How did they get that name?
names are often colorful and intriguing. Sometimes self
named, sometimes given by others. However they originated,
they often give us an insight into the bearer or some
event that sets that person apart. Sometimes we wonder
how they ever got that name. Well here are a few explanation
given by various Appalachian Trail hikers on how they
got their trail names. If you would like to submit an
explaination of your trail name, send an email with
the information to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2015, several of the officials of the Museum were interviewed
by a reporter from the BBC concerning trailnames. The
resulting article can be found here.
Harold, Museum Manager, recently took a survey of hikers
investigating how hikers acquired their trailnames.
The results can be seen here.
by Jack the Shark" Donohue, Class of 2003
is more of a short story than just an explaination.
Click here for the
Yogi Master" Joseph
J. Front, Class of 1992
I started out on my 1992 thru-hike, I fell in with a
group of fellow Thru-hikers. Guys like Looksdown, Thumper,
Young Flannigan, Polar Bear, etc. The name Yogi, in
trail terminology, means the art of procurring food,
goods or services, without asking (that would be begging!)
the days leading up to our arrival in Damascus, VA.,
we had been quoting funny lines from various Monty Python
movies. As is common when approaching a town, we dreamed
about arriving to a "luxurious" hostel and
watching some Monty Python movies. The reality when
we arrived was that there was no TV or VCR. After settling
in, I set off to explore the town and naturally stopped
in at the outfitter store. Inside I met the owner "Damascus
Dave", who ran a television repair business in
the back. We chatted about the trail, some John Prine
that was playing on the radio and I shared the stories
of our Monty Python "fixation" - Dave pointed
out that there was a video rental store nearby, but
I said it was no use without the main ingredients of
TV and VCR. We talked a bit more, then out of the blue,
he offered to loan me a TV and VCR he had there. Shocked,
I anxiously accepted and began walking, arms full, back
to "The Place". A few steps up the sidewalk,
I felt drops of rain and immediately turned back, not
wanting to ruin Dave's equipment. When I ducked inside,
he thought for a minute, then flipped me the keys to
his car! Moments later my hiking partners at the time
Polar Bear and Looksdown, leaned out the window of "The
Place" to see me grinning from the front seat of
a car with TV and VCR on the seat beside me. We rented
a Monty Python and later had a movie night at "The
Place" with other thru-hikers!
the journey I managed to get myself, and whomever I
was hiking with, invited to two weddings, to be loaned
another car from another complete stranger at Rusty's
in VA. and accepted numerous invitations for nights
in homes and garages or porches and we even stayed at
the home of the Dean of religious Studies at Dartmouth
in Hanover, NH. I stopped counting all the food we Yogi'd
up, and even rose to a "Yogi challenge" on
occasion presented by the group - rarely coming back
empty handed! I could go on for days!
the time we reached New England, others were calling
me " The Yogi Master", and with each new "Yogi",
I would eagerly treat the group to various meals, food,
etc., until they would joke with me saying that I had
a black belt in Yogiing!
a long, strange trip it's been!
David Severance, Class of '81
was sometime in April, somewhere in North Carolina and
somewhat after consuming my sixth Bama Pecan Pie that
Julian "Old Man" Westhal my hiking buddy from
England turned to me and said, " Aye Chief I think
we should call you the Bamaman!"
The almighty Bama Pecan Pie that delectable, edible
3 inch pie in the nifty little tin pie plate and cellophane
wrapper. I'm not sure they even make them anymore but
boy were they good and cheap too.
I remember the time we stopped at the budget motorcourt
in Waynesboro, Virginia and were told that a couple
of thruhikers from Maine, Rosebud and Schroth were in
the room next to ours. Well after we checked out our
room I went to the wall and banged on the wall, "
Hey it's me the Bamaman ! " "The Bamaman's
Here!" After about the fourth time we heard the
door next door open and some footsteps coming to our
door, a knock and then we both said "come on in!
