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  1. #1
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    Default Northern vs. Southern Trail Magic?

    I keep reading about some amazing trail magic down in Georgia. My daughter and I hiked the LT last year which includes 100+ miles of the AT. We encountered only one instance of trail magic over the course of 273 miles: a single bottle of cold water. Mind you, I am not expecting any trail magic; but I am curious about this phenomenon. Is it exclusively a "southern" thing? Does it just follow the "bubble"? We are embarking on a Wraparound thru this year so maybe we will get a better picture.

  2. #2

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    It is random and diverse. I saw a good bit of coolers with cokes in them in VA. I saw cookouts and roadside bbqs in NC and TN. Nothing in GA and that was hiked sobo during the bubble.
    I saw a couple doing a week of trail magic at newfound gap for their anniversary week. Up north I ran into trail magic in Mass my first day on the trail, saw a huge momma bear and 2 cubs not 400 yards prior to getting to the road. hmmm.

    Others support via trail magic by opening their home to hikers. I saw this in Mass as well both in Dalton and at cookie ladys house 13 miles south of Dalton.

    Now others, the more full time trail angels more or less devote 3/4 seasons a year to helping hikers. A couple of the most notable would be the leap frog café run by fresh ground and as well miss Janet, the traveling shuttle service which I believe is donation only.

    Lastly noted I forgot to add that at the highway heading down into rutland, VT I found a 6 pack of IPAs. I enjoyed 1 or 2 I do not remember. Storm was blowing in coming off of Killington and it was quite the celebration we didn't get stuck on the mountain with the violent wind and rain that followed.
    Trail Miles: 4,090.3 - AT Trips: 71
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  3. #3

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    Reportedly many of the southern trail magic events are set up by church groups as part of their calling. Northern New England is about the least religious part of the country so fewer church groups = less organized trail magic? By the time thruhikers get up north they are spread out quite bit. The daily volume is less then down south. Maybe the northerners read the recommendations from ATC and the maintaining groups not to do trail magic ? I expect if you track real trail magic compared to organized roadside trail magic I expect its the same.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slumgum View Post
    I keep reading about some amazing trail magic down in Georgia. My daughter and I hiked the LT last year which includes 100+ miles of the AT. We encountered only one instance of trail magic over the course of 273 miles: a single bottle of cold water. Mind you, I am not expecting any trail magic; but I am curious about this phenomenon. Is it exclusively a "southern" thing? Does it just follow the "bubble"? We are embarking on a Wraparound thru this year so maybe we will get a better picture.
    yeah. ton of unneeded feeds in georgia. folks are still fat and not that hungry yet

  5. #5
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    Well, I think there's a disconnect between what used to be called Trail Magic and what the current understanding is.

    Many years ago a BSA troop I was with was hiking past a farmers corn field in the Port Jervis area of NY/NJ. The farmer saw our group and struck up a conversation. We left with a huge sack of corn on the cob and carrots that we feasted on that night.

    Hiking in VT I sprained my ankle near Story Spring shelter. I hobbled down to Kelly Stand Road, a dirt road that goes approx 8 miles past absolutely nothing to VT Rt 7 and a then a long hitch back to my car in Bennington. On a busy day, you'll have 2 or 3 cars go down Kelly Stand all day long. I was expecting a 4 hour road walk. Five minutes after I walked out a camper came by. They stopped to give me a ride, and a cold beer no less, and wound up taking me all the way back to my car in Bennington.

    I had friends that were hiking in NH and got caught up in a bad storm. They got out to Rt 25 and were trying to hitch back to Hanover to get a motel room. A couple passing by picked them up and invited them to dinner and to spend the night. Just a few examples of what used to be considered Trail Magic.

    Trail Magic used to be defined as unplanned acts of kindness, often occurring just when a hiker needed it most.

    Now, I'm not against people leaving coolers of beverages, or feeding hikers, or whatever. Doesn't affect me. And I also understand the arguments against it, especially regarding impact and trash. But, it's planned, and often anticipated, and apparently some less than gracious hikers even expect it. And therefore, it's just not Magic in the sense many of us remember it.

  6. #6
    Registered User VT-Mike's Avatar
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    When I hiked the LT I encountered four instances of trail magic at separate locations. A bag of apples, a cooler of beer (person made a U-turn to hand 'em out), a cooler of sodas and the best of all a 12 pack of Long Trail at the Journeys End parking lot. That last one was my favorite!

