Now that Northern Tier is consigned to the blessed drawer, I am starting a new project. As that book was about bicycle touring cross-country with post-apocalyptic element, this is about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail coupled with a murder mystery.

I’ve decided to start each chapter with a piece of trail vocabulary – and a definition supplied by m’self. Here’s what I’ve got.


Zero to hero
Said of a hiker who had little or no experience in hiking before – but is sure getting plenty now.

Short for “northbound.” Starts as an adjective, but rapidly becomes a noun.

Opening up a pack and finding what can be replaced with lighter or better – and what can be simply discarded. Usually done by more experienced hikers for (or at) the less experienced.

Harden The Fuck Up. It’s a thing that you need to do.

A day wherein no miles are hiked. A failure – a vacation – both.

Yellow blaze
White blazes mark the Trail. Blue blazes mark an alternate or side trail. Yellow blazes mark the road – and the cars that travel on them – and the yellow-bellied hikers who catch a ride.

Trail angel
A person who helps a hiker. Sometimes a local who lists their name and number in the guidebooks. Sometimes a person who hikes a section and offers aid. Sometimes a random who just happens to be there when you need it.

Trail magic
A little blessing encountered on the trail. Specifically, a gift or favor by another person. Specifically from a non-hiker. Specifically, free food.

Trail minister
A trail angel who is also into angels.

Section hiker
A person who is not intending to thru-hike; does not end up thru-hiking; or it stringing together multiple section hikes, so that they will eventually have done the entire Trail.

High Maintenance
A hiker who is just a whirlpool of needs.

What happens to your shoes in Pennsylvania.

When your body decides that it has had enough hiking, and so, hasn’t had enough sugar.

Bonus Miles
When you hike more than you have to – usually by accident.

Brown Blazing
Going off-trail to dig a cathole.

Calorie Loading
Leaving town with extra food – in your belly.

The Bubble
The bulk of thru hikers, who start at Springer from approximately March 15th to April 1st. Compare to a blood clot trying to force its way down one narrow little vein.

The enemy of the trail, bane of ridge-runners and maintenance volunteers, the knowledge of which being the only thing that will keep you from cutting around the huge boulder you otherwise have to climb.
Often abbreviated to “Ero” – particularly when shouted as one goes around a huge boulder.

When your entire pack that weighs less than your dad’s Boy Scout sleeping bag alone.

Cheat Mode
Going ultralight.

Cowboy Camping
Camping outside of a prescribed area. In some areas this is necessary; in some it is not allowed; in some it is impossible – but a hiker finds a way.
Also called stealth camping, ninja camping, crash camping, etc.

Death March
When you force yourself to keep hiking. Usually to get to a shelter, a town, or a buffet.

Hiking 26 miles in a single day.

A double marathon – 56 miles, done in a single day.

Big Miles
Doing more than the average hiker. Variously: more than 20; more than a marathon; more than 30; or now you’re just bragging.

The Vortex
The well-known scientific phenomenon wherein places of comfort – towns, hostels, anywhere with lots of people – suck you in, and keep you off the trail.

Flip Flop
A person who starts at one point on the trail going one way, then returns to that point and goes the other. Usually refers to someone who goes from Harpers to K, then back to Harpers to head to Springer.

Ghost Blazing
Hiking where the trail used to run.

Weight Weenie
Someone who counts every gram they carry.

Hiker Funk
If you smell something terrible and you don’t know where it’s coming from – it’s coming from you. If you don’t smell it, that’s worse.

Hiker Hunger
What happens when your metabolism finally accepts that it is powering a hiking machine.

Hiker Midnight
9PM – by which late hour, every hiker is already fast asleep.

Hiker Trash
A rude hiker. A dirty hiker. A hiker who gives hikers a bad name. So any hiker who spends too long in town.

Hiker Widow
A Significant Other who’s waiting patiently at home, totally not cheating on you.

Hike Your Own Hike.
Good advice – except when it isn’t.

Your Mileage May Vary.
The supreme acknowledgment of subjectivity.

The Look
For better or worse: when you start to look like a hiker.

Mou Hou
A Mountain House dehydrated meal, or any other brand thereof.

To eat or drink, especially with quickness or enthusiasm.

“Near Zero” – a day where one does few miles.
Commonly defined as “less than ten in a day” or “less than what one would normally do in a day” – which, for those doing Big Miles, can be a fuckton.

Pack Out
To take from off-trail and bring on-trail. Refers to, e.g., the remaining two slices of that second pizza you ordered.

Pink Blazing
Adjusting your speed, or even path, in pursuit of a pretty girl.

Ride Bride
A female hiker who will flag down a car for a male hiker.

A down jacket.

Shelter Rat
A person who will only sleep in shelters. Or, a person who you get the impression has not left a shelter for a very long time.

Hiking without your pack. Generally involves your pack being driven ahead, or you being driven ahead and then hiking back to your pack. Considered a magical experience in inverse proportion to your pack weight.

Vitamin I

Trail Legs
When your body realizes that, yes, you are going to keep making it hike.

To request – or otherwise acquire – free food or gear, generally from a non-hiker.

A large branch hanging over the trail – or anything else that seems like a waiting death trap.

A “frozen yo-yo” – when you thru hike in warm weather, then wait until the snows fall before hiking back.

Trail Soda
Beer. Whether packed out, yogi’d, or received as blessed trail magic – beer.

Trail Tragic
Some problem which would be insignificant in the cottons, but out in the woods is nothing but.
Often said dismissively – particularly when abbreviated to “Ttraj.”

The Cotton World
That mote of existence where you can wear non-wicking fibers.
Variously “The Cottons,” “The Cotton Life,” or “Life.”


~ by davekov on 8 November 2017.

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