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If you’re going to hike the A.T., you need a trail name. Meeting a thru-hiker without one is just uncomfortable, like meeting someone at a costume party in regular clothes. Couscous just got her name a few days ago, after a whole five weeks of hiking, but just about everyone else has had theirs for a while now. So you know you need one, but how do you get it? You could show up at Springer having given yourself a trail name already. The more interesting ones have a story behind them though.

If you do wait for a name to happen to you, timing is key. Take Moose for example. I don’t know how Moose got his name, but since he got it so early, he missed a chance for a much better one. Moose hikes with a group of four. This group happens to have a name itself. The slowest hiker leads, and the other three follow closely behind, forming a single hiking mass. They all carry trekking poles. Several people watching this have independently given this ensemble the same name – the Centipede. Anyway, the Centipede’s members like to play jokes on one another, so one day leaving a little store for a long climb, they managed to sneak a two pound can into Moose’s pack. “Hey Moose, how’s your pack feeling today?” they chuckled up the mountain. “Great, it even feels light!” Once he got to camp, he was quite surprised to find two pounds of spinach at the bottom of his sleeping bag. His trail name should obviously have been Popeye. But it was too late, he was already Moose.

Here’s how some other hikers got the trail  names they’ve kept.

  • Hiker converses with other hikers at shelter one morning. Others go ahead, then at the end of the day, find hiker waiting for them at next shelter, even though they never saw her pass them. The same thing happens the next day. Trail name: Houdini.
  • It starts raining. While others put on their GoreTex jackets, hiker approaches down the hill carrying an umbrella. Trail name: Poppins.
  • Hiker looks like he just walked out of a bus station. He carries a black luggage-style backpack with a sleeping bag tied on. Across his chest, he carries a black duffel bag. When asked “Why are you carrying that extra bag?” hiker replies, “it’s for the stuff that won’t fit in the backpack.” Trailname: Two Pack.
  • It is very cold one evening. People at shelter are complaining about the probable need to get up and use the forest restroom in the middle of the night. Hiker offers suggestion. “Just keep an empty Gatorade bottle in your bag,” he holds his up as an example. “When you need to go, you can just stay in your bag and pee into it. Then, here’s the bonus – it’ll keep your bag warm. Just make sure the lid is on tight.” Trail name: 32-Ounce Gatorade.
  • In a crowded shelter, hiker has dream that he is mugged. Still asleep, he punches Peanut Butter, who is sleeping next to him, in the stomach. Peanut Butter wakes up and yells, but hiker keeps fighting in his sleep. Spotlight turns on his headlamp in the commotion to find hiker, now awake, on top of Peanut Butter, both staring dumbfounded at the light. Hiker rejects the trail name Jelly. Trail name: Night Fight.
  • Hiker is walking on Mollie’s Ridge in a storm when he is knocked to the ground by a bolt of lightning, which exits his left arm. Apart from a few minutes of ringing ears, he is okay. Trail name: Sparky.


-April 30, Damascus, Va.