Please Refer to Me by My Tramily Name

(Days 15 to 21)

Hi, my name is Night Whisperer!

Look Ma, I’m a Real Thru-Hiker!

Before your very eyes, I’m quickly slipping deeper and deeper into thru-hiker culture. Although I had my first visitor from the outside world in Week 3 (shout out to Melitta for driving 3 hours round trip to just hang out by a hiking hostel washer and dryer; that’s true friendship), I fear I’m evolving past the point of no return.

I wear one pair of clothes like a cartoon character. I shower about once a week. I have an insatiable appetite. I filter water out of springs and streams. I have trekking pole strap tans on my hands. There is always dirt under my fingernails. I eat candy for breakfast (okay, okay, so Dema may have occasionally done that before…)

But, I’m not even Dema anymore.

The Name’s Night Whisperer

…And I eat cinnamon rolls the size of my head. Nice to meet you!

Sorry, mom and dad. I know you all put a lot of thought into my legal name, and we need to have a bazillion Demetri’s and Demetra’s in the family per Greek naming conventions. But I’m going by Night Whisperer for now, Whisper for short. Three weeks in, and I officially have a trail name. 

You may be thinking,  “That’s a pretty bad ass trail name. Intense, mysterious, elusive”. That’s all true. But I am in fact none of these things. Wearing my trail name makes me feel like I’m cloaking my dorky, whimsical personality into a much cooler alter ego. I love it. In reality though, my trail name originates from the simple fact that I talk in my sleep. 

Me, super excited that I found pickles that I could pack out.

Before hitting the trail, I would talk in my sleep every now and again. However, since venturing out into the wilderness, it seems that the frequency of sleep talking has increased significantly. I also have way more vivid dreams that I can remember when I wake up. Now if that’s a sign of me getting better sleep or worse sleep, who’s to say? Probably a sleep expert, but that’s also not me.

Anyways, since traveling in my tramily, there have been a handful of occasions where about three or four other grungy hikers and I would pile into a hotel room to enjoy a night in town while splitting expenses, and in each of these instances, I have been caught red-handed (or open-mouthed? Is there an equivalent saying??).

I like to believe that this quality is more endearing than snoring, which is far too common a noise in the proximity of any shelter on trail. (Why it is that the loud snorers always decide to sleep in the most central part of the shelter site where it is sure the sound will carry to other hikers held hostage in their tents, I’ll never know). At the very least, it’s got to be more entertaining. It’s only happened one time out at camp where someone has actually heard me through my tent – that I’m aware of at least!

Nonetheless, I’m now Night Whisperer and Night Whisperer is me.

200 Miles Down

Time keeps passing, and the mile count continues to slowly creep down. Hitting the 200 mile marker was especially exciting because it meant …

Less Than 2,000 Miles To Go!

I’m continuing to astound myself with the progress I’m making. I am currently averaging about 13 miles a day (including nearos and a zero), and I’ve been hiking more and more 18 to 20 mile days as time goes on, so I’m expecting that average to continue to increase. I’m feeling more confident and comfortable in my abilites – quickly setting up and taking down camp in any kind of weather, planning out daily and weekly hiking itineraries, listening to my body and adjusting accordingly to take care of it, and generally just navigating unforseen challenges as they arise.

Forklift, Mosey, Goldie (a lovely trail angel and AT 2023 thru-hiker) and me on Max Patch

On Day 17, I took my first zero day. I left the Smokies and went into Gatlinburg with my tramily. The forecast was showing a big thunderstorm was going to come through, so we decided to stay in town for 2 nights to ride it out. Of course, as fate would have it, this storm never materialized. It was nothing but sunny skies the whole time we were in Gatlinburg. That is, until it was time to get back onto the trail…

I was deeply disappointed by this at first, but I really needed that day. Regardless of the weather, it was time to take a break. I stretched for 2 hours and listened to The Tortured Poets Department all the way through. It was a great day, and I hit the trail feeling relaxed. It’s a marathon (well about 84 marathons) not a sprint.

OK, Let’s Talk About Pooping Outside

Me and my trusty Kula cloth!

We’re all friends here. It’s been long enough. And I’m in too deep now. I think it’s time to answer the questions that many want to know the answers to but no one really wants to ask. 

DISCLAIMER: Before we proceed, if you are reading this and know me in any professional capacity or believe that I’m a polite and respectable lady, thru-hikers don’t poop. In fact, pooping in the woods is a nasty rumor spread by day hikers. This post is over, and there’s nothing more for you to read here.

