5 years ago today I began a journey that has led me to this place. As I was getting another training hike in trying to get my body ready for the PCT I was thinking about all of the absolutely amazing people I have met because of hiking. Obviously many individual trail angels immediately came to mind because they were so selflessly willing to give whatever they could to help me hike the AT. Most times it was snacks or a meal and a drink but it was also rides into town and back to the trail, rides around town helping me get to the stores I needed to resupply. Sometimes it was a total stranger willing to open up their home to me and let be a part of their family for the night. Once it was a surprise dinner awaiting at the top of a mountain where no one would ever expect such a treat. Another time it was the gift of an iPhone (the exact iPhone I had been used to) when my iPhone died. Yet another time it was a section hiker I had met way back in Virginia who graciously let us (a group of four smelly thruhikers and my dog) stay with them for four days during an awful heatwave. Once it was a hotel manager offering to let us stay a second night for free to recover a bit. That same hotel manager offered us his vehicle to go into town and when we refused his offer he insisted on carting us around to wherever we wanted to go. And then there is Miss Janet who for decades has travelled up and down between Georgia and Maine helping hikers however she can. And what about some of the hostel owners who were obviously running their hostel at a loss just so they could help hikers even though knew they wouldn’t be able to afford to keep it up. One hostel owner shared his personal story of how the trail changed his life and how no matter what he will continue to help hikers even though it was clear he may have been better off helping himself. I have been so fortunate to not only meet these people but to benefit from their generosity and love of the trail. It has changed the way I think about other people and it definitely makes me want to strive to be a better person and help as many people around me as I can. While I hiked I had a limited amount of funds and sadly could only leave extra money for a few people along the way. I wished it was different but I had to make it to Maine with what I had. Since then I have tried to be as generous as I could when I hear of someone who is in need. I have almost always picked up every hitchhiker I see and we have often spent time talking with (making a coffee for or fixing broken items for) the ones who most of society tries not to see and pretends aren’t there. It’s my way of giving back to the community around me but when I think of the trail it still isn’t enough. I don’t have the finances to help the people I would love to help. As I save up for this PCT hike I am sure that I will again meet many people that I wish I could do something more for but often have to just accept their generosity and leave a token tip. I thought of setting up a Patreon account and whenever anyone offers to help me on my hike direct them to that account so that I can at least send their money to where it would be most helpful. I don’t really want to manage something like that while I am hiking but it is something I’m considering. In the meantime I have decided that the least I can do is write blogs about these wonderful people I meet and tell their stories. It’s too late for me to go back and do that for my AT hike but I can do it for the people I see giving their heart and soul to the trail community but struggling to get by. I will keep their contact information and if any of my readers want to help me by helping them I will happily forward addresses or funds or whatever is most suitable depending on each situation.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail five years ago has had a huge, lasting impact on my life, I can only imagine what the Pacific Crest Trail will do to me. Those who have followed along, given encouragement as I have drastically changed my lifestyle and been there for support when we have needed it thank you so much.