It all started at the top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the AT, where we planned to get a shuttle into Gatlinburg to resupply. Unfortunately, the shuttle was a trail rumor and a ranger at Clingman's let us know that if we needed a ride, he'd get us to Gatlinburg when his shift ended at 5 (a few hours away). We were feeling hot, tired, and hungry, when Keith and Sandra popped into the conversation and offered us a ride into Gatlinburg out of the goodness of their hearts. They dropped us off with a gift card for dinner and requested that we read Romans 16:16 and call them from Katahdin, ME when we finish. Keith and Sandra - we read Romans 16:16 and we have your number saved for Maine.
The next day at breakfast in the hotel (free tiny, lightweight packets of jelly.....score huge for hikers!), we ran into Ten Minutes (now goes by "Minutes"), who had some interesting news. A few weeks ago after our shakedown, Brian mailed a package to his parents with some of the things we wanted to cut from our packs, including his Kindle. I'm not sure what was going on at UPS that day, but the package never made it to Brian's parents, and after several phone calls, Tony learned that UPS had used a duplicate tracking number and didn't know where the package was, but just that it had been signed for somewhere in Baltimore! But two weeks later at breakfast, Minutes tells us that someone named Angel found our package and has been looking for us in an AT Facebook group to get us the package back. Now, thanks to a complete stranger, we have our package waiting for us in Erwin, Tennessee, about a week's hike away. It may be a blessing in disguise, because Brian has decided he might want that Kindle along after all.
|Noah's Ark Widow's Ministry - trail magicians!
Then, thanks to the couple from Dauphin Island, Alabama (sorry, we didn't catch your names!), we made it back to Clingman's dome where we left off. We had been on the trail for about 20 seconds when we ran into Peggy, and the first words out of her mouth were literally, "Are you two thru hikers? Here, have a soda and a snickers." So, we embraced our day of gluttony and sat down for a snack. Talking to Peggy, she mentioned a hiker named Toby Keith who we've been hiking with for a few weeks. Toby Keith lost his namesake cowboy hat a few weeks ago and has been lamenting it since (we just ran into him the night before in Gatlinburg, and after a few free tastings of moonshine, the talked turned to his lost cowboy hat). But here's the kicker - Peggy had heard Toby Keith mention losing his hat at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (the NOC) a week earlier, and had found it on the trail day hiking - SHE HAD THE HAT!! We let her know where Toby Keith was staying in Gatlinburg, and sure enough, a few days later, there he was with his cowboy hat that made its way 70 miles up the trail to find him. Pretty incredible.
So, there is such a thing as a free lunch, and there are a lot of people in this world who are open and kind to the strangers they meet. Once you experience trail magic, you can't help but want to pass it on, which we both plan to.