Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's In A Name?

In just a short couple of weeks we will find ourselves on the winding path of the Pacific Crest Trail. We'll be sleeping outside. We'll be eating instant and junk food. We'll be walking 20 miles per day. Along with the changes in how we eat, sleep, and travel, we'll also gain new identities (well, sort of).

Each year as PCT thru-hikers, both rookies and veterans, converge in Southern California for the annual kickoff and start walking North, names like Travis and Maggie become fewer and fewer during introductions. Most hikers will adopt a "trail name" and be known to most under this alias. Traditionally, hikers will receive a trail name from a fellow hiker at some point in time. Usually, a naming will have something to do with what you wear, eat, say, etc... It is exciting to think about what your trail will be and how it will arise, but I have chosen to go a different route and use a trail name in honor of a dear, dear friend whom passed away one month ago today.

While I was in graduate school in the North Carolina mountains I had the fortune to move into a house down the road from the Normans, Mr. Harold and Ms. Libby. I would walk and/or drive past their home several times a day. Each time I passed one or both of them would be sitting on the front porch, drinking coffee, and vigorously waving hello. Eventually, I stopped to introduce myself and from that day forward I had two lifelong friends, or as I called them, "My Southern Parents". During my two years in graduate school I spent countless hours sitting on that porch with Mr. Harold and Ms. Libby, drinking coffee, talking about the weather, counting airplanes overhead, and waving at every car that passed by their house. It didn't take long until we were family. 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love the South. I love the food, the people, the weather, the beaches, the forests........ but I was born in Pennsylvania and Mr. Harold thoroughly enjoyed pointing that out. Every time a visitor stopped by the house, he would introduce me as Travis, his "Yankee Son". This went on for two years, each and every introduction (and there were many). When I got word last month that Mr. Harold has passed, it came as a surprise. When we last spoke there was no mention of illness and I had assumed we'd surely see and/or talk to each other again. I never had the chance to tell Mr. Harold of our plan to hike the PCT - something he would have thought was so very amazing. So, I've decided to dedicate my walk to Mr. Harold (and Ms. Libby) and honor them by using the trail name, "Yankee Son".  And while I won't be able to show Mr. Harold pictures from the trail, I know he'll be with me as I walk.

Mr. Harold with his buddies on Round Top. Sylva, NC


  1. Nice, Trav. I think it's the perfect name and dedication!

  2. Wow Travis--what an awesome idea. As you said, I am sure Harold will be with you every step of the way and you can still share this all with Ms Libby. A great dedication and "trail name".


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