Trail Terminology


TRAIL TERMS

The following is a list of terms and commonly used words, phrases, abbreviations, and slang used in the Appalachian Trail community. 

2000 Miler is a person who has hiked the entire distance between termini of the official (white-blazed) A.T., either by thru-hiking or section hiking.

A.L.D.H.A. The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association began in 1983 as an off-trail family of fellow hikers who’ve all shared similar experiences, hopes and dreams on the Appalachian Trail and other long trails. ALDHA sponsers the Gathering each October and member volunteers compile the The Thru-hikers' Companion for the ATC. Membership in this nonprofit group is open to all. www.aldha.org

Alcohol Stove A stove that runs on denatured alcohol or HEAT.

Alpine Zone: the area consisting of all the land above tree line in New England. The alpine zone is best defined by its plant life. Conifers such as spruce and balsam grow as Krumholz near the tree line, giving way to tundra-type lichens, moss, and shrubs above.

A.M.C. The Appalachian Mountain Club, maintaining the AT in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to Grafton Notch in Maine. www.outdoors.org 

AMC Huts In New Hampshire's White Mountains, in heavy use areas and above treeline, the AMC provides buildings called Huts for backpackers to stay overnight. http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/whites/huts.html

A.T.C. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy The Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) is a volunteer-based, private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation, management, and promotion of the Appalachian Trail as a primitive setting for outdoor recreation (on foot) and for learning. ATC is both a confederation of Trail-maintaining clubs and an individual-membership organization. www.appalachiantrail.org 

ATN The Appalachian Trailways News. The monthly news magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Avery, Myron Myron Avery, 1931-1952the first 2000 miler, and the man credited with building the Appalachian Trail. Chair of the ATC from 1931 until his death in 1952.

AYCE 'All You Can Eat' Restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets are very popular with hungry hikers.

AYH is the abbreviation for American Youth Hostels.

Bald A low elavation mountain surrounded by forest yet devoid of trees on the crown. typically covered with meadows, balds can offer great views and are a good place to find wild berries, they also attract much wildlife. A southern term.

Baseball Bat Shelter (Floors) An old style of shelter construction in Maine where the floor would be constructed out of parallel logs each with diameters not much greater than that of a baseball bat.

Baxter Baxter State Park, where Katahdin is, and the AT's Northern terminus on Baxter Peak.www.baxterstateparkauthority.com 

Bear Bag The bag used by hikers to hang their food out of reach of bears and other critters, see 'Food Bag.'

Bear Cable A permenant cable rigged high between two tree specifically for hanging bear bags.

Blackflies There are about 40 species of these tiny biting insects that breed in running water and flourish in late May and June in Maine. 

BMT The Benton MacKaye Trail www.bmta.org This trail is complete from Springer Mountain to US Hwy 64 near the Ocoee River in Tennessee, a distance of 90.9 miles.

Bivouac To sleep outdoors without a tent or proper gear, usually done only in emergency situations. Though alpine climbers may do planned bivouacs on long and difficult routes, carrying gear known as a bivouac sack.

Bivy Sack is a lightweight and waterproof bag that covers a sleeping bag. Simple, sometimes cramped shelter.

Blazes are painted, 2-inch by 6-inch, vertical white rectangles that are placed at eye height on trees and other objects, in both directions, to mark the official route of the Trail. Side trails are marked with blue blazes. You see horizontal, diagonal, arrows, and other blazes along the Trail.

Blaze orange A very bright, visable in low light, hue of orange. The color to wear during hunting season.

Blow-down is a tree or shrub that has fallen across the Trail. Maintainer have dozens of words to describe each kind of fallen tree.

Blue blaze Spur trails off the AT to bad-weather routes, views, shelters, water sources etc are often marked by AT style blazes painted Blue.

Blue-blazer is a long-distance hiker who substitutes a section of blue-blazed trail for a white-blazed section between two points on the Trail.

Bog bridge Narrow wooden walkway placed to protect sensitive wetlands.

Bounce box a mail-drop type box containing seldom used necessities that is 'bounced' ahead to a town where you think you might need the contents.

Brown blazing taking a detour off the trail to take a dump

Buffer zone Areas important to, but not part of, the Appalachian trail.

Bushwhack to hike where there is no marked trail.

Cache (pronounced cash) is a supply of food and/or supplies hidden for later retrieval.

Cairn A obviously manmade pile of rocks erected as a trail marker. Chiefly used above timberline. Should be close enough to see the next one in heavy fog, and high enough to see above fallen snow.

