Speaking the Language :)

When I started to hang around with hikers, I realized pretty quickly that they have their own language. Language has always been interesting to me. Not an obsession like lots of other stuff, but interesting. Word origins especally, I guess.

Anyway, here is a short list of hiker talk…

TRAIL SLANG

2000 Miler – a person who has hiked the entire distance 2167 miles A.T., either by thru-hiking or section hiking.  Also called an end-to-ender.

AYCE –  ‘All You Can Eat’ Restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets are very popular with hungry hikers.

Blazes – painted, 2-inch by 6-inch, vertical white rectangles that are placed at eye height on trees and other objects  to mark the Trail. Side trails are marked with blue blazes.

Blue-blazer – long-distance hiker who substitutes a section of blue-blazed trail for a white-blazed section between two points on the Trail.  Negative term.

Bounce box – a mail-drop type box containing seldom used necessities that is ‘bounced’ ahead to a town where you think you might need the contents.

Cat Hole – a small hole dug by a hiker for the deposit of human waste.

Corridor – The Appalachian Trail is a long and narrow Park, sometimes less than 100 feet wide.

Flip-flop – term used to signify a hiker that starts hiking in one direction then at some point decides to jump ahead and hike back in the opposite direction.

GAMER – hiker going from Georgia (GA) to Maine (ME).

Gear head – hiker whose main focus is backpacking and outdoors gear.


GORPGood Old Raisins & Peanuts, or otherwise known as trail mix.

Ground Control – hiker’s support that handles the ‘real world’ concerns like bills and pets,and mails a hiker packages.


Hicker  – person who is still trying to figure out the whole hiker/gear thing while on the trail.

Hiker Box – box at hostels where hikers donate unwanted food for the hikers coming behind them.

Icebergs – large rocks planted in the ground at an overused campsite to discourage any more tenting.


Katahdin Mountain – located in Maine the summit is the northern terminus of the Appalachain Trail.

MacGyver – hiker who builds or repair gear with imagination. After a TV show where the hero would construct useful devices out of common materials.

Mail Drop – mail drops are a method of re-supply while hiking. A mail drop is usually made ahead of time by gound control. They mail the package according to a pre-arranged schedule so that it arrives on time for the hiker to receive it at the post office.

Mountain Money – toilet paper.

Mouse Hanger – cord with can contraption used to discourage mice from entering a pack when hung in a shelter.

Nero – almost a Zero …in other words, a very short mileage day.

NoBoNorthbound thru-hiker, also a GAMER

PUDS -shorthand for “pointless ups and downs”, referring to the less interesting sections of mountains hikers encounter from time to time; several PUDS in a row are MUDS, which is shorthand for “mindless ups and downs”.

Purist – hiker who wants to pass every white blaze.

Register – log book normally found at a trail shelter. The original intent was for hikers to sign in so a searcher needing to find a lost hiker could tell where they last were, now its the main method for thru hikers to communicate with each other.

Section hiker – is a person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler by doing a series of section hikes over a period of time.  Not a purist.

Shelter – normally a three sided wooden building, spaced out a half day’s hike apart, near a water source, and with a privy. The AT has many kinds of shelters, from barns to cabins.

Skunked – failing to get a car to stop when hitch hiking into towns.

Springer Mountain – located in Georgia the summit is the southern terminus of the Appalachain Trail.

Ten Essentials – short list of 10 or 12 items thought necessary to be carried by day hikers in their pack. One example of such a list: Map, Compass, Water, Food, Rain gear/extra clothing, Fire starter, First aid kit, Multi- purpose tool, Flashight.

Thru-hiker – traditionally a person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler in a single, continuous journey leaving from one terminus of the Trail, and backpacking to the other terminus.

Trail Angel – someone who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.


Trail Magic – unexpected, but welcome, help or food.


Trail Name – nickname adopted by or given to a hiker.  All thru-hikers get one. Nobody uses their real names.

Ultra light – style hiking that focuses on using the lightest gear possible.  Below 30 lbs.

Whiteblazer – term to describe a person hiking past every white blaze .


Widowmakers –  limbs or whole trees themselves that have partially fallen but remain hung up overhead and so pose a danger to a person below.

Yellow Blazer – term used to denote the yellow center-line that is painted on a highway or someone that hitch hikes around sections of trail by following yellow blazes.

Yogi-ing  – good-natured art of “letting” food be offered cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly (If you ask, it’s begging!).


Zero day – day in which no miles are hiked, usually because the hiker is stopping in a town to resupply and/or rest.

I am not yet a 2000 MILER. I am definitely a PURIST and not a BLUE BLAZER. I’m not much of a GEAR HEAD, I like GORP, and haven’t much need for GROUND CONTROL as yet. I aspire to  be a MACGYVER but haven’t abused my gear enough yet. I love a good NERO on the last day of a NoBo or SoBo hike. I’ve never been SKUNKED, probably because I’m a WHITEBLAZER and a SECTION HIKER. I will never be an ULTRALIGHT hiker, I like a few of my creature comforts too much. I often forget to check for WIDOWMAKERS and find YELLOW BLAZING pointless. I may never take a ZERO. No need. There is a little HICKER inside me but not much THRU HIKER. TRAIL ANGELS and TRAIL MAGIC are the best. I see the necessity of a CAT HOLE and have two TRAIL NAMES at the moment. I love PUDS and MUDS because they don’t hurt. YOGI-ING is understandable. MOUSE HANGERS in SHELTERS feel Druid-ish to me.
There.  That was fun.

3 thoughts on “Speaking the Language :)

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