What’s in a Trail Name?
A trail name is given to a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide or the Pacific Crest Trail. Once bestowed a trail name, you are referred as your trail name for the duration of your thru-hike. Depending on how tight your trail family is, it can be your name for life.
Trail name is given to you by fellow through hikers and is mutually agreed upon. Typically the name is conceived right after a frivolous act that is never forgotten.
A trail name is a new identity. It’s an opportunity to leave “Corey” in the city and become Medicine Man. It’s an opportunity for a new beginning, it’s the chance to be who you feel while exploring Mother Nature. Afterall, we left for the great outdoors to escape the hassle of the “real world.”
Chonie Thief (aka Big Chones, Chonie, Chonie Bandit, Pantie Snatcher)
Charles Sanford, 22, San Antonio, TX
“I chose to thru-hike to have an adventure with God”
“I got my trail name in Big Bear where I was staying with Kronk and Shade Baby. Kronk and I were doing some laundry together in the same load. We both had the same pair of underwear, I put two in and he put one. At the end of the load there were only two. So I took my two and Kronk accused me of stealing his underwear and called me a “Chonie Thief”. At that moment we stared at each other with some silence, and we knew that was my trail name.”
“There was one other instance of getting another trail name, Invisible Man, because I would night hike without a headlamp on. But someone already had that name and Chonie Thief is better.”
Simon Frederick Zivny, 29, Portland Oregon
“A lot of things led to my decision to go on a thru hike, but probably the main reason was simply that it was time for an adventure.”
“On my very first day on trail, I was hanging out with a hiker by the trail name of “Wiki.” Wiki had hurt their toe, and said ‘Is it just me, or does my toe look purple?’ I pointed at their toe and said “It IS just you”. The joke was bad enough that Your Honor (another good friend of mine from trail) booed it, and I became Boo.”
Bailee Fenton, 28, Vancouver Island, BC
“I was given my trail name at some epic trail magic in the middle of the desert. I was always prone to blisters and that day was a bad one. There was around 10 people sitting around eating brownies and drinking pop. My feet were killing me so I removed my shoes and socks to air them out. As I started peeling the leuko tape off my big toe, the blister underneath squirted out. I then proceeded to take the tape off the other big toe causing another large squirt. All the hikers witnessed this go down and started commenting on my feet. One person called me Squirt and the rest followed. From then on I couldn’t escape my name being Squirt even though I didn’t really like it. Over the miles it did grow on me. And as I took my shoes off on my final day and looked down to see a plump blister just waiting to squirt out, I can’t help but accept the name suits me well.
While I was in Big Bear I was resuppling and bought a large pack of honey buns. I had been eating them on the daily so some hikers tried to name me honey buns. I denied the name because it could have a double meaning… then I got stuck with Squirt haha.”
8-7 (aka Jordy)
Kyle Mortensen, 30, Shawano, WI
“Me and my best friend decided to trek the PCT last year and we had run into The Hostel California where we were met with oncoming groups of purely amazing people. Some were locals, some were just tourists, but mostly the guests were adrenaline-junky adventurists! We had stayed there for a few days to prep going back up into the Sierra Mountains after we had just summited Mount Whitney. One of the days a small group came into the hostel and within a day we had newly acquired close knit group of friends that quickly became our trail family for the duration of our hike on the PCT. Within this group were 2 fellas (Hey Bear and Big Hurt) who also happened to be Green Bay Packer fans, and for some reason they started to call me “Jordy,” named after a Packers player who happened to somewhat look like me with a buzz cut and was also pretty good at football like myself. I wasn’t the fondest of the name because I disagreed with my looks vs Jordy Nelson’s, but the name was sticking anytime we met new trail angels or hikers I was quickly introduced as Jordy. I had declined a handful of trail name requests up til they had dubbed me, but like Jordy, disliked all of them. So we worked it out to call me by Jordy’s football number- 87. Best name I have to this point anyways. 8-7 out!”
Cameron Hall, 34, Fort Worth, TX
“I think what really drew me into Thru Hiking was the idea of really living in the wilderness rather than just walking thru it.”
“Early on in my first PCT attempt at Cibbets Flat Campground, myself and a bunch of newly acquired friends were sitting at a picnic table having a few beers and passing around the good ole devils lettuce while playing a game of Bullshit. Anyways, I was down to my last card(a Ace), the next card to come up was a 10. I tried to nonchalantly throw my Ace down and lie about it but instead of saying one Jack, I brilliantly said One Eleven. The next day a buddy asked if I had a trail name yet and that was that! I did have a another friend give me the trail nickname of Señor Seis after a fun afternoon of Happy Hour at Mexico Lindo in Wrightwood, a few people still call me that one every now and then.”
