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The Story Behind the Names

By: Bryan Wolf

We are given titles at birth, and those names after many years seem to become us. Quite different than this is the way we get our trail names. We first must represent a quality and then own the name.

Popularized on the Appalachian Trail, and now adopted on many long distance hiking trails, it is customary to be given a new name, a trail name. The reasons for this can be many but, put simply you take on a new identity from that you which previously possessed and are renamed. Traditionally you are given the name while on the trail, and it is most often a funny representation of your personality as seen by others or a moment that has redefined you. There are no official rules however.

Over the past few years we have come across many AT hikers through the store and on the trail. We’ve reached out and asked them to briefly capture the story of who they became on the trail and how. We’ll update this blog occasionally with new entries. Enjoy.

Captain Blue, aka Andy Neikamp: “I got my trail name of “Captain Blue” on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia in May of 1994 while on a section hike. I was a 160-mile trip with a group of friends and did not have a trail name. On a rather cool evening, after a long day of hiking, I changed out of my hiking clothes and into warmer evening clothes. For some reason I was dressed in all blue clothing. My friends starting making fun of me. I wore blue long underwear, a blue fleece top, blue socks, blue gloves and a blue hat. They started to call me “Blueberry” like the fellow in the movie Willie Wonka. I did not want the trail name of Blueberry to stick so I quickly said “just call me Blue.” After thinking about it a moment I said “make that Captain Blue.” And the name Captain Blue has stuck ever since.”

Goatman, aka Craig Buckley: “It was a strange night in the Kentucky woods. Some friends and I sat on a ridge overlooking the gorge, telling ghost stories under a blood-red moon. Seriously. That’s what was happening. That’s how we get our jollies. We began discussing the possibility of an actual creature stalking us through the woods (modeled after, we found out later, the Pope Lick Goatman.) We all waited to hear his cloven hooves clambering up the sandstone, but never did. From then on, I would feel the Goatman’s presence whenever I entered wild spaces and realized, on my way to Maine, that perhaps the Goatman felt so near because he was inside of me, scratching and screaming to tear his way out of me and back onto his feral throne. This is all just a fancy way to say that I named myself because I didn’t want hippies to name me Lollipop or Mustard Shirt.”

Ice Man, aka Bryan Wolf: “On the trail I don’t need to use code names like “Bryan”. My trail friends except me for who I am and that includes my mutant abilities. I took on my trail name at the start of the AT, given by my hiking partner Joe. I decided that my first backpacking trip ever would be SOBO on the AT through winter (06′-07′). Mix together a jovial spirit, love for comics like that of X-Men, and the strange comfort derived from cold icy conditions and we both thought it was fitting that I was and now would officially be Ice Man.”

Shinbone, aka Eli Staggs: “Shinbone came after about 200 or so miles on the trail. I was complaining about everything that hurt so I was asked the question “what on you doesn’t hurt”. I replied my shinbones were doing pretty okay and there was my name.”

Leapfrog, aka Will Babb: “I got the name Leapfrog on my first day on the trail. My parents were hiking the first few miles of the AT with me, so I had to stop fairly often to wait for them to catch up. As I was hiking, I would pass another hiker named Turtle (he hikes slow). Each time I stopped to wait for my parents, he would pass me. We kept passing each other, “leapfrogging” each other for the rest of that day. At the end of the day, when I caught him for the last time, he said “hey Leapfrog” as I walked up to him. I stood there confused for a minute, looking around for somebody else he might be talking to, before realizing that he was giving me a trail name. The name has stuck and I’ve lived up to it plenty of times since then on the trail, “leapfrogging” people as I hike.

Karma, aka Kevin Jones: “After hiking with strangers for a couple of weeks we had many of conversations. Several felt that I had a lot of “Good Karma” in me. I shortened it to “Karma” to keep people guessing if it was representative of good or bad karma. The name has followed me ever since across many of trails, jobs, and locations. The name and trail will always be a big part of my life.”

Love and Ditto aka Audrey Greene and Dylan Price: “At the end of long days of hiking, before making it to camp, the combination of exhaustion and low blood sugar often caused Audrey and Dylan to bicker with one another. One afternoon, after arguing about something silly, Dylan (not ready to say the words “I love you”), uttered the word “love.” Audrey, sharing the sentiment, but still feeling hangry responded with “ditto,” and then the trail names Love and Ditto were born.”

