What’s in a trailname?

08 Jun What’s in a trailname?


I don’t know how the trail name started. Perhaps people wanted to avoid stalkers, perhaps they wanted to create a new persona for themselves, perhaps they had to because they were running from the law. Either way, the trail name came to be before my time, and so it will last long after I’m gone.

A trail name is your handle. It’s how you introduce yourself and how you sign the log books along the way. It’s what other hikers call you. And, it’s what makes you unique. Some people give themselves trail names and some wait to be named by other hikers. Some take their names gladly and others wear it with disdain.

Here are some of the names of my companions and their stories:

Dinner Time:
Thorough in his dinner planning and prep. He puts some amazing trail meals together. Got this name on the Appalachian trail and it still suits him well.

Can’t finish some food? Don’t fret, this guy can help out. He helps the Ice Queen finish most her meals. He does the name justice.

Among other things, this Swedish heartthrob was carrying a laptop in his 75 pound pack when he started his journey. The laptop didn’t last but the name will. If it ain’t heavy, it ain’t worth carrying is his motto.

Featherweight or Feather:
No less Swedish and no less a heartthrob, this guy was carrying a 75 pound pack from the border also. What makes it truly amazing and where he got his name, is that the pack was over half his body weight! All muscle and weighing in under 140, this guy is my featherweight contender of choice.

Had to go back a couple miles after leaving his trekking poles. Dropped his phone after retrieving his poles and had to double back again. Wears his name with pride.

Bird Man the Soaring Turkey (Birdman for short):
Is a biologist and birder. Can name most birds by call and all by sight to date. Does not resemble the rapper or basketball player. Does an impeccable turkey call that can get everyone rolling with laughter.

Every time we’d get to camp he’d sprawl all his gear out like a Sunday morning yard sale. Wears it with pride.

Ninja Tank:
This is a big ol guy who is surprisingly sneaky. For a while also wore a Samurai looking hat. One of the coolest names on the trail.

Plays a native american flute in the evenings before bed. It’s like he’s singing us lullabies. This awesome guy is teaching me Farsi.

Ice Queen:
She’s a sweetheart but has moments where she is devilishly cold as ice. At least once a day she’ll have an Ice Queen moment like showing no sympathy or laughing at Lalabi when he runs out of water.

Sailor Moon:
Someone asked her if anyone had ever told her she looked a bit like an Anime character and she responded yes. Rapidly different Anime characters were suggested and being one of her own favorite childhood shows, Sailor Moon stuck. She was named Archie before because of high arches on her feet.

Strong Silent Cowboy (or just Cowboy):
Yours truly. For a time I was called Pace Maker. A lot of folks liked to follow me because they felt like my pace wasn’t too slow and could be maintained all day. Yardsale liked this name because it suggested I have a good pace but also that I’m old. I wasn’t a huge fan of it because I knew my pace may change and I didn’t love the geriatric connotations. In Warner Springs, however, a new name emerged.

Birdman and I from day 2 had talked to eachother in Southern accents. Just for a good laugh and to pass the time. In the Warner Springs community center library, Birdman found a romance novel called the Strong Silent Cowboy. He approached me in front of a group of folks. While we talked in Southern accents, he mentioned he found a book that I should be reading with that title. The group of hikers decided right then and there that was my new name.

I’ve embraced the name. Since that time, I’ve left little cowboy wisdoms in each PCT log book along the way, I sport a cowboy hat on the trail, and Birdman and I still shoot the breeze with our best southern twang.

It seems silly at times but hell when has that not been fun.

Cowboy Out

  • gary nelson
    Posted at 07:14h, 09 June

    Great and wonderful observations. i am living and sharing your trek… step by step! Thanks the clear, humorous and insightful blogs!


  • Stephanie
    Posted at 07:45h, 10 June

    Love it, Cowboy! Your blogs are amazing and I’m so glad you finally revealed your trail name. 🙂

  • Zack
    Posted at 12:02h, 12 June

    Hey man, where is a list of stops we can send stuff to?

  • Chase
    Posted at 21:57h, 13 June

    I’ll email ya buddy. Can’t wait to see what hilarity you send.

  • SB
    Posted at 15:54h, 14 June

    Hey Nelly, can you hit me up with that list as well? Char and I may or may not have some goodies for you (also may depend on your definition of goodies).

    Also, Gar the Great! How the hell are you? Your boy spins quite the yarn and I’ve been living the trek through his words as well. Hope to see ya both soon sir.

  • marcia nelson
    Posted at 13:16h, 21 June

    Mamasonski can give you teh estimated dates if you e-mail me at mlnelson@nelsonhr.com or call Timothy or Marcia at 707996-3262. Happy Trails and Happy Birthday, Cowboy.

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