Trail Angels: A Tribute to Granny and Old Goat
Trail magic and trail angels come in many shapes and sizes. Some more elaborate than others. A simple cooler full of cold sodas or a much-needed hitch to town. Over the course of my 2,189 mile thru hike I have had trail magic 3 times in one day at least 3 times. In NJ I had 4 much much needed water caches and drinks by 1 pm. But the trail angels simply known as Granny and Old Goat will always have a special place in my heart, and will always be a part of my thru hike story.
I met the pair of them at Lake Watauga in Tennessee, mile 428 northbound. I arrived at the lake late in the afternoon. Talk of trail magic was buzzing down the trail. Putting on a few more miles wasn’t even discussed, it was a given. Ninja Roll and I were greeted by a pair of overly generous southern gems. They excitedly greeted every hiker that came. Many smelly hikers were also greeted with hugs from Granny. They adopted us all; young, old, four legged and two as their own. They excitedly told me they had already fed 70 hikers by the time we arrived. The menu was constantly changing throughout the day. Soup was preceded by fried bologna, preceded by rigatoni with meat sauce if memory serves me. Burgers and dogs accompanied the never ending supply of pickles (#10 cans for $1 Granny boasted). Cold drinks were plentiful. Cold sodas don’t seem to be much of a big deal until you walk 400 miles drinking coldish or warm water daily. “Cold Sodas Appreciated” was the flag design we made up to fly while eating in parking lots in hopes of cold liquid gold.
I spoke to the pair as hikers stuffed themselves, swam in the lake and enjoyed the weather. They had a child who had hiked in years prior and they fell in love with the trail and the hikers. They kept coming back to feed the hikers. They loved the stories and helping those in need. They were 100% genuinely good hearted people. They informed me it was their 40’th wedding anniversary this year. To celebrate, Granny told Old Goat that she wanted to go to PA to feed the hikers.
They offered to come back the following morning and make us all breakfast if we spent the night at the lake. The opposite side of the lake was closed to camping due to bear activity. Like the homeless hikers we were, we camped under the pavilion. We were greeted with breakfast in bedroll the following morning. They left shortly after, waving goodbye to the hikers with smiles as big as ever.
Pickle branch shelter is 267 miles north of Lake Watauga at mile 695. This equates to about 2 weeks of hiking. Talk of trail magic ahead from southbound day hikers make the miles go a little faster. The later in the day though, the more likely the trail magic will be gone by the time you get there. Trail angels need to get home to their own families at the end of the day too. It’s hard to not get your hopes up too much before you get there.
Shortly before dark a mile from Pickle Branch shelter, our intended destination, we reached a tiny dirt road. Two familiar faces greeted me by name with a big smelly hiker hug. Granny asked other hikers if they had seen me. They did the same for many others as well. Apparently, they had gotten restless at home and wanted to come feed the hikers again already! They fed us all dinner and enjoyed smore’s at the campfire with us. Those familiar faces were all we needed to cut the day short. They fed us breakfast again and sent us on our way.
600 miles later I received a text from my buddy Wheels 2 hours after I left him behind. I had to leave town while my friends zeroed. I had a wedding to attend the following weekend and I wanted to put more miles on as to not get too far behind. He sent me a picture of Granny and Old Goat. They finally made it to PA and were looking to feed the hikers again. I missed them by two hours! They did however end up back tracking and meeting my friend Ninja Roll.
Prior to my hike I had a similar outlook on society as I feel most folks do. Lots of doom and gloom. Read any newspaper or watch any of the “news” shows. It is few and far between to hear anything positive or encouraging. It’s garbage, don’t allow that kind negativity into your life. The number one take away from my hike has been an absolute restoration of my faith in humanity. By absolute I mean 100% unequivocally restored. The amazing acts of generosity and kindness I have seen won’t allow me to doubt the goodness of mankind. Out of their own pockets, they offered their time, their food and their lives to hikers. Granny and Old Goat, thank you for everything. You have made a positive impact on my life and I love you both. I promise to do the same for those that follow in my footsteps.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.