There are quite a few terms that Thru-Hikers use that the ‘normies’ don’t have a clue as to what they mean. I will be using them throughout my hike, so here is a list of them and what they mean!
Thru-Hike-Hiking a long trail in one year’s time. It is usually hiked end-to-end, but the ‘flip-flop’ hike is an increasingly popular way to thru-hike.
NOBO-Hiking Northbound from Springer Mt. to Mt. Katahdin.
SOBO-Hiking Southbound from Mt. Katahdin to Springer Mt.
Flip-Flop- Starting in the middle of the trail and hiking North or South, and flipping back to where you started to hike the rest in the other direction.
Section Hikers-Those hikers who are out to hike a section of the trail, sometimes piecing together a hike of the entire trail.
Trail Angels-People who out of the kindess of their hearts reach out to hikers and give them help with food, rides, lodging, or random acts of kindness, expecting nothing in return.
Trail Magic– Food, drinks, (often left on the trail!) first-aid items, toilet paper, rides (sometimes even hugs) given by ‘Trail Angels’. There is nothing like rounding the bend on tiresome, hot or even cold day to find an ice chest or box of snacks or food, free for the taking. Often, the Trail Angels are set up on the trail. Trail Magic is the gift. Trail Angels are the givers.
Trail Legs – After being on the trail for a while, a thru-hiker develops their ‘trail legs’. One day you realize, “Hey! I climbed that mountain with ease!” There is no more huffing and puffing with stops to catch your breath; there is no need to stop and rest your legs in the middle of the climb up a mountain because of the ‘burn’. A thru-hiker feels as if there is no mountain they can’t climb once they have their ‘trail legs’.
White Blazes– White blazes are a strip of paint on trees, sidewalks, streets, posts (and even on a canoe taking you across a river) which indicate the official route of the Appalachian Trail
Blue Blazing– Traveling north in a river in a canoe or raft, and skipping the corresponding part of the Appalachian Trail.
Yellow Blazing– Skipping part of the trail and driving ahead to start at a different place on the trail.
Purists-Those thru-hikers who believe that you haven’t truly hiked the Appalachian Trial unless you have followed every White Blaze and have not skipped any part of the trail.
HYOH– (Hike Your Own Hike) It is a mantra oft repeated on the trail by thru-hikers. It means there is no right way to hike the trail–only YOUR way. Some are fast, some are slow, some skip parts, some slack-pack. Everyone is different. What works for some, might not work for others. Do what is right for you, and that is okay.
Hostel-A low cost housing option to stay at when a hiker is in town. It usually consists of a room with bunk beds. They often offer re-supply items (food, fuel, snacks) and a place to do laundry. Sometimes, a meal is included with the price of the stay. Often, if the hostel is away from town, they offer a trip to town so the hiker can go to Walmart, an Outfitter, or eat a good meal at a restaurant.
Hiker Box– At different places in trail towns along the A.T., places of business will have boxes wherein hikers can place old gear, clothes, food they are tired of, snacks, half-empty bottles of Ibuprofen, (we are a trusting lot) fuel, etc. Many times, a Hiker will purchase things that come in a large amount, like Ibuprofen, boxes of oatmeal, bandades, etc., and won’t want to carry all of it on the trail. They take what they need and put the rest in a Hiker Box. You name it, it has probably been found in a Hiker Box. Whatever is in there is free for the taking. Take something, or leave something. These boxes can be found in restaurants, hostels, hotels, grocery stores, outfitters, etc.
Hiker Hunger-A ravenous appetite that develops after a thru-hiker has been on the trail for a while. It creates a bottomless-pit that cannot be filled. Thru-hikers can burn up to 6,000 calories a day! They will eat almost anything at that point, including food that has been left on the ground.
Outfitter-A generic name for places that sell Hiking Gear.
Zero-A day where you do zero hiking.
Nero-A day where you do very little hiking. Usually, it means hiking a few miles into town to a hostel or town off the trail.
Slack-Packing-Many hostels offer a service wherein a hiker will be dropped off at a point ahead or behind the hostel and picked up at the end of the day where they can stay a night in the hostel. This enables the hiker to carry a much lighter pack while hiking that day, saving their feet and shoulders of the weight of a fully loaded pack.
Stank-Hikers get really smelly since they are often sweating and go days at a time without a shower. It often gets embedded into your clothes and backpack. This is so much worse than ‘stink’ that it is called, ‘stank’.
Hiker Fist Bump-Most hikers don’t waist their precious water to wash hands. Their hands have been everywhere and are the means to spread illness. We don’t shake hands upon greeting one another, we bump fists.
Trail Days-An festival that occurs on the Appalachian Trail in Damascus, Virginia. There are vendors of everything a hiker might want or need, including haircuts, gear repair, several hiker feeds, and even a church service! There is a parade in which thru-hikers participate. This year, it is May 18-20. Often, thru-hikers will get a shuttle back to Damascus if they have already passed that point.