Seeing those coolers, sitting by their lonesome, brimming with goodies just for a hard hiker like me.
But things have changed….
I have changed.
Because of this.
|Bear wrecks a thru hiker tent. 2017.|
I have seen gear damaged and hikers lose money by animals that have received food rewards in one form or another. Including my own tent that had nothing in it.
I have seen magic left and remnants scattered around the cooler and a half mile beyond, with cans thrown into the woods. I have seen food tied to trees, soda cans propped on the ground and cans pierced by bears’ teeth and a sign on a tree afterwards that says – Bears are active in these woods and have destroyed property.
I have seen folks think they are doing right with all the food feeds, especially down south in the early AT hiker season, but are instead contributing to a massive mentality issue currently affecting long distance hikers. The “I deserve it” mentality. The entitlement mentality. After all – “I am hiking the whole trail, I need it.” They expect people to do for them. They are of a higher class. And that mentality carries into towns and places with regulations, where ill behavior can run rampant and thankfulness and doing good to others instead of yourself is absent. Selfishness abounds. The yellow blazer class is also born with those not interested in hiking but hitchhiking from party to party or feed.
I have worked now as a ridgerunner on the Appalachian Trail and seen a lot to turn me off to food magic. This past season I had a thru hiker actually ask me – “Hey where is the trail magic around here? I haven’t had food or drink in a long time.”
I was flabbergasted.
I say to him – “There are others ways of trail magic in these woods besides food and drink.”
A sunny sky.
A trail kept free of blowdowns by a maintainer. Or a shelter that keeps out rain.
A flowing spring that is not dry.
Encouragement to a weary hiker with a kind word.
Picking up trash along the way. Even some gum wrappers will do.
Offering a ride to a weary hiker. I’ve had some even invite me into their homes. Wow
Thanking a maintainer and offering to help.
(To the trail angels that helped me so much on my treks – who offered rides and their homes and a friendly smile and encouragement – thanks)
To those that leave trail magic unattended - with coolers and bags and boxes of food sitting at a road or by the trail -
PLEASE don’t. Stay with your offerings and give them out. Meet and greet. Then remove it all when you are done. But really, consider other ways of magic instead of food. There is so much food along the AT these days – it is like a carnival from one food stop to another. The wilderness is gone.
Instead, do other things.
And do it expecting no thanks or rewards. The thanks is the satisfaction that you helped others and the trail.