Cheering people up isn't hard. Just tell a kid he looks older, a woman she looks younger or a man anything remotely flattering. It's even easier to lighten the load of Appalachian Trail hikers. Just pop them a bit of Trail Magic and watch them smile.
Then sit back and listen ... because everyone has a story. We heard a few dandies while doing Trail Magic at Gooch Gap (17.2 miles from Springer Mountain) on a drizzly February day.
Take our new friend, the mailman from Joisy. After double bunion surgery on one foot and in spite of pain in his shoulders, he is on the Trail.
We loved hearing about how he used 8-gazillion vacation days, 3-billion sick days and a dozen paid holidays to fund his trek. We laughed about how he is "going postal." After a few nods and chuckles around the campfire, he had his Trail name. Meet Going Postal!
Red Fox's idea of Trail Magic was fresh water and a hot dog. As we stood around downing our dogs, we heard the call of a pileated woodpecker. Soon afterward, a barred owl hooted out a tune. Red Fox identified it right away.
Seems he was a park ranger for a long time. He said you can play the barred owl's song at night and they'll fly to your campsite. We shared a few tales of victories and woes, and off he went into the woods to walk off a couple of each.
Wasn't long before No Sew showed up. Looked like a corporate lawyer to my eye.
Turns out he's a school teacher who left his job in the city. Starting a new one. In the woods. Helping troubled kids try to get their lives together. In the woods for a week.
No Sew got his Trail name from not knowing how to sew before he hit the Trail. Now he can sew. Yes, he should be, "Now I Know How to Sew." Trail names can be tricky.
Nice man on a decent path. The kind of people you meet when they walk out of the woods and into your life for a few moments of Trail Magic.
Who were the stars of the show? Susan "Cashmere" Hornbuckle and my pal Sharon "MamaGoose" Smith. They've hiked or run just about every trail you've ever heard of.
I first met MamaGoose at the End of the Trail Festival in Millinocket, Maine, when she was hiking with Warrior Hike. Just learned that she has a weird ability to figure out where you grew up just by listening to your accent.
Followed her various paths since. Someday ... they'll rename the AT "The MamaGoose Trail." She's a hiker, a Trail angel and someone who can love others so profoundly ... as only a former Air Force combat medic can comprehend.
It's truly more blessed than to receive ... especially when it comes to Trail Magic at Gooch Gap.
Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Hikers, Information, appalachian trail hikers, appalachian trail magic, appalachian trail magic gooch gap, trail magic mamagoose, Susan "Cashmere" Hornbuckle, and Sharon "MamaGoose" Smith
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