Camel up or Tank up drink a your fill of water at the source until you're filled up then hike on

Canister Stove The type of small backpacking stove that uses metal cans of fuel. See: http://www.whiteblaze.net/index.php?page=content&t=8311

Caretaker The person who maintains and collects fees at certain shelters and campsites.

Cat Hole A small hole dug by a hiker for the deposit of human waste.

Cirque A cwm. The bowl of Tuckerman Ravine is a cirque.

Col and Sag are typically dips in the ridge without a road, while Gap and Notch are typically larger dips that have a road going through. Sag is a typically southern term, as is Gap, while Col and Notch are typically northern terms. Water Gap, is of course, a Gap with a river.

Companion The ALDHA Thru-hikers' Companion is an AT guidebook compiled by AHLDA volunteers for the ATC. www.aldha.org

Cove is a Southern Appalachian word meaning a high, flat valley surrounded by mountains. Cades Cove in the Smokies is the one most people know about.
http://www.cadescove.net/

Corridor The Appalachian Trail is a long and narrow Park, sometimes less than 100 feet wide. The Area set aside for the AT to pass within is called the Trail Corridor.

Cowboy camping is where one camps without any shelter - just spread one's pad and bag out under the stars and putting one's faith in their opinion about the weather staying dry.

Croo are the crew of caretakers who man the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts. For the most part, the summer Croo will be college students.

Cryptosporidium A Waterborne pathogen, Cryptosporidium is a parasite commonly found in lakes and rivers, especially when the water is contaminated with sewage and animal wastes. Cryptosporidium is very resistant to disinfection, and even a well-operated water treatment system cannot ensure that drinking water will be completely free of this parasite. 

Data Book Published for over 25 years by the ATC the Data Book is a consolidation of the most basic guidebook information into a lightweight table of distances between major Appalachian Trail shelters, road-crossings, and features--divided according to the guidebook volumes and updated each December to account for Trail relocations, new (or removed) shelters, and other changes. Now keyed to both guidebook sections and maps. http://www.atctrailstore.org/

Dead Fall: A maintainer's term for a fallen dead trees across the trail. 

DEET A powerful insect repellant.

DOC The Dartmouth Outing Club, maintaining 70 miles of AT in Vermont and New Hampshire. www.dartmouth.edu/~doc/ 

Double blaze Two blazes, one above the other as an indication of an imminent turn or intersection in the trail. Offset double blazes, called Garveys, indicate the direction of the turn by the offset of the top blaze.

Dodgeways are V-shaped stiles through fences, used where the Trail passes through livestock enclosures.

Duct Tape A wide, heavy duty, and multi purpose tape used by hikers for everything from covering blisters to repairing gear.

Endangered Services Campaign A decade old ALDHA response to preserving the positive relationship between hiker and service provider.

End-to-ender is an alternative term for 2,000-Miler.

Fall line: The fall line is the most direct route downhill from any particular point

Flip-flop a term used to signify a hiker that starts hiking in one direction then at some point decides to jump ahead and hike back in the opposite direction. Some hikers on the AT will start hiking northbound from Springer Mt. and usually at Harpers Ferry they may decide to go to Katahdin and hike back down to Harpers Ferry, thus completing their thru-hike. This is a good way for someone to still get their hike completed if they are behind and their time is limited due to the oncoming winter.

Food Bag a bag a hiker carries in their pack specifically for keeping all their food in. It is typically suspended from a tree at night so bears and varmints don't get into it. Also called Bear Bag.

GAME or GAMEr A hike or hiker going from Georgia to Maine.

Gap A southern term for a low spot along a ridge line, called a col by northern individuals. 

Gathering The ALDHA Gathering, held each October alternating between Hanover New Hampshire and Athens, West Virginia.http://www.aldha.org/gathring.htm

Garvey, Ed Ed Garvey 1914-1999 Celebrated friend of the AT, conservationist, thru-hiker, author of 1971s 'Appalachian Hiker' an adventure story that offered practical advice for AT hikers, and widely credited with popularizing backpacking and the Appalachian Trail. A 'Garvey' is a double blaze where the top blaze is offset to indicate the direction of a turn in the Trail.

Gear head is a hiker whose main focus is backpacking and outdoors gear.

