Notes from the Underground

Trail Magic

Trail Magic

Earlier this year, police apprehended a woman distributing LSD and mushrooms on North America’s Appalachian Trail. It wasn’t a huge bust, and so it barely made a ripple in the news. However, it made its way onto our radar, and when it did, we thought, ‘How the hell do you sell LSD and mushrooms in the woods?’ And also, ‘Who the hell is buying LSD and mushrooms in the woods?’ And also, also, ‘Are trail runners buying LSD and mushrooms in the woods?’ We needed answers, which meant we absolutely had to talk to this psychedelic dispensing hiker for the issue of POSSESSED you’re currently reading.


Saying Jane (not her real name) was tough to track down would be an understatement. But we found her, and, as luck would have it, she didn’t want to talk to us. However, after long and a tedious campaign of begging and badgering, we eventually got Jane on the phone and had a very enlightening discussion about bears, blind hikers, skinny-dipping, and a queer phenomenon called ‘Trail Magic’ in the Appalachians Mountains.


Photography: Adam Ferriss

Hi, Jane!

Hello.

Are you there? Can you hear me?

Yes, I can hear you.

Hi! How are you?

I’m fine. Who is this?

This is Jason from POSSESSED magazine. I’ve been messaging you last few days about doing an interview.

Okay.

So, just to refresh your memory, POSSESSED is a trail running magazine, and this interview is for our psychedelic issue, which is all about trail running, the great outdoors, mushrooms, LSD, etc.

Uh-huh.

And I saw your story about getting busted and thought it’d be cool to chat. I understand if you’re feeling a little nervous, but I promise we won’t reveal your identity.

Okay.

So, I guess we should start by talking about psychedelics in the hiking community and in the Appalachians. Is it a big thing?

For some… I mean, there are definitely plenty of people who are using, for sure. But I think a lot more people are using for PTSD, and they don’t know where else to go except for the trail. And they come back over and over again. I call them repeat offenders on the trail, you know, they just go from one trail to another, or stay here on the east coast… But, yeah, I would say a good percentage of the hiking community do mushrooms and LSD.

When you say they keep returning to the trail, do you mean they get hooked on hiking or are they coming back to get high?

Oh, hooked on hiking, for sure. Once you’ve done a thru-hike… Almost everyone who completes a thru-hike will do another hike on some other trail or come back and do the same one again.

I don’t know too much about the Appalachian Trail. I read Bill Bryson’s book [A Walk in the Woods] years ago... How long does it take to walk it?

Approximately six months, but for those of us who don’t want it to end, it will take a little bit longer, y’know? I mean, when I was getting close to completion, I definitely slowed down and took a lot more side trails, which helped me enjoy it that much more. I didn’t want it to end; I didn’t want to go back to Florida. I was a real estate agent in Florida.

'Most people are smoking weed on the trail, and if they’re smoking weed, they’ll probably do some LSD and mushrooms, but for the most part you’ll find smokers over hardcore partiers.'

No way.

Yeah. And I decided to give that up to be an artist on the Appalachian Trail.

How did you initially get from Florida to the Appalachian Trail? Did you just go on a hiking holiday and get hooked?

Pretty much. When I first looked up hiking, I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon and do all these big hikes, but I was in Florida, and the logistics and cost of hiking in the Grand Canyon was a lot, and in some of those places you need to have permits etcetera. But the Appalachian Trail was at my back door—it was right there—and it was a lot cheaper to get to and to do. And, with all the towns close together, you can carry less food, you know? Like, every three days you can go to town for food, so you don’t need to carry so much.

So, when did psychedelics get involved?

Well, I guess it was… I started coming to the trail in 2016 and I thru-hiked in 2018, and I started a mural painting tour in 2019, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. So, the first time would have been 2016, the first time I came out to the trail… I was kind of a loner at that point. I didn’t have a trail name [trail names are monikers used by the hardcore trail community], and I didn’t really know the trail community just yet. I was learning how to hike. I did what we call a ‘LASH’—a Long-Ass Section Hike—in my first year, which was 600 miles, and then in my second year, I did 900 miles—

Wow.

Yeah, and then I decided I didn’t want to do it in sections. I wanted to thru-hike—

Do the whole thing in one go.

