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Thread: Trail names

  1. #1
    Registered User tickspit's Avatar
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    Default Trail names

    Today everyone has a trail name. Shuttle drivers, hostel owners, trail angles, trail magic and every hiker that steps on the trail, even dogs. Watching YouTube you will see hikers naming off the people they have met. Pull up a chair for boredom. Really? When will reality resume and people will go back to using their name giving at birth? I never was comfortable using a trail name and admired the ones that used their real name.

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    I've been section hiking for 13 years and 600 miles. I don't have a trail name. When fellow packers ask, I tell them, "I don't have a trail name. Call me 'Dan from Georgia.'" I don't like choosing my own name, and I've never been on the trail long enough, or done something sufficiently memorable, to earn one. That's fine with me.

    Most of my thirteen years of sectioning were spent with my two sons, one of whom became "Poo Bomb" after he set his backpack buckle into a pile of bear scat. That's a great name!

    At Jenny Knob Shelter in SW Virginia Tuesday evening, I met three other backpackers (the first I'd seen in 3 days). One was "Beast Mode." He's a young man who started at Springer on August 5 an had done more than 600 miles by September 2. Again, a great name.

    I like trail names, though I think they should be bestowed by others rather than self-given. But it's just a fun part of the trail. Someday, maybe I"ll get one.

  3. #3

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    Due to being active on here, Ron Brown deemed my Gambit in person and that stuck with me for many years. Now I just say my name is Al. BC it is .
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    And yet, the OP uses a screen name, which I would guess is also his trail name.

    In any reasonably large group of people, there's a very good chance there will be several Tom, Dick's and Harry's, along with Steve's, Joe's and Bob's. A trail name gives you an unique identity so when someone talks about "Tickspit" everyone knows exactly who your talking about.
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    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Cool Why I use a nickname

    Three years after I met a mother & child doing some family bonding on The Trail, telling them my trail name, they saw that name on a register. That night at the shelter, they asked me (something like), "Are you the Golden Bear who talks about the relative odds of dying from a bear attack versus a car accident?" (guilty as charged, BTW). It showed me that people will remember a trail name far more easily than a birth name. Which is why I use a nickname on The Trail.
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    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    Much easier to remember most trailnames than given names, especially over time and out-of-context. I've met a lot of WhiteBlazers who would recognize me as Kerosene but certainly not as Michael or Mike! I actually use Kerosene in a couple other "real life" situations, notably my license plate "KERO 13".
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

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    Leonidas
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    Quote Originally Posted by tickspit View Post
    Today everyone has a trail name. Shuttle drivers, hostel owners, trail angles, trail magic and every hiker that steps on the trail, even dogs. Watching YouTube you will see hikers naming off the people they have met. Pull up a chair for boredom. Really? When will reality resume and people will go back to using their name giving at birth? I never was comfortable using a trail name and admired the ones that used their real name.
    Reality will resume about the time people stop complaining about things that annoy them personally.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by tickspit View Post
    Today everyone has a trail name. Shuttle drivers, hostel owners, trail angles, trail magic and every hiker that steps on the trail, even dogs. Watching YouTube you will see hikers naming off the people they have met. Pull up a chair for boredom. Really? When will reality resume and people will go back to using their name giving at birth? I never was comfortable using a trail name and admired the ones that used their real name.
    Your new trail name is PseudonymHater

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    Registered User SoaknWet's Avatar
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    Right there is a prime sample of what's wrong with this world. Everyone worries about what others do. Stay in your own house/yard! Don't worry about the neighbor in his yard. If it's not a danger to you or yours respect them and mind your own actions

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tickspit View Post
    Today everyone has a trail name. Shuttle drivers, hostel owners, trail angles, trail magic and every hiker that steps on the trail, even dogs. Watching YouTube you will see hikers naming off the people they have met. Pull up a chair for boredom. Really? When will reality resume and people will go back to using their name giving at birth? I never was comfortable using a trail name and admired the ones that used their real name.
    Well, I can't exactly agree that trail names are a new thing. Earl Shaffer pretty willingly took on the nickname Crazy One in 1948. Emma Gatewood became Grandma Gatewood in 1955. There is some original history to the practice of both bestowed and self-bestowed hiker nicknames and those that kind of evolved into trail names, so I can't completely agree with reality resuming in that sense. Just for what it's worth, here's some old thru-hiker trail names from back when the AT was a bit more of a wilderness:

