There are so many wonderful people on and around the trail. Hikers are often offered support in the way of food or other gifts in what is called “trail magic”. Support through trail magic often provided much needed encouragement on a down day through things like extra snacks, rides to town, drinks, and much more. Trail magic did not happen every day, or even every week, it always seemed to happen when it was unexpected but nonetheless needed. Above all else, the people who supported me and many other thru hikers along the trail helped to restore my faith in good, kindhearted people.
Here are just a few examples of the kindness I was shown on my hike:
Within the first week, outside of Franklin, NC a friend and I were hitching along the road. A couple pulled over and not only offered us a ride to town, but pancakes, eggs, drinks, cookies and prayers. Their daughter was thru hiking and was weeks ahead, I ended up meeting her and her husband in New Hampshire and spending a few days around them. This was the first true trail magic I received.
This is by far the largest of all of these stories. My friends and I were eating dinner in Daleville, VA when we were offered a house to stay in for the night. The lovely couple above not only welcomed us into their homes for two nights but also fed us, gave us a place for showers and laundry, drove us to a grocery store, and took us to a party at their friends house (Their friends were excellent cooks and we were all very hungry). These things grow in value so much after spending weeks at a time in the woods without showers or laundry.
While sitting at a shelter in Virginia this kind man brought us a backpack full of pancake mix, eggs, sausage, and juice. We were 15 minutes from a road and he just showed up. Compared to the pop-tarts and knorr pasta sides in my backpack this meal was heavenly.
In Vermont myself and a few other hikers were offered a night stay in a maple syrup production house (crazy, yes it is). We were given mattresses to sleep on and an unlimited supply of pancake mix and maple syrup (I took a picture of the kitchen we cooked in to make sure I wasn’t dreaming). To top it off, the owner let us drive his truck and he gave us a ride back to the trail the next morning.
This one is hard to classify, but it is important in understanding the mind of a thru hiker. Someone had dropped about 5 pounds of some of the best trail mix ive ever seen right next to the trail in mid Maine. As a thru hiker, you often burn thousands more calories than you can carry every day, we got whatever we could. Don’t get me wrong, even without the calorie deficit, I would have stopped and eaten a few handfuls of this trail mix, we all just got a little more excited about it than normal. No, someone probably didnt drop this thinking “Hey ill give some trail magic today!”. Yes, they honestly should have packed it out. Whatever the story, I was glad for the trail mix.
I cant express enough thanks to the people who were so supportive during my hike. Life is different when you’re living out of a backpack in the woods, the little things like showers and food become much, much larger. People can be amazingly kind and caring, even if not everyone is, some people are.