Giardia more properly known as giardiasis, an infection of the lower intestines cause by the amoebic cyst, Giardia lamblia. Giardia resides in water so it is wise to always chemically treat or filter your water before drinking. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, loss of appetite and vomiting. Also know as, a backpacker’s worst nightmare.

GORP good ole raisins & peanuts, or some other variation thereof.

Gray Water (Dirty dishwater.) Some campsites will have designated spots to dump your gray water. Such designated spots may be provided with a strainer so that you can remove your food particles from the gray water and pack those out.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park http://www.nps.gov/grsm/

Ground Control Hiker support that handles the 'real world' concerns like bills and pets,and mails a hiker packages.

Fall line: The fall line is the most direct route downhill from any particular point. The Appalachian Trail runs the fall line in much of New England.

FSO 'From Skin Out.' When considering the weight of gear, its important to remember that your total gear weight 'from the skin out' is as important a total as what your pack weighs.

Handbook The Thru-hiker's Handbook is an AT guidebook compiled by Dan Bruce. www.trailplace.com

Harpers Ferry The ATC's National Headquarters and Information Center is located in Harpers Ferry WV, about 1000 AT miles north of Springer Mountain. A short blue blazed trail leads to HQ, where AT hikers traditionaly sign the register and have their photo taken.

Headlamp A small flashight attached to a band or strap and worn on the head.

Heat Material used during the winter in automotive gas tanks, it is used in substation of denatured alcohol as it burns cleaner.

Hicker is a person who is still trying to figure out the whole hiker/gear thing while on the trail.

Hiker Box A cabinet or box at hostels where hikers donate unwanted food for the hikers coming behind them.

Hammock A sleeping system that combines a tent and sleeping bag, hung between two trees.

Hostel An establishment along the trail that has bunks, showers, and sometimes cooking and maildrops, for AT hikers.

Hydration System An 'improvement' on drinking out of a bottle, consists of a plastic bladder, hose, and mouth piece/valve that allows hands free drinking. 

HYOH Hike your own hike, and not imitate someone else's.

Hypothermia Potentially fatal condition caused by insufficient heat and a drop in the body's core temperature. Classic symptoms are call the 'umbles', as the victim stumbles, grumbles, mumbles, and fumbles with confused thoughts. >WB link will go here<

Iceberg Icebergs are large rocks planted in the ground at an overused campsite to discourage any more tenting.

International Appalachian Trail The IAT runs north and east from Maine's Katahdin to the GaspĂ© Peninsula in New Brunswick, and nows across to Newfoundland. http://www.internationalat.org/SIAIAT/ 

Katahdin The AT's northern terminus is at Baxter Peak on Maine's Katahdin. Katahdin is a Penobscot Indian word meaning Greatest Mountain.

Knob A prominent rounded hill or mountain. A southern term.

Krumholtz Literally "crippled wood", the stunted and gnarled trees found near treeline, especially in the White Mountains.

Lean-to is another word for a three sided open shelter, used primarily in New England.

Leki a brand of hiking staff resembling a ski pole, common name for all poles made by the other brands.

Long-distance hiker is a somewhat indeterminate term applied to anyone who is hiking more than a few weeks, and who usually has to resupply at least once during his or her hike; often used interchangeably with the term thru-hiker. At Baxter State Park, a LDH is someone who has hiked in from 100 or more miles south.

LNT means 'Leave No Trace', a philosophy and skill used to pass as lightly as possible when backpacking.

Lyme Disease A debilitating illness carried by small ticks.

Long Trail Vermont's Long Trail runs from the Massachusetts to Canadian border, the southern third in conjunction with the AT.http://www.greenmountainclub.org/page.php?id=2

MacGyver After an old TV show where the hero would construct useful devices out of common materials. To hikers it means to build or repair gear with imagination.

MacKaye Benton MacKaye (rhymes with high, not hay) is the man who in 1921 proposed an Appalachian Trail as the connecting thread of a 'project in regional planning." MacKaye envisioned a trail along the ridgecrests of the Appalachian Mountain chain from New England to the Deep South, connecting farms, work camps, and study camps that would be populated by eastern urbanites needing a break from the tensions of industrialization.

Mail Drop Mail drops are a method of re-supply while hiking. A mail drop is usually made ahead of time, before the hike starts, and a person not hiking (usually a spouse or relative, but it can be a friend) mails the package according to a pre-arranged schedule so that it arrives on time for the hiker to receive it at the post office.

MATC The Maine Appalachian Trail Club The trail maintaining club responsible for trail maintenance from Grafton Notch, Maine to Baxter Peak on Katahdin.