“I think what really drew me into Thru Hiking was the idea of really living in the wilderness rather than just walking thru it. Shorter backpacking trips are fun, but when it actually starts to become routine or more a lifestyle rather than just a vacation, there’s really no way to truly describe to the folks that haven’t done it, other than long term travel there’s just nothing else that really relates. I just remember finishing my first Grand Canyon R2R2R and thinking ‘Man! I really don’t want this to end!’ And the next thing I know, I’m researching the PCT, and here we are!
I think the biggest tip I would give to future Thru Hikers is to just have fun, do your research and hike whatever hike you want! Don’t listen to all the negative shit on Facebook, Thru Hiking is all about the freedom and the friends, the views are just a really sweet bonus! And getting that pack weight down won’t hurt either!”
David Lyngass, 32, Yakama, WA
“I got mine in Kennedy Meadows which is what, 700 miles in? When we were in Kennedy Meadow we were getting shit-faced every night. One of those nights my boy Croc (wish you guys met that kid) was dolling out massages. Dude was a 18 year old Australian charmer. Always been fascinated with massages, giving, receiving and the like, so I joined in learning his techniques.
Where he was gentle in his approach, I rolled in with bud light in tow and unleashed the Big Hurt, destroying muscle fibers and blowing up inflamed ligaments. In time I got the technique down and soothing ensued. That night Croc and I shelled out about 10-15 massages each. A fella named Nakey Buns gave me the name Big Hurt. Being a big baseball fan back in the day I loved it, and thought it to be perfect in my drunk insurrection, and I rolled with it ever after.
There were a couple trail names tossed my way but they didn’t feel right. Can’t recall what they were, beyond them being lame.”
Michael Fonseca, 21,Connecticut
“I got my trail name because I dropped out of school studying physics to hike the PCT. I got it the night before Mount Laguna (the second night). Nature Monster gave it to me because the three other people in my trail family, that I ended up hiking the first 1100 miles with already had trail names, so she asked if she could call me Physsie, and I didn’t say no. Towards the end, I was envious of those who had trail names based on a funny experience, but post trail, I’m happy I kept it.
One of my trail family members tried to rename me Gear-Bomb, because I was notoriously disorganized and would dump my pack at every camp. I had already committed to Physsie though, so I didn’t want to change it.
I don’t think I realized it at the time; however, looking back on it, I realize it (the reason I chose to Thru-Hike) was to escape the way I was living previously. I wasn’t enjoying college, constantly stressed and partying too much, I became addicted to adderall and lost all motivation. The trail changed all that for me. I found a driving force (climbing and mountaineering), and have been pretty consistently happy since. Honestly, it was the greatest decision I’ve made.”
Joey Salas, 31, San Diego, CA
“I got the trail name Legz, the first week on trail. It was first mentioned in Mt. Lagune but stuck once we got to Stage Coach down at Scissors Crossing. I can’t remember the names of the hikers, but it was two different girls who had dubbed me the name Legz. It started as “Sexy Legz” but I shortened to “Legz.”
Alec Santiago, 25, Long Island, NY
“Day 2 on my first Thru-hike on the PCT in 2017, I was making my way down into town, hiking fast-food bound. At the top of the climb out of Hauser Creek I ran into a local heading south. He asked if I liked beer (what hiker doesn’t?) and tells me about the “largest selection of beer on trail located right in Lake Morena.” Having only left from Scout and Frodo’s the day before, I was already craving a beer. Getting into town I went straight to the market/grill. I paced the back wall for several minutes only to be diminished by my search. [I haven’t had Yuengling since May 2015, when I moved to Pahrump, NV.] Out of all the anger and silliness I managed to yelp just one vulgar word, but it was enough to entice two other hikers to inquire my well being. After telling them what I was looking for, they snickered.
“You’re not gonna find that out here, guy.” And proceeded to go pay for their food and IPAs. Lugging a 12-pack of cheap, rocky-water piss beer to the campground, I was greeted with “what up, Yuengling!” Never saw the 2 hikers again, but the name sticked with me ever since. I love the name for various reasons. Like my story told, it’s not common on this side of the country. Head east and it’s a cheap beer just a notch better than the generic piss water. The name starts my story before I can even begin. After the pronunciation lessons for the name, I’m battered with questions galore about my origin and background and before you know it’s hiker midnight and we’re gonna have to zero again.
