As with most worthwhile endeavors, a jargon or code language has emerged on the Appalachian Trail that is probably only understood by hikers. Since I will inevitably use these terms in my pre-hike blogs and daily hike journals, I thought it might be helpful to provide you with a “dictionary” of some of the common terms to assist you in understanding “the code.”
2000 Miler – A person who has hiked the entire distance of the A.T., regardless of time, either by thru-hiking or section hiking.
AMC Huts – In New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forests, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), for a pretty hefty fee, provides buildings called Huts where backpackers can stay overnight and enjoy cooked meals.
A.T. – An abbreviation of the Appalachian Trail.
A.T.C. – An abbreviation of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.” As a volunteer-based, private, nonprofit organization, the ATC accomplishes its mission through trail maintaining clubs and individual memberships. Often, hikers refer to the ATC headquarters in Harper’s Ferry, WV as the ATC.
Aqua Blazer – A thru-hiker who uses a water craft to skip around sections of the A.T. Usually this is done by floating down the Shenandoah River as opposed to hiking through Shenandoah National Park.
AYCE – An acronym for “All You Can Eat” restaurants, which are the darlings of hungry thru-hikers.
Bald – A mountain top in the Southern Appalachians that has no trees.
Baxter – Short for Baxter State Park in Maine, where Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the A.T., is located.
Bear Bag – Sort of like a body bag for captured bears. Seriously though, it is a bag used by hikers to hang their food and other “smellables” out of the reach of bears and other critters.
Bear Box – A metal storage box, located in certain places with high bear activity, where hikers can store their food in lieu of hanging a bear bag.
Bear Cable – A permanent cable rigged high between two trees to facilitate the hanging of bear bags.
Blazes – 2-inch by 6-inch vertical rectangles that are placed at eye height on trees and other objects to mark the route of the trail.
Blow-down – A tree or shrub that has fallen across the trail. Trees, especially, are a pain to go over/under and I’m certain that trail maintainers love them too.
Blue Blaze – Side trails off the A.T. leading to bad-weather routes, views, shelters, water sources, etc., are often marked by blazes painted blue. This term is sometimes used as a verb to indicate the action of skipping a portion of the A.T. by taking an alternate route.
Blue Blazer – A hiker who skips a portion of the of the official A.T. route by taking an alternate route (blue-blazing). Under adverse trail conditions this may be a necessity. Usually, however, it is a technique adopted to hike an easier alternative path rather than the official trail.
Bounce Box – A box containing seldom used necessities that is mailed, or “bounced,” ahead to a Post Office in a town where you think you might need the contents of the box. Examples of such items would be batteries, socks, insect repellant, etc.
Brown Blazing – Leaving the trail to answer nature’s call.
Bubble – A large group of thru-hikers condensed on a short section of trail. This is especially prevalent for thru-hikers departing northbound from the southern terminus, Springer Mountain, during the last week of March through the middle of April. Until this group is dispersed by varying individual hiking speeds and people quitting the trail, the “bubble” results in overcrowded shelters and the overuse of resources.
Cairn – A man-made pile of rocks used to mark the trail in areas where there are no trees. Usually used above the treeline.
Camel Up – To drink as much water as possible at a water source before continuing to hike.
Cowboy Camping – Camping without using a tent or other shelter. Just spread your sleeping bag out under the stars and hope that it doesn’t rain.
Croo – The name given to the staff (or “crew”) that operate the AMC Huts in the White Mountains.
Day Hiker – A hiker that is just out for the day. Usually they carry a small day pack or no pack at all.
Double Blaze – Two blazes, one atop the other, that indicate a change in the direction of the trail. Sometimes the top blaze is off-set in the direction of the turn.
End-to-ender – An alternative term for a 2,000 Miler.
Flip-flop – A term used to signify a thru-hike that is not done contiguously. The most popular flip flop is to start at Springer Mountain in Georgia, hike to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia, then jump up to Mount Katahdin in Maine and hike back to Harper’s Ferry. The hiker is referred to as a Flip-Flopper.
