ACMNP on the Appalachian Trail

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

            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 Im 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 Os! I completed my bachelors

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 (thats 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 cant 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: 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

 Associates 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 Bachelors 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 shouldnt, 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 Gods 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!




Instagram: @shelby.cook.3312





Instagram: @ahuggable


Twitter: @ahuggable



Instagram: @sydneyjunejulyaugust




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"This experience deepened my assurance of calling to the ministry and sharpened the skills I will need for congregational leadership."
– Kam, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond 2011

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