Matt HealeyTuesday,7 May 2013

The Snap:

I am now done with the second segment of my Appalachian Trail hike. The first was 160 miles from Springer Mtn. to Fontana Dam. The second was 130 miles from Fontana Dam to Allen gap, just north of Hot Springs, NC. During this time I have met a lot of really good people. The thing is that I only know them by their trail names. I have hiked with Squirrel, 22, Push Up, Bear Bait, Belch, Mud Flap, Catnap, Nuke, Gilgamesh, Survivor, Shake and Bake, Clinker, Turbo, Sprout, Bubble Head, Rambo and Hardtec. (Bonus points if you can guess the 4 women)

The Download:

People get trail names a lot of different ways. For example, “22” got her name because she declared on the second day of the hike it would be 22 degrees that night. It might have gotten to 35. So she was named 22. “Catnap” is know for taking a 30 min nap during lunch. I have taken the trail name of “Mess,” which was my fraternity nickname. When you are on trail you introduce yourself using your trail name. So for many of these people, I have no idea what their real names are.

Over these days I have been thinking about why everyone goes by trail names. A lot of it is tradition. Everyone else has a trail name, so you might as well get one yourself. The other part of it is, at least for me, a lot deeper. You are a different person when you are on trail for a long hike. In normal life we all have responsibilities. We have families, jobs, and schedules. On trail those things fall into the background. Your concerns narrow to things like what shelter are you going to try to get to that night and do you have enough food to make it to the next town, or do you need to stop and re-supply at the camp store. Your background, job history and title all become irrelevant. The 1% on the trail is more likely to be the person who has extra Oreos rather then the person who drives a Bentley. This levels the playing field and allows you, as a hiker, to become friends with people who you would not ordinarily get to know, and even if you did, in society you would likely not become as close because your real life concerns would be different and your expectations would be different as well.

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Image Credit: Flickr


  1. […] people, lost 30 lbs., and had a lot of unforgettable experiences. Springer to Fontana Damn with Squirrel and Bear Bait, running into Push Up and 22 in Hot Springs NC, taking a week off to sit on a beach […]

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