Kate Hubbard and Bill McGinnis

Enjoyment of the Appalachian Trail was a common thread in the lives of Kate Hubbard and Bill McGinnis before they met each other just off the Trail in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Bill McGinnis

A Serendipitous Meeting
Connection through — and on — the Appalachian Trail
By Anne Sentz

AS A YOUNG BOY GROWING UP IN Atlanta, Bill McGinnis remembers the first time he realized the Appalachian Trail extended beyond the familiar landscape of Georgia. Bill was part of Boy Scout Troop 298, and monthly camping trips were an integral part of his Scouting experience. “Every month, we would put on a backpack,” he recalls. “Some of our backpacking trips were on the Appalachian Trail, and that’s when I started realizing that the Trail goes from Georgia to Maine. It was really intriguing to me, and I always wanted to do the whole thing.”

Bill, who is now a sales engineer in Atlanta, remains connected to the A.T. to this day. He is a section hiker who finds great joy in sharing the Trail with others — including his three children. “I went to college and then went to live in different places, but when I made my way back to Atlanta in the ’90s, I got back on the A.T. and took my kids,” he says. “Eventually, we got to the point where I was taking them on backpacking trips.”

Bill and Kate share a love for the outdoors and a deep appreciation for all the benefits the Trail provides. “The Trail allows people to get outside, but it is also important to the environment,” Bill says.
Bill's children - Billy, Lucy, and Lav
While growing up, Bill’s three children — Billy, Lucy, and Lav — were frequent hiking companions. Photo courtesy of Bill McGinnis
Bill has many special memories from his time on the Trail with his children, who are now adults themselves. Over the years, they have enjoyed hiking trips across North Georgia, the Smokies, and Nantahala National Forest, exploring the beauty (and the challenge) of the A.T. The group has hiked together in all seasons, including winter. Bill recalled one particular hike in the Smokies when the Trail resembled a hockey rink because of the ice covering the footpath. “I wanted to take [my kids] on a winter hike so they could see the Trail in every condition,” he laughs. “It was freezing cold, but everyone had great attitudes about it. I don’t mind winter hiking; you just have to be prepared.”

It was during one of Bill’s solo section hikes nearly one-and-a-half years ago that he met Kate Hubbard, a registered nurse who in her spare time is also a shuttle driver, with a base in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Like Bill, Kate has a deep appreciation for the A.T. She grew up near the Trail in Pennsylvania, and she remembers exploring Wind Gap with her grandparents, hiking and picnicking.

Bill and his dog Monty
Bill and loyal backpacking companion Monty. Photo courtesy of Bill McGinnis
In addition to being a common thread in Bill’s and Kate’s separate lives, the A.T. played a role in bringing them together. Bill was seeking a shuttle driver for a section hike in North Carolina, and word of mouth led him to Kate. Neither one was looking for love, and as a solo, female shuttler, Kate was especially cautious. Yet the Trail has a special way of connecting people at the right time.
Bill's children Lucy and Lav
Bill’s children Lucy and Lav. Photo courtesy of Bill McGinnis

Several months after their first encounter, Bill came back to the area for another section hike. “I told her to pick me up at Davenport Gap [in Tennessee] whenever it was good for her,” Bill says, recalling how he deferred to Kate’s schedule so he could see her again. After Bill finished his hike, they enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant in Hot Springs. From that point onward — and for more than a year now — they have continued to make memories together in North Carolina and beyond.

Bill and Kate share a love for the outdoors and a deep appreciation for all the benefits the Trail provides. “The Trail allows people to get outside, but it is also important to the environment,” Bill says. “The A.T. gives all flora and fauna a place to thrive.”

“When I was young, I thought everybody had the Trail in their backyard. It took me until I was an adult to appreciate that it was something special, that it was a world-renowned Trail,” Kate adds. “We absolutely can’t lose any part of the A.T., because we will never get it back.”

Bill and Kate continue to integrate their lives and look forward to adventures on and off the A.T. Their serendipitous meeting is something they will always cherish — and laugh about. “Bill’s the only person I know who owns a tux and hiking poles,” Kate says with a smile.

As part of his commitment to the Appalachian Trail, its landscape, and its natural resources, Bill McGinnis recently made a generous donation to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We are grateful to Bill for his commitment to greater protection of the Trail. It takes many people, working together, to ensure a conserved and connected A.T. landscape remains so that people and nature can thrive.