Mary Lou King grew up in Oregon. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education at Northwest Missouri State College and taught high school for six years before moving to Juneau in 1958. She worked in the Department of Education as a curriculum assistant for three years. Following her marriage to Jim King in 1961, she and Jim lived in Interior Alaska, returning to Juneau in 1964. Her volunteer work coordinating the "Seaweek Program" points led her to write about the trails in Juneau.