What's In a Trail Name?

After sharing my blog with some former co-workers, the thing I heard was "who is Sprinkles?!"  Being that sometimes I forget that not everyone I know is in the know about long-distance hiking, I thought I'd take the opportunity to write a blog about trail names.  

A trail name is an alias by which a hiker is known during their time on trail.  While mostly used by long-distance hikers, they're not exclusive to people hiking for months on end.  They can be used by everyone from spouses of hikers to trail angels (more on this in another post) to trail maintenance workers to thru hikers.  Usually, a trail name is given to a hiker by other hikers, a nickname earned due to some circumstance.  Paul Bunyon can be given to the person who snores the loudest in a shelter; The Flash can be given to the slowest hiker in the group; Snot Rocket given to the one who... well, you get it.

When it comes to trail names, anything goes.  One should be warned that if you ever answer to a trail name even once, it will stick.  I knew a guy who was trying to "outrun" another hiker due to being called Litterbug because a granola wrapper fell out of his pack and he didn't pick it up due to not seeing it.  (He totally did outrun the name by the way).  Also, there's sort of an unspoken rule with hikers that you can change your trail name, but you can only get three names total before the third one has to stick.  Alternatively, to avoid getting an unsavory trail name, you can assign one to yourself.  This is what NoKey did before his thru hike.  While prepping to go on the AT, he gave himself the name NoKey because someone had pointed out to him he had nothing in his life that required a key.  He sold his house and his car, put his stuff into storage, and left for Georgia with only the gear on his back. 

Now we come to my trail name - Sprinkles.  When I left Springer Mountain in Georgia in 2012, I had the trail name Trophy Wife.  When I was preparing to do the AT, the person I hiked with the most was about twice my age.  He and I hiked together most weekends for the 4 months leading up to my hike and would often get the look of people trying to figure the two of us out.  One day he said, "oh, this is my daughter" to which I replied, "oh honey, don't hide our love" and embarrassed him.  From then on, I became known as Trophy Wife.   While the name fit me during those months prior to the AT, on the AT it became kind of a pain.  I was constantly answering the question "Where's your husband?" or "Isn't it a bad thing to be a trophy wife?"  Then, when NoKey and I started hiking together we both awkwardly had to explain that no, he was not my husband.  A trail name switch was required.  When we were about 600 miles in to the trail, the name Sprinkles was brought up.  It fit me not only for my love of Poptarts with sprinkles on top, but also due to the fact that when you're a woman on a trail as popular as the AT in early spring, a lot of people are going to catch you peeing in the woods.  The name stuck and it fits me well :)

I hope this post has explained a little bit more about trail names to those who weren't quite sure what the whole thing meant.  Happy hiking!