Finding Your Trail Name after 700 Miles

At the start of my hike, I’m offered a few trail names. An older man who speaks to me just long enough to ask where I’m from offers me the extremely uncreative ‘Aussie’ (‘Ossie in American). When I decline, he is quite irritated that I don’t appreciate this deeply thoughtful gesture.

My friends at home suggest Peter Pan – because I attract Lost Boys. And while this is incredibly apt, I find it makes men uncomfortable when they ask what the name means, so I never let it stick.

When I have to get off trail for almost a month after only 450 miles, I still don’t have a trail name.

Which I’m completely fine with by the way. But other people are not. Groups frequently declare that they will name me! But I don’t want a name that’s to do with my injuries and they’ve been taking center stage for a while.

After getting back on trail in Mammoth and hiking on my own for two weeks, a group I met in passing at Kennedy Meadows North takes pity on me and invites me to stay with them in Tahoe.

A trail angel takes us back to the trail after our zero and squeezes all of us into his truck.

He is incensed that I do not have a trail name. He tries to name me Ghost Rider because I’m ‘invisible without one’.

I say I’ll think about it. He’s not the first trail angel to insist on trying to name me without spending any time with me at all.

The day I hike into Donner Pass I pick up multiple lost and discarded objects. A trash balloon (my third), a usb cable, a candy wrapper. I pick up a green srunchie and instead of putting in my trash ziploc, I stuff it in my pocket thinking I might keep it for myself in case my only hair tie breaks.

It’s a long day: 24m (38km) with uncountable thousands of feet of ascent and descent. It is the longest day I’ve hiked yet on trail and almost certainly far too much for me physically at this point. There are miles of scree and I fall twice; my ankles ache from the uneven terrain.

In the morning, like the previous two mornings, I say goodbye to the group I’d stayed with in Tahoe.

I wasn’t planning to hike as far as them to stick to my re-entry plan of lower miles. But each day I caught them anyway, telling myself I’d take it easy the next day instead. So many groups I’ve met seem to treat the trail like a chore, focused on miles and logistics. This group laughs together all day, putting pinecones and rocks in each others’ packs, teasing each other about packing out milk or eating a litre of cold soaked cous cous for consecutive meals.

One of them tells me when I make it to Donner Pass with them, that each day they lose me and then find me again.

All day I leapfrog a woman wearing an astronaut print sunhat and fox print gaiters. About a mile from Donner Pass I come across the hat snagged on a tree with her nowhere in sight. I sling it over my arm hoping she’ll be at Donner too.

When I arrive, she is sitting with a group by the door and I present it to her. She is thrilled – she hadn’t even realized yet that it was gone. The woman sitting next to her jokingly asks if I happened to find a green scrunchie on the trail.

I reach into my pocket and pull it out without saying anything. I feel like Santa on Christmas morning.

They offer me the trail name Lost and Found, and it turns out to the be the second time that day the name finds me.

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