Yeah, so I did that in 2018. That first year, I ran out of money. That was the biggest setback. I loved the hiking, though, and by the time I got home to Florida, that was it—I loved it. I loved the mountains, everything. Florida is flat, and I’d never really gotten the chance to see mountains like that before, and I was in love with it, so… yeah.

That’s awesome. Do you see a lot of trail runners up there?

Yes, and I always wonder how the fuck they can run, because walking is hard enough with a 40-pound pack. I know they’re carrying a lot less when they’re trail running, but still, it’s kinda treacherous, you know what I mean? I’d fall on my face for sure [laughs].

Are the trail runners taking mushrooms or LSD?

Well, I don’t know how to answer that question because they tend to go by real quick, unless you’re camping with them at night and get to speak to them. But it’s not like they’re going to stick around and talk to you when you’re sitting down at the water source or bullshittin’ at the shelter with the others. They just run past and say, ‘Hi! Bye!’

'It was a narc. Somebody who didn’t like that fact that we were there. And if we had been thirty miles to the north, none of that would have happened.'

Do you ever get lost in the Appalachians?

No. You can’t get lost.

What if you moved off the trail?

I mean, if you’re a fucking idiot maybe you could get lost.

[Laughter]

Okay.

The trail is well-marked and you can clearly tell when you’re not on it anymore. I hiked with a guy whose name was Daredevil, and the reason his name was Daredevil was that he was 90% blind. But even he could tell when he’d left the trail. Like, one day I missed a turn on a switchback and I started to follow a ravine, y’know? Because rocks look like rocks whether you’re in a ravine or on the trail, so I mistook the ravine for the trail, and the blind guy noticed we weren’t on the trail before I did. He was like, ‘We are not on the trail,’ so I looked at the app, and I was like, ‘You’re right. We are definitely not on the trail.’

Should we talk about the bust?

Well, I really can’t discuss my case.

I promise you’ll be completely anonymous in this interview. We won’t give away your name or where you are or anything.

Well, okay… So, what’s the question?

I guess I just want to know what happened.

It was a narc. Somebody who didn’t like that fact that we were there. And if we had been thirty miles to the north, none of that would have happened.

Why?

Because it’s legal.

Wait, where is it legal?

Virginia and up north. Only three states are illegal on the Appalachian Trail: Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. All the other states are legal.

It’s legal to have LSD and mushrooms?

Well, not LSD, but mushrooms and cannabis are decriminalized in those other states. Most people are smoking weed on the trail, and if they’re smoking weed, they’ll probably do some LSD and mushrooms, but for the most part you’ll find smokers over hardcore partiers.

Right, right.

And the hardcore partiers tend to gravitate towards hostels and stay for too long, you know? If they’re partying like that, then they’re not hiking as much.

Here’s a question: whenever I’ve bought pot or whatever, I’ve had to go to someone’s house to get it—how do you sell drugs on the trail? Do you hold up a sign or something?

[Laughs] No.

'Night hiking is cool. If you hike on a full moon without a headlamp, you see eyeballs everywhere.'

So how does it work?

Well, I guess they ask.

What, like, ‘Hey, do you got any shrooms’?

Well, they don’t lead with that. Like, when I did Trail Magic, it was—

Wait! what is ‘Trail Magic’?

Trail Magic is when you sit there and feed the hikers and give them free stuff. So, I go to a trailhead and sit there, and wait for hikers to come out of the woods, and you talk to them, you feed them, you give them something to drink—and give them some hand sanitizer before they touch your stuff—and, yeah, you sit there and talk to hikers.

That’s so cool. And that’s just a thing in the hiking community?

Yeah, absolutely. When you do the Appalachian trail or any long trail like that, you receive a bunch of Trail Magic, like, people who give to you all the time, and you feel obligated to return it, and that’s kind of what we do. I mean, that’s what I did. I hung out and talked to hikers and helped out, and I would deliver to them up the trail, like, whatever they needed.

When you’re doing Trail Magic, do the trail runners come out of the woods and just eat everything?

