After many days on the trail, we’ve decided to keep you all informed and up to speed on our trail names – what are they, who gave them to us, and the stories behind them…
Some backstory – everyone, or practically everyone, who does a thru-hike, or even part of one, gets a trail name – or nickname for the trail. Most people are given them by others and a few give them to themselves. Trail names usually characterize a hiker in their entirety or some story associated with them. Some fitting trail names we’ve encountered so far include, String Cheese (daughter of the “Mac and cheese” family), Homebrew (who makes a lot of homebrew), Not-Just-Warren (who introduced himself as not just Warren), Shepherd (who tends to herd PCT hikers like his flock), Hiker Box Special (who makes excellent use of the food left behind in hiker boxes), Hot Pants (who accidentally lit his shorts on fire), Flash (who accidentally peed in front of a large group of hikers at night with his headlamp on), Sneaky Elf (who sneakily cleans up after dinner parties and helps ill hikers), Magic Mullet (who has the best mullet), Tomahawk (who was carrying way to much stuff – the first item he ditched was a tomahawk), Chuckles (who chuckles all the time), etc, etc, you get the idea. This is how we got our trail names…
Aka., Lady Luck. The short story: I’ve had some good luck on the trail. Who gave me my name: Anna (aka Switcheroo). When I got my name: 10 days onto the trail.
The long story: Call it trail-magic, good luck, or whatever you like, but I’ve had good success with hitch hiking, lucky rabbit finding, and weather… my name came about around the town of Julian, our first in-town stop. Some fellow hikers later told us that they spent 1-2 hours hitching in mid-day heat here. So, here we were, 4 of us hitching into town – myself, Jared, Switcheroo, and Colin (aka Hotpants). I was the only one who had ever hitched a ride before (I had hitched with friends several times when I was hiking the Long Trail in Vermont). So naturally most everyone was nervous – how do we do it? Where do we stand? How should our packs look? Trekking poles in or out of packs? How big should our smiles be? As we all discussed the ins and outs of a successful hitch, we crossed the road and started adjusting our bags just when the first car came by. With everyone else huddled over their packs, I stuck out my thumb and the first and only car swerved off the road, eager to pick us up. No waiting. No fretting. Most successful hitch ever. Nice! Luck event no. 1.
After spending a zero day in Julian, Jared, Switcheroo, Hot Pants, and I were then trying to figure out how to get back to the trail. We were scattered across town – Jared and I eating free pie for hikers at Mom’s Bakery, Switcheroo at the library, and Hot Pants at the post office. Where would we meet? When? How would we hitch? Etc. Well, I got my slice of rhubarb-strawberry pie and was about to sit down when a man, who later introduced himself as Section Hiker Bill, walked right up to me and asked, “Are you a hiker? Do you need a ride to the trail?”. Why yes, yes we do. And so within the hour we rounded ourselves up and were on our way back to the trail, without so much as having to lift a thumb. Sweet! Lucky event no. 2.
After Julian, we found ourselves in Warner Springs, at the Community Center (WSCS) where, again, we wondered – how will we get to the post office? Well, without even inquiring, one of the nice community center volunteers asked me, “Hey, do you need a ride to the post office?”. Um, yeah, that’d be great… Lucky event no. 3.
Also while at WSCS, I stumbled across an enormous pack/family/colony of rabbits. It was huge. They were adorable. And frolicking everywhere. Well, when I got back to the group I told them of my lucky rabbit find, to which Switcheroo replied with my new lucky trail name – Lady Luck.
Since then, we have had excellent luck along the trail. Sure, things don’t go perfectly, but even when things don’t go quite according to plan, there’s still something undeniably lucky happening. Like the beautiful, mild weather throughout the entirety of the dessert. And avoiding the strong winds before Julian. Finding no snow on all of the high Sierra passes. Or the walking between thunderstorms after Reds Meadow and staying dry while everyone and everything else got soaked. There’s the time we hurried over Mather pass, away from ominous clouds, to find sunshine on the other side. Or the time it started hailing and we decided we needed to set up camp, luckily right next to a campsite (unmarked on every map) just big enough to fit everyone’s tent. And there’s the time Jared was driving from Santa Barbara while I was hiking 150 miles across the dessert, and we managed to arrive at the Walker Pass campground at exactly the same time – I saw him pull up just as I was signing the trail register.
So I have had some very good luck. And here’s to hoping the luck continues…
Aka., Beaker (or The Hiker Formerly Known As Snake Charmer). The short story: some hikers carry extra shoes for in camp. Some others, a change of socks. Me, I carry papers on neutrino physics. Who gave me my name: Our friend we met on trail – Herro. When I got my name: day 65 or so, on Muir pass.
The long story: so there we are, inside the Muir shelter on top of Muir pass. It’s early and I’m making coffee, which involves boiling water using our canister stove. The gang is myself, jean, shepherd, herro, and sneaky elf. I get our stove all set up, only to find that it won’t light – there’s no gas left. So I remove the can and announce that the gas cylinder is empty, to a round of blank stares. Nobody calls it a cylinder, so I had to explain that at work I’m used to gas cylinders – high pressure bottles full of nitrogen or helium, or whatever else. This turned out to be the last straw – on trail with this group, this conversation was common:
Somebody 1: What’s that thing?
Somebody 2: Some frog or something. I don’t know, ask Beaker.
So after my gas cylinder incident, Herro jumped on it immediately and started calling me beaker – and it stuck.
Previously on the trail I had been going by snake charmer. It was a name I got early on, and worked in the desert, but honestly never felt quite right. I loved the name beaker right away, and haven’t looked back.