Friends Along the Trail (pt.II) and the Birth of the Hamburger Helpers
I previously wrote on the great experience I had in getting to, spending time with, and leaving my friend in New Haven, CT. Well, only a few days later I was blessed again with an amazing off-trail experience.
A few years back (more years than I’d like to admit), I studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. There I chose to live in the student dorms to get more of a “full exchange experience.” I was randomly assigned a roommate who was also an exchange student, from American University. Her name was Michaela and we not only became friends quickly, but we stayed friends throughout and after the study abroad (you may recall that she is one of the friends I saw in DC when I flew there to begin my journey on the AT). Her parents visited at one point and took a group of us out for dinner. It was a pleasant evening and I really enjoyed getting to know them, but I also knew Michaela grew up and lived on the east coast, and even though my understanding of east coast geography back then was about as terrible as this rain in New England right now, I still knew that it was extremely unlikely that I would ever see her family again…
That was, until her mom learned I would be hiking the Appalachian Trail and contacted me to figure out a time she could see me on the trail (Shocker! Bet you totally did not see that curveball coming. Just kidding. I know that you saw this coming. Otherwise, why am I writing about my old roommate’s family when I should be writing about the Appalachian Trail? Okay. Back to the story.)
We shuffled around a couple of ideas and we landed on the following: she wanted to come and do some trail magic on a day that I would be passing through. Then she would adopt me, and any hiker friends of mine, up for the night! Let me tell you, this is literally two dreams come true for a thru-hiker.
I did not know what experience, if any, my friend’s mother (from now on I will refer to her by her name, Michelle) had with thru-hikers or trail magic. That being said, as I approached the location, I knew she was planning on setting up her trail magic, and I told anyone and everyone I ran into about it. I even hiked past the set point as fast as I could and caught some hikers who had passed where the trail magic would be to inform them about it, in the off chance they would want to turn around.
Well, let me tell you, Michelle did not disappoint. I will say that up until that point on the trail, the trail magic she delivered to us on that day was the best trail magic I had experienced. I mean, she had EVERYTHING. She had full deli-sandwiches, Gatorades, coconut waters, fruit smoothie packs, snacks that were healthy (fruit) and not (chips+cookies), snacks we could eat then and there, and snacks that could be packed out. And she had so much of it, you did not have to be afraid of eating too much! Truly she crushed it.
(Here is a fun fact, unknown to me at that point and time. It is here that I met a group of hikers who, in the future, I would continuously run into-time and time again, and who would greatly liven up my trail experience.)
After the lunch crowd had moved on, Michelle then packed the leftovers, Milkman, Paddington, and I into her car, and offered to do what she could for us that day to get us ready to be dropped back off on the trail the next day. The three of agreed that we needed gear (she took us to LL Bean), to spray our clothes with Permethrin (she let us set up and spray our gear down in her backyard), food (she went to the grocery store), and then on top of all that she offered to let us use her rec pass so we could go swimming.
Swimming?! We looked at each other in excitement. Yes please!!! Turns out not only did this rec have a pool… but it had a hot tub, a sauna, and a steam room!!! We felt very refreshed after our trip here.
Also, on our way to her house, Michelle showed me Daryl’s House, a music restaurant owned and run by Daryl Hall from Hall & Oates! I love Hall & Oates!
Now this is the second time Paddington, Milkman, and I were adopted off the trail together and decided to help make dinner in the form of hamburgers. Thus, we felt it was appropriate to name our little group: The Hamburger Helpers.
Michelle and Michael’s (her husband) house was lovely. They gave us a feast and the three of us hikers had a wonderful time at their house. I failed to take many photos that night because I was carried away with having such a good time, enjoying good conversation, eating delicious hamburgers, and to top it off, my favorite summer drink: Aperol Spritz! (Neither Paddington nor Milkman had ever had an aperol spritz before, so we got to introduce them to it!)
I did get this great shot of Michael playing his guitar for us (Michael and Milkman bonded over music, coding/engineering, and grilling)
By the time Paddington, Milkman, and I left the next day we felt full, refreshed, bug-repellent, and full of gratitude for the kindness of others willing to take in smelly hikers.
I continue to smile as I write this, thinking about the magic of how the trail continues to bring me together with others, new and old, who I never would have expected to meet or spend time with otherwise.
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