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Every year, thousands of hikers attempt to complete the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine, but only one in four can conquer mountainous terrain that has an elevation gain and loss equivalent to hiking up Mt. . Everest from sea level and back 16 times.
Hikers typically carry only three days’ worth of food and sometimes come up short as they struggle to get to the next town to resupply. Fortunately, the trail angels spread their magic along the trail to provide weary hikers with food, drink, and a comfortable chair to lounge on.
Michele Staudenmaier had never heard of trail angels or trail magic before her son Zach started a hike up the Appalachian Trail (AT) in March. Zach told him how the hikers were so appreciative of the actual food and drinks of the volunteers, nicknamed “trail angels” by the hiking community.
So, Michele decided that she would become one of those angels.
She and her husband Dave had already agreed to stay at Airbnb’s throughout the AT – in Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Maine – for the 6 months that Zach had planned to walk.
There are many remote places where the trail crosses a road, offering a perfect setting to establish some “trail magic,” a term coined by long-distance hikers to describe an unexpected event that lifts a hiker’s spirits. There, usually an hour or so from any town, he often encountered other trace angels who spread their own magic.
“I was very surprised,” said Michele, “when I realized that there was a massive community of volunteers spending their time and money to support the hikers on the Appalachian Trail. I had no idea!”
An average hiker will burn up to 600 calories an hour going up and down mountains with a 30-pound backpack, and they are always hungry.
Michele once cooked and wrapped 50 hot dogs to serve alongside French fries, fruit, candy, soda, and Gatorade.
On another occasion he served buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and pasta salad to the delighted hikers. They typically hit up to 20-30 hikers and spend about half an hour resting, eating, and telling stories about the AT before resuming their hike.
One hiker had completely run out of food the day before and expressed everlasting gratitude as he quickly gobbled up six hot dogs.
Another said, “You have no idea how good this chicken tastes after eating the camp food!” It is unusual for some food to be left from a magical trails excursion.
Michele looks forward to spreading more trail magic and hearing the stories of hikers and other trail angels as she makes her way to Maine.
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