I almost received the name Sunburnt Cinnamon. I got to Julian/Scissors Crossing at mile 77, where I meet Brew Hiker. We and Hellbender go to smoke in Brew’s car. I believe we were talking about sunsets and I was trying to describe a particular shade of red. We pondered on the shade for a moment before Brew turns around, looks me dead in the eyes and says, “You’re lucky you already have a trail name.” I ask why, which received, “Because what the f**k is Sunburnt Cinnamon? Is that even a thing!? Is it a thing!?! … I should brew that. Damn, that would have been a cool name!”
“I hiked the PCT again this this year and two titles stuck to me: Favorite Hiker and Trail Pope. Both started in Wrightwood after I had made an attempt to end my hike this year. The section coming up was very familiar to me with landmarks such as Inspiration Point, Mt. Baden-Powell, and Little Jimmy Spring. Upon reaching the endangered yellow-toed mountain frog detour- even after frolicking through my favorite desert section- I wanted off. For the next few days I spent my time at BudPharm, helping Reverend Dave tend to hikers. I was honest with everyone with my retreat and needed to find my spunk again. I hung out, cooked, shook down gear, and even led a few hikers on a tour of disc golf all way to Tehachapi. Few hikers kept telling me I was their favorite hiker, so I started labeling my Instagram profile with people who have told me the same. Trail Pope, empirically Trail Pope SANTi I, came along with our “pilgrimage” to help any trail angels/house we came across. BudPharm was the first of our travels, making our way to Hiker Heaven, Casa de Luna, Hiker Town (which included the opening of The Bungalow and working on Hiker Town 2, and proceeding north on our own missions as our hikes continued. Last I heard, St. Smokey was in Mama G’s in Packwood, refurbishing the kitchen to further handle the needs of hikers.
For anyone future Thru-Hikers: Nearly everything on trail is subjective and all up to immediacy and speculation, but I hold dear to one thing: Never quit on a bad day. You’re not you on bad days. Bad days are just that: they suck, yet they pass and are quickly forgotten. And your hike, all the experiences and memories, could fade away the same, but not on a good day. Everything seems fine, you’re clear minded, and you know whether or not it’s time. Ending on a good day feels right. The day I felt like leaving this year was a bad day; the day I left Yosemite National Park to head home last year, now, that was a great day!”
Andrew Forestell, 25 or 35 (he can’t remember), Northern VA
“I got the name, Reptar, hiking in North Carolina (I think) on the Appalachian Trail. I was pretty out of shape and wore a green buff and a green rain jacket roaring up mountains like a dinosaur. Then Reptar happened. As in the cartoon dinosaur from the kids show Rugrats, often confused with Raptor as in Velociraptor from Jurassic Park.
When I first started the AT my knees where pretty sore so I was icing them at the Top of Georgia Hostel and got the name Iceman. I signed a few trail logs and things with that name but about a week later I dropped the name for Reptar. Had to leave it behind because it sounded too common. All though that was a pretty sweet name.”
The short answer, to why I chose to Thru-Hike: I was looking for an adventure. Long answer? I was working in a hospital ICU in Key West Florida. After years of watching people die or knocking on death’s door, I thought about all the young people I saw passing away and how they’d give anything to be in my position. Eventually I had saved enough money to go on a grand adventure so that’s exactly what I did.
Advice to new Thru-Hikers?
“Have a contingency plan, save more money than you think you’ll spend, and don’t worry so much it’s just walking. Shameless plug: Check out my YouTube channel Reptar Hikes and watch the documentary The AT Experience!”
Tyler MF Peck, 32, Naches/Yakima/Spokane, WA
“I chose to Thru-Hike because normy life just ain’t for all of us. I really wanted to test my limitations and give myself no choice but to test those limitations or essentially be air rescued out.”
“I got my trail name while we were participating in a necessary siesta. It was during the hottest part of the day in the desert; next to another couple we had leapfrogged hiking with over the past few weeks. Apparently, due to a forest fire a lot of animals were scared over to this part of the desert. When waking from a sweat filled, insect ridden stupor, I looked over to see two bears slowly creeping up on and sniffing the air toward this couple resting on their thermarests. I immediately exclaimed “Hey bear, hey bear”, and when the couple recognized they might be in danger, they followed suit and said they would remember my words for the rest of the trail. Alas, a(n) “Hey Bear” was born.
