It is the custom for thru-hikers to acquire nick names, referred to as “trail names” which are used exclusively on the trail. Relatives of thru-hikers trying to locate their beloved adventurers are usually met with blank stares when they inquire if anyone has seen Oscar Peterson, or whatever their legal name is. Eventually one of the hikers will ask “what’s his trail name?” Some hikers adopt trail names prior to the hike, while others wait to be christened by fellow hikers. If you wait to be named, you never know what might stick. Mr. Bohner, a 72-year-old from Indiana ended up with “Loner Bohner” because he hiked by himself. Captain Planet was named for his propensity for picking up trash. Calculator was adept at figuring mileages. Special Delivery was named so because a mouse had babies in his pack.
I ran across several names, like “Dog Breath,” that were at least humorous if not flattering. I liked the name “Do What?” because it belonged to the junior and somewhat headstrong member of a father-son team. Other names I liked were “Moondoggie” referring to coyotes, and “Tippy Toes” belonging to a tall lady. Perhaps the most creative trail name I ran across was “Body Snatcher.” This young lady always dressed in black and often carried her sleeping bag draped over her shoulders to dry it out each morning.
At first, I thought the whole trail name thing was kind of corny. As the hike progressed, however, I realized that trail names are much easier to remember than boring real names. On the trail, random meetings with long-lost friends are the norm. I came to really appreciate the unique and descriptive trail names as the number of my acquaintances piled up.
Solitary hikers may have to wait quite a while before someone gives them a name. It can be a bother signing your real name in the trail journals for several weeks while you wait. If you hike alone, I recommend that you think of a name for yourself. If you decide on a name before you hit the trail, you can check on Whiteblaze.com to see if someone already has it.