Out of breath with my legs aching after four miles of steady climbing, I finally came to a clearing near the summit. Stopping to rest for a moment, I took in my first views of the valley below since most of the hike had been heavily wooded. As I breathed in the beauty of the forest and mountains I pulled out my phone to record a short video to narrate the experience. As I was almost finished, a woman came walking up the trail and stopped at the same clearing and started talking to me without realizing I was recording. Once she saw I was making a video she apologized but I laughed and told her it was no problem, and that in fact it would add to its authenticity! We started talking and it turns out this was her fist time climbing Mt. Si as well even though she lives in the Seattle area. We decided to continue our trek to the top together and we ended up motivating each other through the last grueling half mile.
Once we reached the summit we took photos for each other, ate our lunch, fed the wild birds and took in the gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier and the surrounding majestic 360 degrees landscape. When we were ready to start the hike down we decided to join forces again. Two hours and lots of amazing conversation later we reached the parking lot at the bottom of Mt. Si. We hugged, exclaimed how nice it was to meet each other, exchanged Instagram handles…and then said goodbye and went our separate ways. Another woman and her family were not far behind us and she said incredulously, “Did you two just meet today? I thought you two knew each other and were friends!” I explained that we just met today and in fact only a few hours ago and the woman could not believe it.
This is what is known as “Trail Magic” and is just one example out of dozens of similar encounters I’ve had. Trail Magic is when we embark on a hike or adventure and end up meeting a stranger or two that we connect with, talk to and with whom we share the current experience. Sometimes that connection lasts only for the hike. You meet by chance and share a common goal of reaching a summit, discovering a waterfall or finishing a challenging section of trail. The memories you’ll share will last a lifetime even if time, distance and circumstances make it impossible to stay in touch afterwards. The bond of Trail Magic is real and is not determined by whether or not you ever see or talk to each other in the future. Just because a connection doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean the experience is any less important, memorable, or life-changing.
The wonderful thing is that many times Trail Magic results in friendships that endure beyond that first chance meeting. You discover you have much in common or you’re from the same part of the world or you realize that staying in touch will enrich both of your lives in the way that good friendships tend to do. I have one of these Trail Magic friends whom I met halfway around the world on a tour bus filled with international travelers. We discovered that we both live in the same part of the US, were passionate about hiking, nature and adventure and were each traveling solo. Over the course of the 6-day tour we shared, a friendship quickly formed and when we parted ways we decided to stay connected. It’s almost a year later and we are still in touch and telling each other about our latest adventures!
Trail Magic is a wonderful phenomenon of shared experiences, lifelong memories, friendship and adventure. On the trail we are no longer strangers but fellow explorers sharing a journey. Those of us who explore come from all walks of life, all genders, all backgrounds and from all over the world. So get out there and meet a Trail Magic buddy!