On the AT most thru hikers adopt trail names, nicknames that tell a story or share a characteristic. Some people choose a name, some people are given names, either way a trail name is a tradition of the trail and can be as serious (or otherwise) as the owner desires.
My trail name was (and I guess still is )Turtle the Brave.
In my first few days I began to ponder about what I would be named. I wanted to let the trail community name me, but to pass the time I started thinking of cool names. I thought of several that had no reasoning behind them, including turtle. As I thought more on the name turtle however, it made more and more sense to me. I am taking my second year off of school since high school, as many of you know my first year was spent with YWAM in Denver, CO and Thailand. I have been taking my time, moving slowly with decisions during this period of my life and ultimately going nowhere too fast, like a turtle. So I laughed and kept turtle as a backup name in case someone tried to name me privy man or something far worse. A day or two later I was asked by a day hiker if I had thought of a trail name I liked, I told her turtle, thinking I would never see her again. It turns out that I would see her again. It also appears that when multiple other thru hikers hear a day hiker refer to you as turtle, the name sticks.
So my name remained turtle. At one point I mentioned to a buddy of mine that I was thinking of a name change, I learned my lesson when he suggested I switch my name to “the hiker formerly known as turtle”and I quote: “but we can all still call you turtle for short”. My name was Turtle to stay.
My first day in the smoky mountains I hiked up to an old fire tower, there are many of these along the trail that can be climbed. I tried to climb this particular tower and turned around. I have always had a bit of an irrational fear of heights, I have the healthy fear of dangerous ladders, but had no reason to turn around on that tower. I thought of other times in my life when fear had held me back, and I thought of the hike I was on and how fear could end my hike during dark nights or lonely days. This did not sit right in my chest. A few days later I made it official in a shelter register (often used as a sort of journal as well as a means of communication), my name from there on would be Turtle the Brave. I used my name as a reminder to be brave and found many times during my hike that choosing to be brave during hard times was a freeing action. Being brave isn’t the absence of fear, it is doing what you know you should in the face of fear.