What’s in a Trail Name?

I had heard all sorts of things about trail names before beginning to hike the Appalachian Trail.

“I wonder what name I will have bestowed upon me?”

Then I met some hikers who told me “just pick your own trail name” for various reasons. You have a name from the start, or you don’t get stuck with a name you hate, etc. I decided to wait out a trail name and see what I ended up with.

I started the 100-Mile Wilderness and was already felt strange when meeting “Eager Beaver” “Vintage” “Lucky One” “Ladybird” etc, to be “just Megan.” I started thinking about possibilities for what my trail name could be.

I chose Detour while on the trail, after about 6 days. I had taken a “wrong turn” and insisted it was just a scenic detour. My new “tramily” were throwing around “Wrong Way” and “U-Turn,” names I did not like! Also, I am “detouring” off the trail quite often, to explore this part of the country which I have never seen. I have off-trail trips planned to Waterbury, VT, home of Ben + Jerry’s and near Alchemist Beer, Cleveland (yup, WAY off trail!) Boston, NYC, Philly, Gettysburg, Antietam, and Manassas, and Washington DC. Someone commented “it’s going to take you a year to finish the trail if you keep taking all those detours.”  Maybe it will, I don’t mind.

When Ian (my husband/trail angel) met me at the end of the 100-Mile Wilderness, I asked him to bring pickles, which is what I was craving at the time. He hiked three miles in to meet me, with a whole jar of pickles! What a man! I was even able to share with new trail friends. A few days later we had a hot dog dinner at one of the lean-tos, and one of my contributions was, you guessed it, pickles. My new group of tramily then started calling me Pickles, and it stuck. I would prefer to go by “Detour” but there are about 4 or 5 people out there that only know me as “Pickles” so it seems to have stuck ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I have been listening to Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth while on the trail, in which the author extols the idea of giving of labeling things, for there is much more to you and me than the words “you” and “me” can convey. “Words reduce reality to something the human mind can grasp, which isn’t very much.”  Then, does it matter so much whether I am “Detour” or “Pickles” as those are merely labels for my person; my inner being is much more than can be captured in a trail name?  Is it wrong to prefer one name over another?  I do know one thing – I should pick one name and stick with it!


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Comments 4

  • Your mother : Aug 20th

    Hi Megs! Thanks for explaining the origins of detour and pickles. I like your thoughts on the fact that these labels are only one facet of your individual personality. As your mother I would say that detour is much more reflective of you and that inner personality that likes to travel off the beaten path. Maybe to that one group of people you always be pickles and that’s okay too. It’s a great story! I love you lots and miss you just as much.

  • Dan : Aug 20th

    I’d stick with a trail name bestowed upon you by the “trail”. Unless it signifies some jerky behavior that you neither want to continue or repeat. Happy trails!

  • karl erpenbeck : Aug 21st

    pickle sounds good. I got stuck with trail m
    name rain maker, because every time I would hike it would rain.

  • "Splendid Monkey King" : Aug 25th

    Your trail name is yours. Any of that nonsense that “the trail,” has to give it to you or you have to “earn” it is utter silliness.

    Some people come to the AT with a trail name already. Others hike the whole thing and never adopt one.

    It’s just something fun, nothing more. Frankly, there are a ton of cliched, over-used, and boring ones that are “bestowed” upon hikers…so if you’ve found one that feels right, go with it.

    The only rules are the ones you decide matter!


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