Nothing in Return

I’ve been on the trail for just about a month now and let me say, the AT is hard. I need to break the beast of a trail up into smaller goals to wrap my mind around it and stay motivated. The last few days have been difficult, and today that shifted. I felt alive today. I felt driven today. The scenery is what gave me a boost today but that’s not what I want to talk about. There is something else that happens on long-distance trails that is special and has lifted my spirits a few times: trail magic.

Trail magic comes in many shapes and forms. It can be as small as a piece of tape to fix gear or as big as a cookout. I even got hosted by family friends in Hiawassee (shout-out to my one-of-a-kind hosts!). Commonly, trail magic occurs at or near road crossings and people give out food to hungry hikers. The food ranges from fruit and chips to full barbecues, and every bit of it is appreciated.

I’ve offered to pay for the rides and food that I’ve been given and every time I’m given a stern, “no” or “absolutely not.” People take their time and spend their money just to wait for thru-hikers to stumble down to a road crossing. They are there to feed us, give us a seat, and hear our stories. It’s a strange feeling to walk up to a road after a full day of hiking and be greeted by people who are waiting to feed you and don’t care how stinky or muddy you are. They just want to see you smile and give you a boost on your journey.

It’s easy to get down out here when things are wet, my body aches, and I’m sick of all the food in my food bag. The selfless support of others in the community goes a long way. During a long day of hiking it is incredible to have a place to sit, snacks to eat, and people to talk to. It’s humbling to accept things when the people giving want nothing in return.

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