I’m at Uncle Johnny’s hostel tonight in Erwin, TN. Somehow I’ve managed to get sick again. I’ve been feeling woozy, nauseous, and generally sick-like on the trail the past 2 days, which has been no fun. I didn’t think I would make it the 16 miles I had planned yesterday and today, but I managed to push through.
Picking up where I left off, after I got to camp that night I told Chris that I didn’t think we’d make it through the 21.7 we had planned the next day. Thankfully he pushed me to do it anyways and it turned out well. It was a surprisingly fun day considering all the miles we had been doing.
That morning, after 3 miles or so of hiking, we saw a sign advertising trail magic at a house just down the road. I gorged myself that morning on snickers, trying to use up as much of my extra food as possible, so I didn’t need the food, but Chris was pumped and I was interested in meeting the people, so we decided to go. Walking up to the house we were a little off-put. There was no one around and no sign of trail magic, but we were there pretty early and so we just assumed we were the first ones there. We knocked on the door and were greeted by a very friendly thru-hiker named Hercules who escorted us inside. We were immediately given a menu of drink options (with weather for the week on the other side) and ushered to the dining table. For the first course we had Belgian waffles with butter and syrup. After that, I had veggie chili with rice and Chris had pork stew. For desert I had a blackberry cobbler and Chris had a banana split. All of it was delicious and it was definitely a feast.
While we ate we chatted with Hercules and his wife FAL. They thruhiked together about 5 years ago and after finishing decided to buy a house near the trail from which they could do trail magic. They started looking in Georgia and headed north until they found the house in NC which filled their wish list. Since moving in they’ve served trail magic to 2800 hikers over four seasons. They usually do trail magic for 8-10 weeks, 12 hours a day, during hiker season.
Hearing all this, I didn’t really think it through but I assumed they were just an older couple having marital problems (they fought a bit in front of us) who were filling their lives with hikers to make things easier. I was close, but missed the mark by a bit.
Almost immediately after we finished desert, Hercules sat down with us and posed us a brain teaser which he “came up with on the trail.” I won’t describe the actual brain teaser, because it was more of an illustrative device than an actual problem, but it basically came down to whether what happens after death is a personal truth (a truth one can control ex. “it is true that my favorite icecream flavor is vanilla) or a universal truth (a truth one does not control ex. “it is true that gravity exists”). The correct, and the answer we were supposed to give, is that it is a universal truth. From there he brought out 10 or so Christian books and gave us a little spiel about how he hopes we find the correct truth and how these books can help us.
Some of my fellow hikers seriously objected to the bait and switch routine, but I respect them for following their beliefs and they’re pretty nice people, so I wouldn’t quite fault them to that extent. I will say, however, that it’s an unfortunate fact that a good portion of people who are “all for the trail” or ” would do anything for the hikers” are just paying lip service. Their main motivation is something other than helping the hikers, as was the case with Hercules and FAL. Although for every one person I meet with ulterior motives, I’ve met three that are purely for the hikers.
In retrospect their routine was incredibly choreographed and all led up to the spiel at the end. I think after finishing the trail they realized how few hikers were Christians and decided to set up a trail ministry. Their trail magic is a product of that.
It’s just about 11 now, so I’ll have to turn in for the night. More from the trail tomorrow if I can.