Trail Magic, a hikers request.
It’s a burning hot day in Pennsylvania. I’ve seen 3 rattlesnakes already today sunning themselves on the exposed ridges. Luckily I had me earbuds out to hear all three before stepping on hem. The last water source was .6 miles down a steep hill. These are the days when you dream of a cooler. You know, those biodegradable ones that at most $3 at wal-mart and their fate is usually in pieces after getting chopped up by DOT mowers.
After a day of scorching Pennsylvania heat radiating off the rocks, you begin to hallucinate these coolers at every turn. That state is fantastic with many trailheads and day hikers, so roads are aplenty for kind souls.
This day was just coming up Roker, and Miles, he was there as well. Blamo! A cooler set out within the hour from a fellow hiker who called himself “Joker.”
Ice cold Miller Lite and a shady spot. Quite literally the simplest and greatest thing in my life at that one moment.
As someone who has received generous amounts of trail magic, and who has given trail magic this season at the Rock Gap trailhead, here is what I would recommend for anyone reading this wanting to make a Hiker’s day.
For those lucky enough to live in a trail town and want to provide a consistent source of happiness, a Cooler full of Whatever and a trail log. Nothing gets the pack weight feeling lighter than seeing that beacon of cold-non stream water. Plus, the trail log will provide an outpouring of love and gratitude that might not get in your daily life.
For those wanting to go the extra mile. To really elevate yourself to angel status. Having the grill out is a staple for any good angel, but be prepared to be cleaned out.
I can clearly remember at a random road crossing before Max Patch, 2 folks were there grilling out. I ate 5 hot dogs, 2 pieces of barbecue chicken, 2 sodas and several of those Otis spunkmeyer “calorie bomb” muffins.
And by the time I got to the top of max patch, 1 mile later, I was hungry again.
The biggest thing I always loved was having a trashcan for me to empty into before the next town. A staple of my diet was tuna packets and after a day or so of them ruminating in a hot backpack, all you can do is hope a mouse doesn’t crawl into your pack at night because of the odor and eat your remaining snacks.
Any type of interaction with hikers, no matter how small the gesture will always be appreciated. When you are in the woods for many days at a time with just your own thoughts to preoccupy yourself, a little Debbie cake and a coke can turn the whole hike around.
I thought about quitting 3 times, Once in Tennessee, Once in Virginia and once in New Hampshire. All three thoughts were squashed by the thought of getting to the next town and it getting better. The people in the towns were a huge part of the motivation to keep going.
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First of all, those ubiquitous styrofoam coolers – that you mention being available at Walmart – are NOT BIODEGRADABLE! In fact, styrofoam will probably still be languishing in our sanitary landfills after humans are long gone. No one knows how long styrofoam will take to break down, but it is in the tens of thousands of years. So be careful what you wish for, those styrofoam coolers are an environmental disaster, and anyone who leaves one unattended in the woods – or at a road crossing – is grossly irresponsible, regardless of what might be inside it.
And secondly, the whole concept of “Trail Magic” has devolved so much, that hikers EXPECT Trail Magic on a regular basis. I started section hiking the AT in 1976, and there was very little Trail Magic, and when it occurred, it was a truly special event. But today, hikers not only dream of Trail Magic, they expect it. It not only is not a special event, it is obligatory. Today’s AT hikers are soft, and entitled.
Gotta love it when old folks make general statements about your entire generation & how terrible you are!
P.S. The generation before you probably thought your generation was “soft” too. Comes with the territory.
How about melding the concepts of “trail angels” + “hiker trash” to create “trash angels”? They could pick up trash at road crossings, pack out the empty coolers and trash left in them, and help out hikers by offering to carry out their trash. That would be trail magic, trail maintenance, and Leave No Trace, all in one!
Great idea! Been thinking about this.