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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey


Trail Magic

Jul 28, 2021 02:14PM ● By Nicole Zornitzer

According to all the books and experts who have traveled the Appalachian Trail, there is a term referred to as “trail magic”.  The definition of such is:

Acts of generosity in the wild and primitive setting of the Appalachian Trail, where basic amenities of civilization are intentionally absent, are often received in a heightened sense of wonder and gratitude by hikers. These acts of generosity are referred to as “trail magic”.

My son and I recently completed our first experience on the Appalachian Trial in the mountains of North Carolina; Max Patch to Hot Springs, to be exact. Our intentions in taking this adventure are many, but the most important is as a training for our desire to hike the full 2190+ mile trail from Georgia to Maine in approximately four years. The necessity of training for a trip of this nature cannot be understated and requires practice in reliance on pure physical and mental strength to persevere and not become injured along the way. We have spent the better half of 12 months preparing for this trip; participating in multiple types of exercise and mindful behaviors.

I knew going into this trip that we would probably not see the “real” trail magic as sited above due to the relatively small number of miles we planned to hike. However, I did go into our experience with eyes wide open to experience all of what was presented to me.  

As I walked miles upon miles with 26 lbs on my back, through a hurricane dumping massive amounts of rain, I began to wonder “where is the glory in this?”  I was soaking wet, tired, hungry, and carrying more weight on my back than I thought possible.  I began to feel muscles in my legs that I never knew existed, which is amazing to me since prior to the first step I believed I understood anatomy well. When we finally made it to our first evening’s shelter site and pitched our tent in a wilderness one can only imagine, I placed my body on Mother Earth and pondered this idea of “trail magic”.  In this moment, these are the words that came to me:

What if the true meaning of trail magic is:

Pre-hike eating warm biscuits and cinnamon apples for breakfast at an old tomato plant that became a roller rink and is now an infamous dinner named Smokey Mountain Diner at the base of the A.T. in Hot Springs

Finding the definition of MUSIC in a dingy bathroom framed for all to read just because someone else cares as much as I do about music

Watching a bird watch you

Feeling mud squish between your toes

Eating dehydrated hummus on a pita while sitting near a water source of fresh mountain water on a rock filled with moss

Seeing spectacular landscapes that are even now impossible to describe 

Enjoying each rain drop as it hits your face and becomes your outdoor shower

Learning about flowers, plants, mountain terrain from a certified botanist who just happens to be your guide

Laying down in a tent while pellets of rain threaten to wash you down a mountain like a pile of forgotten debris

Trail magic can become so many things to the individual hiking this trail.  What I have realized is that my trail magic is watching a young man, who once was a baby and is now a man, experiencing more beauty than one could imagine and absorbing every step, every scent, every experience with the eyes of the very same child that came out of my belly.  

Trail magic is the magic of just being. Being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Trail magic for me was the pure bliss of watching my son, Jared, visualize his big dream for the day when he hikes the A.T. as a through hiker, enduring 2190+ miles on this glorious place called earth.

Nicole Zornitzer, ERYT 1000, yoga therapist, founder of Niyama Yoga & Wellness Shala, located in Randolph, New Jersey, Upper Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey, and Delray Beach in Florida.


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