" In came these two gigantic guys who didn't look
anything like Rosebud and Schroth and who had their
names sewn on their shirts shouted " Who the hell
is the Bamaman ? " I of course immediately turned
to Old Man Westall and said "He's the Bamaman,
he's the Bamaman." Julian started to speak and
next thing I knew was outside the door laughing with
the good old boys. I later found out that he told them
that I was a little Daff in the head and that he sometimes
couldn't control my actions. (for more stories
by David, see his website of trail stories at http://www.unclerust.com/home.html
Old Gray Goose" Kay
Cutshall AT 2000 miler, 92->93:
1992 when I was preparing for my "thru-hike"
I decided to use "The Old Gray Goose" as my
trail name. To begin with I was no "spring chicken"
at the age of 52 and at the time my f-i-l had an old
gray truck that was pretty much falling apart at the
seams. He would drive down the old country road with
it's fenders flapping, it just kept going and going,
and our kids called it the old gray goose. I hoped I
would be like that old truck and overcome problems along
the way and just keep on going !
I didn't quite make it an all in one season thru-hike
although I do call it my "2-section thru-hike".
These many years later, I am still known as The Old
Gray Goose. Click
here to see Kay's journal
- Master Sergeant Ernie Bilko was a television character
in the 60's. Played by Phil Silvers, Bilko was a conning
friendly hustler that worked in the Army. He spend most
of his time trying to figure out how to make a quick
buck. In the 90's Steve Martin played the role of Ernie
Bilko in a feature film. Both characters often replied
to questions about their success in conning and hustling
others with "That's why they call me, Master Sergeant."
I'm a retired Master Sergeant from the Air Force.
After retiring from the Air Force, I worked in a Catholic
School as an Assistant Principal, my boss, a nun, called
to question my ability to get things done in unconventional
ways. I replied "Sister, that's why they call me,
Master Sergeant." Her reply was "OK Bilko,
how did you do it?" It stuck with me. Later while
we discussed my hiking experiences, hiking goals and
the need of a trail name, she suggested 'Bilko'. I was
named by a Catholic nun. It was the only logical choice.
& Scratchy My Itch" Wendy
& Paul McCusker:
class of "1993" - With the worst blizzard
in years and stuck in a tent in a shelter at Whitley
mountain, my husband was ready to get off the trail
and I begged him to stay, so we changed our trail names
to Itchy & Scratchy My itch. He decided then
to push on thru. With all our little fights it fit!
Our group that stuck together after the 1st month or
so was called "The ham and eggers" we were
all so slow in the morning!
"The Wild Turkey " Bill Harrison section hiker, As outlined in Roland Muesser’s book, Hiking the Appalachian Trail, the “best” Trail names are earned, not simply chosen..also, most have at least some element of double meaning.. I am known as The Wild Turkey. For many years, my libation of choice has been Wild Turkey 101. At the end of each day on the trail , I usually down a shot straight. This elicits a loud vocal reaction, that some say sounds like a true wild turkey !! Others of my “friends say that my behavior often reminds them of a Turkey… So the trail name sticks.. I section hiked the entire AT during the years, 1982 to 1999 with two friends. During the early years we had many serious and heated discussions about what and how to do various things.. One evening around a campfire, I remarked that we resembled “ the blind leading the blind “. That , and the fact that we were concerned about mice in our shelter to soon lead us to name our trio “The Three Blind Mice “ , a name that stuck , and adorned our annual T-shirts until we finished.. One year , while traversing the Shenandoah National Park , we befriended a lone hiker who had chosen some unremarkable trail name for himself. One day he stopped to use a payphone, several miles further along the trail he realized that he had left his wallet on top of the phone. He raced back and luckily the wallet was still there . From then ‘til now his name is “Lost and Found” Well and truly earned !!!
"WAY SEEKER" Ron Shopinski section hiker, Over the years friends and I Section Hiked from one direction or another and completed the AT from Rockfish Gap Meeting in VA to the top of Mount Katahdin. At one time or another we would stray from the trail. Having a great sense of direction I was always picked to seek out the right way. Thus my trail name
Dew" Hudson Hartson Class of 2003, I got my trail name from
my love of Mountain Dew. After I graduated from high
school several of my friends ended up working for Pepsi
Co., who owns Mountain Dew. They did promotions for
the company and saw to it that my room was filled with
cases of my favorite drink. At one time I had 17 cases
of it lined up against my wall. As I neared the start
of my 2003 thru-hike the choice was obvious to make.
