Not All Angels Have Wings: Trail Angels Don’t Need Wings.

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.



Does A Bear Poop In The Woods?

Does a bear poop in the woods? Um yeah. , it’s a freaking bear- it does what it wants .It also depends on when “doodie” calls.  If it lives in the woods, it probably poops there too. If you got to go, you got to go. There are areas along the Appalachian Trail which have privies, but those can often be miles apart, and sometimes you can’t always hold it (they are also not bear user friendly). So, like a bear, a hiker will also poop in the woods.


Does it follow the practices of Leave No Trace (LNT)?  It is hard to say if all bears  (or even hikers) do or not. While living in the woods, I definitely came across some bear (and/or hiker) scat that didn’t meet the leave no trace guidelines.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all bears (and hikers) break the rules.

Some may be wondering what exactly is the criteria for leave no trace when it comes to pooping in the woods is.  The ultimate goal is to maximize decomposition, but also decreasing the chances of water pollution and spreading disease. The best way to do this is dig a hole and bury that shit- literally. download

The hole should be 6 inches deep. Often times, people recommend 6 feet deep but that’s only if you are also burying a corpse.  You want to be about 200 feet away from any water source. 200 feet can be about 80 steps. You could also just sing the lyrics to New Kids On The Block, “Step by Step”.  If you are unable to do either of those things, then you may need to just go in your pants.


So, you have dug the hole- now what? Positions for pooping are a common concern. Just like some say hike your own hike, you need to poop your own poop.  Many people are afraid to poop in the woods because they cannot get in a comfortable position, and/or they are afraid they will poop on themselves.  I polled some fellow hikers and asked them what position works best for them, and some of them were willing to even demonstrate.

The crab position. Which I really don’t understand why or how this is comfortable. I’d be afraid I’d lose balance and fall right in that poop.


The Tree Hugger. This one is pretty simple. It’s definitely one for the environmental lover and poor balance.



The partner poop. This is for the timid (or in my opinion the brave). Can’t poop alone? Bring a partner, hold hands and squat. Maybe tell a joke or story to pass the time. Sometimes you even dress up for the occassion. Eye contact or knowing your partner always had your back in a shitty situation – your preference.



The prop. This is pretty much when you find a great rock or down tree, or other items in nature that you can use to sit off of and/or brace yourself on. It’s a popular one but seems like a waste of time trying to find that perfect spot.


The squat.  The simplist and best way to poop. Oh- need to poop? Dig a hole, and just squat. No fuss trying to find something or someone to hold onto, no fear of falling flat in your poop- just go for it.



A newer one that not many talk about is also the spotter. This is usually any position of your choice. The main difference is that there is someone, maybe more than one there to spot you in case you may lose your balance , have trouble wiping or just need some company.


 Sometimes the urge can come on hard and strong.  Don’t be a victim to that shit.  Don’t have a shovel? Use a stick or trekking pole.  So yeah,  it may look barbaric like a caveman carving into stone if you have to go bad enough but so what.  

It’s also important to know when to poop first,  and dig later.  Don’t be the lactose intolerant guy who decided to have Velveeta Mac and cheese the night before and accidentally poop your pants when taking the time to dig a hole despite the urge.  Waking your fellow campers up at 6:30 AM to borrow some soap to clean up your mess can be an awkward conversation.  

Sometimes you never realize what you had until it’s gone . ..  Like toilet paper.   In that case,  try to use a strong leaf like the ones pictured here.  Rhododendrons work nicely because they’re strong,  big and soft. 

Try not to use any of these:

Well folks,  hopefully this information was helpful.  As always,  be safe and happy trails.  It’s all shits and giggles until someone giggles and shits.