Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stay Puff & Other Trail Names

Names are important... even when hiking. On the Appalachian Trail (AT) it’s customary to choose a trail name. Perhaps this is true on other trails as well, but it seems to be especially true on the AT.

Signing into the logbook our first trip, my hiking partner Tara, pen in hand, asked what my trail name was.

"Trail Name?" I asked right back. I had no idea. “I don’t have one. I don’t think I need one,” I said.

Tara gave me a look and convinced me that I did indeed need a trail name. Everyone does you know. In situations like these it is best to cave in to peer pressure. I looked myself up and down. I was dressed head to toe in white (anti-tick regalia) and the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man popped into my head.

"That's awful," Tara said, catching the implied out-of-shape clumsiness and does-not-belong-on-the-trail vibe.

I searched my soul, fished around for other ideas and after very little further deliberation decided to go with it. I took masochistic delight in my new handle. If anyone else had come up with such a nick-name for me I’d have been mortally offended, but since I came up with it myself I could enjoy the negative undertones, none of which seemed to have effected the trip at all. We had an absolutely lovely time of it.

Usually one sticks with a trail name. I, however, like to fancy myself unbound by convention (though jay-walking is at times excruciatingly painful). After a few trips, I was ready to leave “Stay Puff” behind. My cocky-self had reemerged and the white outfit faded. Again I plumbed the depths of my soul. Once more I found a name that suited me, "Caboose." On that particular trip I was always bringing up the rear.

On the next trip I decided "Cat-Up-A-Tree" was the trail name du jour. Like a cat, I was having no trouble getting up but coming back down… my knees were being oh-so-disagreeable that trip, especially on the downhill sections of the trail.

I stuck with the self-deprecating theme. One has to vent one's insecurities somewhere. Of course that’s not the only way to find a trail name. It’s just the best way.

[Just kidding, all ways of finding a trail name are perfectly legitimate, hobbies, interests, place or origin, physical attribute, favorite food or superhero – it’s all fair game, just be prepared to tell the story… right now. I’m serious, what’s your trail name? PS I gakked the Stay Puff photo from a site by and for women who love cyclists. I kid you not. PPS thank you to Ghost Busters for a lifetime of inspiration.]


  1. I wonder if this is how Indian names began.

    I like Stay Puff. What would my trail name be? Mosquito Bait. My daughter and I are loved by mosquitos everywhere, while my son and husband are left unscathed. It leaves me with a conflicted feeling about hiking and all mosquito-loving activities.

  2. My name is invisible, since I have not been hiking for so very long. Let's go to the Chesterfield Gorge or how about Central Park. It'd be King Kong in Central Park.

  3. My trail name would be Poor Pitiful Me or "I'd rather be biking." After all, I can't be mosquito bait if I'm moving along on a bike, creating my own breeze. Kudos to all of you who brave the mosquitoes, black flies, and knee problems for your sport. At least you won't get hit by a car!

    Theresa, I'm like you... my husband doesn't need bug repellent when he's with me... nice for him, but it stinks for me.

  4. I was named Buffalo after being chased by one in Wind Cave National Park. (Actually, it was just playing and it appeared to be chasing me and they are big and I ran away like a little girl.) Also, my hometown is Buffalo so it stuck!

  5. Mosquito Bait, King Kong, Poor Pitiful Me and Buffalo, these are great names! I love the word buffalo. I spent a good chunk of time in Logic 100 creating sentences. some of the quite long, out of the the word buffalo and a few commas. I can't remember now how we did it or why. The dictionary did nothing to jog my memory but I did discover there are buffalo berries, birds, fish, gnats, grass and ducks...