    Although I must say I found the willingness of other hikers share and helping each other along the way much more rewarding.
    -My feet are my only carriage so I've got to push on through-

  7. #7

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    Feeding people on vacation isnt magic.
    Its stupid.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    Trail Magic used to be defined as unplanned acts of kindness, often occurring just when a hiker needed it most.
    .
    Agreed. A ride to a pay phone, sharing a meal whether at someone's house or on the trail are excellent examples. Unplanned was the key. And there's no way to express the gratitude you felt when you needed it; I'll never forget getting a ride from a weekender at Neels Gap who drove me to the nearest working pay phone about 15 miles away so I could let my family know I was fine despite the massive storm (which had knocked out phones, power and water at the hostel). True trail magic!

  9. #9

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    The "trail magic" which is found in GA for a couple of months in the spring isn't common anywhere else. Hey, if they want to give away food and that makes them happy, I'm more then willing to partake.

    After that it gets random, like finding the bottle of water, or soda or beer in the stream on a hot day. Or you'll just happen on someone parked next to trail cooking hot dogs for anyone coming along. Anyone who has spent time on the trail has a story or two about when the trail has provided at the exact time they were in need.

    My best food trail magic was coming down into Grafton Notch in Maine and hearing some guy shout out "Hey, you want a lobster and corn on the cob?" Hum, let me think about this for a couple of minutes...
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slumgum View Post
    I keep reading about some amazing trail magic down in Georgia. My daughter and I hiked the LT last year which includes 100+ miles of the AT. We encountered only one instance of trail magic over the course of 273 miles: a single bottle of cold water. Mind you, I am not expecting any trail magic; but I am curious about this phenomenon. Is it exclusively a "southern" thing? Does it just follow the "bubble"? We are embarking on a Wraparound thru this year so maybe we will get a better picture.
    Absolutely not.

    The best trail magic I received on my AT thru hike was in the 100 mile wilderness.

    GOURMET cheeseburger with a side of legal herbs.

    Best burger I had on trail was sub 50 miles from Big K.

    Who woulda thought?

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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Feeding people on vacation isnt magic.
    Its stupid.
    Exactly. You want to feed a bunch of folks who could really use it, why not meet a group of returning vets coming home from Afghanistan or your local first responders or the teachers at your kid's school? I was day hiking on the AT just south of NOC on Sunday and ran into a half dozen prospective thrus and at least two of them asked the same thing - "are they doing 'trail magic' down at NOC?" When I answered no and added that the restaurant was open they just moped on by.
    Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

  12. #12

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    It only makes sense for people to setup "magic stands" for the day if it's high volume locations, such as masses of thru-hikers near the beginning of their hike.
    Once everyone is spread out and 75% have quit, then the type of magic changes.
    On the LT someone near Waterbury pulled up next to us on a road section, had a jug of water for us, offered us a ride, and then a second person offered us fresh vegetables from their garden the same day. That was more than enough magic

    It also comes into play when there is a clear need for it, such as long stretches where there's not enough water in August.

    People pass towns and stores all the time on this trail.... why do people need a cooler of pop in the woods twice a day.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hikingjim View Post

    It also comes into play when there is a clear need for it, such as long stretches where there's not enough water in August.

    People pass towns and stores all the time on this trail.... why do people need a cooler of pop in the woods twice a day.
    Theres never a need for water on AT for average hikers.
    75 yr old hiking 5 mpd, ok. 300 lbs hiking 5 mpd, ok. Etc. But not average people, they can carry needed water.
    Always water within 20 miles.

    Quite honestly, the challenges of hiking in mountains should be accepted, not circumvented by means of caches. imo. Your just cheating yourself of experiences and skills when you depend on those things.

    Just same, i recall several pallets of gallon jugs of water at road crossing once....in spring. Pallets...hundreds of gallons...wet spring too. These people are just wasting money.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 03-07-2019 at 10:56.

  14. #14

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    in my time on trail in MA the last 2-3 years i have seen some sort of hiker feed style 'trail magic' (fresh water, sports drinks, sodas, fruit, and other snacks) at 7 different road crossings. i suspect there is less of this behavior than the south, but there are also less thrus by MA and they will have spread themselves out a bit. i would guess it is more prevalent on the weekends, with the larger lots/crossings (everett, greylock) unsurprisingly seeming to correlate with the larger setups.

  15. #15
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    wait are vets returning home from Afghanistan hungry?

