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  • Writer's pictureErin Miller

SPREADING JOY AND NOURISHMENT: ACPS Students Support Appalachian Trail Hikers

The 7th and 8th graders from Asheville Pisgah Christian School recently had the opportunity to serve as Trail Angels. Every year, thousands of hikers attempt to traverse the 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. These miles are long and challenging, with hikers carrying all their supplies in small, heavy backpacks through beautiful, rugged terrain. Most hikers carry minimal, freeze-dried, and prepackaged food. This time of year, many of these thru-hikers are crossing the North Carolina section.

“Trail Angel” is a term of endearment given to volunteers who bring fresh food and supplies to intersections of the trail, offering them to passing hikers. Steven and Sharon FitzGerald regularly serve as Trail Angels at different points along the trail. They helped the class compile a list of supplies. The students then loaded up and drove to Sam’s Gap on the North Carolina/Tennessee border, where they set up tables and chairs. Some students manned the sandwich station and offered a variety of fruit, chips, and cookies, while others operated a cooler filled with sodas and water, or poured coffee and milk.

When hikers approached, they were warmly welcomed and invited to join the group. They could take off their packs, wash and sanitize their hands, and select the food they wanted. They were invited to sit and eat at camping chairs around a table. Many of the hikers shared with the students details about their homes, how long they had been hiking, what animals they had seen, and how they dealt with the cold and rain. As they finished, the students offered to pack an additional sandwich for them to take for later.

One of the students’ most enjoyable tasks was to offer each hiker a business-sized card, each printed with a unique Bible verse appropriate for their hike. Hikers were encouraged to select a card and carry the verse with them on the trail. Examples of the cards included:

“You are a shelter from the storm, and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4

“I lift up my eyes to the hills...My help comes from God, the Creator.” Psalms 121:1-2

“The water I give is a spring of living water; whoever drinks of this water will never thirst.” John 4:14

As they planned and set up, the young people anticipated this experience, knowing they might bless new friends on their journey. But it’s hard to describe the joy of seeing the hikers’ surprise at the preparations made for them, their delight in fresh grapes, bananas, and orange soda, and a soft sandwich with fresh lettuce and tomato. It was heartwarming to witness heavy packs being laid on the ground for a few minutes, to serve these hikers as they sat and savored an unexpected meal. As is often the case, it was far more fun to give than to receive.

— Erin Miller, Asheville Pisgah Church School Principal

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