Trail Names?

10:06 a.m. on April 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Ok I have never hiked outside of Washington/Oregon/Idaho and I tend to stay in the Alpine lakes when I go out. Maybe I am sheltered.

Trail names?  I have never met anyone who, if we exchanged names, used anything but their Christian name and/or surname.  The whole concept seems very peculiar to me.  

Most of the people I encounter in the mtns have a strong interest in solitude and would rather not stop and chat.  Have I spent the last 25 years experiencing an oddity or is hiking in the PNW less of a social experience than it is in other places?

Those with experience on both sides of the continent, please help me understand this phenom.

2:52 p.m. on April 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Interesting that you would ask for an explanation, FromSagetoSnow, unless that is your Christian name and/or surname. Let me turn the question around a little - why do most people on discussion web sites use "user names"? A partial explanation is that years ago, sending messages over the internet was slow, and signing on required keeping your user name short. Originally, it was like nicknames - the internet world (like the thruhiker world) was small and you generally knew the person. In my parents' generations of large families, all the kids had nicknames, the origins of which got lost in time (no one was ever able to explain why the youngest boy in my father's family, Walter, was called "Boss", except one of my aunts thought it might have been that he "was a bossy kid"). So why were the boys named Bundy (my father, the oldest boy), Yank, Jack (no, he wasn't John, although "Jack" is a common nickname for John), and George, (who was actually named George and for some reason had no nickname). Among the girls, Mary was called May, though maybe I can see that as a mispronunciation by one of the younger siblings.

Thruhikers pretty much select their own trail names, though many are given by others (my moniker as OGBO, or "Old GreyBearded One" was given to me by a climber friend in Alaska, and has somehow become my geocaching name as well, even though I am not a "real" geocacher). For a while, there were several groups who gathered for day and weekend hikes in Southern California, who posted numerous trip reports on Trailspace, who had adopted trailnames (wonder what ever happened to them).

Back to "user names" on the web discussion groups - a lot of that seems to be anonymity. Though why some people choose their user names is completely beyond me - is that really how you want to be known???? And some of them, in my personal opinion, are not appropriate for use on a family-oriented website. Back when Barb and I were actively in bicycle racing, some of the racers had nicknames that were definitely not "family friendly", including some chosen by themselves.

Ok, that didn't answer your question, did it?


3:31 p.m. on April 14, 2011 (EDT)
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I never had a nick name that stuck. Thats why I'm just Mike. But most times on trails no names are given as we are just passing through. Though if talked to I will converse.

4:43 p.m. on April 14, 2011 (EDT)
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I can't give any opinion on the prevalance of trail names in the East vs West, etc, as I have not spent much time anywhere other than the East.

It seems to me nicknames come naturally in many circles and sports, probably as a function of comraderie and shared experience. Trail names seem to be an indirect expression and/or product of respect, experience, familiarity, identity, community, etc. 

Quite a few trail names of people I know were coined by another person, with the label being given in jest. That's how I got mine: back when I was seventeen I was extremely fit and athletic, with equal parts bravura, ability, and youthful folly. My gung-ho nature, sanguine personality, and adventurous spirit caused my outdoor buddies to decide I was half "Gonzo" and half "Tarzan," Thus the moniker "Gonzan" was created.  I absolutely hated the nickname, but bedgrudgingly suffered it until somwhere along the way I learned to embrace my inner "Gonzan" ;)

I think many apropos trail names also stick in the mind even when meetings on the trail are brief, whereas someone's real doesn't often produce the same hook in memory.


8:32 a.m. on April 15, 2011 (EDT)
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I have only one friend who has a nick name, but he doesn't hike.  Ruddie, as in Rudolf the reindeer (he has a small red mole on the tip of his nose).  Most folks going by nick names in So Cal are Latinos.  They get these handles from family or friends.  Most of the white folks I know with nick names are part of a social clique with long term bonds, typically from a school sports team, though some are assigned nick names by family too.  These guys (mostly guys) are pretty decent folks. The other group with nick names are self appointed.  Most of the self appointed ones tend to be real tools, and tend to have dysfunctional social lives, such as one house mate I rented with who called himself "Big Stud". (don't ask...)  I've always wondered why anyone would invent an alter ego, then proclaim it to the world.

