Once again I set up my trail magic station at Key’s Gap, not knowing if I will get a single hiker. But, once again, with help from my Rotary friends, we set up tables, readied our meat products, chilled the beer and other drinks, and waited.
The AT fascinated my fellow Rotarians. I told them about it and shared my love of it. We live only twenty minutes from the trail, and while most of them did not hike like I do, they are a giving bunch and looked forward to helping weary and very appreciative hikers. In past years we met hikers from all over the world, and we have yet to meet one that was not appreciative—and talkative. I admit I have at least one ulterior motive.
I pick thru hiker brains. In return for as much food, candy, and beverages that they can gorge themselves on, I merely ask for information. While my friends ask them about their hometowns, I want to hear all about their equipment, their food, their cooking habits and anything else I can think of. I soak it all in. While I consider myself fairly experienced, I always learn something from the hikers I help feed. They are a giving bunch, especially when bribed with food.
I would say hamburgers and beer were the two most effective bribes. “Want another cheeseburger?” I’d ask. “That would be great!!” they’d respond. As I handed them a plate with a steaming burger on it, I’d say something like: “What is your cooking system?” Actually, more than ninety percent of those asked gave up their stove. They only ate cold food on the trail, and saved hot meals for town trips. I made a note.
Osprey packs were the most common I saw, and trail runners beat boots by a wide margin. Most carried tents. Some, particularly the older hikers—like me—opted for hammocks. Packs were light and you could immediately tell a thru hiker from every other hiker on the trail.
One hiker, Warm and Toasty, was using two cars to hike. She would park on car to the south, drive the other car north and hiked south, all the while heading to Maine. It took me a minute to understand what she was doing. Once I understood, I thought it was genius. She never has to hitch and can transport other hikers to town. She is a genius and popular!
Our trail magic day was a success, and I can confirm that hikers were happy. Some even ran (and fell) the last half-mile because, after hearing of the trail magic, they were fearful that it would stop before they arrived. No worries.
So, thank you, Warm and Toasty, Runs with Beer, Weedeater, MoFo, Pilgrim, Amish, Yeti, Happy, Walking Home, Take 5, Walnut, Old Eagle Scout, and the others failed to note down. While you filled your bellies, you shared valuable information with a fellow hiker. Safe travels to all of you.
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