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

New Release! Trail Angel Mama

ail Angel Mama_coverIt’s live! TRAIL ANGEL MAMA is available as an ebook now!

Here’s a short excerpt for your weekend reading pleasure:

A mid-May snow storm in Wrightwood left four hikers cold, wet and looking for a warm room for the night. We got a call from Zach and Mike headed right into town to pick them up. By the time he got there, they and their packs and sleeping bags were soaked through.

A roaring fire and a hot dinner greeted our guests when they arrived. It was an easy meal for me to fix; baked spaghetti, salad and garlic bread. A batch of fresh baked brownies was a dessert that everyone enjoyed.

With our tummies full and the fire keeping everyone warm, we sat around exchanging stories. These newest four were a diverse group, as I’m seeing most are.

Zach, or ‘Face’ as he’s called on the trail, isn’t a newbie hiker. He hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) in 2011. He’s 29-years-old, from Mississippi and likes to garden and make homemade mustard.

Jack, with the trail name ‘Catwhacker’, is a 25-year-old from Oregon. He’s an environmental engineer and he’s taking this time on the trail before he starts his master’s program in August.

While female hikers traveling alone may be the minority on the trail, it’s not unusual to see them. Rachel, or ‘Gazelle’, is an adventurous 23-year-old from Canada. She lived in Asia for a year and wants to live in New Zealand in the future. She’s working her way, a mile at a time, back toward the Canadian border and home.

Ram was the oldest in this group of four. He also traveled the furthest of this group to hike the PCT, being another one that came from Israel.

As much as we all enjoyed meeting one another and sharing stories, our hikers were exhausted. After hiking a 29 mile day, through a light snow storm over Mt. Baden-Powell, then eating and sitting around a fire, energy levels dropped and we all headed to bed by 9:00.

This guest room of ours is starting to get a work out.

After a sound night’s sleep, everyone was up by 7:00. Most of the hikers are fairly self-sufficient and these four were no different. While they fixed themselves breakfast, Ram made his first cup of American coffee, and they discussed when they were going to move on. Catwhacker was waiting for a resupply package that afternoon. They debated about waiting for his package to arrive and then leave in the afternoon. After looking at the weather forecast, they decided to hang out in Wrightwood for another day.

Just a note, Zach – or ‘Face’ on the trail – made it to the Canadian border on September 15th. Congratulations on a successful thru-hike, Zach!


For more tales from Trail Angel Mama, here’s the link for the ebook at Amazon.

Trail Angel Mama – coming October 3rd!

ail Angel Mama_coverSee the Pacific Crest Trail from the other side – from the viewpoint of ‘Trail Angel Mama’. Trail angels dispense trail magic to hikers; from a bottle of water or a ride into town, to a hot meal and a bed for the night. The Holman’s discovered a new world in this journey as hiker’s touched their hearts in an unexpected way. They set out to share blessings. Instead, they were the ones blessed.

Here’s an excerpt from Trail Angel Mama. This is the first night that they hosted a large group of eight hikers. Will such a big group test the limits of their trail angel patience? Or will it confirm that they’ve made the right choice?

Eight of Them?

May 8, 2015

Now I’m officially excited! It’s only been a week, and I got another trail angel call today. A hiker called ‘Burgundy’ called to see if we had room for him to sleep one night. “Of course,” I answered, happy to help out another hiker.

“Do you by any chance have room for nine?”

“Ummm … Nine?” I was a little hesitant and I think he could hear it in my voice.

He jumped right in and said, “We could sleep on the floor. It doesn’t have to be a bed.”

The Ona Mae in me (my mother) couldn’t say no. “I have a set of bunk beds that will sleep two. But there’s plenty of room on the floor. Of course there’s room for you all.”

We arranged to meet at the post office in Wrightwood at 3:15, shortly after I got off work. I pulled up to a small crowd gathered at the post office, all accompanied by big – and by big I mean huge – backpacks.

From the time I pulled up, they were the friendliest group. I didn’t know then that this is how the entire time would be, from now until they pulled out of the driveway the next morning.

While we were all chatting in the post office parking lot, I saw a teacher from the high school. We said hi to each other. “Are you going hiking?” she asked me. A few of the guys picked up on this exchange and started joking about yes, I was joining them on the trail.

When I saw her at work the next Monday, I told her that Mike and I are trail angels and explained what that meant. She said that she thought one of the hikers was my son because the group and I were on such familiar terms.

But, back to the dilemma I was facing that Friday afternoon. I looked at my Jeep. I looked at the hikers. My head swiveled back to my vehicle. Then my gaze shifted to the mountainous stack of backpacks.

I counted heads.

I counted backpacks.

I counted seats in my vehicle and tried to do some quick calculating, which is not my strong suit on a Friday afternoon after a long week at work, mind you. “I think we can do this in three trips,” I finally said.

No. They insisted that I didn’t need to make so many trips. “Drive real slow and we’ll just run behind the car,” one of them suggested.

“No!” I emphatically said, although I had to laugh a little at the thought of how we’d look, chugging up the hill to Lone Pine. “I am not comfortable with that idea at all.”

After a brief discussion, one suggested that he could go with me and the backpacks and the rest of the group could walk to my house.

“I don’t mind making a few trips. I don’t want you all to have to walk up there.”

They all laughed, seeing the irony of my protest before I did. “We don’t mind,” one called out. “We’re professional walkers!”

…follow the blog for more snippets and updates on Trail Angel Mama as the Holman’s dispense trail magic in their small mountain town.

August 2022

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