Trail Jargon

The Trail Jargon I encountered during my Thru-hike (NOBO 2017):

Jargon Translation
Nero A low mileage day.  The low number of miles depends on the person.  For me a nero was less than 10 miles a day.
Zero A break; a day off from the trail.
Negative Zero Hiking miles in opposite direction, going backwards.  Why? Good question.
NOBO North Bound
SOBO South Bound
HOBO Literal homeless person or Home Bound (say if they lived in Maine or Georgia)
White Blaze Trail marker of the AT.
Blue Blazing Has multiple meanings, from what I gathered ordered from more common to least:

·        Taking a shorter trail that reconnects back to the AT, skipping a chunk of the trail.

·        Taking a side trails that do not connect back to the AT such outlooks, waterfalls, towns.

·        Taking an alternative route, typically a longer route in the event of bad weather.


Basically, extra miles hiked not on the AT.  The Approach trail to the AT would be a good example.

Yellow Blazing Skipping sections of the trail via a vehicle (hitch hiking).  Ex1:  Say you have a visa and would like to hike in “cooler” sections of the trail before having to leave the country.  Ex2:  You want to give yourself enough time to finish (Baxter State Park closes Oct. 15) so you skip ahead and you go back and finish the section you skipped after (if you want the thru-hiker title) since that section doesn’t have any time restriction.
Aqua Blazing Section of the AT that you can canoe north (downstream) in the Shenandoah region.
Pink Blazing Speeding up or slowing down to keep up with a girl, though I have heard for guys too.
Banana Blazing Speeding up or slowing down to keep up with a guy.
Green Blazing Speeding up or slowing down to keep up with the people who have weed.
Purist Those who do not skip sections.  Those who will enter and leave the same route into towns/shelters to avoid missing even the smallest of sections of the trail.  Those who do not yellow blaze, aqua blaze, or blue blaze to skip sections of the trail.  This is what I did on my thru-hike.  I didn’t count every single white blaze, but I made sure I hiked pretty much every inch of the trail.  This was the way I did it and I think there shouldn’t be a word for this.  I think this is thru-hiking, plain and simple, though this is just the way I did it.  If you, the reader plan to thru-hike the trail, hike your own hike.
Section Hiker Hiking a section of the AT.  Those who call themselves section hikers, usually plan to finish the entirety of the trail eventually.  I ran into a couple who had less than a hundred miles to go after hiking the trail on and off for the past ten years.
LASH Long Ass Section Hiker.
Thru-hiker Those who hike the entirety of the trail in less or equal to one year.
Day Hiker The people that you’d normally run into on the weekend, on a popular plan on the trail, and smell very good out for a day hike.
Slack Packing Carrying only a day pack (Food and water you need for that day). There are companies that will drop you off (usually along with a group) at one end of the trail and pick you up at the agreed meet up point at the other end.
Flip Flopper When a hiker hikes the trail in normally two different directions.  This can be done in many ways, but this is usually a hiker that started later than mid-April for a NOBO hike and was worried of making it to Katahdin before Oct. 15, when that section of the trail, Baxter State Park is closed for the season.


For example, two very popular flip flops I have seen:

1.      Start in Georgia NOBO, stop at Harper’s Ferry, flip up to Katahdin, and then hike SOBO back to Harper’s Ferry.

2.      Start in Harper’s Ferry NOBO to Katahdin, flip down to Harper’s Ferry, and hike SOBO to Georgia.


*Harper’s Ferry is the spiritual half way point.

Yo-yo To finish the trail where one started.  So if a hiker started in Georgia, they would hike to Katahdin and then back to Georgia.  I believe this hike is also done is less than a year.  It is rare, but I have encountered one hiker yo-yoing back to Georgia.
Hiker Mid-night After sunset, a quiet time.  9pm seemed to be the norm.
Mail Drop Hiker that sent themselves a food parcel to either a hostel or post office along the trail.
Bounce Box When you send yourself a parcel via “Priority Shipping” you can “bounce” you mail to another destination, after it already arrived at the first intended destination.  Reason you’d want to:

·        Say your traveling through town on a weekend, don’t want to stop and wait until the post office opens, so you resupply at a grocery store/gas station and call the post office with the new address to a location where you would next need that amount of food.  I personally didn’t have access to cell service, so in order to make this happen, I used my GPS communication device to contact my mom to call the post office.

Trail Name An alias/nickname given along the trail that would describe you or something you have done.  You are free to name yourself, though to each their own.  My trail is: “Makin Bacon.”
Trail Angel Generous person along the trail who give trail magic to passing hikers.
Trail Magic There are many different variations.  It is acts of kindness given by other people toward passing hikers, but it comes in forms of ice coolers with snacks/sodas in them left near a trail head, ride to town, people who cook at road crossings for you, and those who let you camp in their yard.  I am many different examples in my blog.
Trail Legs When and where a hiker’s legs, become conditioned to hiking daily
Trail Journal/Log Book Kind of like the social media of the trail.  A trail journal would be a physical book and a pen which usually resided, belonged to a shelter on the trail.  You can also find these stationed at hostels along the trail.  What you would do is write your name, date, and a comment about anything, usually the shelter or life on the trail.  It was way you could tell who was in front of you and by how much time.
Stealth Camping Camping in a location, not designated for camping.  Some sections of the trail will forbid you to stealth.  Baxter State Park and the Smokies are good examples.
Tramily “Trail” + “Family” combined.  The people a hiker meets along the trail who become like family.
Hiker Hunger The insane appetite you have typically noticed while in town with more options than you would have on trail.
Hiker Trash Hikers who have re-entered society without conforming to societies standards of cleanliness and social norm.  If you get too far away from the trail, some people will even mistake you for homeless.
Hiker Box Usually found in town, typically hostels in which contain food/gear that one person didn’t want/need anymore, say if they realized they didn’t really need it, found something lighter, grew tired of it, or over packed their food and put it in the hiker box for the next person that may want/need such item.
Base Weight Weight of pack with out consumables.  Mine was probably in the low 20s during my thru-hike.
Leave No Trace Seriously, pack out everything and leave only your foot prints.  To be respectful to the trial including other people and animals.  Here is how you can better leave no trace:
Puffy Cold weather coat.
False Summit When you think you’re about to reach the top, but you were wrong and you still have a bit to go.
The Bubble The denser cluster of typically NOBO hikers who usually start there hike between the last week of March and the first week of April.
Cairn A tower of rocked used at trail markers in area where there are no trees, but rocks.  This is more of a term than jargon.
Hike Your Own Hike Very much a motto that means to each their own.
The Green Tunnel Common nick name for the Appalachian Trail.  I have heard it used in arguments when not to carry sun screen or wear sun glasses.
Ridge Runner ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) volunteer who monitors the trail in high trafficked areas in national parks.
Spiritual half way point Harper’s Ferry

Side Note:

  • I may be missing a few.  There also may be different jargon for different trails.