I often get questions about various elements of hiker vocabulary. I’ve decided to create a page to help simplify this, and hopefully save a few Google searches.
Trail Names: Trail names are a tradition on long distance trails. They’re really there for fun, but quite often taking on an “alter ego” while hiking is useful. Many people attempt these trips to enact some sort of change within their life, and taking on a new name helps cement that that change is in place.
My trail name is “Dirty Girl,” which was given to me by “Flo-Mo” during my first 100 miles on the AT. “Flo-Mo” is short for Florence Nightingale Monica. It was given to Monica after she told everyone that she’s a nurse in everyday life. Florence Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing.
“Dirty Girl” refers to dirty girl gaiters. These are lycra shoe covers of sorts, which help keep dirt, mud, and rocks out of your shoes and off of your socks. I’ve been an avid fan of these for years, and hence my trail name was born. Check them out here: https://dirtygirlgaiters.com/
Other trail names you’ll see in this blog are names like: Lost, Firebird, Turtlegoat, Gritz, Swiss Miss, Rev, Casey Jones, Tumbleweed, Sasquat, Pinky, The Brain, Snorelax, Music Box, Game Warden, Gandalf, Lt. Safety, Wrong Way, Curry Toe, and the list goes on.
Of course, there are those who do not take on trail names. This makes their friend requests on social media much easier to identify 🙂
White Blaze: The Appalachian Trail’s blazes (markers). They consist of 6″ x 2″ white rectangles, which are painted on trees. There are thousands upon thousands of these along the path, helping hikers navigate the trail.
Blue Blaze: A side-trail on the AT. These typically lead towards water sources, shelters along the trail, overlooks or waterfalls, and other points of interest.
Yellow Blaze: Skipping miles of the trail by hitchhiking or shuttling. “Yellow” refers to the double yellow lines on roads. Hikers do this for various reasons. I’ve yellow blazed to catch up to friends for a morale boost, or after taking a few days off to visit family. Some hikers, often called “purists” look down on this practice. To each their own, which leads us to:
Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH): This is a saying among thru-hikers to reassure others (and themselves) that all hikes are valid as long as they align with that hiker’s values. Looking to finish the trail in four months? Cool man. Hike your own hike! Do you want to paddle the Shenandoah River by canoe, instead of hiking that section? Cool man. Hike your own hike! You get the idea. We’re all out there for different reasons, integrity to that reason is the ultimate goal.
Aquablaze: Traveling a portion of the trail by water instead. For instance, in 2016 I chose to take a six day canoe trip down the Shenandoah river with friends, instead of hiking that section via the AT. Some purists frown on this. See HYOH above 🙂
Resupply: Exactly what it sounds like. This is when you go into town and load up on food or gear for the next section of trail.
NOBO: A person hiking the trail “Northbound” from Georgia to Maine.
SOBO: A person hiking the trail “Southbound” from Maine to Georgia.
Flip-Flop: A hike started from some mid-point on the trail. On the AT the traditional start of a flip flop would be Harper’s Ferry, WV. Routes very intensely, some go north to Maine, then bus back to Harper’s and start walking south to Georgia. Flip-flops are ideal for avoiding crowds and extreme weather conditions. They are also useful for navigating injuries or obligations which cause a late (or early) start day for the trail. My 2019 NoBo hike was converted into a traditional flip-flop following a stress-fracture in my tibia. All routes are valid and accepted by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Zero: A day off on which no trail miles are hiked. You might hike six miles getting your errands done in town though 🙂
Nearo: A low mileage day, usually into or out of town. There are no specific numbers. My nearo’s are typically 3-8 miles. Some hikers consider anything under fifteen a nearo, but this is (hopefully) expressed with sarcasm.