Planning to be a Trail Angel

FB_quote from attila the bunWould you like to be a trail angel?

Most of the hiking activity is wrapping up to a close, with the approaching winter months. Some of the passes in the northern portions and higher elevations are already getting some snowfall and experiencing plunging temperatures. But this is the perfect time to start thinking about what you can do to be a trail angel. There’s about five or six months before thru hikers start hitting the trail. That’s plenty of time to plan and then you’ll be set next spring and won’t be rushing around in a flurry trying to figure out how you can help.

A few matters to mull over and decide are:

How much time to you have to devote to being a trail angel? Unlimited? Occasional evenings here and there? A weekend a month? One day a month?

What are the financial resources that you’re able to share with others? Deciding on an approximate dollar amount that fits your budget helps direct the magic that you’ll share. It might help you decide if you’ll purchase meals for hikers, make some homemade snacks, or only provide transportation when needed.

From Trail Angel Mama, here’s a snippet to get some ideas starting to circulate through the gray matter. We’ll come back next week and share some more specific ideas to be a trail angel.


Would you like to be a trail angel and provide a little kindness to hikers on the long journey? The magic you provide can be small or large. It can range from something as simple as a ride into town, or a bottle of water to larger gestures such as a warm meal or a soft bed for one night.

You can do as much, or as little, as you’d like.

You don’t even have to live near one of the major hiking trails, although close proximity does make it easier to lend a helping hand.

There’s a touch of controversy about trail angels. A few vocal opponents claim that these gestures of trail magic diminish the hiking experience. These protestors feel that hikers should make the entire trip on their own, without help or cushy evenings under a stranger’s roof. Some state that the hikers have come to expect these kindnesses.

Those in opposition to trail angels certainly have the privilege of their own opinions. They may be right – there may be a few on the trail that are making the trip with the expectation that strangers will provide many pleasures and amenities to help them achieve their own desires of completing a hike of several thousand miles.

However, none of the hiker’s that the Holman’s crossed paths with had any of these thoughts. One comment that was often repeated was how appreciative all of the hikers were.

One thing to keep in mind is that the trails this year, at least on the PCT, experienced record numbers of hikers. While numbers have increased annually since the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, was written, once the movie was out, the numbers increased dramatically.

A book by Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods, about his experiences on the AT, is now released as a movie, also. Will this increase the number of hikers on that trail also? Probably.

But the question remains, will this increased activity keep escalating, or holding steady? Or, will the numbers drop back down once the excitement generated by the increased promotion of thru hiking dies down? Time will tell.

Thru hiking is not a new venture. Emma Gatewood hiked the AT – not once, but three times, and the Oregon Trail, from 1955 to 1972. She had a lot less equipment and less preparation than many of today’s hikers. In the book, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, by Ben Montgomery, he tells of how she headed off to hike the AT for the first time in 1955. This then 67-years-old great-grandmother started hiking with one change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. But even though she made her journeys so many years ago, she still wrote of the kindnesses she received from strangers – rides, meals, help along the way –years before the terms ‘trail angel’ or ‘trail magic’ were used.

All we can advise, from this side of the page, is to look within your heart. Is this something you want to do? Why do you want to pass along trail magic? Search deep and know why you have this desire. If the answer is still ‘yes’…than carry on and do it. Don’t listen to the naysayers, or the people in your life that may try to dissuade you. Follow your own heart and your own journey.


Trail Angel Mama is available at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble

October 2015

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