A Community of Awesome
The Trail Provides
“The Trail Provides.” It’s a saying you hear from nearly day one of starting your thru-hike, maybe even before you set out. I have to say, I didn’t expect it to be so true. So far, I’ve found exactly what I was looking for in this trip, and I couldn’t be happier. The AT community is incredible. I’ve walked a total of 60 miles from the Amicalola approach trail so far, and every step has led me to new and interesting people, amazing views, deep conversations, and yes, Trail Magic.
One of the main things people would talk about and worry over before I set out was the concern over strangers. It’s a valid worry, right? I’m walking an incredibly long way and will have to interact with people every day. Not knowing what kind of person you’re about to talk to can be scary. So far though, the people in this community have not only been restoring my faith in humanity, but have been a genuine highlight of this trip.
Trail Magic and Trail Angels
If you’ve never heard the terms “Trail Magic” or “Trail Angels” you’re probably very confused, I know I was at first. I thought people were referring to some kind of religious or spiritual experience they were having in the woods, maybe “mystical” interactions with talking animals. As it turns out, it’s far less mysterious but just as extraordinary.
Trail Angels are incredibly kind and generous people who go out of their way to meet hikers with gifts of food, drink, and hospitality. That may seem like it’s not that big a deal, however after hiking up a mountain and coming down the other side, nothing is more invigorating than finding a small buffet of snacks and drinks at the bottom, along with encouragement from the Angels themselves. They give up a portion of their time and money just to meet us poor homeless pilgrims and send us back into the woods with smiles on our faces. One Trail angel even gave myself and some others a free ride to town!
Trail Magic generally refers to what Trail Angels give out to hikers. Magic can also be caches of supplies left along the trail to be found unexpectedly. For instance, two days ago I came across a bag filled to bursting with granola bars and other goodies, and next to it a set of ziploc bags with toilet paper in it! Thankfully, I had everything I needed so I was happy to leave it for the next person to find. The fact that someone put the effort to hiking in the back country to leave supplies for someone else though? It takes an incredibly special person.
Earlier I mentioned that people were the most concerning thing when I headed out. I think to some extent, that’s probably still true, but so are bears. Honestly I can say that I haven’t met anyone who genuinely rubbed me the wrong way. There may have been a couple who were a bit TOO talkative on uphill climbs, but nobody gave me weirdo vibes.
I’ve met several hikers from Canada, one from Germany, and many from all around the United States. Each and every one has had a compelling story, and reason for being on trail. Most are looking for healing, some for the challenge. Not one is same. So my advice, if you ever decide to try this out for yourself, is to talk to people. Worst case, you can always put distance between yourself and the person. Best case, you get to hear perspectives on life that maybe never occurred to you. This community, in my humble opinion, is worth being a part of.
To wrap up this update I just want to say that Georgia has been a gorgeous state, and I’ll be sad (and glad) to be leaving it soon. The climbs have been pretty hard since I didn’t train much, but it’s getting easier every day.
If you’re hesitating to pull the trigger on your own thru-hike, I say do it. Even if you aren’t sure you’ll finish, it’s a great experience. The best advice I’ve heard so far is that it’s great to aim for Maine, but you only need to walk until you feel you don’t have to anymore. There’s no pressure to go any pace or any distance but what YOU want to. Maybe all you really need is a week, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Last things last, I got my trail name over pizza with some hikers at Neels Gap! Allow me to reintroduce myself as Mountain Turtle! I’m looking forward to writing the next post, and until then, happy trails!
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