Mountain Dew it was.
Alan Strackeljahn class of 1983, Yelled when
beginning his 1981 thruhike attempt. The long, extremely
loud war cry proclaimed that "Gonzo!" was
on the trail. The spirit of the word suited the expedition.
The name came about as a result of an expedition that
a friend and he made to Chester, Illinois to locate
fossilized ripple marks along the banks of the Mississippi
River. Dave climbed above him on the bluff to look,
while he searched below. While looking for the fossils,
a bunch of prickly pear cactus came flying out of nowhere
as Dave yelled "Gonzo!" from the cliff above.
In that spirit I chose "Gonzo!" as my trail
name - going for it
. No holds barred!
Freyda Strackeljahn class of 1989, Named after
the comic book hero from Asgard, The God of Thunder,
Freyda's painful knee problems brought about this name
that is a play on words. She could always express her
name and her condition in one sentence: "I'm Mighty
the Wonderdog an Australian shepherd Class
of 1989, Named by a very proud master, Cassie was so
well behaved that occasionally hikers did not know there
was a dog in the shelter until it left in the morning.
Had the misfortune of being wrapped up in the Lymes
disease/deer tick scare when it first erupted even though
she was probably cleaner and more well groomed than
most thru hikers.
"The Bird Man" Nichols Class
of 2002 Flip-Flopper. Folder of origami cranes, Bruce
pasted them into the trail registers located in the
shelters along the trail. He also give them out as little
gifts to other hikers and people he met along the way.
Thanks to all who ate chocolate to supply him with the
wrappers for folding.
Class of 2003 got the trail name "No Pepsi"
while attempting a thru hike in 1993. The story of his
naming started just south of Hampton,TN.
was faced with the decision of taking a easy 1/2 mile
blue blaze to get into town or hiking several tough
miles over Pond Mountain. In this case, I chose the
easy way out. But, as my buddies were hiking up the
mountain I began to taunt them. I was telling them I
would have a cold Pepsi waiting for them in Hampton
when they got there. I went into Hampt on, had a cheeseburger,
read the paper, etc... Strangely, my buddies never showed
up. So I figured they were too tired and skipped town
and went straight to the Wautauga Lake shelter. So,
I gave up waiting, left town and went to the shelter.
When I got to the shelter, no one was there.
Finally, about 10PM, one of my buddies came to the shelter.
Apparently, the brutal hike over the mountain took much
longer than anticipated. My friend wanted to know where
his cold pepsi was. I told him it was in town waiting
Several days later, I was with a group of hikers eating
a pizza and watching the final episode of Cheers at
Quincy's Pizza place in Damascus, VA. At this time,
my buddy brought up the missing Pepsi and the kangaroo
court of hikers determined my punishment for my crime
would be that my trail name would be "No Pepsi".
- Just A Section Hiker - David A. Grim. After
years of hiking on The Trail with Thru-Hikers, I got
used to telling them I was just a section hiker.
After a while I got the silly Trail idea of making it
an acronym. Hence, my
Tail name of JASH
- Richard Judy Class of 1973. "As I prepared
for my Maine to Georgia thru hike in the Spring of 1973,
I got to thinking that once I actually lit out on the
adventure, I would take on a new persona requiring a
fresh label. I decided to call myself Peregrine, because
I was a great admirer of falcons, because I was embarking
on a 2,000-mile peregrination, and because I had a self-inflated
view of myself -- typical for a 21 year old. I guess
I was among the first of the thru hikers to tag myself
with a trail name. Now, both my kids are thru hikers.
My son Dan went by the name Optimus Prime during
his 2000 SOBO hike, and my daughter Laura is know as
Steady on her 2004 SOBO thru hike. Even now,
more than three decades since I reached Springer, I
still call myself Peregrine when I pass into the parallel
universe of the sacred AT."
your trailname Information:
General Information: email@example.com
Copyright © 2004 Appalachian Trail Museum Society
Last Modified 1/31/05