    Quote Originally Posted by full conditions View Post
    Exactly. You want to feed a bunch of folks who could really use it, why not meet a group of returning vets coming home from Afghanistan or your local first responders or the teachers at your kid's school? I was day hiking on the AT just south of NOC on Sunday and ran into a half dozen prospective thrus and at least two of them asked the same thing - "are they doing 'trail magic' down at NOC?" When I answered no and added that the restaurant was open they just moped on by.
    Let me go

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by T.S.Kobzol View Post
    wait are vets returning home from Afghanistan hungry?
    I have two nephews who returned from their tour of duty in Afghanistan and they both told me that the first thing they did was head to the nearest five guys restaurant. So, yeah, they do come home pretty hungry.
    Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

  17. #17

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    I live in the whites and do real trail magic when I can. It usually is picking up folks who look like hikers near trailheads and giving them a ride. My best one was double trail magic to the same hiker at different times of the day. I was heading out of town on a daytrip and picked him up when he had just walked out of the Barn hostel in Gorham hostel in the AM about a minute after he lifted his arm to hitch. He was slacking the Carters and Wildcat that day to Pinkham. I gave him a ride to Rattle River and figured I would never see him again and wished him luck. Later that evening I was driving back home via RT 16 going past Pinkham Notch. it was around dusk and I saw him walking out the woods in the process of putting his thumb out. I pulled over and picked him up and gave him a ride back to the Barn in Gorham. He was bit odd initially about the ride as he thought I was somehow waiting for him to make it out. Once he figured it was shear coincidence he laughed about it and I wished him luck again.

  18. #18
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    Trail magic was so prevalent and abundant down south when I started my thru in 2013 that if I could do 20 mile days I figured I didn't need to carry more then one meal. I also was getting a bit annoyed that my pack weight was not going down because of all the tables set up for us at road crossings, and not just snacks, but people grilling hamburgers & hotdogs, making chili, I believe pizza was also in the mix down there along with some breakfast foods. This also happened in trail towns with organized meals for thru hikers.

    In NC it started to slow down a bit and at NOC it got to a reasonable level. North of the Smokies there was something every couple of days or so.

    In the north trail magic was rarer but still there.

  19. #19
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    Trail magic goes both ways: (Part 1 of 3) (Western Maine) About 6 years ago I did a day hike to Sugarloaf in Maine from the Caribou Pond Rd (AT) south on the AT to Spaulding Mtn shelter and then bushwhacked back down to Caribou Pond and back out to the AT crossing. The next day I went back to the same CPR AT crossing and this time had my big Great Pyrenees with me. We hiked north this time up to the summits of N and S Crocker. On the way up I passed 3 Northbound Thrus who spoke about the "big mountain dog". Anyway, after summiting S Crocker I headed back down the trail and in error had let my dog off lease for lunch. He took off back down the trail and was soon out of sight. I raced after him continuously calling out for him to no avail. He had done this once before on the Bigelows and what I figured out was that he thought I was ahead of him so he was trying to catch up when he was getting further ahead. Al speed hiked all the way back to the AT Crossing and didn't find him. Just in a hunch I crossed over the CVR crossing and started southbound where I had hiked the day before. On the temporary wooden plank put down to cross the river I found wet big paw prints and though, "oh crap he is headed southbound and it's late in the day. What am I going to do? Here's what happened next.
    Last edited by Old Hillwalker; 03-07-2019 at 16:49.
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  20. #20
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    Trail magic works both ways (Part 2 of 3). I went back to the AT Crossing on Caribou Pond Road to walked the several hundred yards back to my truck to consider my options. As I was sitting there a woman drove up and parked. She asked me if the AT crossing was near. She told me that her son was a Thru Hiker heading NOBO and was expecting to meet him there for a quick re-supply and was going to call him on his cell. I asked her to see if he had seen my dog. She called, and he had. My dog had taken up hiking with three SOBO guys who said that they had passed him off to a NOBO hiker who would stay at Spaulding Shelter that night and walk him out to the AT crossing the next morning on his way North. Wonderful!!!! The next morning I left my house a 3:00 AM and hauling my mountain bike up to Caribou Pond road, parked at the end of the vehicle access, and rode up the old logging roads until I could bushwhack up to the Spaulding Shelter. I stashed my bike in some brush and made it to the shelter at seven AM exactly. Emerson the dog was not there. There were two hikers in the shelter who said that the hiker with my dog had decided to head north and cowboy camp on the trail with my old dog. I headed north on the trail half running half walking all the way back down to the AT crossing where I met the guy who had rescued my dog. There he was foot sore and very tired, but back in my arms again. Thanked to Northbounder and gave him every cent in my wallet (only $50) and headed home leaving my Cannondale full suspension bike several miles into the woods on an abandoned logging road. The next day I went back for my bike and I still can't believe what happened the next day.
    Last edited by Old Hillwalker; 03-07-2019 at 16:50.
    Everyone has a photographic memory. Not everyone has film.

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