After my Thru-Hike in 2003, I wanted to give back to the Appalachian Trail as to what was so freely given to me. So, each year I invite a small group of Hikers about 7 miles from the start of Trail (Springer Mountain) to provide shuttle services, some food, hot coffee, and lots of encouragement and love. We have never had any kind of debate that we were providing a little “trail magic” to Thru-Hikers. However, in 2017 it was a little different.
After a few hours of setting up our tent, and tables, a GATC Ridgerunner stopped by (he was camping at Hawk Mountain Shelter a few miles away). He explained that we weren’t really doing “Trail Magic” but a “Hiker Feed”. I was perplexed. A Hiker Feed? What’s that? He went on to explain that “trail magic” is a random act of kindness, and a hiker feed was just feeding hikers. Mmmm? But we were doing more than just feeding hikers. Mr Ridgerunner also suggested that we don’t do trail magic right near the trail, but off the trail. Ok, maybe I get that, but was still a little perplexed on the hiker feed vs trail magic gig.
Apparently, this is a controversial topic. Outside Magazine wrote an article back 2016: Are Trail Angels Taking the Magic Out of Long-Distance Hikes?
Some argue that so-called trail angels, who hand out ?food and water (and beer!) ?to weary through-hikers, ?are cheapening what should be a life-altering experience
Another article from The Trek ask’s “Trail Magic – Love it or Hate it“.
I have seen and heard many comments of individuals who believe Trail Magic should not be given to hikers; a view I most certainly cannot agree with
I see both points. In 2003 there was barely any kind of the Social Media we have today. In 2003 the big debate was whether to bring a cell phone on the trail and was THAT ruining the wilderness experience. I personally have seen a lot of garbage on the trail have picked up full bags of it. But NEVER have I seen ANY person providing Trail Magic/Hiker Feeds be the cause of that garbage. NEVER. So I’m perplexed at the controversy with my only withstanding personal debate as to if it indeed has gotten so saturated that is is hampering a trail experience.
Maybe next year, we will only hand out Leave No Trace cards instead of Hot Dogs. It seems that might be a bit boring, but needed. I can only expect that the popularity of the AT will bring out more Trail Magic. In the 7 years I/We have been providing trail magic we have: shuttled hikers, fixed their gear, provided first aid, sent home gear, and one time even taught someone how to use their pocket rocket. Yes, that is true. So I take a little step back when someone tries to redefine the Appalachian Trail and the experience Thru-Hikers will have on it. BUT, I get it. It’s beginning to get crowded for sure.
What’s your opinion? WE sure did get a lot of comments on our YouTube Channel.