    1970 Bump
    1972 Jack Slade
    1973 Appalachian, Sharpshooter, Hawk
    1974 Caffeine Kid, Fir
    1975 Trailboss, Hammurabi, The Guv'nor
    1976 Storming Normand, AT Stroller, Trudge
    1977 Bangor Mainiac, Kid Climb, Orange Shorts
    1978 Heavy Loader, Buck Surefoot, Bigfoot, Five Stooges
    1979 The Wayfarer, The Honeymooners, Pinecone Pete, Ripple

    Most hikers didn't have trail names back then (pre 1980), and no doubt some of those who list them on ATC's 2000 miler list had those names bestowed after they actually hiked, but the use of trail names started really taking off in the 1980's. By 1985 probably half of all thru-hikers used one, and almost every thru-hiker had a trail name by 1990.
    To be sure, most hikers didn't use trail names in trail registers and such back in the earlier years of the AT - most used their given names as trail names hadn't become common yet. But the trail was A LOT less crowded, and a lot of the reasoning behind using given names (other than not having a trail name) had to do with being able to be found by family and such back when there were fewer hikers on the trail, as there was no other way to track them down. Obviously, that has to a great degree become an obsolete function of trail registers given the rise of cell phones and apps and such, along with info on finding water, trail detours, etc. And for other reasons, it's probably safer these days not to have the general public know (by seeing someone's given name in a register or on social media or other) that they are at minimum somewhat away from their lives for months on end.

    But ultimately, I think it's simply become an ingrained cultural thing with the trail, one I don't honestly see going away.
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 09-04-2020 at 19:06.
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    The Cherokee (and other American Indian peoples) were big fans of colorful and tongue-in-cheek names. Some Cherokee names were laudatory, some noble, but many were deprecatory or descriptive. Among many thousands, these come to mind: Edward Falling, Gut Sticker, The Gourd, Paunch Lifter, Bear Toter, Canoe Buster, Sleeping Man, Old Tobacco.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roper View Post
    The Cherokee (and other American Indian peoples) were big fans of colorful and tongue-in-cheek names. Some Cherokee names were laudatory, some noble, but many were deprecatory or descriptive. Among many thousands, these come to mind: Edward Falling, Gut Sticker, The Gourd, Paunch Lifter, Bear Toter, Canoe Buster, Sleeping Man, Old Tobacco.
    My kids and I came up with mine once they were old enough to join me on hikes, roughly mid 1990's. I became 4eyedbuzzard (old guy with glasses), one of my daughters is Soggy Feet (courtesy of a bog crossing incident).
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  14. #14
    Registered User Grunt's Avatar
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    Looking through my journal of 14 years of section hiking the AT I come across many trail names and I can usually remember or put a face to them because they are so unique... and cool. I gave myself the trail name "grunt" because that what i was in the USMC and it certainly takes a "grunt" to hump the AT. But, I've never been comfortable using it and usually just tell everybody I'm John. Personally, I think that trail names are more for Thru-hiker culture and for those who have in someway earned their moniker. But now I have become a real dinosaur and was thinking of calling myself T-Rex.... it's all fun.... enjoy your hike and smile. Happy trails. john

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    I enjoy them and to me they're part of the trail culture, even among non-hikers. Anyone remember "Pegleg?" He was a one-legged shuttle driver in Andover, ME about twenty years ago. I probably would not have remembered him without the trail name. A hiking partner I met around the same time has become a life-long personal friend, and to me he will always be "Pickle." His given name makes no sense to me.

    My wife (GreasePot) and I hiked the AT and PCT together and we often call each other by our trail names.

    A gender-neutral trail name can add a degree of personal safety for some. My wife's is a good example.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  16. #16

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    I can't imagine caring one way or the other, but this reminded me of a scene from Robin Hood(the Kevin Costner/Morgan Freeman one).
    -My name is Aziz. It means "Great One".
    -So, "Great One"...did you give yourself this name?

    If I were gonna thruhike, I would totally claim that as a trail name, just to see if anyone picked up on it.

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    My first name is a closely guarded secret.
    “For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
    the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”


    John Greenleaf Whittier

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by imscotty View Post
    My first name is a closely guarded secret.
    Imelda? .
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  19. #19

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    Trail names, aka "handles" have been used for centuries. In the American experience we have used them profusely to the point they have become part of our culture; Slim, Stonewall, Buffalo Bill, Lucky, Shakey, Gipper, Lefty, Babe, Hawkeye, Galute, to name a few. Monikers are usually contextual to an activity or group, are easy to remember over time, and fairly easy to pronounce. There is a whole history of using monikers and pseudonyms around the world.

    Complaining about this probably won't do much but exercise fingers or vocal chords, to which the name "Windtalker" leaps to mind....

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    The first hikers I met thought my real name was a trail name.

    thom

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