Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

Angels Along the Pacific Crest Trail

Keri A. Schwab, Marni Goldenberg, Daniel L. Dustin

Abstract


This study sought to understand motivations of individuals who offer unsolicited assistance to Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hikers. Referred to as “trail angels,” these individuals provide supportive services (e.g., food, drink, transportation, and lodging) along the 2,650-mile footpath as it passes through California, Oregon, and Washington. Their services have been documented in the literature on studies of thru-hikers, but the motives of trail angels have yet to be studied. To understand why trail angels provide free services, the authors developed an open-ended online survey and posted it to two trail angel Facebook group pages. The survey asked angels about reasons for serving as a trail angel, benefits accrued, and motivations to continue. Qualitative data were analyzed by independent coders. Emergent themes (n = 30) indicated that trail angels are motivated by joy in helping others, meeting new people, living vicariously through others, and sustaining a unique community. They also discussed negative impacts of trail angels. The themes are discussed in terms of empathic altruism and psychological egoism. Additional discussion focuses on implications for PCT management.

Subscribe to JOREL


Keywords


empathic altruism; psychological egoism; trail angels; trail magic

Full Text:

PDF

References


References

Andrews, S.L. (2007). Yogi-ing purists, trail magic, and men in skirts: An analysis of

Appalachian Trail culture. Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Retrieved from: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/etd/603

Appalachian Trail Conservancy, (n.d.) Suggestions for providing trail magic. Retrieved on November 7, 2016 from http://www.appalachiantrail.org/docs/default-document-library/suggestions-for-providing-trail-magic.pdf.

Aronson, E., Wilson, T., & Akert, R. (2005). Social Psychology. New Jersey: Pearson.

Bahnson, B, (2015). Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail: Examining opportunities for learning on

a continuous 2,185-mile self-supported hike (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://ir.stthomas.edu/caps_ed_lead_docdiss/61/

Ballard, D. & Ballard, A. (2003). A blistered kind of live: One couple’s trial by trail. Seattle,

WA: The Mountaineers Books.

Batson, C., & Shaw, L. (1991). Evidence for altruism: Toward a pluralism of prosocial motives. Psychological Inquiry. 2(2), 107–122.

Beck, L., & Dustin, D. (2016). Technology on the trails. Legacy, November/December: 20-22.

Bosche, L.L. (2013). Woman Into The Wild: Female Thru-Hikers and Pilgrimage on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails.

Bratton, S.P. (2015). The spirit of the Appalachian Trail: Community, environment, and belief. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press.

Cialdini, R., Brown, S., Lewis, B., Luce, C., & Neuberg, S. (1997). Reinterpreting the empathy-altruism relationship: When one into one equals oneness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(3), 481-494.

Cole, D. (2001). Day users in wilderness: How different are they? (Research Paper RMRS-RP-31). Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Creswell, J. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dillman, D., Smyth, J., & Christian, L. (2009). Internet, mail, and mixed-mode surveys: The

tailored design method (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Dustin, D. (2018). Sky pilot. In D. Dustin The wilderness within: Reflections on leisure and life [5th Ed.] pp. 245-253). Sagamore-Venture Publishing, LLC.

Dustin, D., Beck, L., & Rose, J. (2017) Landscape to techscape: Metamorphosis along the Pacific Crest Trail. International Journal of Wilderness, 23(1), 23-28.

Dustin, D., Beck, L., & Rose, J. (2018). Interpreting the Wilderness Act: A question of fidelity. International Journal of Wilderness, 24(1), 58-67.

Falk, A., & Fischbacher, U. (2006). A theory of reciprocity. Games and economic behavior, 54(2), 293-315.

Friedman, S. (2014). Heaven sent. Retrieved on November 7, 2016 at http://www.backpacker.com/trips/long-trails/pacific-crest-trail/hiker-heaven/#bp=0/img1.

Glover, T. & Filep, S. (2016) Examining kindness in strangers in tourism: Trail magic on the Appalachian Trail. (pgs. 135-147). In Filep, S., Laing, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (Eds.). (2016). Positive tourism. Taylor & Francis.

Goldenberg, M., Hill, E., & Freidt, B. (2008). Why individuals hike the Appalachian Trail: A

qualitative approach to benefits [Abstract]. Journal of Experiential Education, 30(3), 277-281.

Goldenberg, M., & Soule, K. (2014). Outcomes of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education and Leadership. 6(1), 44.

Krippendorff, K. (2012). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology (3rd Ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Letcher, L., & Letcher, S. (2008). The barefoot sisters southbound. Stackpole Books.

Lum, C., & Keith, S., & Scott, D. (2018). The Long-Distance Hiking Social World along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Moor, R. (2016). On trails: An exploration. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Moore, R. (2008). A wilderness pathfinder: Benton MacKaye and the Appalachian Trail. In Wellman, D., Dustin, D. Henderson, K., & Moore, R., Service Living: Building Community through Public Parks and Recreation (pp.55-71). State College, PA: Venture Publishing, Inc.

Pacific Crest Trail Association. (2016). http://www.pcta.org/our-work/trail-and-land-management/pct-visitor-use-statistics/

Redpath, A. (2016). For the love of long walks: Impact of long-distance trail thru-hikes in the United States on environmental attitudes in relation to sustainability (Doctoral dissertation, Prescott College).

Schaffer, E. (1983). Walking with spring. First Appalachian Trail Conference.

Stebbins, R. A. (2015). The serious leisure perspective. In Leisure and Positive Psychology: Linking Activities with Positiveness (pp. 11-40). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Tsvetkova, M., & Macy, M. W. (2014). The social contagion of generosity. PloS one, 9(2), e87275.

Thigpen, S. (2014). Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling. Lulu.com.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JOREL-2019-V11-I2-8400

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2019