Siesta, aka Chris Landers: “Starting the PCT on 7/4/16 I found out quickly that the days are very very long. With that being said I knew I wouldn’t hike sun up to sun down (4am to 10pm). So I would often find a warm and dry place in the sun, under a few pine bows or against a large wind blocking tree trunk to get off my feet for a bit. I would take several breaks like this every day. After hikers started noticing this they began to chatter about how I took naps in some pretty weird places throughout the day. So one night around the campfire with friends the topic arose about my napping habits and I was given my trail name.”

Natedawg, aka Nathan Hankins: “Really I just couldn’t shake the name. After the fifth person tried to name me Natedawg I just gave in and accepted it as my trail name. Just was peoples natural response to me.”

Guinness, aka Katie Moser: “I was constantly wearing a lot of black, mostly because women’s outdoor clothing just didn’t seem to have fun colors at the time. I had to turn down some trail names like Ninja, Newspaper, and Penguin. When people found out I also enjoyed darker beers like Porters it was settled, Guinness it was.”

Archer, aka Erik Weekman: “I was playing cards with a few hikers and we were trying to distract each other as much as possible since the game required concentration. I had to think of something fast so I did some kind of high pitched laugh/ cackle, and one of the hikers not playing peeked into the shelter and said “was that a Hyena? That sounded like a hyena.” That’s how I got my first trail name, Hyena. Later in the trail, I was sitting around a fire talking with other hikers about TV shows we liked, and we were all throwing out quotes from shows. The ones I remembered were from the show “Archer” and I had everybody rolling around on the ground laughing. Eventually one guy caught his breath enough to say, “that’s your new name.”

Early Bird, aka Brian Senez: “I started my southbound thru-hike late in the season in September.  While my friends and family were very supportive many others expressed concerns that it would not be possible for me to complete the trail.  This was my first long distance hike and I was both motivated and determined to accomplish my goals.  My trail name references my love of predawn starts.  Every morning I awoke with excitement around 4:00am energized and ready to climb some mountains.  It soon became apparent that I much preferred hiking before sunrise and having a few hours to relax in the evening rather than hiking into the night and doing evening chores in the dark.  This routine was unusual and stood out from most other hikers on the trail.”

Barbarosa, aka James Robinson: “My second day on the AT in 2013 i got the name Barbarosa after the German emperor of the third crusade. The name means big red beard. I got it because I already had a full beard when everyone else was still scruffy.”

Fetch, aka Ben Read:  “I got my trail name given to me by my real life partner and hiking partner, Tipsy (that’s a whole other story right there) in the first few hundred miles of our NOBO hike.  When we set out on the hike I had quite a few more miles under my belt and would say I was more prepared from an endurance standpoint while my longer legs gave me a quick pace.  Of course, it didn’t take long before she was out hiking me though!  Anyway, I began to hike ahead and bounce all around to see what the next half mile of trail had in store, to see whose voices we could hear up the trail belonged to, to get water, to find a campsite, etc.…  And there you have it, Fetch… as in go and fetch,  it’s a natural fit.  Funny thing though, Tipsy and I never called each other by our trail name during the hike.”

So next time you take a walk about town just think about who you pass. They may not be an Andy or Katie like you expect, you’re walking among the Captain Blue’s and Guinness’s of the world and you don’t even know it!

For a look into the psychology of trail names I found this blog humorous: Psychology of a Trail Name

For more trail names visit: AT Trail Museum

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

If you’ve met us you probably already know: we are all AT obsessed! The AT is part of the origin story at RRT, but is also what continues to make us who we are. We have been fortunate to continually have a staff that shares our passion for the trail and have completed portions or the trail in entirety. This is the quintessential match made in heaven. RRT owners have supported the ATC with personal memberships since 2007. RRT has been a supporting partner as a retailer since opening in 2010, contributing through the sales of ATC merchandise.

Indirect to the ATC, our biggest contribution has been our assistance, education, and passion that we have passed on for others to both enjoy and appreciate the trail. Spreading the word and growing the trail community to both use the trail and give back to it has been a surrounding message. Every year, RRT is able to help people chase their dreams on the AT. Through presentations and events, we help grow the imagination and confidence of the next generation of AT hikers.

