View Full Version : Littering or Trail Magic?

11-15-2020, 13:17
I came across this the other day and couldn't make up my mind about how I felt about it. In a shelter, there was a new/sealed Mountain House dinner hanging from a rope, and then in the PVC tube there was a couple new/sealed packs of crackers, bars and a bag of pepperoni. It looked new, but who knows? Is that someone on their last day leaving what they don't need and hoping someone else will use it, or more likely someone dumping off weight and leaving trash for someone else to haul out? I've never seen it before and not sure how common/accepted this is.

11-15-2020, 13:53
I would be thinking that someone unloaded their un-needed food. And I imagine that anyone coming upon it after they've lost their foodbag to critters, or miscalculated their food needs, etc. would see that as quintessential Trail Magic. Someone else whose food bag is full would probably see it as trash.

One man's trash is another man's Magic.

11-15-2020, 13:55
Happens all the time. It's not uncommon to off unwanted food in hiker boxes, etc. However, leaving it hanging in a shelter is bad form, and definitely bad LNT practice. And unless someone else - a human - eats it first, it's just food litter that could attract animals. And it definitely isn't trail magic.

11-15-2020, 14:13
If its actually something useful/edible then its trail magic to me...

My last trip I came across a new isobutane cannister at a shelter(which are closed due to Covid) sitting on the picnic table. As luck would have it I was running low on fuel so it was appreciated and of course it got hauled out.

The next day at Spy Rock overlook, someone has left 6 large cans of corn, chili max and green beans at a campsite right next to the trail. I was thinking how stupid that was...quart sized metal cans...lots of day hikers commenting "left for thru hikers". Later that day(camping there) I was chatting with a crew of like high school aged guys who had come up from Montebello and mentioned the food, yup they agreed that was stupid to leave for hikers. But within an hour they had consumed at least half of it unheated, not a big surprise given their main meal was apparently going to be soup they had been cooking all day and which looked like a gallon of water with a single package of instant soup mix in it. That in its self was a hoot because they had humped about 4-5 of those large Coleman gas cylinders up the mountain and when I saw them, 3 had already been used cooking their soup.

11-15-2020, 14:51
I'm with TwoSpirits, if I was walking along starving and found this it would be a magical find for sure!
But sitting here in my comfy chair it's easy to say trash.
The way you describe it with food in pvc pipe looking new and the MH hanging from a rope sounds like they had good intentions. But not good practice!!
Is there a parking lot close to this shelter? Maybe someones last day and they left it? Or maybe trail magic but you'd think they would have left a note. And I never seen a pvc tube before in a shelter but makes perfect sense.

11-15-2020, 18:43
If it's hanging where critters (big or small) can get to it, if it can spoil, or if it's located in a low traffic area, or if it's heavy, then it is trash.

11-15-2020, 18:50
I suspect the person(s) doing it were motivated not by the opportunity to help others but with the desire not to carry out what they carried in. Bad form. Those who do genuine trail magic know that one of the key rules is to stay with your stuff!

11-15-2020, 20:05
It was at Low Gap shelter in GA, around noon on a Saturday. So I'm guessing somebody SOBO stayed there overnight and were getting off at Hogpen or Neel that day and didn't want/need it anymore. I don't know. I've seen all kinds of stuff left behind, but this was my first time seeing a little mini-mart out there.

11-15-2020, 21:58
On my thru I appreciated some of those magic food drops.

Traffic Jam
11-15-2020, 22:37
Bear killers.

11-15-2020, 23:28
Both. It's well intentioned, but definitely shouldn't be be done as the food attracts animals to the shelter.

11-16-2020, 09:21
It is NEVER a good practice to leave food in shelters, no matter what the intentions are. Those who will pay the price are the bears and other wild life which will become habituated to human foods and to shelters as a food source. Then we call them "problem" bears and they will have to be "removed". believe me, nobody is starving on the AT. If you have extra foods, find a hostel and leave it there. Or give it to somebody who wants it, or take it back home. As simple as that.

11-16-2020, 12:11
I concur,,,, its garbage and luring animals. Besides, I would have to be starving to eat wrapped food left somewhere.. To many sick people in the world.

11-16-2020, 14:26
All the food I've seen left in shelters is there since no one would want to eat the stuff in the first place. If you can't find someone to take your excess food then and there, carry it home.

11-16-2020, 14:49
All the food I've seen left in shelters is there since no one would want to eat the stuff in the first place. If you can't find someone to take your excess food then and there, carry it home.
I agree. We have had numerous reports on here by the trail maintenance crews of trash bags full of leftover food, trash, etc. they have had to carry out.

11-16-2020, 16:05
They were probably trying to be helpful and also save some weight. But I would never leave any food at a shelter. Pack it to town and put it in the hiker box, take it home, or ask people you see at other shelters if they want something.
On section hikes I have found many people very willing to take some items off my hands, often due to budget. I brought too much stuff going through SNP (ate out a few too many times..) and my excess stuff easily disappeared.

11-19-2020, 11:10
According to the Leave No Trace website and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, leaving food unattended, anywhere, is a bad idea. Whether it was laziness or an intention to be generous. And judging from the responses above, it looks like most WhiteBlazers agree. "Trail Magic" has definitions other than placing human food along the trail.

Here's an article from the ATC that covers the subject: https://appalachiantrail.org/explore/hike-the-a-t/thru-hiking/trail-magic/

"Wilderness is where things work the way they're supposed to work" - Walkin' Jim Stoltz

11-19-2020, 13:35
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

If you can pawn your extra food off to other hikers, great, otherwise take it home with you. I'll take the SPAM off your hands.

11-19-2020, 15:02
Makes sense only if left in a bear box with a note attached saying "freebie".
Even then open to spoilage; let the buyer (eater) beware.

11-20-2020, 08:25
The likelihood of people would would appreciate it also come into play. In the backcountry where people, go out for a couple of nights generally have their food, and you are just trading your carrying out to them doing it. But on a long distance hiking trail during thru season where the stereotype of eating a found m&m on trail, yes that will be very much appreciated.