Magic is the impossible come to life. Thru-hikers along the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails find it all the time: coolers of Cokes, boxes of Snickers, spare socks in an ammo tin.

Blue Eyes and Socks, Pacific Crest Trail, summer of 2009.

Right on the trail, hundreds of miles from the nearest 7/11, are these treats that should not be there. Trail magic. The magicians are better known as trail angels, folks with an irresistible urge to help out haggard hikers.

It’s a fair guess the hikers are too hungry or tired to wonder why trail angels are so generous. Then again they have thousands of miles to figure it out, so maybe they’ve got it all down.

Yesterday I read a post on Ray Anderson’s blog about a magic moment from his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. And this morning I thought about The Voodoo Chile, the southbound Hendrix fan I met on the AT a couple days ago.

And that’s when it dawned on me why so much magic happens to thru-hikers. Meeting a thru-hiker on the trail is seeing the impossible made real. We can’t quit our jobs, leave our families, drain our bank accounts, to spend six months in the woods. Impossible.

Think about the last time you saw a street magician — we know it’s all sleight of hand, but a well-done magic trick triggers an instinctive urge to applaud. We see one, we want more.

And so we have trail angels, leaving goodies in lieu of applause.

Magic begets magic.

For bloggers, that’s something to think about if you’re floundering through a post. Find the impossible come to life.

Ladder to the sky

This picture from one of my hikes at Grandfather Mountain represents a magic moment. Why? Because climbing this ladder and heading up the trail requires a momentarily harrowing move that requires the hiker to banish fear. Falling here would probably be fatal.

This is where I learned I could do something that should’ve been impossible for me. I’ve always been leery of heights, not particularly brave or prone to risks. But on that ladder I reminded myself: what can happen when you’ve got good footing and a solid hand-hold? The magic was realizing I could manage my fear just like all those famous mountaineers and rock climbers.

So my advice to bloggers: Put a little magic in every post.

Novelty trumps everything on the Web. Sure, people appreciate handy hiking tips, but they crave that moment when the guy waves a wand and the elephant disappears. Cater to their cravings and they’ll keep coming back.