GAME or GAMER– An acronym for a hike or hiker going from Georgia to Maine.
GORP – Trail mix consisting of good old raisins and peanuts. Can also be granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts.
Hostel – A cheap accommodation along the trail where you can rent a bunk, enjoy a shower, and sometimes obtain a meal.
Hiker Trash – A compliment or source of pride among thru-hikers, this describes someone who has been on the trail so long that they begin to embrace a lack of social norms e.g. showering, discussing bodily functions, etc.
HYOH – An acronym for hike your own hike, meaning to set a schedule and a pace that work for you. Sometimes it is simply used as an excuse for bad behavior on the trail without accountability.
Leave No Trace – Sometimes seen as the acronym LNT, this is an outdoor ethics program based on seven principles that promote enjoying the outdoors responsibly while having a minimum impact on the environment.
Mail Drop – A method of resupply where a support person mails packages of supplies to the hiker according to a pre-arranged schedule so that the package arrives on time for the hiker to receive it at a post office or other establishment that accepts packages for hikers.
MEGA – An acronym for a hike or hiker going from Maine to Georgia.
Mountain Money – Toilet paper.
Mouse Hanger – A contraption consisting of a cord strung through the middle of a can, used to discourage mice from chewing through a pack to get to the contents when hung in a shelter.
Nero – A very short mileage day on a thru-hike.
NOBO – Short for a northbound thru-hiker.
Privy – A trailside outhouse or compostable toilet for solid waste.
PUDS – An acronym for “pointless ups and downs,” referring to a series of climbs and descents along a less interesting section of trail without views.
Purist – A thru-hiker who wants to pass every white blaze on the trail without any assistance.
Ridge Runner – A person (either a volunteer or someone paid by the ATC or a governmental organization) who monitors a high usage area of the trail to educate hikers, monitor campsite use, and enforce regulations.
Section Hiker – A person who is attempting to hike the entire length of the A.T. by doing a series of connected hikes over a period of time exceeding one year.
Shelter – A wooden or stone building, usually three-sided, available for backcountry lodging. Shelters on the A.T. are spaced about a day’s hike apart and are usually near a water source and a privy.
Shuttle – A ride from the trailhead to town or a hostel (and/or back), usually for a fee.
Slackpacking – Thru-hiking without a backpack. Usually done with a day pack, this is accomplished by leaving most of your belongings at a hostel and getting a ride ahead on the trail and walking back to the hostel. Alternatively, you can continue hiking from the hostel and get a shuttle back to the hostel at the end of the day. There is usually a fee required for this service.
SOBO – Short for a southbound thru-hiker.
Stealth Camping – Camping off the trail where a campsite has not been established and where it is hard to be seen. Sometimes used as a term for camping illegally on public or private land.
Thru-hiker – A person who has or is attempting to hike the entire length of a trail in a single, continuous journey within one season or calendar year.
Trail Angel – A kind-hearted person who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.
Trail Magic – An unexpected, but welcome, gift of food, water, or other act of kindness given to a hiker by a total stranger who expects nothing in return.
Trail Name – A trail tradition, this is a unique nickname adopted by a hiker and used on the trail.
Vitamin I – Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug that is often used by hikers.
White Blazer – A person hiking past every white blaze on the A.T. (see Purist).
Work for Stay – Being allowed to work instead of paying a fee for lodging at the AMC Huts in the or at a few hostels along the A.T.
Yellow Blazer – A thru-hiker who uses a motor vehicle to skip around sections of the A.T. Pretty much the opposite of a Purist.
Yogi-ing – The good-natured art of “letting” food be offered to you cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly (If you ask, it’s begging!).
Zero day – A day in which no miles are hiked, usually because the hiker is stopping in a town to resupply and/or rest.