As for conversing on the trail; I do a fair amount of this, I am just a curious people person.  Generally while in mid-hike, I will share the salutary nod when both of us are in motion.  If they offer a verbal exchange beyond the simple greeting, I will slow, then stop to gab if they seem inclined.  I am in no hurry, except if I am chugging up a really steep section, and don't wish to break my head of steam.  If the other party is stopped I will pause upon passing and converse, if "invited".  But otherwise I’ll get on about my business.  While I like meeting people, I understand the notion of personal space.  People telegraph their desires; it is pretty simple to tell the gregarious from the introspective folks.  I won't go visiting others' camps uninvited, and try to give their camp plenty of space from mine.  I usually hike with company, but do go soloing enough to appreciate its appeal.  As my bio states: nothing beats good company around a camp fire, except maybe enjoying a good camp fire in solitude.  


4:18 p.m. on April 15, 2011 (EDT)
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My dog has a trail name, it's Every Tree. I'll let you folks figure out it's meaning :-)

8:58 a.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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I wonder if BlackBeard (the pirate) was given that name by his crew/friends or if he chose it?  Maybe his beard was really red or blond and he died it black ... :-)

12:06 p.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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I believe "Gonzo-Tarzan" summed it up all in one. I second it.

12:29 p.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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I've never really understood the concept of "trail names" either.  They strike me as "cutesey", a characteristic I tend to eschew.  To The OGBO's point, I use a "user name" on websites becuase "Bill" has already been used :).  But, even so, I usually, but not always, stick with my surname.  I already have a name, why make up a new one?

11:20 p.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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I thought it was a tradition not to use a trail name unless it was given to you.  Screen names can be anything you are interested in to be associated with.  I like mine.  I'm known as pop peacock on the trail by some (poppycock).  But that gets filtered out on most sites that have a younger following.  I think BillS has hit upon the perfect moniker.

That is, it certainly is convenient after all, since that is what we call him.

BillS, I do remember some of the early names - and some buried in old code on DARPA net.  I think those that used them thought we were all male and didn't mind perversions.

1:17 a.m. on April 18, 2011 (EDT)
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For the most part Im comfortable with or without conversation. Whether that be on the trail or in the working world. If I come across someone on the trail and they want to chat for a bit Im good with that. But must admitt only briefly in most cases.  Being a Truck driver I spend most of my days alone, I enjoy the solitude. Most of all my outdoors adventures are done solo, mainly due to the fact friends arent into hiking anymore. or days off are diffrent. But thats okay too.... I enjoy solitude.  I guess the people I meet on the road, which can be very intresting to say the least, make me a little hesitent to say anything more then "HI" to strangers. But beware, once I get to know ya, and we get along, I'll talk your ears off!

As for usernames, I was given the nickname rhino by some friends when we were teens. I cant recall just why anymore, but its what they've called me for years and some still do. Its even more fitting now that Im mostly gray.  My given name is very popular "Robert Burns" so any time i try to use it, or some variant of it, its already being used on most places. I find that if I use some variation with rhino its available. so I B azrhino 

9:39 p.m. on April 22, 2011 (EDT)
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"Greg" just seems so boring. Back in the day, a long, long, loooong, time ago I was a big smoker. I don't think my kids read this forum but you never know so I will not go into more detail on that one.  I was trying to join a forum and could not find a user name, Heapum Bigsmoke worked. I have used the Bigsmoke moniker ever since. I no longer smoke and have not for a long time, just one of those things that stuck.

11:19 a.m. on April 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Nicknames and screen-names have their place, in this internet age.   Even some, in the 'real-world'.

I simply like my name, and have no use for a nickname.  When I was a kid, it was "Robbie" ... later, as a young-adult, it was "Rob".

In the business world, I learned there were just too many "Bob's" and "Rob's".

I like full surnames.   Some of my friends have nicknames, and I prefer to use their surnames when addressing them.   Some find it odd that I do so.

Funny thing:   Apparently, I am 'un-google-able', much to the consternation of a few.   There is another "Robert Rowe" with similar background, residence and bona fides in the music-community, where I "live".

We both are frequently mistaken by 'searchers', and we share in playing-out the mystery, never fessin'-up who is who.

Yogi Robt

2:02 p.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I like "Appalachian Trail".

Cool name.


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