One of the biggest things that new hikers on the Appalachian Trail are worried about is their trail names. A trail name is how you identify yourself to other hikers – it’s a pseudonym that will follow you around forever and have stories attached to it. So naturally, everyone wants a cool name and some are tempted to give themselves one.
I say this out of love – don’t give yourself a trail name. It’s not who YOU are on the trail, it’s who you THINK you’re going to be on the trail. Those are two very different people. In fact, they are such wildly different people that you’ll sometimes wonder who that other person is.
I can think of a handful of people who have given themselves trail names before they got on the trail who actually embodied their trail names, and that had more to do with who they were as a person than anything.
Plus, you want a great story to go along with your trail name right? You don’t want to have to give the answer “oh, well it sounded cool so I picked it.” No! You want an awesome story, like Talker has!
Talker’s name relates back to his hike, and the person who he is. Imagine if he’d chosen a name before hand, like “Strider”. It wouldn’t have reflected the man who he was – a sleep talking, hilarious young man.
My name relates back to my first hike and the spices I was carrying in a novel way. Little Spoon’s relates back to his off-hand comment about how he “sometimes like to be the little spoon in bed”. Chuckles got hers because you could hear her laugh for miles, and she was always laughing. Snakebite got bit by that snake and Fire Eater went after the bacon in the fire. It’s who they were, are.
I know you’re anxious about trail names. I know you want something cool. Don’t take the easy way out – wait for it. It’ll be awesome. If you do get one you’re not comfortable with, you don’t have to take it. You can say “no, I’m not okay with that name” if it’s something that disturbs you or puts you off – that’s fine.
But artifically creating a name for yourself, when you don’t know who you’re going to be? I would advise against it. Especially not Strider. Because every time I meet a “Strider” I make it my goal in life to rename them.
Strider became Slider this year. Strider became Hatchet. Strider became Slowpoke. Strider became Nap Time.
So wait for your name. Have adventures. Do silly things. Carry silly things. You’ll get an awesome name. Promise.
One thing I have a lot of from this trip is video. Moments that I was able to save. They tell only snippets of what happened, but sometimes when you string them together, they tell more of a story then you ever thought.
So this is an attempt at a story. Just like these writings are trying to tell a story. I hope you enjoy it
I had a story about a hiker named Talker awhile ago. When we were in Lincoln, NH and Spoon and Chuckles’s family put a feed on for us (all organic, all local spaghetti dinner!) which was delicious. In the process, we heard lots of stories. One of them, was about slap bets Talker had lost.
People who haven’t hiked a long distance trail like the Appalachian Trail always talk about mileage, pack weight or weather. Those who have finished a long distance trail, they all talk about the people and the experiences they had with them. People make the journey.
These are trail people. They understand you, and you understand them. They get it – all of it. Sometimes it feels like they can read your mind. You live with them everyday and share everything.
Even on the bad days, a day with your trail family is magical.
Talker always holds a special place in my heart.
I met him in passing just north of Erwin, TN while I was hanging out with Rob Bird, but I never actually talked to him until Kincora Hostel. He had been hiking with Johnny Thunder, Burgundee, Saga, Delorean, Skittles and Rambo. They are all pretty awesome people, but Talker is special.
Talker is a wonder person: intelligent, witty, mature and incredibly funny. But he does have a tendency to get involved with silly silly bets. Bets that no one has a chance of winning.
One of those took place in Damascus, at Trail Days.
Our medium of exchange was slap bets and ice cream novelty bets. You could bet on anything and we routinely did. Everything from how many nutri-grain bars one could eat (Saga got to 12 out of her 25 she thought she could do) to where you would end up that day.
At Trail Days, Talker tried the impossible.
Talker took a slap bet, thinking he could eat a 100 pop-tarts.
To be fair, he probably wasn’t in a sober state of mind when this bet was proposed, but he took it without a second thought. The bet was as follows: 100 poptarts before 10pm. He could get up at anytime and start eating, there would be a mix of flavors and they didn’t have to stay in his body for longer than it took to swallow them. He could purge himself anytime.
All this for the opportunity to slap Johnny Thunder.
Talker got up around 8am and decided to make an honest effort to start. He started with fruit flavored toaster pastries around 9am. He didn’t have any water to start, which was the beginning of his downfall.
“These feel like rocks in my stomach. Like a giant brick of awful”
After only 5 pop-tarts, I think Talker started to realize that this might be a bad idea. At 7 he decided it was time to pound some water.
“I need to drink like a gallon of water. Something. Because this is terrible”
At pop-tart 11 he decided he need to puke. He tried. He really did. But he just couldn’t.
“It feels like they are all glued together in there.”
He had consumed strawberry, blueberry, confetti cake and found that he couldn’t get rid of them. This didn’t bring any hope for finishing. He shrugged his shoulders however and decided to press on. Right on into a new box. Of Cinamon.
3 more pop-tarts, more water and another attempt to remove pop-tarts from his system yielded no results. Pop-tart 14 seemed like a terrible idea to have tried to eat.
“If I stand on my head, maybe that’ll help with the puking right? Gravity will help…”
It’s worth a shot right? He got up against a tree, had two people hold his legs and tried to shove his fingers in so he could puke. No joy. No option but to keep going.
He opened a box of fudge pop-tarts.This was a mistake.
Talker somehow managed to eat 17 pop-tarts. We later figured out that if he had eaten all 100, he would have consumed something in the neighborhood of 22,000 calories, enough sugar to put himself into diabetic shock and acquire type 3 diabetes and probably would have been the most miserable human being on the face of the earth.
All this to slap Johnny Thunder
“I’ll never eat pop-tarts again”
5 months later, Talker was again eating pop-tarts in the Hundred Mile Wilderness. He had found the strength to eat those deliciously terrible toaster pastries again. I don’t envy him them.
Johnny Thunder redeemed his slap in a most wonderful way, but that’s a story for another day.