Maintainer is a volunteer who participates in the organized Trail-maintenance programs of the ATC and its member clubs.

MEGA or ME-GA A hike or hiker going from Maine to Georgia.

Mountain Money Toilet paper.

Mouse hanger The cord with can contraption used to discourage mice from entering a pack when hung in a shelter.

Nalgene Referred to drinking bottle as that is what bottles are usually made of

National scenic trail is the official designation for one type of trail protected by the National Scenic Trails System Act of 1968.

Nero Almost a Zero ...in other words, a very short mileage day.

NOBO Northbound thru-hiker, also a GAMEr (Georgia > Maine)

NOC the Nantahala Outdoor Center. A lot of folks make the mistake of referring to Wesser, NC as "NOC." 

NPS is the abbreviation for National Park Service.

Philosopher's Guide The original guide for thru-hiking the AT, first a few sheets of info passed around in hiking circles, later a book published by the ATC.

Pink blazing term used when a male or female is following there partner on the trail

Pot Cozy A foam or cloth wrap tokeep a cooking pot warm while it finishes cooking.

Posthole to hike in deep snow without snowshoes or skis, leaving large holes in the trail. Postholing is considered bad form and makes subsequent snowshoeing or skiing unpleasant and hazardous.

Power hiker is a hiker who habitually chooses to cover very long distances each day, often hiking late into the evening.

Privy a trailside outhouse for solid waste. You souldn't pee in the privy.

PUDS is thru-hiker shorthand for "pointless ups and downs", referring to the less interesting sections of mountains thru-hikers encounter from time to time; several PUDS in a row are MUDS, which is shorthand for "mindless ups and downs".

Pulaski Half axe, half adze, the Pulaski is a multi purpose trail building and maintaining tool.

Puncheon (also called a bog bridge) is a wooden walkway built to provide a stable, hardened tread-way across bogs, mud flats, and marshy areas.

Purist 1. A hiker who wants to pass every white blaze on the trail. 2. A hiker who wants others to pass every white blaze on the trail.

Register A log book normally found at a trail shelter or a trail head. The original intent was for hikers to sign in so a searcher needing to find a lost hiker could tell where they last were.

Relo A section of trail recently relocated.

Ridge Runner A person paid by a trail-maintaining club or governmental organization to hike back and forth along a certain section of trail to educate hikers, enforce regulations, monitor trail and campsite use, and sometimes perform trail maintanence or construction duties. Such persons are most often found in high-use areas of the trail.

Rime ice White super-cooled water droplets that stick to surfaces and freeze into the direction of the wind.

RMC The Randolph Mountian Club, maintain the Perch and Crag Camp in the Presidentials of New Hampshire.www.randolphmountainclub.org/

Ruck Originally small informal gatherings of past and future AT hikers, they have evolved into larger annual schedueled events. 
http://friends.backcountry.net/ruck/

Sag and Col are typically dips in the ridge without a road, while Gap and Notch are typically larger dips that have a road going through. Sag is a typically southern term, as is Gap, while Col and Notch are typically northern terms. Water Gap, is of course, a Gap with a river.

Section hiker is a person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler by doing a series of section hikes over a period of time.

Shaffer, Earl Earl Shaffer 1918-2002 "The Crazy One," the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Poet, WW2 veteran, author of 'Walking With Spring,' and 'The Appalachian Trail, Calling Me Back To The Hills,' and three time thru-hiker, northbound in 1948, southbound in 1965, and northbound again at age 79, 50 years after his first hike. http://www.earlshaffer.com/

Shelter A three sided wooden or stone building, spaced out a half day's hike apart, near a water source, and with a privy. The AT has many kinds of shelters, from barns to cabins.

Shuttle A ride from town to trailhead, usually for a fee.

Skunked Failing to get a car to stop when hitch hiking.

Slabbing is a hiking term that refers to going around a mountain on a moderately graded footpath, as opposed to going straight up and over the mountain.

Slackpacking is a hiking term coined in 1980 to describe an unhurried and non-goal-oriented manner of long-distance hiking (i.e., slack: "not taut or tense, loose"), but in recent years has been used to refer simply to thru-hiking without a backpack. Recently called "Freedom Packing".

SOBO Southbound thru-hiker, also a MEGA (Maine > Georgia)

Spruce Trap When snow is deep enough that it covers the top of a spruce tree, beware. Since there will be voids in the snow pack, you can fall into those voids and get caught. When you appear to be above timberline, but you know that the trees are 8 feet high at this place in summer, then beware. Since you can't see where the trail is, you cannot stay on it, and you cannot avoid the spruce traps.

