Expect Nothing, Appreciate Everything
Both times that I hiked the Appalachian Trail, trail angels did not really exist. Nor were they present for me on the Pacific Coast Trail. There were people who were kind to me and fed me and even housed me at times. But they were few and far between. We hikers had not yet coined the “trail angel” phrase.
Trail angel: A person who helps hikers.
Today there are people who set up huge barbecues for hikers at road crossings. There are networks of people one can call for rides or water. And unfortunately, there are now hikers who not only expect these things, they believe they deserve them.
A friend offered me the line “Expect nothing, appreciate everything,” and I truly believe that is how it should be. Just because we are walking this trail does not mean we deserve special treatment. I find by not expecting it, I am always pleasantly surprised and grateful when kindness comes my way.
I met an incredibly wise twenty-something-year-old hiker. He is hiking this trail with a carbon-fiber foot, which replaces the one he lost. He told me that when he worked clearing trail in New Jersey, some hikers would come along and ask him where the trail magic was. They were looking for an angel who would offer them food. This wise young man told me he used to spread his arms and reply, “Look, there is trail magic all around you.” Those hikers, expecting to be fed, were missing out on the beauty all around them.
Yogi: To mention your state of hunger to someone and allow them the opportunity to share their excess food.
A few hikers with this kind of attitude can ruin the entire trail angel network. These angels share from their hearts and deserve to feel appreciated. It is why yogiing developed. Yogiing is not about asking for food. Nor is it about trying to glean something from someone deceitfully. The idea behind yogiing is that by putting your need out there through sharing your story, you give someone else the opportunity to choose to meet that need or not. You are not putting them on the spot by asking for what sometimes is obviously more food than they will use on their hike. And if they choose to respond, it becomes a win-win situation, as the hiker is blessed with the bounty from someone else's plenty, and the person offering the food feels good about sharing. Coming out and asking directly would not have quite the same result.
Expect nothing, appreciate everything. It is one of the mottos I want to live by.
Above: A few of the many trail angels whom Mary has met while hiking the Continental Divide Trail. Mary completed the southern half of the CDT in 2020 and resumed her hike in May 2021. She is now in Big Sky, Montana, and hopes to reach South Pass, Wyoming in mid September, completing the 3,000-mile trail.
Update 8/21/21: Mary is now in Yellowstone, where she has been delayed for a couple of days by camping-permit restrictions. She will resume her hike today. She has 300 miles to go.