just north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I grew up with a
healthy appreciation of and exposure to nature and outdoor activities. I graduated from Wheaton College (’14)
in the suburbs of Chicago, and while I’m incredibly thankful for the education I received there and the growth
that came from my time there, my heart ached for mountains and vast spaces. In the spring of 2015, I began
serving with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) and proceeded to serve three consecutive
seasons in Denali National Park, Virgin Islands National Park, and again in Denali National Park in the summer
of 2016. I feel incredibly spoiled and can say, without a doubt, my life has been changed by those three seasons.
I am a better Shelby because of ACMNP, and I have a huge amount of gratitude for that. I love coffee, used book
stores, front porch sittin’, traveling, playing outside, all things Alaska, Taco Bell, and you. :)
Why the AT?: For me, if I’m honest, there are a hundred million reasons why I’m hiking the Trail, but basically,
I’m excited to hike the Appalachian Trail just to say that I’ve done it! 2,200 miles is a long way and a big task
to ask of my body (and recently repaired herniated disc…prayers for that would be so appreciated!)! I also can’t
wait to meet people from everywhere and invest in them. I’m also really excited to eat copious amounts of
unhealthy food and still burn more calories than I can possibly consume… The list honestly could go on for a
really long time. BUT, perhaps one of the things I’m most excited for is the camaraderie and growth that will
come from time with the ladies that I am blessed and humbled to walk with. I’ve already been so overwhelmed by
the friendships that Alli and Sydney and I have, and I genuinely do believe that God has brought us together for
such a time as this—it’s going to be amazing watching Him work through them and us together.
Alli Huggins: I am a native Marylander who loves blue crabs, Old Bay, and the O’s! I completed my bachelor’s
degree at the University of Pittsburgh, after which I moved to Bryce Canyon National Park to serve 6 months
with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. After my season there, I moved to Salt Lake City and lived
there for nine months. I then was accepted to Yale Divinity School to pursue my Master of Divinity degree,
which I completed last May (2016). While completing my M.Div., I served one summer at Mt. Rainier
National Park with ACMNP as a ALDP team-leader. I currently live in New Haven, Connecticut. I love
hiking (that’s a given), watching HGTV, and being in the company of old and new friends around a campfire.
Why the AT?: There are so many reasons as to why I want to hike 2,189 miles. First is to prove to myself that
my body is capable of tremendous things--this is something that I try to do often to my body, it rejuvenates
this wonder and appreciation for this body that God has given me. Second, is to meet and interact with the
community that exists on the Trail. I have heard stories of the Trail and the connections formed on the Trail,
and my initial instinct is: I want to be a part of that and I want to serve those people. The third reason, is that
God has placed this hike on my heart and I can’t seem to shake it off, which ultimately means that I have to
do it. It is one of those “I will always wonder what it was” things in my life, and now is the right time to do it.
I know God has something beautiful in store for me with this hike, I am so excited to be a part of it. You can
find my AT blog at: http://appalachiantrials.com/author/allison-huggins/ and follow me on Twitter & Instagram:
Sydney Vaught: I was born and raised in a quaint, orange-growing, bicycle-riding, Disney-loving town of Winter
Garden, Florida, 15 miles away from Orlando. Growing up, I attended a small charter school surrounded by my
closest 25 friends and classmates. During high school, I was able participate in dual enrollment, earning my
Associate’s degree. I then transferred to The Florida State University, where I joined Delta Alpha Chi, a Christian
Sorority that surrounded me with wonderful, wise, Jesus-loving ladies who lifted me and my faith up. After two
years I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from FSU. The summer after graduating, in a
what seemed like a whirlwind of events, I was able to serve five months with A Christian Ministry in the National
Parks at Denali National Park. I love outdoor recreation of all sorts, reading my excessively large collection of
books, eating things I probably shouldn’t, and belly laughing with friends and family.
Why the AT?: I first was on the Trail in 2013 for a short week where the Trail imprinted on my life and whispered
a challenge physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I fell in love after seven excruciatingly painful blisters and
seven days with my life support on my back. I have gone twice since and have always wanted to complete the
whole Trail to become a Thru Hiker. After struggling with the idea of the Trail not furthering the Kingdom of
God, I set my dream aside. This summer, I heard about this opportunity to about to walk the Trail and knew
this God’s answer to my desire to serve Him while completing this life goal. I have seen the need for Jesus’
light on the AT and my heart jumps at the idea of walking and loving on people in such a dark, challenging place.
You’ll hear more from us in the coming weeks and months, but for now, here are some ways you can keep
up with us as we prepare!