Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trail Magic

Yesterday I blew off work to go hiking with my hiking friends. After a couple of hours, a guy who has to be well over seventy started talking about "back when I hiked the AT." (For those of us who believe we deserve a medal because we managed to keep our hiking boots on for half a day, the AT is the Appalachian Trail.)

I got involved with this conversation when I heard the word "beer." It seems he was out there with some people and came upon some kind of bag by the side of the trail holding four bottles of beer. "Trail magic!" a woman with him said.

"So whenever you find beer, it's trail magic?" I asked. Doesn't that sound just like me? Unbelievably nitpicky.

Well, it seems that whenever people further along the trail leave something good for those who are coming along behind them, it's known as trail magic. It doesn't have to be beer. It can be anything.

Another hiker said that that's not the only kind of trail magic. Evidently down in the southern part of the country where the trail starts, you can get a lot of traffic during prime hiking season. Some local people will set up grills at well- traveled spots and hand out hot dogs to hikers passing by. Someone told about a farm near a trail, and the farmwife will often put out freshly baked cookies for hikers.

Most hikers hoping to cover the whole Appalachian Trail start at the southern end and walk north. This, I learned yesterday, is because it takes a while to walk from Georgia to Maine. So they'll start down south because spring comes earlier in the year down there. By the time they get to the northern states, winter has passed, snow is gone, and the hiking is better. Evidently the Trail is busier down south than up north because many people begin the hike without finishing. Or, at least, they don't finish up in Maine or even New England.

Live and learn, eh?

I'm mentioning all this because I keep thinking that trail magic sounds...magical. This whole concept sounds like something I ought to be able to use in my writing some day.

And if I could, then I wouldn't have to feel badly about having taken yesterday off from work when I am already so far behind.

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