Serendipity: Evolution of a Trail Name

I first heard the special language of the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains. It was the early 2000s. A dear friend and I were hiking the Presidential range and staying in the huts. At communal dinner I overheard trail talk, peppered with almost foreign sounding language. Insider language. It was here that I was first introduced to the concept of a trail name. I enjoyed hearing the stories of how others got their trail names.

Trail names initiated to help differentiate people with similar names. And people love nicknames. 

Around that time I had been given the spiritual name Shambhavi after my first yoga teacher training with Sivananda in 2002.

The Appalachian Trail, similar to yoga, often attracts people who are in transition, looking for meaning, exploring identity.

I received the spiritual name Shambhavi after asking one of my teachers about the circling and pulsing feeling I was experiencing on my forehead during meditation.

Shambhavi after Shambhavi mudra meditation, or center eyebrow gazing.

Shambhavi is a beloved of Shiva. Shambhavi in Sanskrit can be broken down as Sham, another name for Shiva, a gentle and peaceful form of Shiva. Bhav means feeling or vibe. So Shambhavi, Shiva vibe.

Before my thru hike, friends would ask, “What do you want your trail name to be?”

Nothing came to mind. I didn’t want my trail name to be connected to my yoga history. I waited for some event to happen that might bring on a trail name.

And then once the thru hike began, “Do you have a trail name yet?”

I did not.

A variety of hikers tried to help.

How about Gravity? Following a discussion about skydiving, yoga asana, and gymnastics. The idea of dancing with gravity. And also experience with gravity, or aging. I tried it on for a day or two but it did not fit.

How about Inertia? The organizer of my first trail magic thought Gravity was too generic.

Maybe Entropy? Measures of randomness, disorder, chaos.

Vroom or Wheels? Someone thought I was fast. I am not fast. I can usually keep going a little longer but I am not fast.

Neverland? Because my name is Wendy. Because Peter Pan.

Lotus? Because I have a history of studying and practicing yoga. There are different descriptions of the relationship between the mud that the lotus grows in and the lotus. One telling keeps the lotus separate from the mud. The lotus rises above, floats on water,  stays pristine. Another telling counters that the mud is essential to the growth of the lotus. The mud contains nutrients, history, roots. Last year’s lotus becomes this year’s mud, like cycles of life and learning.

How about Coincidence? I was having lunch at a shelter with two other women. Fellow Trek blogger Sonic Boom/Bryan Vanetten was there as well. The two women were section hikers. We introduced ourselves. Pooh Bear/Krysten Tris, Inside Out/CC Lippy and I discovered we are all Doctors of Physical Therapy!

“Your name should be Coincidence!” Sonic Boom had been trying to help me with a trail name. One of my section hiker friends who I started with, @lightisgreen helped to give Sonic Boom his name.

Coincidence. That felt like it was getting closer. We finished lunch and went back to the trail. I started to think about words similar to coincidence. Serendipity, something unexpected with a positive outcome. Serendipity, also a personal favorite children’s book about a pink water dragon who goes on an unexpected mission of self empowerment and protecting the seas. Authored by Stephen Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James.

The word origin of serendipity/serendipitous, from the mid 18th century, attributed to author Horace Walpole, who borrowed from a Persian fairy tale ‘The Three Princes of Serendip.’ The characters find unexpected good fortune and wonder on their adventures.

My Appalachian Trail walk, the planning that supports the unexpected adventures that arise just for setting out, just for taking the first steps and continuing to walk.

Serendipity it is!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 3

  • Smitty : May 23rd

    I’m a 62 year old man with toxic masculinity and I found this blog um yea

  • Kenny Schiff : May 24th

    Love the backstory on Serendipity. Who knew? The sounds of the syllables, feel up and down and up, which matches what you are doing on the ground. I like it, and it feels too like a natural extension of Shambhavi and kinda Sanskrit like.

    • Wendy Boller : May 24th

      Love your observation on the rolling sound of Seredipity matching the ascents and descents on the trail!


What Do You Think?