Nearly anything and everything can be considered magical given the right context. It depends on our mental state and our circumstances. There is a theory that life just is and how we feel about it and look at it determines if it’s good or bad. I have given this some thought and while I am sure there are outliers, it seems pretty spot on.
It’s like Mountain Dew under normal circumstances is never something I drink or even care to drink. Twelve hours into an ultra and we’ve been known to refer to it with reverence as Unicorn Tears. Getting stuck in traffic is an inconvenience until you realize if you were a few minutes ahead of the day, it may have been you in the accident.
However, I think the basis of this conversation is truly about simplicity.
Our lives get busy and hectic and in that headspace we overcomplicate our lives. We make solutions far more complex than necessary. We often need to KISS (Keep it Simply Stupid/Sweetheart).
That is what trail magic, as they call it is all about.
Trail magic, you ask?
Yes, and it’s a real thing.
Hikers who are attempting to cover the entire Appalachian Trail, Pacific Coast Trail, Continental Divide Trail and I imagine any of the other epic nature paths across the US often refer to trail magic.
Trail Magic is something that is provided by Trail Angels. Let’s get down with the lingo. Trail magic is anything that is given to a through hiker that they may not otherwise be able to get or is freely given to make their trek somehow more enjoyable. In effect, it’s an official term for the kindness of strangers. And these strangers by default become known as Trail Angels.
Some Trail Angels participate in this act of kindness regularly if they live near an access point and others, like my husband, are strictly right-place, right-time kindhearted angels.
John and I have been pondering hiking the Appalachian Trail for a while now and recently John has been reading several books about others’ adventures on the trail. We’ve also hiked short parts and have witnessed trail magic in action before.
So while out on a recent trip we stopped for lunch at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, also known as the NOC. This is a stopping point for through hikers and it’s a favorite stop as it has plenty of access to water, food, showers and all the modern conveniences. This is highly regarded as being out on the trail usually takes the average hiker six months. That’s six months sleeping in a tent or a hostel of sorts. Six months being dirty more often than you are clean. Six months of hiking for 10-14 hours a day. Six months of carrying everything you hope you need on your back.
So when a Trail Angel hands you an orange I am guessing it’s pretty darn MAGICAL!
While at the NOC, John had the magical mindset and pulled the one remaining beer out of our cooler and offered it to a hiker. He was so darn happy. But in true hiker fashion, he scooted off to enjoy the brew with his fellow hiker. John felt bad that he didn’t have another drink so he went to the nearby convenience store and bought another.
Woodstock and Psuke (their trail names) were so elated. At this point they were only about 200 miles into their roughly 2200-mile trek. So while they’d likely been out for nearly a month they were still far from the Northern most point. They have a long way to go.
When asked if he could take his photo after handing him a beer, Woodstock replied, he would do whatever John wanted and offered up standing on his head and some other random activities to earn his trail magic. John graciously declined other than taking his photo.
What is most memorable about these two is that they were so happy. I mean, serenely so. They had no real clue when they’d reach the end of the trail and that, as most hikers will tell you, is not the point. It’s about being present. It’s about being in the moment and communing with nature. They were keeping it simple. They didn’t know when they’d reach the end. They weren’t even thinking about it. It’s a hand to mouth experience on the trail.
I imagine it’s also about losing and finding yourself all at the same time. And who couldn’t use some magic in that process?
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G