If you’ve been keeping up with recent posts to the blog, you know that Naomi is well on her way to completing her thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. And Dave and I have been keeping busy by visiting her and her trail family every couple of weeks along the trail to support them in any way they need. And what we’ve learned in the process is that hikers have fairly simple needs and the five easiest ways to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers are actually pretty basic but go a long way towards helping a hiker out!
The first thing you need to get if you’re planning to hit the road to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers is an A.T. Guide Book. This little book has been invaluable in showing us where road crossings are on the trail. It even has GPS coordinates of for trail side parking areas to get me exactly where I want to go which is especially helpful when I’m driving in unfamiliar areas.
Best Way to Help Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers? Food, Food and More Food!
Hiker hunger is real my friends, and the number one easiest way to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers is by filling their bellies. Thru hikers in general eat a pretty monotonous diet day to day and hikers definitely crave home cooked comfort foods. Each time we visit Naomi on the trail, we fill up the van with an enormous amount of food and I stuff a couple of coolers with whatever foods she and her friends have requested. I then meet them at trail road crossings throughout the day to feed them. For dinners, I’ve made meatballs to serve with spaghetti, barbecued pulled pork, marinated mozzarella and roasted veggies to serve with pasta, chopped up endless grilled chicken breasts and peppers to make salads and quesadillas and also cooked up colder weather favorites like chili or sausage, bean and kale soup. I also try to have salad with most dinners as fresh veggies are hard to come by on the trail. By preparing the meats and sauces ahead of time, these dinners are easy to make trail side with our inexpensive camp stove and help fill up even the hungriest hikers.
Lunches include chopped fresh veggies served with various dips like hummus or guacamole, fresh bagels and cream cheese from our favorite Cincinnati bagel store- Big Apple Bagels, cheese with crackers, cut up fruit, yogurt with granola and roasted turkey to eat in sandwiches. I also like to make sure to have cold drinks on hand including iced coffee, lemonade, iced tea and cans of coke. Since Naomi and her friends are usually just stopping for a short break at lunch time, I try to have things read for them to eat fairly easily and quickly.
Depending on whether they want to head out on the trail quickly or not determines what I offer for breakfast. Sometimes we have leisurely big meals like grits, bacon and eggs, french toast, or sausage, egg and cheese croissants. Sometimes they just grab a blueberry muffin, banana or donut before heading out for the day. Cereal and milk is also a welcome favorite for hikers for both snacks and breakfast.
Rounding out the food I prepare to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers is desserts. And let me tell you, thru hikers love desserts! I make several cakes and cookies ahead of time and just stick them in the freezer so I have them ready to go when I’m heading out to visit. Favorite dessert I’ve served so far? Hands down it’s Pioneer Woman’s Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Icing. Seriously, it’s the very best.
But even if you have nothing prepared, thru hikers appreciate the little things! Naomi’s day was made by two fisherman giving her a lemonade crystal light packet for to mix in her water. And her whole group was once blessed by two little girls bringing them ice cream cones after talking to them in town. A little unexpected treat goes a long way to brightening a thru hiker’s day.
Another Way to Help Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers? Hydrate them!
I always keep several gallon jugs of water on hand to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers so that they can fill up on water that doesn’t have to be treated and they can refill their water bottles throughout the day when I see them at road crossings. It is a nice treat to be able to drink water straight away and this has been especially welcome and even needed lately as water sources were much scarcer in some of the recent trail sections.
In addition to water, I also try to have cold iced tea, lemonade, iced coffee, soda and fruit juice available. Dave’s also been known to stock the coolers with beer that he is more than happy to share and hikers sure seem to appreciate. In New Hampshire, we were all blessed at a road side trail angel with a cooler full of ice cold soda and I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to drink a cold coke when I hadn’t been expecting it.
Want to Help Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers? Give Them a Ride!
One of the best ways to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers is to give them a ride to wherever they need to go. We’ve been so thankful we have our big van to shuttle around thru hikers to town from the trail and from town back to the trail. Hikers need to get to town to resupply their food bags at the grocery, find a place to shower, do laundry, charge their phones and so on. I speak from experience that I ride into town or back to the trail is a true blessing to a hiker.
Want to Help Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers? Offer Small Comforts
When towns aren’t close by, I try to keep on hand small comforts that make a big difference to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers. Here’s some of the things I always keep in the van-
Places to sit. Sitting in a fold up chair or hammock is a huge blessing to tired legs.
A Way to Clean Up. A rinse off from a solar shower is such a treat when a real shower isn’t available. I also keep on hand a utility bucket with basic hygiene supplies like soap, shampoo, razors and towels as well as a large tub of baby wipes. A big hand sanitizer pump is also always at the ready.
First Aid. A basic kit of common over the counter medications, bandages and ointments is a simple way to help Appalachian Trail thru hikers.
Phone Chargers. I try to have several charging cords at the ready in the van to charge electronics.
Trash Bags. Having a place for hikers to leave their trash is a God send for them.
Foam Roller and Muscle Roller. Both a foam roller and a muscle roller have been used often on our visits to the trail and do wonders for sore muscles.
Best Way to Help Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers? Offer Kind Words and Encouragement!
Thru hiking the Appalachian Trail is a large undertaking and hikers can use every bit of encouragement they can get. And Naomi along with her fellow hikers has gotten some amazing words of encouragement on her Appalachian Trail adventure. From notes of encouragement stuck to shelter walls to strangers taking the time to get to know them, the kindness of people has done so much to fuel Naomi along. So if you see a thru hiker out and about, throw a smile and a few kind words their way. Along with a snack of course.