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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Trail Magic: Finding What You Need Most When You Least Expect It (and a giveaway)


Friends, one of the things that delights me most about posting these weekly “Views from the Ridge” is not only reading your responses, but also the comments you make to each other.


Most of you are strangers, and yet you take time to encourage others out of your own life experiences. You make terrific trailmates!


Now it’s your turn.


What’s something that happened to you lately that you did not expect, but turned out to be exactly what you needed?


Maybe it was a call from an old friend that came at the perfect time, or you received an unexpected gift that was just what you needed.


Did the insurance company coverage come through when you’d almost given up hope, or the apartment or home you’d waited for finally become available?


Most important of all, maybe a family member who had been out of touch reached out at last, restoring a vital connection you feared you had lost.


I like to think of joyful, hope-filled times like these as trail magic. (Photos follow of a few such moments we encountered last month in Switzerland.)


But first, what exactly is “trail magic”?


The term came into use by through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which stretches over 2,000 miles between Springer Mountain, Georgia, and Katahdin, Maine, passing within a few miles of our home here in western North Carolina. I enjoy reading accounts by those hardy souls making this iconic trek, especially when they describe unanticipated comforts on the rigorous journey.


Here is how the Appalachian Trail Conservancy defines trail magic:

“Finding what you need most when you least expect it.
Experiencing something rare, extraordinary, or inspiring in nature.
Encountering unexpected acts of generosity that restore one's faith in humanity.”

The United Airlines voucher that covered most of our airfare to Switzerland last month was big-time trail magic, but we encountered small unplanned moments that sparked joy as well:


- A Swiss tour guide at the top of Diablerets who generously offered wine, cheese, and pate to us gratis even though we were not part of his group.


Though strangers to us, we had the joy of witnessing one of the most important moments of this young couple's life.

A day-long hike on our sole Sunday that took us from the enchanting Lauterbrunnen Valley to the “Royal Walk” above Wengen along the Mannlichen ridge, where we had the pleasure of accidentally witnessing the engagement of a young Korean couple.


Mike offered to officiate their wedding on the spot!


- An outdoor worship service with an eight-piece brass band that fed our souls as we praised God surrounded by the majesty of the Alps. No matter the pastor spoke German and we do not; the Spirit bore witness to our spirits.

We heard the hymns long before we located the service.

- Cramming onto a crowded train nose-to-nose with fellow passengers who told us about a local cheese festival at the very next stop that we would otherwise have missed. We had our first taste of the famous Swiss raclette!

Just before we left, an entertainer broke into Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in English, and he laughed when Mike and I - the only Red Sox fans in the crowd – sang along complete with the famous refrain: “So good! So good! So good!”


- And more critical to our safety, real “trail magic” came in the form of a guide rope when we were hiking a glacier at nearly 10,000 feet elevation, and a storm blew in on our return trip.

Whiteout at 10,000 feet. We were thankful to have a guide rope!

Some of you are walking a hard road right now – encountering significant challenges with health, family relationships, church conflicts, finances. How I pray you will have unexpected moments of joy along the way — gifts of mercy and grace from the hands of our loving Father.

“Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” James 1:17 Message


In her new book Keep Moving Forward, author Melony Brown talks about the gifts scattered along the difficult parts of our paths.

“What are those promises and gifts? God strengthens you, anoints you, sustains you, and doesn’t allow the enemy to get the better of you or oppress you…God’s faithful love is with you. And through His name, you will be exalted.”

It’s your turn!


What’s something fun – large or small – that’s made you laugh or brought you joy recently? Please share it with the rest of us!


In return, I’ll choose one comment at random by October 23 to receive a bit of “trail magic” of your own– a $10 Amazon gift card.


Just because.


- Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie Rowe is a speaker, dramatist, and author who writes from Peace Ridge, her home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. She loves discovering trail magic and sharing it with others.



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