Trail Magic is REAL.
Trail magic is what trail angels do. Thru hikers talk a lot about trail angels, because they make the hard work of thru hiking easier. I talked about Barista in an earlier post – that was my first introduction to trail magic on the Pacific Crest Trail. There was trail magic throughout last weekend’s hike.
First, I picked up three thru hikers in Leavenworth and gave them a ride to Stevens Pass. Trail magic. Second night on the trail, I discovered my matches were wet, and it’s hard to light my stove with a flint. The next morning, a group of weekenders gave me a full box of matches and a lighter. Trail magic. I’d intended to leave them in the hiker box at the Summit Inn when I ended my trek at Snoqualmie Pass because I wanted to pass along the trail magic. When I decided to quit & head back north, I planned to drive to Snoqualmie Pass to drop these things off in that hiker box, because I didn’t want to have the chain of trail magic end with me.
As I was leaving Deception Lakes, heading back north, I spoke briefly with Snakecharmer. She told me all her gear was wet and she was thinking of quitting. A while later, on the climb up to Piper Pass, I caught up with her. We chatted a bit. By that point, The Hubs had informed me he was on his way to the trailhead to pick me up so I wouldn’t have to walk up the highway back to the pass. Snakecharmer told me she was quitting, that while she really didn’t want to give up she was proud of what she’d accomplished thus far, but she was freezing and she couldn’t take it any longer. I suggested to her that she take the same route I was taking – the Surprise Creek trail – as it’s half the distance to the highway and the only long climb is Piper Pass. She asked if she could follow me, but I knew she’d be much faster than I. I told her my husband was planning to meet me at the trailhead, and because she’d get there well ahead of me, I told her I’d tell him to give her a ride to Skykomish. She asked repeatedly if I was sure, if it wasn’t too much; I assured her he’d have plenty of time. She was almost in tears. She told me, “I’ve been praying for a miracle.” Trail magic.
It dawned on my after we parted that I should have mentioned the Mountaineer’s Lodge. They have a gear drying room, and they let PCT hikers spend the night for $30. I asked The Hubs to tell her about it, as taking a day or two to recover and dry out her gear may be all she needs to continue the trek to Canada. Trail magic.
I finally made it to the trailhead. Jim had sent me a message earlier telling me he was in Skykomish, as there was no cell coverage at the trailhead. I figured he was just waiting for me; as it turned out, he was ferrying thru hikers up & down the pass. He got Snakecharmer and another hiker to the Mountaineer’s Lodge. He drove up there to tend to me, but he ended up being a trail angel for several other hikers. Because of Jim, Snakecharmer just may make it to Canada. Trail magic.
If you drive along a road that intersects one of our national scenic trails, I encourage you to pick up thru hikers who are hitchhiking. Obviously, you don’t have to, and you should always trust your gut if you do. (I’ve passed by a few that seemed ‘off.’) If you’re not sure if the person really is a thru hiker, here are some tips: First, If they’re coming off the trail and heading into town, they’re going to smell. Second, ask them questions: Did you flip flop? How did the fires impact your route? (This is especially applicable on the PCT.) Favorite trail angel so far? Some of them aren’t very chatty. Some of them aren’t comfortable carrying on a conversation in English. Some of them are jerks. But they’ll all be grateful for the trail magic, and you’ll be someone’s trail angel.
The world needs more magic.