88-year-old woman recalls 40 years of ‘Trail magic’ hiking the Appalachian Trail

North Carolina native Nancy Weaver has always loved the outdoors, so camping and hiking seemed natural to her.

In more than forty years of hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail, Weaver, now 88, has learned a few things: be prepared for rain and the occasional bear, pack lightly, and expect kindness from strangers. “Trail Magic,” they call it, and it comes in all forms.

She first started hiking the trail with her late husband, a Boy Scout leader, and two of their five children. Later on, they went with other couples, then she went with women friends.

Eventually, you choose a trail name or someone chooses it for you. Hers was “Lady Slipper.”

On the Appalachian Trail, you can expect rain and bears. The rain bothered her more than the bears, since hikers get drenched. A bear runs away, but the rain stays on.

When hikers finally come off the trail, they’re beyond dirty. Weaver’s husband got a ride into town one day, looking like a tramp. He got picked up anyway. Here’s where the Trail Magic comes in. One fellow hiked up to the shelter where their group was staying, hauling fresh peaches for everyone. Another placed a cooler with iced-down soft drinks on the trail, and a sign reading, “Help Yourself.”

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