In 2015, RRT wanted to bring as many of those people together, so they hosted their first ATC fundraiser. With giveaways, games, a photo booth, and local favorite 50 West Brewery, RRT raised an additional $500 to contribute to the ATC. We hope to continue to grow the AT community, and although we are in Milford, Ohio, we will continue our work as AT trail angels from afar.

For more information on the ATC please visit the link below:

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Back to Community Involvement Page

Southbound: episode 13

December 8th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

  Here we are in Harpers Ferry , West Virginia . There is only 4 miles in WV, so we will be in Virginia as soon as we leave here. Virginia will be our 10th state and will also be the longest state, about 545 miles. Since leaving Duncannon , PA 7 days ago, we have gone another 124 miles without any real problems. We are impressed with ourselves and happy to see that we can still have 20 mile hiking days despite the short hours of sunlight. It has been pretty cold though. We have been taking extra care to ensure our water bottles and filter don’t freeze at night, which isn’t hard, just have to put in the sleeping bag. Today it was so cold that our mustaches started to ice over while hiking, so to keep the water from freezing, we had to keep the bottles inside our jackets as we hiked. The wind chill brought the temperature down into the teens.

As you can see in the pictures, we have come to quite a few nice views looking out over Pennsylvania , Maryland , and West Virginia , but they should be even better in Virginia . We passed the half way point marker (now outdated) and took a step past into the southern half of the trail. We are more than happy to be done with Pennsylvania , and Maryland only lasted two days. The trail took us through another small family cemetery from the 1800s. It was nice to see someone still keeping it fairly cleaned up. We also past by the first monument dedicated to George Washington, as well as several other civil war memorials. We have enjoyed not only the scenery but also the walk through time and history.

In the last entry, we told you about Little Engine and Ellipse and how they would be hiking with us for awhile. Well, that didn’t last long, actually, we never got to hike with them. They left town a little before we did and Ellipse hit the ground running and we can’t catch him. Little Engine must have gotten off the trail for one reason or another because we didn’t pass him on the trail and he certainly isn’t in front of us.

Overall, we are feeling really good, just have to get back in the grove for cold weather. It is hard to believe that 3 months has already gone by, exactly 92 days and 1165.2 miles behind us. Our mountains await us, above 3000 feet we go again.

This exert was originally published on It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

by: Bryan Wolf

You know when you just don’t want to get out of bed? You’re buried in the covers and you feel so warm, all you want is to turn over and sleep just one more hour? Now imagine you are outside and it is a cool 15 degrees outside of your sleeping bag! I did not want to get ready the morning that we hiked into Harpers Ferry but of course town food has its persuasions.  First, if you were not already sleeping with your clothes to keep them warm you grab them and warm them in your sleeping bag.  After putting on my hat and gloves I would sit up against the shelter and put on every top layer I had. Next I would put on every bottom layer I had while still in the sleeping bag. I would try to move fast and I had this routine down pretty well. Jumping out of the bag, throwing on boots, packing my entire pack, having breakfast, brushing my teeth, and pumping water while trying to maintain all my body heat.

I wasn’t about to get rid of any layers yet though. If you have a hiking buddy you know that one of you most likely gets ready faster than the other. I had a few more minutes to wonder around camp and check my gear before hitting the trail so I kept everything on till I was sure we were moving.  By the time we got going my toes and fingers were already numb and my body couldn’t hold it’s temperature any more, it is time to move! One at a time we would shed layers to keep comfortable. Hike, Rest, Repeat.

The walk into Harpers Ferry was awesome, after a steep down hill of switchbacks we hit the old canal tow path. It was easy walking and beautiful. At Harpers we registered with the ATC and had our pictures taken to mark our passing. The town isn’t super hiker friendly on pricing or lodging but there is little eateries and a camp store. Of course there is also plenty of sight seeing and historical education to be enjoyed around town.  The untold story was me getting sick in the trail clubs backyard from drinking too much red wine but you don’t need to hear about that. We’ll just say we were very lucky and thankful to be invited to their annual Christmas Party. Here we would also meet Melanie who we’ll see later in the trail; just another example of the trail working it’s magic and intertwining lives in wonderful ways.