Jacquelyn Lenox Tuxill

My love of mountains began in childhood. I grew up in the rolling foothills on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains, the main mountain chain in the eastern U.S. Philippi, West Virginia, where I grew up is about forty-two miles, as the crow flies, from Spruce Knob, the highest point in the state at 4,863 feet.

I don’t remember going to Spruce Knob, though. My family’s orientation to mountains was set to a larger scale.

The mountains I remember most vividly from childhood were along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which we would travel every other summer to visit my mother’s family in northwestern South Carolina. The parkway, now managed by the National Park Service, trends northeast–southwest through the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia and North Carolina.

Not far before Asheville the parkway skirts around Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet elevation. We left the parkway at Asheville, North Carolina, to go to Greenville, South Carolina, where my grandparents lived.

Because of my father’s stories about the Minya Konka, I knew mountains came much higher than Mount Mitchell. When I was twenty-four, my husband and I made a summer road trip from upstate New York to the Pacific Northwest and down the coast to California. Experiencing the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades for the first time I was gobsmacked by the sweeping views, extensive forests, and crisp air.

 Then came my five years of living in Alaska, first on Kodiak Island during my husband’s stint in the Navy, and then Anchorage after that. It is no exaggeration to say that living in Alaska changed my life.

I discovered the joys of an outdoor lifestyle, the adventure of hiking and camping in the wilderness, the concept of endless mountains that went on seemingly forever. I became attuned to the intricacies of nature, drawn in by the scale of Alaskan landscapes that made me feel just an infinitesimal part of the marvelous whole.

7 Responses

  1. Having traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway many times over my life, I can identify with your description of the beautiful and winding mountain road. I’ve never been to Alaska and fear I’ll find it too rugged and intimidating. Maybe one day I’ll find the courage to give it a try. Thanks for this lovely essay!

    1. I appreciate your comment, Ellie. But please don’t fear visiting Alaska. I have presented Alaska as a hiker, camper, and backpacker. There are plenty of modes of travel that allow you to experience the beauty of our 49th state in greater comfort. You could cruise through the waters of Southeast Alaska – the Alaska ferry’s dining room has great food and staterooms for sleeping or there are many private cruise ships. You can take a train from Anchorage to Denali National Park, stay at the park hotel, and ride the park’s shuttle buses further into the park and get a sense of wilderness and wildlife from the windows. Private sightseeing buses also operate in the park if you want even more comfort. In both of these regions of Alaska (and others) you can find a tour that satisfies your preferred way of experiencing the outdoors! Go for it!

  2. Jackie,

    I loved reading this as it just flows. What a great start to your book. Can’t wait to read more.

    Hugs, Nancy

    Sent from my iPad


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