Springer Mountain's summit is the southern terminus of the Appalachin Trail.

Springer fever is the almost uncontrollable urge to be back on the Trail that hits thru-hikers of past years each spring.

Stealth a manner of camping where there is no indication that you are there, and no trace of your being there is left when you've left. Sometimes used as a term for camping illegally on public or private land.

Stile Steps constructed over a fence to allow people, but not livestock, to pass.

Swag is the lowest connecting point between two ridges in the South. 

Switch Back: A turn that takes the hiker 180 degrees in the oposite direction. This trail construction technique is primarily used south of New England on the AT.

Tarp a simple tent with no floor or door.

"Ten essentials" Short lists of 10 or 12 items thought necessary to be carried by day hikers in their pack. One example of such a list: Map, Compass, Water and a way to purify it, Extra food, Rain gear/extra clothing, Fire starter and matches, First aid kit, Army Knife/multi purpose tool, flashight with extra batteries/bulbs, sun screen/sun glasses.

Tent Pad/Platform At some camping sites, tenting is restricted to built up earthen 'pads' or wooden 'platforms' to ease impact on the area.

Thru-hiker is traditionally a person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler in a single, continuous journey leaving from one terminus of the Trail, and backpacking to the other terminus.

Ticks Small parasitic insects that can carry Lyme disease and other illnesses. Photo of the tick and the 'bullseye' rash from Lyme Net: http://www.lymenet.org/pictures.shtml More on Lyme from the ATC website:http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hike/plan/health.html#8

Tin can stove as referred to as an Alcohol stove

Trail Angel Someone who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.

Trail Candy term for good looking man or woman

Trailhead Where the trail leaves a road crossing or parking lot.

Trail Magic Unexpected, but welcome, help or food.

Trail Name A nickname adopted by or given to a hiker.

Trail Runners Light weight sneaker style hiking shoes.

Treadway The trail beneath a hiker's boots, constructed for that purpose.

Treeline The point of elevation on a mountain above whice the climate will no longer support tree growth.

Shenandoha National Park About 100 miles of the AT runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains this Park in Virginia. >link<

Switchback a method of building a trail that forms a zig-zag of trails up a mountain. The strategy is to prevent erosion and to make the climb easier. Switchbacks are not made to be short cutted although some people do, which damages trail. Switchbacks are often appreciated by hikers.

Thru-hiking is the act of attempting to become a 2,000-Miler in a single, continuous journey.

Ultra light A style of gear or hiking that focuses on using the lightest gear possible.

USFS is the abbreviation for United States Forest Service.

Vitamin I Ibuprofin an over the counter anti-inflammatory drug that many hikers use while backpacking.

Volunteer is a person who works for the ATC, one of the local A.T. clubs, or other organizations without pay, usually a maintainer, but not necessarily so.

Waterbar is a log or rock barrier that diverts water off the Trail to prevent erosion.

The Whites The White Mountains of New Hampshire, http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/whites/at.html

Whiteblazer A term from the Appalachian Trail to describe a person hiking pure (see purist), that is, hiking past every white blaze - which are the standard trail markers on the AT. Also what members of WhiteBlaze.net are called.

Widowmaker Widowmakers are limbs or whole trees themselves that have partially fallen but remain hung up overhead and so pose a danger to a person below.

Wilderness Area An official designation for public lands set aside to be protected from humans.

Work for stay Some hostels, the AMC Huts in the Whites, and a few other places along the AT allow some hikers to work in stead of paying the fee for lodging.

Yellow blazes Term used to denote the yellow center-line that is painted on a highway

Yellow blazer Someone who hitch hikes around sections of trail by following yellow blazes.

Yogi-ing is the good-natured art of "letting" food be offered cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly (If you ask, it's begging!).

YMMV 'Your Mileage May Vary', hiker jargon for 'this worked for me, but your results/opinions might not be the same.'

Yo-yo-ing is the act of completing one A.T. thru-hike, then immediately turning around to begin another in the opposite direction.

Yurt A round semi-permanent structure, tent like in form.

Z Rest A closed cell sleeping pad that folds into a rectangular block, rather than rolling up.

Zero day is a day in which no miles are hiked, usually because the hiker is stopping in a town to resupply and/or rest.

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