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I didn’t know much about the Appalachian Trail before coming out here.
I didn’t do a “test run”, nor did I read any books. I just knew that there was something about the trail that attracts millions of people every year and I wanted to be in on that secret.
Now that I’ve been out here for a few weeks, it’s really clear what one of those secrets is: trail magic.
Trail magic is essentially the term used when someone (either another hiker or someone from a nearby town) does something nice for you. Why? Just because. There’s no hidden agenda and no cost to you … it’s trail magic.
In just a few short weeks we’ve received more trail magic than I can count:
- Free meals at Neels Gap
- Apples and Snickers from a guy on top of a mountain
- Free laundry
- Use of woman’s personal lap top at Neels Gap
- Hitchhiking to and from Hiawassee, Franklin, Fontana Dam, Gatlinburg, etc.!
- Bananas and orange juice from a woman at Dicks Creek
- Hamburgers and Moonshine from a guy named Grits
- Homemade blackberry wine
- Hard-boiled eggs, cheese, granola bars from Spring Break couple
Trail magic is amazing, and I’m so grateful for it, but I can’t help but think of the irony of it all: Why is a friendly deed considered magical? And why’d I have to come all the way out here to find it?
It’s almost like the AT community is this alternative universe … and not the real world. It’s a place where everyone is welcomed and respected, regardless of where you came from or what brought you here. It’s a place where people do kind things for one another and don’t expect anything in return. It’s a place where people share stories, swap advice, and laugh.
Sometimes the weather is awful. And the uphill inclines never seem to end. And let’s face it, the privies (outdoor toilets) are disgusting. But when you look at the big picture, these negatives seem to fade away in the distance and the beauty of trail magic shines through.
In 2010, Kate “Ringleader” Imp thru-hiked the A.T. with her brother Brandon “Monkey” Imp and best friend Emily “Lightning” Ginger. Together the members of the “Traveling Circus” captured the peaks and valleys of trail life in a documentary called Beauty Beneath the Dirt. You can check out the film ( as well as their blog) at www.beautybeneaththedirt.com/ .
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