Trail Names

How did they get that name?

Trail 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: gonzo@2000milehike.com

 

"The Yogi Master" Joseph J. Front, Class of 1992

 

When 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!)

On 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!

Along 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!

By 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!

What a long, strange trip it's been!

"Bamaman" David Severance, Class of '81

It 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

"The Old Gray Goose" Kay Cutshall AT 2000 miler, 92->93:

In 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

 

"Bilko" Mary Walsh: - 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.

 

"Itchy & 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

 

"Mountain 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.

 

Gonzo! 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!

 

Mighty Thor 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 Thor"

 

Cassie 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.

 

Bruce "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.

 

No Pepsi Stephen Bryant 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.

"I 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 for him.
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". True story
."

 

JASH - 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

 

Peregrine - 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."

 

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Copyright © 2004 Appalachian Trail Museum Society
Last Modified 1/31/05

 

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