FLAG POND — Hiking season is in full swing, and a group of local Appalachian Trail enthusiasts took some time Wednesday to bring a little bit of “trail magic” to a number of weary and hungry AT hikers.
The seventh annual “Trail Angels” event was held on Wednesday. Near where the Appalachian Trail crosses at Sams Gap, organizers set up grills to provide hikers coming from the Hot Spring, N.C., area with hot dogs and hamburgers. Hikers stopping by were also treated to doughnuts, cold drinks and ice cream, and were provided with a place to rest up before again setting off on the trail.
“We just want to give back some of the good things that have been done for us and help the hikers enjoy their hike,” co-organizer John Tomko said.
Along with Tomko, other local organizers include Jim Foster, Lou Thornberry, Doug Clark, Bruce Darby, Shelton Thompson and Ted Mowery.
The term “trail magic” refers to when acts of kindness, random or otherwise, are bestowed upon hikers. Tomko said it was his own experience with trail magic that inspired him to take part in the annual Trail Angels event. While thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania a hot day several years back, Tomko found that someone had left canned drinks along the trail for passing hikers.
“It was just delicious, such a pleasant surprise,” he said.
Another organizer, Howard Robinson, came in from Benton Harbor, Mich., to join others for the annual event. Robinson said he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005. On the northern end of the trail and near the end of his hike, Robinson said he ran into a group made up of some of the aforementioned local organizers, and they began planning the event.
“I said ‘well, if I finish the trail, I’m going to come back to give back,’ ” Robinson said.
By 11:30 a.m., more than 40 hikers had stopped off for food, rest or both, Tomko said. Word of the Trail Angels stop is disseminated through notices and is spread by word-of-mouth by hikers.
One thru-hiker, who goes by the trail name “Quinn,” said he has seen a “good bit” of trail magic along his hikes. For him, stops such as the one at Sams Gap are a welcome sight.
“It’s a cool spot to hang out and meet others, and it’s amazing to me that there’s so much support for hikers from seemingly random people,” he said.
Another hiker in Quinn’s group, who goes by the trail name “Wyoming,” agreed with his fellow hiker’s take.
“It’s awesome,” he said.