Charlottesville Woman Hiking the Appalachian Trail to Raise Funds for the Homeless
Kim Grover of Charlottesville, Va., is taking steps to help the homeless, literally. Last month, Grover set out to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in an effort to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville and The Haven, two organizations in the city’s downtown area working to end homelessness. BRO caught up with her this week as she completed roughly 135 miles of hiking.
“I realized If I go out there and it doesn’t work out, I can go back home and that there are so many people who are living kind of like I am right now and they don’t have a place to go,” Grover said over the phone from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. “They can’t say, ‘I’m sick of this. I want to go home.’ That’s how I made the correlation and got the idea to do this.”
Grover is asking people to make a pledge for each mile she travels on the 2,190+ mile trail. Contributors can choose which organization they would like to support or split their pledge between the two. Going into the project, Grover said she did not have an exact goal, but the project is currently at $23,000 in pledges from over six different states.
“I’m completely overwhelmed and thrilled by the response that this has gotten,” Grover says. “With the amount of wealth that we have in our country, it is ridiculous that people can’t find homes. I want more people thinking about the absurdity of that.”
Hiking the A.T. has been a lifelong goal for Grover. A mother of four kids who have all graduated high school and college, she decided now would be a good time to take the journey. With full support from her family and a worthy cause to keep her motivated, she quit her job and committed to hiking the long-distance trail from Georgia to Maine.
“It almost felt like a midlife crisis—I wanted to do something big and cool and fun and this [hiking the A.T.] was the thing that I felt was accessible to me,” Grover says. “I’m 53 and surprisingly, I’m kind of in the middle of the road as far as the age range goes on the A.T.”
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, hiking the A.T. typically takes five to seven months. Aiming to finish in roughly six months, Grover began her hike on March 25 in Amicalola Falls, Ga., and is working her way north to finish at Maine’s Mt. Katahdin. The trail will take her through some of the most scenic destinations in her home state, including McAfee Knob, a trail landmark she has been saving to see for the first time on this journey.
“I am so excited to go to Grayson Highlands and McAfee Knob, because I have been in Virginia for over 20 years and I’ve hiked all of Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback rocks and so much of what we have right around Charlottesville, but I have never been on McAfee Knob,” Grover says. “That’s the iconic picture of the trail. I’m so excited to just get there.”
Grover is currently hiking with a group of new friends she met on the trail. Among them is an Iraq war veteran named Robert Erckenbrack, trail name Rawhide, who is hiking the A.T. to raise awareness and money for Mission 22, a national community supporting active service members, veterans, and their families.
“The reason I’m here at Nantahala tonight and didn’t hike on was because I was hiking with three other women who were like, ‘let’s get pizza and beer,’” Grover says. “There’s a huge diversity of people on the trail. I was surprised that I wasn’t the only granny for one thing. Getting in an environment like this reminds you to sit down and talk to other people and find out their story.”
People can make pledges at Grover’s Hiking for Homes Pledge Form and learn more about The Haven and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. People can also stay up to date on Grover’s progress by following her Instagram page @hiking_for_homes_apptrail22.
Before Grover hung up the phone to get back to her well-deserved pizza and beer, she revealed she hasn’t settled on a trail name yet. She’s been called “Hugs” and “Mayflower” by fellow hikers, and she likes both names equally.
Cover photo: Kim Grover at Wesser Bald fire tower just south of Nantahala. Courtesy of Kim Grover.