April 4. This morning I woke up feeling kind of down hearted because of packing up a semi-wet tent. I also felt down because my food supply was running low and I was going to have to face getting into town somehow.
Morning hiking is my favorite kind of hiking on the trail. The sun is low enough that I walk through shadowed mountain trail until cresting the mountain or rounding the bend into bright sunlight and a bright new day. When the day is warm, it is good to have that time in the shadows to cool off. When the day is cool it feels great to soak in the sunshine and feel the difference the sun makes. I can feel the forest waking around me. The birds are singing and the flowers are gradually raising their heads and opening to the sun. The air is still cool from the night.
My good fortune continued. A few miles into my hike, I met a pleasant older thru hiker “R.” who was also considering getting in to town. He hiked slower than me, but I took more breaks than him, so we continued to pass one another throughout the morning. As we approached Unicoi Gap parking area an older man haled us from below, waving and gesturing for us to come over. The back of his minivan was filled with crackers, cheese sticks, fruit, soda…all the snacks a hiker can appreciate. We happily munched through multiple snacks as he sat nearby and asked us questions about our hike. It was so uplifting to have those snacks just given to us out of good will.
“Trail magic” is really a special thing, maybe even more emotionally supportive to me than physically satisfying. There is something about someone giving you an unexpected gift that says, “I support you”, and it has often come at a time when I’ve needed a diversion in my day. I’ve also noticed that “trail angels” seem to gain much satisfaction and fulfillment in providing food or gifts for hikers. Hikers often profusely (and genuinely) thank and thank trail angels for food they didn’t have to carry! Because it is fulfilling, some trail angels return annually to their spot by the trail to provide their yearly dose of trail magic!
R. and I had decided to try to get to nearby Hiawassee to a motel for a day off the trail. When the trail angel “P.” and his wife heard that, they offered to drive us in to town. R. and I were so grateful that we talked joyfully the entire car ride. It was only my fifth day on the trail, but it felt so nice to be outside the mountains and headed for town. When we got to our motel, R. said, “I can pay you gas money! It would have taken me all day to walk the 11 miles here!” It would have been a long walk indeed, along a heavily trafficked road no less! P. and his wife refused, and even waited on us to make sure we had rooms before pulling away.
My day had turned around so quickly since I packed up at a wet camp site in the morning. Some days on the trail have been like that, with something new and unexpected just showing up. My day just got better. The motel catered to hikers so they had a laundry room nearby and a shuttle service back to the trail. The grocery and multiple restaurants were within walking distance. My room was kind of dingy and stark, but it was like a piece of heaven on earth to me. To be off the trail and showered, to lay out my tent to dry, enjoy running water, and be able to call home…what more could a hiker want? My first experience with trail magic was greatly appreciated, a day I’ll remember for a long time.
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