Trail Magic Again (May 6)

On this morning I walk with two old friends, a young German couple I’ve been running into often on the trail.  I love hiking with them, and they are delighted because they say, “Look!  We can keep up with you now, even on the hills!  We must finally have our trail legs!”  (Before we were hiking at different paces).  Mud then says that trail legs are funny, he has them one day and then they disappear the next!  We hike together all morning, in high spirits despite mist and chilly weather at 43°F.

This part of the trail is fascinating to me because I hiked it a month earlier, during one of Warren’s afternoon hikes.  For one thing, the trail looks completely different in the mist and wind than it did on the sunny bright afternoon I first hiked it.  I pass the lookout bench with no thought of stopping (too cold) as I did last month, gazing at the mountains and clear blue skies.   The view is beautiful today in a different way- I climb over a stile into a field where cows graze placidly, unphased by yet another hiker passing by.

I also think about how different my experience is now- before I was dreaming here, wondering about what was to come.  Now I hike with a month of experiences in my head and heart.  I feel grateful once again just to be out here.

A hiker comes towards us on the trail, pausing a moment to say, “Trail magic ahead…one mile!”  This is one of the best things we could’ve hoped for, especially on a cold, wet day.  We spend the rest of the hike there wondering why the hiker told us one mile- we feel it’s been three since we saw him.  We hike and hike, one minute telling each other he was playing a practical joke on us and we’ll never see trail magic today, the next imagining what the trail magic will be.

I am happy to see two large tents as we descend to a parking area.  We see several familiar faces huddled by a Mr. Heater stove.  This is a big operation.  Two firemen set up the trail magic yesterday, camped here overnight,  and will continue serving food “until it runs out”.  This is their second year.  One man grills burgers and hot dogs on a propane stove as we sit.  They have coolers of soda and beer, chips, chili and beans in crockpots, hot coffee and more.  They even have outlets for us to charge our phones.  Whenever I look up with a question, they are there with an answer.  Want a seat?  Pull up this cooler to sit on.  Chips?  More soda?  Here.

We have a good conversation.  I learn that the leader enjoys doing trail magic so much that he will never miss a year again, even the year he hopes to thru hike himself.  On that year he will take a couple days off the trail to do his trail magic before continuing his hike!  He tells me he thinks of it as one of the top five things he’s done with his life-“and that means something” because he’s had many experiences.   He tells me, “As big as your smiles are when you all come down that hill and see us and the tents here, I get the fulfillment of serving you ten-fold.  It is a very rewarding experience.”  I can tell.  He has modified some things for this year.  He hates when a hiker asks him for something he doesn’t have.  Now he has included dog treats in his repertoire, for hikers with dogs.

Being there, eating hot food, talking with these generous men and my hiker friends, and warming up by the heater is so uplifting.  The food is only one part of it.  Every hiker stops for a while, so I get to see hikers in front and behind me who I might not have seen otherwise.  As I’m about to leave, I’m thrilled when a friend I haven’t seen in over a week walks up.  I’m not the only one with a lot of good to say about the trail magic.  All day I hear others saying things like, “After that hearty trail magic, the miles flew by!” or “After those burgers, we hiked extra fast!”  I think of this trail angels throughout the day, and what an impact they’ve had, and how nice it is when the giver feels as rewarded for their kindness as the recipients.  May we all find our own way of giving and such fulfillment from it!

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