Just Because

On Thursday June 8, my husband and I did something that was so much fun. We provided trail magic for 2017 Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers.

We arrived at Pen-Mar County Park at approximately 1050 in the morning. Our drive was seventy miles and we’d left the house an hour later than I’d wanted to but we’d been going non stop that week and were up late the night before so I guess we needed the sleep. In anticipation of of wanting to relish each moment of this experience, I was worried we’d miss the hikers as they walked through the park.

Pen-Mar County Park has a charming appeal. There are multiple pavilions, grills, picnic tables, concessions (that were not open) a play ground, a scenic overlook, restrooms and plenty of tall trees that provided shade and a nice breeze. To be there for the day was peaceful in itself.

 After we parked the car, we decided to walk around the park to find a place to set up tables and get a grill started. My husband drove my Jeep in the grass so we didn’t have to carry our supplies so far and immediately got screamed at by a ratty old man who identified himself as the park ranger and threatened us by stating we are lucky the other park ranger wasn’t here because we’d have been thrown out. I decided immediately to ignore him and tune him out because his energy was negative. Once he realized what we were doing, he wanted to stand around and talk for what seemed like an eternity. I wanted him to leave so my husband I could focus on spending time with the thru hikers. Not to sound rude but I wasn’t about to offer him food either. It was for the hikers. He came around periodically and once the hikers realized he wasn’t with us, they ignored him.
We spotted a thru hiker immediately. I asked him if he was a thru hiker and told him we had food. He helped us unload the car and kept us company while we got the food going. Soon other hikers began to appear and before we knew it we had eight hikers joining us. We served hotdogs, chips, watermelon, oranges, brownie bites, honey buns, soda and coca cola and watched them chow. The hikers came in waves during our six hours at Pen-Mar County Park. We fed a total of 25 hikers that day.

The hikers that arrived as we were setting up were the hungriest and stayed the longest. It was lunchtime. The ones that arrived later were there to snack and stayed less time. They told us how many miles they had to hike to get to camp for the night. They told us their trail names and how they acquired them. They told us where they were from and what their plans were after they summit Mt Katahdin. The ones that came later in the day, knew the ones that had come earlier in the day. The ones that came earlier in the day told us who we could expect later on and sure enough they appeared. They knew each others eating habits, how many miles their “tramily” does in a day, what time they leave camp in the morning, what they eat, who hikes ultra light, who’s a loner, who’s a loud mouth know it all, etc. What I read about the culture of the AT was validated through my conversations with the hikers.

Through the course of the day I made a mental note of the different reasons they were thru hiking. Some were thru hiking for the adventure. There were three hikers from Germany and one from Israel and they all planned on returning to their countries after they summit Mt Katahdin. There were some that were using their thru hike to figure out their next steps in life. Some were retired. My nurse radar also zoned in on a few that seemed to be working through things in their lives by the way they carried themselves, didn’t offer much information and through the looks in their eyes, enjoyed the solitude of hiking alone. Whatever the reason for their thru hikes, I wish I could have talked to them all day. We had a little notebook and some of them signed it.

The picture that I have enclosed is the only one I took. The paper on the tree is a sign I made and put near the white blaze so they’d see it as they came out of the woods and into the park. I had planned on taking more but I decided I didn’t want to photograph the hikers and publish it on social media. I can picture them now in my mind, where they were sitting, when they arrived, what they looked like and what their stories were. The fact that they let me into their community if only for an afternoon is enough for me.

It is a known fact that I am fascinated with The Appalachian Trail. My fascination began last summer when I read “Hiking Through” by Paul V. Stutzman because it appeared as an advertisement on my Barnes and Noble Nook and continued with more books, blogs, websites, you tube videos and Instagrams. When I learned what trail magic was, I knew I wanted to provide some. Just because.

 

Trail magic is defined as, “an unexpected act of kindness” and according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it is a quintessential part of the AT experience. The people that provide the trail magic are defined as “trail angels”.

This experience was definitely one that will keep my husband and I smiling for years to come and something we plan on doing more of, hopefully two or three times per year if time allows. In September we’d like return to provide trail magic for the SOBOs making their way to Springer Mountain Georgia.

One of the female hikers was open about what she and her boyfriend’s plans were for after their hike was complete and she was interesting to talk to. She even invited me to follow her on Instagram. She asked me what role we played in the hiking community and if we hadn’t thru hiked, why we were doing this. My answer was simple; pay it forward when you can, I love feeding people and most of all, because I wanted to.

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5 thoughts on “Just Because”

  1. This is so wonderful and I love dreading this post. A good friend of mine is a thru hiker who is currently going for his triple crown. He completed the Appalachian trail and pacific crest trail last year. He is currently on the continental divide trail and I have learned about trail magic through him. Bless your heart for your kindness and allowing us to share in your experience. Hugs

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    1. Thank you. I’m looking forward to going back to Pen-Mar and doing more trail magic in September for AT SOBOs. I clicked on your blog after seeing your comment on one of (Kyle Rohrig) The Mayor’s CDT updates. I stumbled upon his Instagram and I absolutely love his writing. I’m going to wait until he finishes the CDT to read his book. I’m looking forward to reading your blog as well. I like going through word press on my lunch breaks.

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      1. Thank you so much and yes I was talking about Kyle (Mayor). He also gave me my trail name which I will tell that story in a different blog post. You will probably have to wait a bit for the CDT book since he might finish up the PCT book that is in progress before that. Have you read his first book “Lost on the Appalachian Trail” and “Hear the Challenge”? It’s killer and if you enjoy his style of writing, you will love the books as he writes the same way he would talk to you. He has been a great inspiration in many ways to me and it’s an honor to be his friend.
        His Girlfriend “Dixie” is currently hiking the PCT.
        Thank you for your kind words, can’t wait to read more on your blog and thank you again for all the kindness bestowed on those hungry but living large souls.

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      2. Did you Thru Hike with Kyle? I’ll definitely buy Hear the Challenge. I do own Lost on the Appalachian Trail but have not yet read it. I think I’ll wait until he’s finished hiking the CDT and I’m finished reading his PCT abd CDT blogs. When I encounter a good writer, I read slowly and thoroughly to savor their words. I follow Dixie too and enjoy her writing as well.

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      3. I did not thru hike with Kyle and I know you will love Lost on the Appalachian Trail 😉. I’m with you about reading slowly and enjoying the words and lines. We don’t want it to end, but hey, there is always the opportunity of reading it all over. I will definitely do that with his books 😉. Have a beautiful day my dear Trail angel.

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