Friday, March 13, 2015

7. Trail Magic

Trail Magic: noun, a mysterious pile of food left alone in the woods by strangers, that will be readily consumed by hikers without question.

Un-specifically, it was a very, very hot day. Specifically, it was July 17th 2013. I wrote more in depth about this day hereBut there's a story that didn't make it into the original post. It fits in with the original post just after this paragraph: "Whistle smashed headlong into his backpack, crushing her nose. She stumbled backward as her eyes watered with pain. Dumptruck tried to apologize, but Whistle commended him on their team effort commitment." 


Later that day, I was sitting on the side of a country road with Whistle, waiting for Dumptruck to catch up with us. I was sitting with my legs bent up, my elbows resting on my knees, and my head dangling in the open space of my arms, praying to the trail gods that a car would blast by at 70 mph so I could get just a moment of breeze. Whistle was on the ground, sprawled halfway on and halfway off her backpack, flopping her hands back and forth ineffectually. 

"Hey guys!" came a suspiciously cheerful voice. Whistle and I dragged our heavy heads upward and  looked up slowly at Dumptruck, who was gleefully marching down the trail. He was grinning beatifically, looking like he had just come from laughing his way all the way to the bank. Except that instead of money bags, he was holding an empty 2-liter bottle of coke. My eyes widened. I had seen that bottle of coke about half an hour earlier. It had been leaning against a tree a foot off the trail, half-full, with several pine needles dusted across the top of it. It looked like it had been there at least a week if not more.

"Did you DRINK that?!" I demanded, pointing at the coke bottle. Dumptruck looked down at his hand and looked slightly startled to find that he was holding something. Let me remind you that we were all still significantly heat-dazed. 

"Yep!" he chirruped, nodding enthusiastically, "and BOY was it FLAT!"

My jaw dropped, "I don't think that was trail magic! I think it was trash!"

Dumptruck let out a belch and smacked his lips, "Well it's inside me now, so it was trail magic for ME!"


Real trail magic is left on the trail purposefully. It takes many forms, but usually it's food or bottles of water left for hikers without any expectation of anything in return. Usually trail magic is found in big coolers about 100 feet into the trail from a road crossing, with a happy little sign that says something about whoever left the trail magic. Another fantastic part of trail magic is when people leave a garbage bag with a note saying you can leave any trash from the snacks, or trash in your bag, in the garbage. Just because we get used to carrying our trash for five days in a row doesn't mean we like it.

Seeing a trail magic cooler is very much like rolling the dice for a game of craps. There's a good possibility that something exciting could happen, but under no circumstances should you get your hopes up. Hikers are voracious monsters, and even though a trail magic sign may say that each hiker should only take one of the snacks in the cooler (e.g., an oatmeal cream pie, or a can of soda, or a brand new stick of chapstick), there are high odds that many hikers have already passed by the cooler before you've gotten to it. Trail magic coolers are mirages, much of the time.

I have had the experience on several occasions of running excitedly up to a cooler and ripping it open, only to see 2 inches of melted ice with half a rotten apple floating in it like so many dead dreams. But isn't that silly and entitled of me? I didn't have an oatmeal creme pie before that moment, so why should I care that I don't have one now? Also, whoever put out that cooler was a thoughtful, generous, altruistic person who perhaps just hasn't had time to come and pick up the empty cooler yet.

Any trail magic is always appreciated, because it's like SURPRISE CHRISTMAS! Except instead of presents you get snacks. But when you want to eat the entire world, snacks are the best presents... mostly because it prevents you from gnawing on the arms of your hiking partners. It has just now come to my attention that hikers are maybe a tiny bit like zombies. But hey, we make being undead look GOOD.

There were so many times that I was on the receiving end of trail magic, and there was no way to say thank you, because the perpetrator was nowhere to be found. But isn't that so beautiful? People going out of their way to do something nice for perfect strangers, for nothing in return except a full garbage bag of truly disgusting trash left behind by hikers?

To anyone who has ever left trail magic: thank you. Sometimes a snickers bar can change someone's entire day.

Clever Girl

Don't worry, Trail Angels are next! <3

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