Trail Magic

The Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Trail Magic

“Be ye kind one to another.”

-Paul in Ephesians 4:32

Frank and I climbed up a steep ridge on the north Georgia part of the Appalachian Trail. We were on a remote and dry portion of the Trail and were parched on this warm day.

Our water bottles were empty and we consulted a guidebook for the next water source. It was several miles ahead. We’d be thirsty for that trek.

Then we came upon a sight I still see vividly in my mind:  An orange five-gallon Igloo water cooler with a printed sign: ‘Trail Magic. Enjoy the water! From a former hiker.”

The water was ice cold. Probably the most satisfying drink I’ve ever gulped down. We filled our water bottles with the clear cold water, raising a toast to the kind soul who left the cooler there.

It was truly Trail Magic.

I’d better explain what Trail Magic is, since I’ve been the recipient of it so many times when hiking.

It’s unexpected kindness on the Trail, most often from a stranger.

A cold drink of water.

Two RVers atop Fontana Dam cooking pancakes for hungry hikers.

A ride to a nearby store.

Candy bars left at a highway crossroads with a sign, “Help yourself!”

I was once on the Trail in North Carolina along the Nantahala River.  I walked to a trailside hiking store where an employee worked for most of  an hour on my balky camping stove. He gave me a primer on the care and use of my small stove. When I tried to pay him, he waved me off, “It’s Trail Magic, pass it on.”

That’s the thing about Trail Magic. It’s good to receive, even better to pass it on.

I’m still trying to pay it forward on that wonderful cold water that Frank and I enjoyed years ago.

I had a message recently from a fellow hiker. He said, “Do you think during our current Coronairus crisis that Trail Magic still exists?”

He and I both agreed that it is still alive and well even in a time of social distancing. We simply need to be creative on how we reach out and show kindness to fellow travelers, who like all of us, are carrying a heavy load.

It happened last week. DeDe and I were in the drive-through line at a coffeeshop. When we got to the pay window, the cashier said, ‘You don’t owe anything. The car ahead of you paid for your order.”

I watched that car pull out onto Jackson Street Extension.

I’m still trying to figure out who it was. Was it someone we knew or simply a person passing along a little anonymous Pandemic kindness?

Yes, the thing about Trail Magic is that it’s best passed on.

I’m going to be kind to everyone I meet, even at six feet apart. I never know if that masked stranger I pass at the grocery might be the person who paid for my coffee and donuts.

Trail Magic.

Let’s pass it on.

The view from atop Mt Katadhin in Maine on the Appalachian Trail.










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