When someone asks you for your trail name, the answer generally leads to a (mostly funny/ embarrassing) story about you or at least reveals something about your personality. It’s a name given to you by another hiker and not something grandiose you make up for yourself. However, you’re allowed to reject the name if you don’t like it. Changing your trail part way through your hike is fine, but it’s definitely confusing for anyone following yon in the trail registers. You could always choose not to have a trail name and just go by your “normal” name…but where’s the fun in that?
Leading up to the PCT, Andrew and I joked about the potential trail names we’d be given – “Fart Monster” seemed an appropriate one for him and “Short Stack” seemed an obviously choice for me. I was worried that I wouldn’t get a trail name at all since I never got a playa name at Burning Man. However, I was actually given my trail name 100 miles into the PCT at Warner Springs which I kept for the rest of our hike.
It all started a few days before we arrived at Warner Springs. We were hiking through the arid Rodriguez Spur area. It was mid-morning and already getting quite hot. I was wearing my beige bucket hat and light blue sunshirt. Andrew who was kicking up a bit of dust while I followed him. As we rounded a bend, on a ledge above us to the left of the trail a woman and pre-adolescent boy were sitting, taking a break. Peering down at us, the woman called out to Andrew:
“Is that a kid with you?”
“No! She’s a thirty year old woman,” Andrew shouted in answer.
“Oh, sorry…I’m short too! It’s nice to look younger than your age…I’m hiking with a kid so I thought there was another one!” was her flustered reply.
At this point, we were next to their ledge. I was surprised but unfazed by the woman’s mistake. Looking over at her, I said, “Hopefully looking young will help me get hitches!”
The day we arrived at Warner Springs, we were disappointed to find out the golf resort restaurant was closed for the day. However, the local school was holding a Mexican feast for us hikers to raise money for their school. After dinner, we heard rumours of trail angels giving away food in the car park. Being more curious than hungry, we hurried over to the small crowd formed around some white tables to see what the fuss was about. As I approached the tables which were laden with a large steaming cookpot and several bowls of fruit, the woman behind the table exclaimed:
“Oh my god, are you FOURTEEN years old?”
Everyone around us had stopped their conversations to look at us.
“Uh, no I’m almost thirty years old.” I felt my face redden in embarrassment for being mistaken for a child again!
“But you look so young! Can I take a photo with you?”
The next morning, I incredulously recounted the incident to some hiker friends. We’d only hiked 100 miles of the PCT and I had already been mistaken for a child twice. Perhaps I needed a sign to tell strangers I was old and not underage?
“My trail name should be like, “Overage” or something.”
“How about “Not A Minor”?”
I thought it was a bit clumsy since it was three words instead of one name. Also I wasn’t sure if people would confuse “minor” for “miner” (which did happen). However, after testing it out with other hikers successfully, it was set in stone.
The name was hit with other hikers and I wasn’t mistaken child for another 1,000 miles – until southern Oregon, a few miles out from Windego pass. We were in the middle of a forested ridge, hiking briskly through the shade. I was wearing my head bug net since I didn’t enjoy dealing with mozzies in my personal space in the morning. Hiking towards us was a male SOBO*. The SOBO and Andrew briefly spoke before I caught up to them.
The SOBO turned to me saying, “I’m so sorry” very sincerely before striding away. I turned Andrew, “Did he mistake me for a child?”
“Well…yes, but he also thought you were a boy.”
“WHAT?! What do you mean?”
“When were starting to get closer to each other, he kept asking, “How old is he?” I was so confused because when I looked around, it was only you. But then he asked again, “How old is your boy?” pointing at you. So I said, “She’s thirty years old. At that point you’d caught up to us.”
That was definitely one way to make a grown-ass woman’s day!
* SOBO: Southbound hiker