My second day on trail some damn Gen Z’er asked me if I might know a song from the 90’s if he hummed it “Since, I was a child of the 90’s.” He didn’t know the words so I listened and realized it was one of my favs from the 90’s, a song “The Hook” by Blues Traveler. He was so excited I was able to help him remember he attempted to dub me ‘The Hook’… Though I was excited to get my first opportunity for a trail name, I decided to give it a few days before I eternally adhered my (much anticipated) trail name to a Blues Traveler song. Eventually, I decided it just wasn’t organic enough maaaaan 🙂
I would like to say this to potential Thru-Hikers: ‘DO…IT! Don’t half-ass it, Don’t take it (or trail angels/trail magic) for granted, Don’t have any expectations.”
Quinn Miller, 28, Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation in Bowler, WI
“I never took a trail name, some were offered early on. One was “Bonus” for my patented ability to take wrong turns and put on bonus miles. I found the name to be a bit too cheesy and forced. I’d want a trail name to come naturally. At the time I hiked, I was 26 and in a transitional phase from getting out of college in California and moving back home to Wisconsin. With no bills or rent, I wanted to take on a soul search before settling down into the domesticated lifestyle. I also took up a fundraiser for the “Semper Fi Fund” in honor of my friend who lost his legs in an IED blast while we were in Afghanistan in 2010. Hiking really got me through a lot of personal battles and would love to take on the PCT again someday.
Simon Williams, 22, Salt Lake City, Utah
“I got my trail name one night about a hundred miles in at Warner Springs. A few hikers and I were having a safety meeting and eventually we started talking about flightless birds. I thought it was so unfair that ostriches had these useless wings and couldn’t fly. Also the spirit of safety was pretty strong with me at the moment and I laughed so hard that I cried. And they started calling me Ostrich. I remember turning down “Mr.Optimism” given to me by I guy I hiked with who was known around as “Ranty-McRant Face” and I just thought it was lame. A couple days in I ran into the PCT dude Jack Haskel, and he named me “Flabby Banana” after a lucky fake banana I carried in my shoulder strap pocket. I thought that one could sound kinda creepy so I passed on it.
I chose to hike cause I always dreamed of hiking the AT since I was a kid. And then I found out there was a closer trail, that went through the dope states (California Oregon and Washington) instead of the states that Deliverance happened in. Plus I don’t like rain all that much, and I love the desert so it just seemed like the right move.”
“The last trail name I was given was ‘Trip.’ Dirty Avocado gave it to me, although she liked my normal name more. I simply got this name because I tripped all the time, no, I was not high. I just kicked the pebbles and dirt around but managed not to fall. I was okay with this name because it kind of described my hiking style on the last stretch of the trail. But no one called Trip, they just stuck with Jan.
Once my Hiking buddies of ‘Taylor and the Swiss,’ the gang I hiked with, tried to call me ‘Limping Toad’ but I refused. They tried to call that because I asked another hiker after a couple of beers ‘Oh…no are you humping!?’ As soon as those words left my mouth I realized what I just said, it was an honest mistake, I used a Swiss word in, and It came out the wrong way. ‘Humpeln’ means limping in swiss-german, so Taylor, who was called ‘Front Seat’ (He always had to sit in the front when we hitchhiked or took a cab because he has the best English), just sat there laughing. Luckily the girl could not (or would not) understand me and just walked into the store. I was so embarrassed.
‘Front Seat’ and the two others ‘Glacier-Jesus’ and ‘Type2’ tried to call me ‘Humping-toad’ and then ‘limping-toad’ (the soft version) for weeks, but it just was not catchy enough. So they tried things like ‘Limpy-T’ and stuff like that. I think at one point they realized I don‘t like it at all, so they let it be. Hikers on the PCT are keen on getting a Name so they get there very early and there is a wide variety of different names. We started hiking and just couldn‘t find any good names, so instead, we got known by ‘Taylor and the Swiss.’
There is so much time while hiking; you start thinking and talking about trail names, and of course life in general. The thing is, every group I ran into after I left my Trail Family started giving me a new trail name. So I just thought why not just be Jan.
I chose to thru-hike because I wanted to reach my own limit. Switzerland is absolutely the best place to grow up for hiking, but there is always a restaurant on top of the mountain and a lot of tourists as well. I wanted to be out in nature without any disturbance, no powerlines, no cars and no streets just nature. I kind of wanted to be by myself. It was also an escape of everyday life. Although you tend to think a lot of your everyday life, making plans for future approaches in your career or relationships and stuff like that, you’re never really sad that you’re not there.
You never feel like you miss out because you’re inhaling pure nature’s air every day.”