As I’ve been planning all of this, I’ve realized that there is an entire subculture surrounding thru hikes and those who complete them, complete with its own customs and slang. So I’m going to take a moment to share some of what I’ve learned in advance in no particular order.
Most people who have hiked the AT pick up a trail name, something that separates them from who they were at home. Some are named after things that happened to them, or that they did that was unusual, or after some aspect of their personality. Some people also name themselves, but that is kind of frowned upon by some people. The common belief is that your trail name will find you, not the other way around. So, I’m going to wait and see what I pick up on my own, instead of picking my own. (Although, if I don’t get any I like, I’m taking Pirate Kitty for personal reasons.)
The AT is marked with white blazes, a 2×4 rectangle of white paint on trees and rocks along its length. (Other trails would be marked with other color blazes).
Side trails, that might lead to water or be an older section of the trail are blazed blue, so someone blue blazing is either getting water or taking a shortcut.
Yellow blazing would be hitchhiking to avoid a section of trail (named after the stripes on the highway).
Aqua blazing would be taking a canoe down the Shenandoah river in Virginia, thus avoiding a section of the trail.
-Trail Magic and Trail Angels-
Trail Magic is anything good and unexpected that you get on the trail. Trail Angels give Trail Magic. Trail Magic would be anything like a cooler stocked with water, cokes, and beer left beside the trail for anyone to have, or a bag hung on a tree with fresh fruit, or Trail Angels hosting a “hiker feed”, where they cook out and feed any hiker that comes past. Some people will run free shuttle service from a road crossing to the nearest town and back.
There are probably more things that I’m forgetting, but for now, that’s all I can remember. I’m sure I’ll wind up sharing more as the hike goes along.