Now if you don’t know me in person at all or somehow like me enough that hearing about the thru-hiker “bathroom” experience will not cause you to be unable to look me in the eyes next time we see each other, read on.

This section is for those morbid of curiousity and brave of heart. 

The following items are essential for successfully doing your business outside (and you know I’m not talking about sending a professional email):

  • A shovel
  • A reusable pee cloth
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand soap
  • Letting go of your pride and any attachment to being prim and/or proper

These are the items I carry to help me comfortably and hygenically “do my thing” in the great outdoors. Forklift affectionately refers to it as a “shit kit”.

The pee cloth is crucial, and one of my favorite and most underrated pieces of gear. I received my first Kula Cloth as a gift a few years back, and it was the best thing I never knew I needed. I’ve never been so happy to have a small piece of anti-microbial fabric. It replaces the need to use (and bury or carry) toilet paper every time I pee, and I wash it every few days. I highly recommend it for anyone who squats when they pee. Find a covert spot, pop a little squat,  wipe with the Kula Cloth, hand sanitize and wash your hands with soap, and then you are back on your merry way down the trail.

I mean, c’mon, what bathroom gives you a view like this?

Now pooping is a slightly more complicated affair. First rule of thumb is to try to poop when in civilization. But since nature calls when nature calls and sometimes that’s when you are IN nature, there are three approaches to #2ing in the woods as I see it:

  • Privy – At every shelter along the AT, located between 5 to 12 miles apart along the way, there is a privy conveniently in place for hikers to be able to do their thing with ease. Unfortunately, there has been an outbreak of norovirus since I started the trail, so I have been avoiding staying at shelters. If I do camp nearby, it is typically on the outskirts. Accordingly, I have yet to use a privy. I like to make things hard for myself apparently. 
  • Dig a cat hole – The proper, Leave No Trace approach to processing solid waste on the trail is to dig a “cat hole” 6 inches deep off the trail and away from water sources. Then do your business and fill the hole back in, toilet paper and all. It’s simple enough, but it requires foresight and planning. Which occasionally is not a luxury I always have, leading to the third and least ideal approach.
  • I call it the retroactive cat hole – and I do not recommend it unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes, you’re hiking along on the trail, enjoying the bird songs and the sunshine when suddenly the town food you had a day earlier wages war against your regular diet of candy and protein bars. And in that moment you’ve got about a 30 second window between the recognition of urgency and a dire and disgusting predicament. In that instance, you desperately try to dig yourself a cat hole before you ultimately have to concede to your body’s desires. Then because you’re a good steward of the environment, you finish digging your cat hole and do your best with the surrounding foliage to bury your treasure. 

Or this??

It’s not a pretty reality, but I’m nothing if not an honest narrator. So there you have it, I’ve officially gone fully feral. But I can’t help it because I like to go where the wild things are. If I haven’t totally lost you with this post, stay tuned because there are miles to go and many adventures yet to be had.

Happy Trails!

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Comments 7

  • Mama Bear : Apr 26th

    I love your honesty.
    Your writing is fabulous.
    Keep it up!
    Love you bunches ❤️

  • Mary Ketchum : Apr 27th

    Excellent post Night Whisperer!

  • Doug : Apr 27th

    I’ve been following Forklift on her YT Vlog and thought she was calling you Fema. Thought that pretty hysterical for a trail name. You seem to have a great tramily

  • Spike : Apr 27th

    I’ve been following Forklift’s vlog and thought she kept referring to you as FEMA until I saw the photo above with you and Mosey with her and the trail angel. I thught that FEMA was kind of an hysterical trail name but Night Whisperer seems a lot better to me. Good going!

  • Carole Hoffman : Apr 28th

    Great post! Answers a question I had but since I don’t really know you, I felt uncomfortable asking 🥴. I am happy to read that you do take an occasional break from the trail. It sounds like having a “tramily” is essential and comforting, and I am glad you have found yours. Do you think you will walk the whole way together? Whew! Talk about bonding! You will likely be friends for life with these

  • AnnJoy : Apr 28th

    Thank you for taking us on this incredible journey with you Night Whisperer! Love reading your story! Livin your best life.

  • AMY M : May 11th

    I love reading your blog and following your journey. Leaving a comment was not obvious and talking to your mom and having her show me where to leave a comment was the only way I could figure it out. I have been following Forklift’s videos and love getting a glimpse of you on the trail. Of course I follow you via your mama too. Enjoy the journey and I will read your blog and cheer you along

    Miss Amy


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