Angels and Magic in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey

What about West Virginia?

You might notice that I didn’t mention West Virginia in my trail magic chronicles. That’s because WV comprises only four miles of the trail (and another 20 right on the VA/WV state line). There was only one road crossing that might have qualified as a trail magic location: Route 9, which, when I stepped out of the woods, has a sign on my left that reads “Welcome to West Virginia” and a sign on my right that reads “Welcome to Virginia.”

Some municipal government trail magic is needed.

This extremely busy road is a dangerous crossing for hikers. When heading NOBO, a hill to the left and a curve to the right, traffic exceeding the speed limit, and no sidewalks for hikers to walk to a safer crossing. In my opinion, the two states should get together to build a pedestrian bridge and sidewalk in this no man’s land—that would be some serious trail magic indeed.


“The Dude” knows trail magic.

The only trail magic I encountered in Maryland came courtesy of Bugz and The Dude at Washington Monument State Park. The Dude is a former thru-hiker who is known for his DudeFest. If you’re a fan of the Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail podcast, scroll on back to episode #20 for a full explanation of The Dude’s hike and the DudeFest.

Bugz and The Dude served up fresh trail magic in Washington Monument State Park.

Their trail magic was just what I needed on a long, sultry, rainy day. Cold drinks, a giant sub sandwich cut into individual servings, fresh fruit, chips, and great conversation. Bugz and The Dude both experienced trail magic themselves and knew just what to serve hungry hikers.


A couple of days later, I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and into the realm of Pennsylvania trail angels.

Independence Day magic

Toward the end of another hot walk, I crossed into a trailhead parking lot on Shippensburg Road and found two ladies serving up food from the back of their vehicle. The decorations on the donuts and cupcakes reflected the upcoming holiday. Hot dogs, oranges, bananas, and cold drinks rounded out the July 4th trail magic fare.

Yeah, I’ll eat food from the trunk of someone’s car.

Well into the rocks…

In Duncannon, the Assembly of God church offered a place to stay free of charge (but they do accept donations). These folks went deep into the realm of trail angels by stocking the kitchen with food. A dozen hikers joined me that evening in the air-conditioned church basement, grateful for the food and shelter from the rain. The church even had one of the nicest, cleanest showers on trail, and supplied wash basins with Epsom salts to ease our weary feet.

In the morning, Pony was up early making pancakes and scrambled eggs for everyone—a hiker angel in our midst.

Free shuttle 

Big trail magic came from some old friends in the form of a free shuttle. Paul and Sophia gave me a lift as I skipped over a section that I hiked last fall, within the 12-month thru-hike window. Paul had given my husband and I a lift back then as well.

Paul and Sophia—friends and angels.

During the trip we caught up on each other’s lives. Even though I offered to pay for gas, they refused to accept, and I am so very grateful!

Lack of water

At the time I was hiking PA, the crazy rainstorms had not yet flooded the northeast. Anonymous trail angels left water caches at many road crossings. I happened to meet one of the angels as she was refilling gallon jugs from a cooler in her SUV.

One rainy day, I arrived at a spot where there were a half-dozen gallon water jugs. Sadly, they were all empty. A section hiker saw me dejectedly checking the empty jugs and offered me a liter from his own pack. I asked for his name, but he never gave it. A real angel? I may never know.

He gave me water, crossed the road, and I didn’t see him again.

New trail shoes

The final trail magic in PA came from a relative in Delaware Water Gap. A cousin, Nancy, just happens to attend the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain, the hiker hostel just off the trail that hosts a weekly hiker feed. I heard other hikers talking about adjusting their schedules so they could be at the feast.

Nancy—cousin and angel.

I arrived a couple of days too early for the hiker feed, but Nancy made up for it. The first thing she did was take me to the local shoe store and buy me a pair of Topos. I was in desperate need and her gift was more than I could ask for. I took her out for dinner to say thanks, but then she let me sleep on her couch (instead of the hostel) and took me to lunch the next day. We had a lovely time talking family history and the trail.

New Jersey

Water, water everywhere

By the time I entered New Jersey, the first of many storms had swollen the streams and rivers, creating a new problem: undrinkable water. Or at least not without filtering and treating, and I didn’t have the treatment tablets with me.

Once again, trail angels showed up by placing clean water caches at many road crossings.

A trail club set up trail magic every day for about a week, and I walked my soggy self into their midst one morning after a heavy rain. When you’re soaked through, a burger, chips, and a Milky Way bar for breakfast really hits the spot.

Unexpected treat

One morning, I stopped at a restaurant before it opened to sit and rest at an outside table. To my surprise, a woman came out with a cup of lemonade for me. I asked if I could pay and she said, “No, but please don’t tell anyone. I can’t do this for every hiker or I’d be out of business.”

So, the restaurant shall remain nameless.

Icy lemonade on a hot morning lifted my spirits.

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