I am feeling conflicted about the idea assuming a trail name during our hike. Really just the whole concept of naming, the verb, is tricky for me as someone who tends to intellectualize and overthink most things. I like my name Jamie, short for James. Of all the acceptable variations of James, Jamie has always felt the most natural. Stone. It’s a noun, it’s a word that everyone knows but still feels uniquely mine. Jamie Stone, it’s a good name. Why would I change it for hiking the Appalachian Trail?
Names tell the story
A trail name is a calling card and an icebreaker with the people you meet along the way. The name will be both spoken, heard, and read as people walk together sharing words and passing messages through logbooks along the way. The best trail name will be both well stated so as to stand alone with out definition and curious enough to invite further inquiry.
Let the name come to you
I get it. I could avoid all of this, start the hike and let the experience guide me towards a new name. I imagine that there is a gestation period for the right trail name. I would probably spend the first weeks anticipating the arrival of my new name, maybe this would be fun. When we start in mid-June in Pennsylvania the other hikers will have 1000 miles on their legs and they will be full expressions of their trial names. We, on the other hand, will be so fresh. I’m concerned they will be slow to accept us into the pack. I’m concerned they will give us crappy names. I don’t want to stumble one day and be called Trip for the next six months. Although, I am becoming more comfortable with this possibility.
Nom de plume
Hiking the AT will be a demanding experience. The person I am today does not have what it will take to complete the journey. The practice of life on the trial will transform me into somebody who can. I will become someone else. It makes sense that I should emancipate the moniker of my birth and begin anew as… I don’t know. This kind of thinking can get a little over stated. Generally, I try to avoid thinking that I can conceptualize the complex nature of being, let alone reduce it to a single name. Maybe everyone could just hike as their Meyers Briggs...ENTP. Sure, the name doesn’t need to be a distillation of your essence. It could just be something fun and playful or nonsensical. Silly names need silly stories. Do I really want to tell a silly story over and over again...maybe.
I’ve got you babe
Jackie and I have always been teammates and we’ve supported each other through countless marathons, triathlons, cycling races, and ultimate tournaments- we know how to come together to get it done. Walking this trail will be a dedication, a practice, an art. Our collaboration to complete this journey will change us from teammates to bandmates. We will be supporting each other, carrying a little of each other's load. Taking turns. We are like two rock stars up on stage trading face melting leads and power rhythms. Join together and hike as one. Rock!
I hope that what I learn and the person I become on the trail will shape the person I am to be for the rest of my life. Names can change you. They can allow you to be different to different people. Disassociate. I worry that if I experience this experience under a different name then when it is time to be me again I will struggle to integrate the lessons learned from the trail into my life.
There will come a time when the name will need to carry us. A good name will be a spiritual defibrillator when we are feeling like we can’t go on. The best name will have endless meanings and significance that can look and sound differently on different days.
When all the thoughts are thought and the day is done. I know that no matter the name, it will be mine and our journey will be perfect for us. Lest we never forget:
"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet." - Juliet