Episode 04 – What’s in a Name


Trail names – are they the symbol of a new identity, a silly nickname, or a waste of time? We ask a bunch of hikers – and ourselves – and come to no consensus. For myself, I think that the name you call yourself can be very powerful, but the same way that you must Hike your own Hike, you must Name your own Name.

In addition to trail names, we get some trail updates from Kimchi and Saina. Check out the links to their blogs on the right sidebar if you’re looking for more stories from them. We end our episode with an interview with Max Heap, who has beautiful things to say about the trail, but neglects to tell us where his trail name came from.

If you would like to share your own trail name story, I would like to hear it! (Or just opinions, I’m into those too.) If I get enough of them, I’ll cut a special episode. You can send me a recording at soundsofthetrail (at) gmail (dot) com. If the written word is more your style, I’d still like to read it, so drop it in the comments.

Music provided courtesy of Baby Gramps.


Leave a Reply

  1. Gizmo:

    Hey! Maxheap here to answer your question about the origin of my trail name. I got it before my hike began and I guess we could label it a ‘tribute’ name of sorts. Max Heap was originally the name I gave many years ago to a cartoon character drawn by my eldest son Oliver, an accomplished artist. Here’s a link to that drawing (http://maxheap.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/maxheap.png), which he did as a kid using a computer mouse.

    I worked in IT for a long time and a ‘max heap’ is a binary tree data structure used in computing; a similar structure with opposing traits is called a ‘min heap.’ In any case, Oliver and I spent a lot of time together in the weeks leading up to my thru-hike and I thought using it could serve as a silent tribute to him- and by extension- to all 5 of my kids, of whom I am extremely proud. I write it as Maxheap (a single name), whereas the character’s name was Max Heap (as in first name, last name).

    The most common assumption on the trail when people my name for the first time was that it referenced a prodigious accomplishment in a privy on the trail, but no, it had nothing to do with bodily functions.

    Love the podcast! Thanks,


    • Hi Maxheap!

      Thanks for filling us in! I had assumed your name had something to do with a mountain summit. Bodily functions hadn’t even crossed my mind (until you brought it up) but then again, bodily functions are a favorite topic for thru-hikers.

      The real story is much better. Do you have more links to your son’s artwork? Hope re-entry to non-trail life is going well.


      • Thanks Gizmo…just seeing your reply now as I catch up on new episodes. Your podcast is really great- would have been a great hiking companion via iPod…I hope a lot of other hikers are tuning in. Re-entry has been a mixed bag, and I’m definitely scheming for my next thru hike, though it may have to be deferred until I scrape together a stake. As for Oliver’s Art work, I’ll check with him and post again later…he used to sell comissioned portraits (paintings) on the web but I’m not sure if he’s still doing that or not. Anyway, take care and thanks again for the great input we’re getting from SOTT. Max

    • Hi Harry! Loving the fact you’re liking the podcast and your words made my day!! πŸ™‚ P.S. Update: Am off trail now 48 miles short of Kennedy Meadows, trying to heal my foot. Have X Rays and another doctor appointment on Monday since last doctor’s treatment did absolutely nothing. Fingers crossed that it really isn’t too serious and I can get back on trail SOON!!!

  2. I listen to podcasts every morning and every afternoon on my way to and from work. Usually world or American history type stuff. While I have a high appreciation for the effort that goes into what I have been listening to, I have never been inspired enough to take the time to write a comment. Well, you all have changed everything! As I listen I become more involved and really look forward to future episodes. I want to know how particular people are doing such as Saina. I am through episode four now and I really look forward to learning about her progress. I sincerely hope things turn out well for her. You all really have a cool thing going here and I wish you all the best!

    I have never through hiked the AT but have considerable experience in the outdoors. I actually live within walking distance to a trail head on the Benton Macaye trail in North Georgia which feeds into the AT at some point. I doubt I would ever get any through hikers here but if I ever did I assure you they would be welcome and well taken care of. The very best to all of you…………………………………………………………………..

  3. Hey Gizmo and co! I love this podcast so much! I’m training for a marathon at the moment and having an episode to listen to whole out running is always a joy.

    I found it interesting that it’s not /generally accepted/ to make up your own trail name. I assumed that making up your own one would be the norm or at least totally cool. I loved hearing that people are becoming more cool about it though and you can strike out and just strut yourself as it was. I’ve got a name that one of my best friends calls me so I can imagine that I would use that one.

    I’ve never done a hike longer than a week but have been reading intensely about the Pacific Crest Trail on Reddit and other sites for the past couple of weeks. I live in NZ and am starting to look into our own Te Araroa (TA) as a potential first through hike. I honestly do love the ideal of the PCT though because it’s a different country too.

    I’m looking forward to catching up on the episodes in my coming weeks of training! Keep up the awesome work πŸ˜€ This podcast just makes me so happy.

    – Stardreamer

  4. Great session. I really love how alot of your sessions come straight from the trail. Gives you the real emotion as opposed to dreamy hindsight.

    I don’t know if my name is a “trail name” because sailing isn’t hiking and I don’t think anyone ever officially named me sailor until the most recent encounter when she couldn’t remember my name, but I get called it alot in places that i go.

    But because I get “sailor” alot I decided to with it and it gave me a great name for my blog, which I started earlier this month. It’s still in the baby stages. I’m trying to learn video editing right now so that I can make a YouTube companion to it.

  5. I thought Saina was your trail name. I think when people ask, you should just say you were born with a trail name and that’s why you don’t “officially” have one! I’ve flip flopped listening to this podcast and finally started over from the beginning! I love it! It makes my commute bearable to be able to live vicariously through all of you! Thank you!

  6. Just started listening to this podcast– love it so far! I know this conversation is really old, but I didn’t see anyone else post a response to Kim chi and Hillary’s wondering about couples and trail names.

    My husband and I attempted the AT in 2012, and we named each other. We struggled at first with using the trail names, for the obvious reasons, but we had a definitive, pinky-swear type moment when we committed to it. The commitment proved most sincere when we would employ them during our bickering fights!

    It took about the same amount of time upon returning from the trail to start using our real names again. So we definitely adopted our “hiker trash” identities privately as well!