There's a tradition on the trail that just when a hiker is at their lowest, cold, wet dirty, hungry and worn out, Trail Magic will serendipitously appear. It could be as simple as an unwrapped gummy bear dropped by a child on the trail - I watched AT thru-hiker 2012 Fatherman eat it on his you tube videos or it could be a long distance ride, with supper thrown in by the Trail Angel, a cookout set up by the side of the road as exhausted AT hikers emerge from the forest (often provided by Trail Angels who were AT Hikers or the families & friends who supported them) or Trail Magic found along the trail itself, or a unexpected box sent to a postal drop the hiker stops at in nearby towns along the trail.Bioptherea talked about this on his You Tube video.
I haven't figured out whether families who support their AT hiker are called Trail Angels or not yet. And while we may not become Trail Angels along the trail until next year when Jeff can show us the right locations to meet AT Hikers, Kendall, Beth and I are doing what we can from the home front. We've set up a rather messy assembly line for the care packages we'll be sending Jeff along the way. He left a list of items he'll need as well as a box full of many of them in prep, but we'll also send surprise goodies.
It makes us feel involved and especially gives Kendall the chance to feel more connected to her Uncle and like she can do something for him after all the things he's done for her over the years. He's the best uncle in the world and this gives her a chance to say thanks! And keep walking and enjoying the travels.
Recently an independent film, Trail Angels, was released by award winning director, Daniel Peddle, documenting a number of Trail Angels whose ingenuity, giving nature and sacrifice make such a huge difference in the day to day drudgery of AT hikers.
Update: 4/24/12 - here's a video of Jeff opening his mail drop box.