Trail Magic: Not Just Pizza, Snickers, and Cold Soda
When most people hear the words “trail magic,” they likely envision the same thing I did until recently: a kind soul setting up camp near an AT road crossing with a BBQ going and cold sodas fit for an army of hikers. I am certainly not going to turn down any free food on the trail, believe me; but after just four days of my first major section hike, I can tell you that it means something else: the trail itself is magical.
On day one, the AT and Mother Nature colluded, allowing my wife to hike the mile up and back from the USFS42 parking area, but then proceeded to pour buckets on me until about a mile from Hawk Mountain shelter. Even this torrential downpour could not wipe the goofy grin of joy from my face; however, I felt the trail was telling me something by leaving me dry and the beginning and end of the first day: you may undertake this task but by the AT’s rule book and plan, not necessarily your own.
On day two, I started bouncing down the trail with nearly the same excitement as day one –and at a 3 mile an hour pace, I might add– when my phone alerted me. Ah, my daily Zen quote! These always give me pause for thought before I start my workday back in “the real world;” a centering thought to start off could keep me from throttling someone, you never know! Today’s quote: “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday,” which was attributed to A.A. Milne, beloved author of the Winnie the Pooh books. It immediately put me in check, and I stepped off more slowly as I continued hiking. Not more than 50 yards up trail, I came to a campsite in the middle of which lay an abandoned Pooh doll. Alright! I get it, I’ll slow down!
Finally on day four, the prospect of Blood Mountain got in my head. After all, we’ve been told this is the legendary monster that kills 10% of all thru-hikers dreams before they hardly get started. I pulled up short for a 6-mile day three to both honor the bear canister rule and belay Blood for just one day. As I started up Jarrard Gap, damned if my Zen app didn’t hit me with another doozy: “if you have no obstacles in your own mind, then outer obstacles won’t hinder you or cause you worry,” from Hsuan Hua. Until that point, the thought had crept into my mind to take the blue-blazed bypass trail around the behemoth. I added this new wisdom to the previous day’s lesson, taking it slow and easy. The hike up and over Blood Mountain and down into Neels Gap turned out to be the best day of my hike thus far.
I have no idea what’s in store for me, what lessons the trail may teach, or what magic may be revealed around the next switchback or over the next ridge. Every day out here seems to hold more wonders and magic than the last. I’ll still take that slice and soda if you see me on trail, but…the other kind of trail magic is even more special
What magic have you experienced on the trail?
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