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Trail Names

Hey, Andrea here! I'm a senior barista at Bivouac and I wanted to share some of my recent outdoor adventures with you. 

Trail names are a big thing in the hiking community, especially on longer backpacking trips or thru-hikes. Generally, trail names are silly nicknames bestowed upon you from other hikers. They usually have a fun story or a personal quirk behind the meaning. The #1 rule: you do not choose your own trail name, it’s chosen for you.

Last summer I set off on my solo hike of the Colorado Trail. I was eager to see what trail name I would end up with along the way (not knowing a single person on the trail to start). I met a lot of experienced hikers within my first week - Boston Bill, Rambo, Columbus, Bug Bite, Mr. Bojangles - I even gave my new hiking pal Julian the trail name “Scream” because he kept having night terrors and would scream himself awake in the middle of the night.

Only 3 days in, I was feeling particularly lonely and suffering from blisters on my feet. I came across a beautiful striped feather in the middle of the trail. Its simple beauty brought me a little joy, so I picked it up and attached it to the outside of my pack. Later, someone pointed out that it was technically illegal to take a feather, breaking the Leave No Trace principle “Leave what you find.” While I felt bad for breaking a tenet of LNT, that bit of joy helped propel me along the rest of the trail. You have to cherish those moments to keep going among the suffering you endure.

As I rounded out 100 miles and made it to Breckenridge around day 6, I complained that I still didn’t have a trail name. The guys I had met along the way, who were slowly becoming my trail family, told me I needed to do something stupid to earn my name. Considering I was the only female and Colorado local in my new group of friends, I didn’t foresee anything stupid I could do to top them.

Full of town food and rested from a hostel bed, my new-found trail family and I had plans to leave Breckenridge on the first bus out the following morning. Finding the correct bus and herding 10 thru-hikers at 6am turned into chaos. Several of our group members ran across town to grab coffee and donuts, a few had overslept at the hostel, and the rest of us were left to figure out which bus was the correct line out of town and back to the trail. Somehow, all 10 of us miraculously made it on the bus with not a minute to spare. I noticed Boston Bill looking frightened as he scanned the bus for me. I could see his relief as we made eye contact. I was in the back of the bus munching on donuts. In between bites, I smiled and waved. His eyes grew big as he shouted “But what about your feather?! Have you still got your feather?!”

I smiled even bigger and said, with a mouthful of donuts, “Of course”!

Bill then slapped his knee and said “that’s it, that’s your trail name!! Feathers!”

From that point on, I was known as Feathers. For the next 400 miles, my trail friends loved looking ahead to see my little feather standing proud at the top of my pack, almost as a comforting landmark to know we’re all on the right path.

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