Trail Angels are people who do very special things for hikers to help make their day a little better. I've mentioned before that as a hiker I've received Trail Magic in the way of free meals, sodas, and fruit. Well it is usually trail angels who provide the magic. But the magic isn't always something you'd expect. In the case of my birthday it was these two girls making a 40th birthday away from family special.
A few days earlier I had hit Newfound Gap with Bobber. As soon as we got there a fellow named Mark was there to greet us with chips, sodas and ride into Gatlinburg. If you've never been to the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg lies on the borders of the western park boundaries. It's 15 miles from Newfound Gap and an entire day's hike. Mark really saved our butts. He was once a thru-hiker and knows how special it is to get the help when you really need it. Mark and his wife work really hard to help others out in the the area, and that makes them very special to the hiking community.
After a night of gorging in food in Gatlinburg, the next morning Bobber and I headed over to the nearest outfitter, the NOC, to see about getting a shuttle ride back to the trail. The NOC has a strict schedule for shuttles and they only carry about 4 hikers at a time. Well at 9am the best we were going to get from the NOC was a 3pm shuttle. Luckily there were angels in the making that happened along behind us. A couple from Ohio, Robert and Katie, in town on vacation saw us at the NOC and started asking questions about our gear and the hike. We gladly told them everything they could want to know. Well Katie told us how afraid she was of the mountains and cliffs. She explained how bad her fears were from taking a trip the day before into the Smoky Mountains. She said she couldn't stand the thought of driving on a mountain looking down the the steep cliff walls from the road. Well after learning we were trying to get back up to the TOP of the mountains with no luck, Katie put here fears aside and said she would gladly see us get there. Robert and Katie drove us the 15 miles to the top of Newfound Gap... and then refused to accept any gas money from us. This type of help was so unexpected and makes them very special people to go out of their way for us... complete strangers to whom I feel I owe a special thanks. So to Robert and Katie, thank you for being our Trail Angels!
I have other trail angels that have been my support system all along since planning this hike. MOM and DAD! They have been caring for my cats while I'm on the trail. Recently one of the cats became very sick to the point it didn't sound like she would make it. But with the right care and love she is doing much better now. I can't wait to hit NJ to see them! Thanks Mom and Dad for taking such good care of them.
My biggest trail angel and supporter has been Mary. She has been making sure I get everything I need while I'm on the trail. She has been experimenting with making dried meals for re-hydration, forwarding snacks we purchased before I left, and most importantly makes sure we get to talk when the cell service provides the opportunity. She's my Trail Angel and I miss her so much. Luckily she came up from Florida this weekend and picked me up in Hot Springs, NC. We got to spend quality time together in Asheville visiting the Biltmore. What a great birthday weekend!
Well it's 274 miles down. Mary will be dropping me off on the trail tomorrow morning to meet up with Bobber again. We will be off to tackle the rest of North Carolina and Tennessee. Here's some pictures from one of the best places I've seen so far on the trail, Max Patch.
|Walking up to Max Patch
|View from Max Patch
|The trail across Max Patch
|Just kicking back on Max Patch
|Making it into Hot Springs after an 18 mile day
|Carrot Birthday Cake sent by Mary to Hot Springs... SWEET!