Trail Magic and Paying it Forward
Last week in Harriman State Park, I followed through on one of my favorite annual traditions – being a Trail Angel to a few of this year’s northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers!
Trail Magic is a random act of kindness bestowed upon an unsuspecting thru-hiker. It could be in the form of a ride from trail to town and back again, a can of soda left in a stream with a note on it, or (one of my favorites), a group of folks setting up a grill in a trailhead parking lot waiting for hikers to come through to feed them a plate of food. Those who provide Trail Magic are known as Trail Angels and this whole paying it forward thing is one of the most amazing aspects of participating in the Appalachian Trail experience.
Receiving magic out on the trail truly restores your faith in humanity. When my dad and I were hiking the AT together we met some of the most generous souls – former AT hikers who put on home-cooked group dinners, couples who invited us into their homes for showers and laundry and an elderly man who lived next door to the trail who dished out ice cream every hiker season.
As much as I was humbled receiving these gifts, I have found that giving trail magic is almost a bigger reward. Seeing smiles spread across the faces of hot and hungry hikers when you tell them you have cold Gatorade and a hot burger waiting for them is priceless. It’s also a chance to reminisce about my own time on trail, to give advice on what lies ahead and to cheer on those that are on their way to Maine.
Can’t wait to do it again next year!