Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Glossary of AT Hiker Terms

Here's a picture of a NOBO through-hiker as she heads out north from Newfound Gap. 

In our posts on this blog, our various social media pages, and on Erin's blog at Appalachian Trials, we often use some terms and slang that are common to the AT hiking community, but can be pretty confusing to everyone else. For example:

"Going NOBO across Newfound Gap, I yogied a couple of weekenders for a Snickers and a Coke. Glad I did, I was feeling the hiker hunger real bad, thanks to that green blazing I did."

To hikers, that is a perfectly cromulent sentence. It's a hiker going northbound (i.e. Georgia->Maine) on the trail who convinced some weekend tourists at Newfound Gap to give him a Snickers and a Coke. He was very hungry, as hikers are known to be, and this was added to by his use of marijuana. In this case, a non AT hiker could probably have picked it up from the context, but it still can be easy to get lost in the weeds.

Fear not, for we here at Red Faces, White Blazes have come up with a list of some of the most frequent AT words and phrases. This is by no means comprehensive, and as we continue along we are bound to run into more terms that should be on this list.

NOBO: Northbound hiker. Usually applied to through hikers, although even the smallest of section hikes can be described by this term, as it easily tells you which way a person is hiking. Note that this doesn't always correspond to the direction north. There are places along the trail where a NOBO hiker is actually hiking south, due to the way the trail is blazed.

GAME: A less common alias for a NOBO through hiker. GA is for Georgia, ME is for Maine.

SOBO: Southbound hiker along the Appalachian Trail. The through hikers of this type are a much less common breed of through hiker. They prefer hiking alone, rather than in the large packs that seem to develop along the beginning of the trail in Georgia. Considering they begin their hike with Maine (and Katahdin) and the White Mountains during black fly season, they are truly a hearty (read: crazy) bunch.

MEGA: A less common alias for a SOBO through hiker.

Yogi: Named after that smarter than the average bear, this is the fine hiker art of begging food off of tourists, weekenders, and section hikers. In many cases, you don't have to do much, other than show you're a through hiker, and they may just give you something. It may not be the classiest thing to do, but when that hiker hunger hits "keeping it classy" is the last thing on your mind.

Hiker Hunger: Rarely seen in through hikers during the first two or three weeks, it sneaks up on them and doesn't go away until after Katahdin. This affliction has been known to cause whole pizzas to be devoured in seconds, improve the memory of hikers (at least as to where the nearest AYCE buffet is in the next town), and can result in a hiker downing a pound of oatmeal in one sitting and still be hungry.

Bear Bagging: Bears are common along the entirety of the trail, and there are many places where they are so common they can be nuisances and dangers to hikers and campers. As such, it's a good idea to hang your food from a tall branch in a waterproof stuff sack. There are several ways to do this, with a standard way with the rope tied around a tree, or the more secure (but harder) PCT method, which leaves the bag hanging without the rope being tied around a tree (where a bear could clip it and drop the bag). While you certainly don't want bears getting into your food, this is also a fairly effective way of keeping the more likely pests such as mice out of your food bag.

Bear Cables: Working along the same principle as bear bagging, these are nice amenities to have when staying at a shelter or campsite. Instead of having to play "toss the rock in a stuff sack over the branch" 50 odd times, you can just clip your bag to a strong cable and hoist it up away from the grasp of bears. These are most common in Georgia and the Smokies, two of the worst areas for bears.

Catholes: Unless you are a true master of maintaining your personal constitution so you hit the privys and occasional flush toilets for all of your needs, you will be pooping in the woods. A cathole is where this should be done. A common mistake is for hikers to assume a six inch hole is a hole that funnels down to a point at six inches. This mistake is quickly discovered when you end up with only about 15% of your leavings ending up in the actual hole.

"Not too much longer": This is calling card of the delusional hiker who wants to believe the shelter is just right over that next little ridge, when in fact its another 2.7 miles (plus a 0.3 mile hike along a blue blazed trail).

Slack Packing: The art of leaving your full pack behind for a lighter day pack to hike a section of the trail. This is usually done with some sort of support shuttle to take you out to and pick you up from the trailheads. To purists, this renders you less than a through-hiker, but to most people this is just something you do if you get the opportunity. The only time it really matters is if you are trying to set a record for an unsupported hike. The most prevalent example of this strategy is at Katahdin, where it makes no sense to carry you full pack up and down the difficult climb.

Yellow Blazing: A term for using shuttles, mass transit, and/or hitchhiking to skip sections of the trail and instead move further along it to start hiking again.

 Blue Blazing: This is a term for taking side trails to vistas and points of interest, rather than just keeping only to the main trail. While it can slow your hike down a bit, this usually is worth it for many of the views and things you'll encounter. This doesn't include walking blue blazed trails to water, privies, shelters, campsites, or trailheads (if doing a section hike).

Aqua Blazing: Instead of hiking a portion of the trail, you take the opportunity to use a nearby river or stream to canoe, cayak, or paddle your way down to a place where the water and the trail meet. There aren't too many examples of this, although you could do something like this along the Nantahala River in North Carolina, or the Shenadoah River in Virginia and West Virginia.

Green Blazing: I know its hard to believe, but a sizable portion of the hikers along the Appalachian Trail are known to partake in marijuana.

Pink Blazing: The practice of altering your hike schedule and daily mileage goals in order to keep up/catch up/wait for a person that you are attracted to so you can hike and/or camp together. Even though most hikers are too tired to do much at the end of the day besides eat something and fall asleep, this is a pretty common occurrence. I'm sure it helps that through hikers have a bit of smell blindness when it comes to each other's foul hiker stench.

Virginia Blues: 1 out of every 4 miles along the trail is in Virginia, and many of them are repetitive. This can lead to many hikers getting restless and bored with the trail, as they go up yet another pointless up and down. It's a tough thing to deal with that is only cured by either getting off the trail, or reaching the blueberry milkshakes of Shenandoah National Park.

PUDs: This is an acronym that stands for Pointless Up and Downs. Sometimes it appears that the builders of the trail cared less about getting you up and over a ridge then they did in routing up and down across the side of the ridge. This often results in a bunch of relatively small, yet steep, up and downs that neither take you to the top of a mountain and a vista, nor takes you to a valley where there is water, a road and place to park, or a shelter or campsite. Put enough of them together, and you get the roller coaster of Northern Virginia.

Rocksylvania: A play on the name of Pennsylvania, this is due to a large portion of the trail in the state being covered with rocks that are just the perfect size to turn an ankle or knee in the wrong direction. For added fun, these rocks are favorite places for copperheads and timber rattlers to hang out.

Zero Day: A day without any hiking, this is considered a necessity by most hikers for about one day every 7-8. It doesn't usually mean a day without walking or doing anything, as hikers have to do laundry, get supplies, and feed that hiker hunger on these days.

Nero Day: Much like a zero day, although this involves a little bit of hiking. This can either be a short hike into town, a shelter, or a campsite, or a short hike out of a town/shelter/campsite.

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