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trail names

Someone recently posted an inquiry about trail names.  (Actually, the
inquiry may have been sent just to my address--if so, sorry about taking up
everyone's cyber-time and space, but I bet the subject is of interest to
lots of folks.)

When I hiked the northern half of the Trail in 1977, hikers were giving
their groups names--like "The Heroes of the Beach" and "The Maine Train."
By the early '80s individual hikers were adopting trail names.  Now it's
pretty standard practice, I guess growing out of the sense that most people
have that hiking the AT is a rite of passage involving some kind of
discovery or reinvention of the self.  I hold with those who say that a
trail name should emerge from your experiences on the Trail rather than be
pre-selected.  Often the names are assigned by popular acclaim.  Examples
from last year:  "Night Sprite," who missed a shelter and walked for hours
in the dark to get to the next one; "Crasher," who crashed through the woods
off-trail one night; "Lady Di," who looks like you-know-who.

Just as often, of course, hikers choose their own names.  Mine came from my
reading of a Cherokee myth after a miserable cold wet day out of Neel's Gap
when I got mildly hypothermic, had blister problems, and missed my family
horribly.  The story goes that when living things were first brought from
Galunlati above to the earth, they were told to stay awake for 7 days and
nights.  Only a few made it.  As a reward, the animals that did it--the
panther, the owl--were given the power to see in the dark, so they could
hunt while others sleep.  The plants that made it--the spruce, the pine, the
laurel--the evergreens--because they endured were allowed to "keep their
hair" even in winter.  I took the name Evergreen not because I'm afraid of
going bald but because I wanted a reminder to help me through the bad days,
to help me endure.

Sometimes Trail names are chosen out of whimsy or sense of poetry.  Some of
my favorites:  Forest Gimp, Weathercarrot, Zen Bootist, Human, Moonflower,