Businesses, residents prep for peak Appalachian Trail season

'We call it 'trail magic''

HAMBURG, Pa. - The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and runs through our region. Police in towns near the trail, including Hamburg, focus on safety.

"Make sure there's no type of criminal activity going on up there," said Chief Anthony Kuklinski, Hamburg Police Department. "Make sure there's no unwanted persons up there."

While the neighbors tend to serve as a sort of trail concierge, helping hikers seeking new experiences and trail names.

"If it's during the week, then I tell them to go to the hotel," Port Clint resident Darlene Himmelberger says, referring to the Port Clinton Hotel on Route 61 in Schuylkill County, not far from her home.

"I started with a hare and he was a lot faster than me," said Clayton "Tortoise" Gilbert. "I just decided to be slow and steady."

Overall, the trail itself is an environmental and economic resource for the region.

"There's a lot of hikers that come in from out of state," said Kuklinski. "I love hearing their stories."

Randy Hoffman, the Port Clinton Hotel's owner, said he expects to see a big uptick in business over the next three months.

"It means a lot," Hoffman said. "The whole community here in Port Clinton work together. A lot of us recommend the other places in town."

The trail itself tells a two-part story. It's a story of greenery, peace and quiet and another of the town's that lie just beyond, offering help and trail magic.

"It's amazing. It's such a lifting experience when you come up, that a group of people have, we call it 'trail magic,'" Gilbert said. "Giving of food or supplies or rides or things like that."

A trail magic-maker who's been helping hikers for decades is Himmelberger.

"If they need a ride to Hamburg, to the grocery store, or to Walmart or to Cabela's," Himmelberger explained.

She even keeps in touch with one hiker's family, after helping to return a lost wallet years ago.

"I asked different hikers if they knew her or if they could find her," Himmelberger said. "Every year, I get a Christmas card and I send her one."

So it's more than just scenic miles and rough Keystone State terrain.

"We are finding that Pennsylvania has a lot of rocks in it that we weren't used to," Gilbert said.

But, according to one hiker, Devin "Tiger Lilly" Culpepper, it's about the journey.

"It kinda feels like you work for every nice moment you have," Culpepper said.

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