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April 24th, 2006
02:36 am
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What's in a name?
My planning bible, Yogi's PCT Handbook, has this to say about Trail Names:
"A thru-hike is a wonderful, crazy, unique experience. We take trail names to recognize this experience as a special time. Some hikers name themselves before hiking. Others wait to 'get named' on the trail. I think a trail name should be just that: a TRAIL name. ... By naming yourself [beforehand], you cheat yourself out of a great story and memory.

"Them: 'How did you get your trail name?' You: 'Oh, that's a funny story ...'

"Gottago was named on a PCT training hike. She had to pee. She thought she was alone, started to take care of business, then some guys on mountain bikes rolled by. One of them smiled and said, 'When you gotta go, you gotta go.'"

You: "So, Bax, do you have a trail name?" Me: "Oh, that's a funny story ..."

Long story short, one stuck while out on the snow camping trip. In the best possible hiker tradition, it involves duct tape, and my ass.*

The question arises, I suppose, why I would want a trail name at all. Why not just go by my birth name? And the best answer I can give to that is -- this trip is meant to be a transformative experience. It's symbolically important to me to give myself a fresh slate out on the trail, to do my walking as someone who I can grow into rather than as someone who I have to grow out of.

Well, alright -- you may ask -- but why a new name for the trip? Don't I already have a perfectly serviceable nickname? Er, if you're referring to Baxil, the answer is no. That is who I am as much as "Tad"; I answer to it, prefer it in conversation, and the name has a history that grounds me in much the same way as my birth name does.

I generally agree with Yogi here; this is going to be quite an ambitious summer, and recognizing that is a good gesture. Also -- and this is not insubstantial -- there is a strong distance-hiker community out there, and I'll be immersing myself in it while I walk. Taking a new name for the trip is a way of shifting worlds.

So, for the duration, I'm going to be Redtail.** I'll still happily answer to my actual names, and I don't expect anyone to bother to drill the new one into their head, but do be aware that my journals are going to be labeled accordingly.

* The long version, sadly, is not quite as entertaining nor as lurid-sounding as the short one. (It's catalogued in the snow-camping Day 2 journal.) But at least I have the option of just giving trail acquaintances the summary and preserving the mystique.
** Yes, longtime TTU fans may start savoring the irony now. Just no calling me "Dennis." Well, more than strictly necessary. :-p

Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Current Music: "Towards the Within," Dead Can Dance

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

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Date:April 25th, 2006 06:37 am (UTC)
The only catch is ...

You didn't really pick up the trail name while, uh, on the trail.
[User Picture]
Date:April 25th, 2006 07:05 am (UTC)
If the trail name example Yogi gives was from a training hike, I figure I'm legitimate too. Especially since the snow camping clinic was something I wouldn't have taken if it weren't for the thru-hike.

(And we were within a few hundred yards of the PCT for most of the trip.)
Date:April 25th, 2006 11:53 am (UTC)
You ought to dye your hair red and then grow it long, and tie it in a ponytail. Then we can call you "Red" and it'll still be funny. ^_^
(Deleted comment)
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Date:April 27th, 2006 07:33 am (UTC)
Hi back! Great to meet you. I don't know whether I will run across Knees on the trail or not, since I've got about a two-week head start, but if I and he both make it to Kennedy Meadows I expect we'll cross paths. (I also may take about a week off for a convention in late May, depending on my pace, since this is such a heavy snow year.)

Well put on the trail names. Have fun finding yours!
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