On the National Scenic Trails of America, an exquisitely unique community of people exists for 5-6 months every year: thru-hikers. These hardy souls brave constant discomfort, long, exhausting days, and a veritable rainbow of smells in order to accomplish the momentous feat of a single season thru-hike on one of the “Triple Crown” trails. As with any community, a culture develops. And with culture comes language. Here are some of the slang terms you will need to know if you’re thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, or the Pacific Crest Trail.
A Guide To American Hiker Slang
Trail Angels and Trail Magic
Trail Angels and trail magic go hand-in-hand, as a trail angel is someone who practices trail magic. The most common form of trail magic is a cooler full of drinks and snacks placed at a road crossing or trail head, but it can also be any number of good karma producing deeds, such as giving hikers a ride, a place to stay, or a hot meal.
In general, this group consists of well-meaning dirtbags who love to laugh, are polite and considerate in-town and on the trail, and have become “wild” in the sense that a passing day hiker may view them more as part of the landscape as opposed to another human being. These folks are committed to representing the hiking community to trail towns in a positive way.
Moving very fast through the woods. This term can be used in regard to the speed at which you are hiking, or the distance covered in a day.
When a group of hikers arrive at a motel, campsite, or roadside crossing, the first thing that any of them will want to do is get every. single. thing. out of their pack. Gear is strewn everywhere as if there were a — you guessed it — hiker explosion.
Cutting off a mile or so of a hike into town by making a beeline for the nearest McDonald’s.
Named for the yellow lines on the road, yellow blazing is perennially scorned by thru-hiking purists. Those who “yellow blaze” seem to spend more of their time on the road than on the trail, hitch-hiking from town-to-town instead of, well, actually hiking.
Pink Blazing/Banana Blazing
Ah, romance. Those who “pink blaze” and “banana blaze” are chasing their objects of affection down the trail; starry-eyed Romeos and Juliets chasing their crushes from camp to camp.
For those who take the term “blazing” more literally than others. If your goal is to spend the entirety of your hike in a marijuana-induced haze, then you are “green blazing.”
For many hikers, hobbling into town after several days on the trail is like reaching an oasis complete with a gut-bursting marathon session at the local Chinese food buffet and a (relatively) soft bed in a motel.
Something happens to the itinerant hiker 2-3 weeks into their journey, when their stomach transforms into some kind of magnetized dwarf star, the gravity of which no food item can escape. This is called hiker hunger, and it is the real deal.
When you’ve woken up at the crack of dawn and hiked anywhere from 25-40 miles in a day, there isn’t much energy left to do more than pass out in an exhausted, achy stupor precisely at 9 PM, or, as it is known colloquially, “Hiker Midnight.”