An angel is often described as a person of exemplary conduct or virtue. Many visualize angels having wings, halos, and usually wearing all white and giving off a majestic vibe. However, not all angels look like this. In fact, most of the time angels look like you and me. This blog is to help others understand what trail angels are, and what may seem to you like a simple act of kindness, can mean the world to the ones who receive it.
A trail angel is generally someone offering a hiker something like a cold drink, a ride to the store, or just helping them out in any way they can. Trail angels can also be people who help take care of the trail. Helping keep the trail, and all nature clean for that matter – after all it is important because its our home.
Thousands attempt hiking the Appalachian Trail every year. Only about 1 out of every 4 complete it. Thousands of people out there hiking the trail for different reasons. Some out there with loved ones, some alone. Some out there hiking for those they’ve lost, trying to find themselves, taking time to heal, or live life to its fullest . Whatever the reason may be, these people are out there daily, in various, not always ideal forms of weather for that purpose. When things break, you run out of food, you hurt yourself, and you’re uncomfortable, you are generally in the middle of nowhere and often times seems like you have no answers as to why it just happened and how you can fix it. Sometimes you literally feel like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Then, all of a sudden, there’s this person that appears and offers you a soda and wants to hear your story and generally offer words of admiration and/or encouragement. That’s just one little example of a trail angel and how they can mean so much to someone. You never know what someone is going through, so just being kind can mean a lot.
Just like when you ask hikers why they decided to hike the trail, angels generally have their own reasons on why they help. A lot of the times trail angels have had former thru hikers as family members and hear the stories of how they helped them and want to do the same. Sometimes, they are former hikers, or live near the trail and just like to help others.
Trail angels appear to have no boundaries of how far they will go to help. One of the most popular trail angels along the Appalachian Trail is Miss. Janet. Miss. Janet was featured in former blogs while I was hiking the trail. Miss. Janet lives in Tennessee , but will follow “the bubble” of the North Bound Appalachian Trail thru hikers from Georgia to Maine, helping out with rides, food, and general support. Another notable trail angel is Odie. He travels all over helping hikers and takes time every year putting together the hiker yearbook. Some hikers will come from various states and do small sections of the trail and bring out food and drinks for hikers. I had family members drive from different states to give us rides, welcome us to their homes, let us shower , do laundry and feed us. This may not have required much of them, but things as simple as this were so hard for us to attain out there and made us feel great. I never hitchhiked before in my life until the trail. I was slighlty nervous, but just had to have faith in humanity that no one was out there to do random acts of cruelity and only random acts of kindness.
This blog is not just to inform others of trail angels, but to say thank you to those trail angels wherever you may be. To the drivers who got us safely to and from the trail, the random people at trailheads and on the trail providing filtered water, cold drinks and snacks to hikers, family members helping all hikers-and not just your own family members. Thank you for the hug-despite how bad we smell. To the trail angels providing shelter, showers and clean laundry to hikers. To the trail angels allowing us to keep our pack somewhere safe if we wanted a break from carrying it, and the trail angels who just took the time to listen to us and tell us your stories, and provide us with the strength to keep going- THANK YOU! We could not have done the trail without you.
So the next time you see someone who may be wearing dirty clothes, eating like a barbarian and hitching, do not judge. Be kind to everyone you meet, you never know where they have been and you may one day be hiking in their shoes.