The Making of a Trail Name: From Dreamer to Headlight

Hello, fellow Appalachian Trail hikers.  Allow me to re-introduce myself, cause I haven’t been around in a very long time.  We all know how that is; sometimes life steps in and things get busy.  My name is Lori, and I’ve gone by the trail name of Dreamer since I began section hiking.  I’d always heard that sometimes we chose our trail names, and other times it chooses us.  I must say that I was perfectly happy being known on the AT as Dreamer, but in June 2017, during my hike of the first half of the Smoky Mountains, my real trail name found me.

We pulled into Double Cold Spring shelter, completely soaked and disheartened after hiking two very long days in the pouring rain.  Now, I’ve hiked in the rain before.  In fact, it’s a standing joke that if we have a hike planned, it’s guaranteed to rain at least once.  But on this hike, we walked into the rain coming down from Rocky Top, and it didn’t stop until sometime during the night of the next day.  The mud was relentless, threatening to suck the shoes off our feet with every single step.  We arrived at the shelter, the rain still coming down in sheets, and for the first time in my brief hiking career, I honestly didn’t care who saw me as I changed out of my soggy clothes!

When the rain finally let up, I decided to make my break to the privy, the first one we’d been blessed to have on this hike, and which I much prefer to the “toilet areas” we found at the shelters up to this point.  So, toilet paper in hand, I set off, doing my best to keep my camp shoes out of the ankle-deep mud.  I was so intent on side-stepping the mud that I didn’t notice a large animal coming down the privy trail right at me.  When I did finally look up, I distinctly remember my instincts kicking in. I was standing face to face with a large animal that had just come out of the woods.  Yep, I jumped and screamed as I turned to run back to the shelter.  As I stood nestled in the safety of my fellow hikers, I made eye contact with the fearsome predator.

OK. So once my heart quit beating out of my chest, I was horribly embarrassed, but was able to join all 11 of my shelter-mates in laughing till we had tears running down our cheeks.  I mean, seriously?  I was that terrified of a harmless deer?  Once the laughter died down, one of the ladies came up to me and said, “I wish you could have seen the look on your face!  I think your trail name should be Headlight, like that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look.”

How could I argue with that?  It truly was the perfect case of a trail name finding me.  So I stepped graciously into my newly earned trail name and I now wear it proudly!  Oh, my brother and sister were with me on that hike, and had a front-row seat to the making of my new trail name. I’m quite sure I’ll never live it down.

Happy hiking, everyone.

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