Popeye continues her story of her A.T. journey. Trail Magic – it may seem like a small thing to some but for a A.T. Thru-hiker it’s a small act of kindness that leaves a lasting impact. Popeye shares some of her trail magic experiences. At Hike by Faith we were blessed to have been one of her trail magic moments.
A huge part of the trail community are the trail angels. Trail magic can be something as simple as a piece of fruit or a soda left in a stream or it can be as huge as someone you’ve never met driving 3 hours to pick you up and take you to their home for the 4th of July. We received a lot of trail magic and it usually had a habit of showing up when we really needed it. Trail magic is an incredible thing and the trail angels who provide it are really something special. They are such a huge part of the Appalachian Trail community and the trail would not be the same without them!
We got our very first trail magic at Unicoi Gap in Georgia. We were just finishing a big descent and were about to start a long ascent. At this early stage in the trail it was the most challenging day we’d had so far. We starting getting close to the parking lot at Unicoi Gap and could see through the trees there was a group of people gathered. We didn’t want to get our hopes up but it occurred to us there might be trail magic there. One we got a little closer, the wind blew, and carried with it the glorious smell of hamburgers! We knew then it must be trail magic and we got down there as quickly as we could. The trail angels were a church group who lived a couple hours away and were doing trail magic for the first time. There were burgers with all the fixings, drinks, cookies, chairs, and great people to talk to. They were actually surprised how excited we were that they were there- they didn’t fully realize what an amazing thing they were doing. But after being in the woods for a few days and in the middle of the most difficult stretch of trail we’d seen, it was just the thing we needed to lift our spirits and carry on.
Another time trail magic came exactly when we needed it was at Sam’s Gap, TN. I had woken up very sick that morning and hadn’t been able to eat anything all day. We had hiked a very slow 8.6 miles and were trying to decide what to do when we got to the parking lot at Sam’s Gap. We weren’t sure how far we were from town and if we should call a shuttle or just hike a little further and camp for the night. There was a couple who had pulled into the parking lot for just a minute to switch drivers and we asked them how far we were from Erwin. They told us it was 17 miles and then asked us if we needed a ride. They didn’t even know I wasn’t feeling well and it just about brought my mom to tears!
Another incredible trail magic we received was when Hike by Faith’s Brian Ford drove 3 hours to pick us up from the trail on the 4th of July and brought us to his family’s home for their celebration. We were hiking in Pennsylvania at the time and had hit a bit of a low point in our journey. There were no thoughts of quitting but we were both feeling pretty worn out and the hot weather was bringing us down. Taking a day to rest and be surrounded by amazing people was exactly what we needed to refuel us for the second half of our hike.
I would also consider the hitch hiking that we did to be a form of trail magic. We didn’t hitch hike as much as most hikers, but when we did we always had great people stop to pick us up. It takes a certain kind of person to stop and give a ride to a complete stranger but the people who live around the trail know about the hiking community and frequently give rides to smelly hikers. It may seem like a small act but when you need to get somewhere and all you have is your two legs to get you there it’s a pretty amazing feeling when someone gives you a ride and you don’t have to walk!
Even though the larger acts of trail magic stand out more in my memory, even the little things like a cooler full of snacks and drinks or just a piece of fruit left on a picnic table are all things that lift the spirits and give you the energy you need to keep going. It amazes me that people take time out of their busy days to help people that they’ve never met and it’s a lesson I want to carry with me. You can never know what people are dealing with in their lives but simple and small acts of kindness can really make a big difference.