Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Historically, trail names on the Appalachian Trail came about as the number of thruhikers on the trail increased and there came to be a need to distinguish Joe from Connecticut from Joe from Georgia. These days, most hikers seem to feel a need to have a trail name.
I have an unusual name and am not crazy about nicknames. I had a few possible trail names in mind when I started the trail just in case someone tried to give me a name I did not like. But, I didn't start the trail "looking" for a trail name.
For the most part, people thought my name was a trail name. It was only after they got to know me a bit before they realized that "Mara" was my real name.
It was after my fall going into Erwin, Tennessee that gave me my trail name. I ended up with six stitches in my elbow which in itself wasn't a big deal. It was only the next day when it was apparent that my elbow was very infected and I wasn't going to be hiking anywhere until that was resolved that it became an issue.
The short story: I ended up staying in town for nine days (an eternity for a thruhiker) and as hikers came and went through town, I got to be known as "the hiker with the stitches" or "she's got stitches", etc. My last night there, I was given the name Stitches. It worked OK, and had an interesting story so I went with it. Besides, I thought it would be easier for people to remember and spell, but just as many people misspell Stitches as misspelled Mara. (Yes, there ARE two "t"s in stitches).
Unless you have a pressing need for a nickname or want to disassociate yourself from your real name for some reason (there are people who do this), I would let the trail (or people along the trail) name you. If you do so, the trail name will likely be just as meaningful to you, if not moreso, and probably a lot more meaningful to the people around you because your story will be trail related in a way they can understand.
For what it's worth, your trail name can definitely have an affect on what happens to you on the trail. In '99, "Xena, Princess Warrior," had a constant stream of guys trying to catch up. Invariably, they were disappointed to find out that Xena was a guy who just happened to be able to do the Xena yell perfectly. ;-) Some women try to disguise their gender with a male or neutral trail names for safety reasons. To be perfectly honest, there are so many people on the trail, I don't think that's necessary.
Of course, there's also nothing that says you can't start out with a nickname you pick yourself and then change it along the way if something more meaningful comes up. But, there's probably less likelihood of your getting a new name if you're already using a nickname.
Mara aka Stitches
Last updated, December 12, 2006.
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