Oh yeah, if they’re hungry, we’ve got food and fresh fruit, and if they want to have what we call a ‘Safety Meeting’, then I’ll oblige them…

Okay. What’s a Safety Meeting?

Well, a smoke or some mushroom chocolates or, you know, whatever.

A Safety Meeting… Wow. Is that Trail code?

Uh-huh.

What’s some other trail code?

Well, there’s ‘Safety Supplies’. You can say that instead of asking somebody, ‘Oh, hey, you got some weed? You got some mushrooms? You got some LSD?’ You just say, ‘You got some Safety Supplies?’

What do you do if you need some actual safety supplies, like Band-Aids or whatever?

[Laughs] And if someone doesn’t know what a Safety Meeting is, then don’t invite them to the Safety Meeting.

Noted. So, the narc that got you, was he undercover on the trail?

Well, he was a retired police officer that set us up.

Retired?

Yeah. He was on the trail and he met us doing some Trail Magic. He either overheard a conversation or talked to someone—

Someone who didn’t know he was an ex-cop?

Right, and then he set us up; sent his buddies after us.

'...we tripped and all got naked and got into the water. So, it was a big ol’ hiker naked bathing party! It was so much fun.'

What a fucker. And he was retired as well—he’s not even on the job.

Yeah.

Jesus. Get a life.

That’s what I’m saying.

That sucks.

I have quite a good following in the community through my art, though, so I have a little bit of support. And like I said, if we’d been thirty miles to the north, they would never have had probable cause to do anything.

So lame. Anyway, back to the trail: what’s the coolest experience you ever had on psychedelics in the Appalachians?

Let me think… When I reached the Hundred Mile Wilderness at Jo Mary Road, we did some trail magic there a couple of years ago in 2020—

What’s the Hundred Mile Wilderness?

The Hundred Mile Wilderness is right before the end of the trail—or the beginning, depending on whether you’re going SoBo or NoBo [South Bound or North Bound].

Okay.

So, we were at the Hundred Mile Wilderness doing Trail Magic at Jo Mary Road, and we were there all afternoon, and we tripped and all got naked and got into the water. So, it was a big ol’ hiker naked bathing party! It was so much fun.

And that was the coolest thing that ever happened?

[Laughs] Well, there’s all kinds of cool stuff that happens, but that was a favorite. Night hiking is cool. If you hike on a full moon without a headlamp, you see eyeballs everywhere. You see very different things in the forest at night than you do during the day, so night hiking on a little bit of mushrooms is highly recommended.

Do you see a lot of scary animals on the trail?

Oh yeah, there’s bears and plenty of snakes, but to tell you the truth, the scariest thing that I’ve seen on the Appalachian Trail was this little bird called a Grouse.

A bird?

Yeah, because when you’re on these cliff trails with a cliff wall on one side and a sheer drop on the other, these birds nest in these bushes along the trail, and they’ll jump in your face out of nowhere. So, yeah, that has been the scariest. This little fuckin’ bird scared the shit out of me and almost put me over the edge of the cliff [laughs]. Plenty more scary than the bears that you see. The bears are like big raccoons: you make some noise and they run away.

Have you seen a lot of bears?

Oh yeah, I’ve seen them in rivers, in fields, I’ve come up on them unexpectedly.

Have you ever come on a bear while tripping?

No.

That would potentially be very heavy.

Yeah, that would be too much.

I’m gonna guess and say mushrooms would be more enjoyable on the trail because they’re natural and they make you dig nature, yeah?

Not for me. I like the LSD more than the mushrooms. My boyfriend prefers the mushrooms. He has some PTSD, and the mushrooms help him a lot. But I’m mostly a weed smoker.

Okay, I should let you go, but before we wrap this up, can we both agree, for the sake of the interview, that trail runners are doing all the psychedelics in the Appalachians?

[Laughs] Well, I’m not a runner, but I can tell you that when they stop at the hostels, they certainly…

Partake?

Yes

Why aren’t you running? You should totally run. Everyone should.

I used to run.

Really?

Yeah, I was in a run club in Florida. And I definitely earned my hiker’s legs from running, but once I started hiking, I liked to slow down and enjoy the scenery. I don’t need to kill myself anymore. I’m good to just take my sweet time on the trail.

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