Not to keep you from the story of Hansel and Gretel any longer, but I think it is important that we define a few Appalachian Trail Terms (ATT) first.
Trail Magic: these are miraculous occurrences that happen to thru-hikers on the trail. i.e. a giant cooler filled with beer and coke is left in the middle of the road with a note that says "drink me."
Trail Angels: amazing people. these are the individuals that make the trail magic happen.
Hansel and Gretel have had several bouts with Magic and Angels in recent days.
Bruce who also may be referred to as "Grits" periodically spends a week in a giant tent which he sets up just off the trail. There he grills hambergers and makes pancakes for all the hikers that come through.
Another time, Hansel was taking a snack break just before heading out to a very exposed part of the trail where there were very little trees to break the extremely cold gusty wind that was blowing. While snacking, he started chatting with another hiker that was also taking a break there. "How's it going?" asked the hiker. Hansel said it had been pretty well so far. The only stinky thing was that he had lost one of my gloves and was expecting that his hand would get a bit cold on this next stretch. Without hesitation, this friendly stranger took off his own gloves and handed them the Hansel.
The most amazing Trail Angels that Hansel and Gretel have stumbled upon so far would have to be Hercules and Fal(these are their trail names). They thru-hiked the AT about 7 years ago and about 5 years back they decided to buy a house right off the trail where they could feed and minister to other thru-hikes as they passed by. As Hansel and Gretel approached a street that intersected the trail, they noticed a sign posted to a tree that said a three course dinner was waiting for them. 350 yards later, Hansel and Gretel entered the gorgeous home of Hercules and Fal.
A belly busting meal of Belgium waffels, beef stew for Hansel an, black beans with hickory smoked barbecue sauce and chipotle peppers over rice with melted cheese for Gretel. They drank root beer and juice out of frosted mugs. The desert choices, prepare yourself for this Trail Magic, included ice cream sundaes (3 scoops!), browny sundaes, something called caramel decadence, banana splits, and 3 berry cobbler pound cake!
During the dinner, Hercules and Fal opened up one of the most non-invasive conversations about Christianity that Hansel and Gretel have ever been engaged in. During the talk, they were all asked to think about their lives and what they believe. Having grown up in a Lutheran family with parents who, on many occasions, introduced conversations about faith, and God, and spirituality, the discussion with Hercules and Fal was warm and welcome. They did not try to force any of their own beliefs and were open to everything Hansel and Gretel had to share.
At the end of their talk, before it was time for Hansel and Gretel to head back to the trail, Hercules and Fal brought out piles of books which they dumped out on the table. "Take as many as you want to carry," they said. "They are our gifts to you." Hansel selected Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Gretel chose The Lotus and The Cross: Jesus talks with Buddha by Ravi Zacharias. Both books seem to be quite enjoyable so far!