It’s the beginning of the thru-hiking season, which means long hikes, cold temps, bad weather, and a long road ahead for the hikers. Many of the people who don’t end up completing the AT stop early on, which means that they need some serious support at the beginning. That’s where the magic comes in.
The ATC describes trail magic as “an unexpected occurrence that lifts a hiker’s spirits and inspires awe or gratitude.” My husband and I, along with some of our friends, decided that there was no better way to spend a Sunday than to lift a hiker’s spirit and inspire awe. To us, it sounded like a worthy goal. So we gathered some gear and headed up to Cooper Gap, part of the second section of the AT.
There’s a campsite located at Cooper Gap, so we all stopped there and piled out. We cooked up a nice fire, threw on some hot dogs, set up some camp chairs, and hung out until the recipients of the magic arrived. After preparing everything to surprise these strangers, the anticipation got to me a little. I was (stupidly) nervous that not many thru-hikers would show, and our trail magic would be a total flop. I mean, we would have spent our whole day grilling outside on the trail, so I guess it still would have been a win. But, of course, it’s March and that inevitably means hikers.
It wasn’t long before we got to test out our magic, and the rest of the day just turned into a party. We probably had over 20 thru-hikers join us throughout the day. We were able to fill up many a Camelbak with water, and send hikers full and happy along their way. People dug into our chips, cookies, hotdogs, and, of course, beer. Even those that turned down food and water couldn’t say no to a cold craft beer.
Even though trail magic is from the trail angel to the hiker, it was a rewarding experience for us as well. Hearing stories from people we never would have met, and will likely never meet again, was truly touching. The trail brings out the best in people, and by putting yourself out there you get to see the best in the people you meet. These stories echo beyond the trail and serve to inspire us to always pursue the best in life, but also to understand that the best in life may mean a long hike, some hot dogs, and a good conversation.
Thru-hiking serves many different purposes to many different people. For some, it’s an escape away from busy lives, for others it’s a soul-searching experience, but for most it’s an experience that leaves each hiker a changed person. We were lucky that our trail magic brought us into these peoples’ lives and helped propel them forward on their journey. It’s something that I recommend to everyone who lives near a long-distance trail.
Do you have any good trail magic stories?