Trail Names, Revisited…

In a previous post I described a trail name as an alias taken on by a hiker on the trail. People are more commonly known by these pseudonyms than by their real monikers. In that post, I waxed philosophic about the name “Next Step,” and how it may be a suitable trail name to use on my hike. On our December hike in the Smokys, though, Gavin suggested another trail name that I’ve been considering. It is truly incredible how creative he is, and he has a special mastery of the pun.

We were standing in the shelter packing up after a restful night’s sleep and he said, “Dad, I’ve got a trail name for you: Aftermath. Get it? After. Math.” For the uninformed, I have spent the past 29 years teaching high school and community college mathematics. My first impression was that it was a creative name, but I didn’t give it much thought because I was somewhat vested in “Next Step.” Since then, I’ve had some time to ruminate over the name and it has grown on me somewhat.

When I initially looked up the word online, the first thing I saw for a definition on Google was, “consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.” That didn’t sound too good. Though I had some of “those days,” and a very few students over the years that I didn’t particularly care for, I certainly wouldn’t deem my teaching career as a significant unpleasant event. I also hope that I’m not a consequence or an aftereffect. Those seem to be quite negative terms. Then I looked on down the page for other definitions.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( has “consequence” as the second definition. As Cliff Clavin, of Cheer’s Fame, would say, “It’s a little known fact that…” aftermath dates to the late 1400s and refers to a “second-growth crop.” It seems that in older British English, math refers to mowing a hay crop. Thus, in its originally used form, the word aftermath refers to the second planted crop. Further in the entry, it is stated that this second crop was often used for grazing, or plowed under, presumably to add nutrients to the soil. At least in this sense, aftermath seems to be a helpful thing.

I have to confess that I started writing this post on January 17, and it has been languishing on my hard drive since. I just haven’t been able to come up with a decision or a proper ending. While I truly want to honor Gavin’s creativity, I’m still somewhat selfishly stuck on Next Step. As I wrote in my Trail Names entry, I am partial to that name because of its multifaceted meaning to me and to my hike. I have discussed both names with Gavin, and while he is proud of the trail name he came up with, he understands why I like Next Step. Truth be told, it is still highly likely that I’ll do something dumb on trail and will become known to others as Wrong Way, Breaks the Wind, or something equally as embarrassing, and all the mental effort I’ve spent in this deliberation will be for naught.

At least for the present, I think my decision has been made. I am honored to introduce myself to you by my trail name: Next Step. Now I’ll turn the keyboard over to Gavin to share his thoughts about trail names.

Hi! This is Gavin again, and I’d like to share my thoughts on trail names. I really like the concept of trail names, because they are a way of getting to know someone. I feel like a trail name is more personal when it is given to you based on of your characteristics or actions on the trail. This makes it feel more meaningful to me when other people pick out your name, and that is why I’m going to leave the option of my trail name up to you, my readers, and to those whom I’ll meet along the trail. Whether or not I regret this decision remains to be seen. Do any of you have any suggestions? If so, post them in the comments below. Hopefully, I will be able to respond to all of your comments before the trip.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the trail name Little Bear, because I’m so bad at throwing bear hangs and so good at climbing trees. If you’re wondering why this is funny see the article about the Pisgah National Forest trip. There, we got attacked by a bear. Well, we didn’t get attacked, but our food got attacked by a bear because he was really good at climbing really small trees. In closing thank you for your time. Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated, and remember to just keep taking the Next Step!

Gavin’s Gear List

Hello and welcome back to our blog. This is Gavin again. Today I’m going to be talking about the gear that I’m going to be taking on our thru-hike. Let’s start with the big three. The big three are my pack, my shelter, and my sleeping system. Let’s start with my backpack. Originally I was going to take a North Face Terra 55L back, but I decided to change to an Osprey Exos 58L pack to save weight and because it could carry a little bit more. This new pack is about a pound-and-a-half lighter than the older one, and it fits me more comfortably.

Next we shall talk about my shelter. I’m currently camping in an REI Quarter Dome one-person tent that weighs about 2.75 pounds. It is a very comfortable tent, and I fit in it very well. My pack goes on the outside under the rain fly so that it doesn’t take up so much room in my tent. I really like this shelter because it’s so small and so light. I have noticed that the lighter a tent gets the more expensive it is. REI equipment is generally lightweight, quality gear at a reasonable price.

The sleeping bag that I am taking is the REI Lumen 25 degree bag which weighs about 2.38 lbs. I am also taking a Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme sleeping bag liner which weighs about 14 oz. This bag liner will increase the comfort rating of my sleep system by about 15 or 20 degrees. It is also way easier to wash the liner than the whole sleeping bag. I will be bringing a lightweight Trekology inflatable pillow and a Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm sleeping pad so that I will sleep warmer and more comfortably. Together the big three: pack, shelter, and sleep system, weigh about 9.91 pounds.

I’m also going to need to take something to cook with, which includes my stove and fuel, pots, a spork, and water storage and filtration. My stove and pots are the Soto Amicus stove and cook set combo which weighs about 7.6 oz. My water storage units are 2-1L Gatorade bottles which are lightweight and disposable. We need to filter our water so that we do not get sick from harmful bacteria or parasites. For this, dad and I will share a 4L Platypus gravity filter.

Since it’s inappropriate the hike naked, I also will be taking some clothing. I couldn’t just grab some stuff out of my closet because hiking clothes need to be lightweight, warm, and sweat-wicking. It’s important for the clothes to be non-cotton because cotton absorbs moisture and doesn’t dry quickly. Wet clothing has the potential to give you hypothermia so it is important to wear wicking, quick-drying clothes. When I hike, I will be wearing Smartwool crew socks which are really padded on the inside and wick away moisture. I’ll be wearing REI Sahara Convertible pants with legs that can zip off. I’m going to wear either a Patagonia capilene midweight crew shirt or a sweat wicking tech shirt. I’m also going to take my Buff. When it is cold and rainy, I will be wearing Seirus Extreme gloves with REI Gore-Tex mitten shells. And finally, for camp clothing, I’m taking REI merino wool long johns as well as an extra pair of socks.

There are several other things that I will be bringing with me for camp use and use while hiking. For night hiking and seeing my way around camp, I’ll use my Black Diamond Storm headlamp. I am also taking some trekking poles. These are hiking poles which help you keep your balance and prevent falls. So that I can sit down on logs and rocks without getting wet, I will be taking a Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat which is basically a lightweight, folding foam pad. In addition to this, I’m taking a Classic Swiss Army knife, trowel and toilet paper, a bandana, and playing cards.

We really hope that we won’t have any injuries on the trail, but it’s best to be prepared. Because of this, I’m going to take a first aid kit, which includes simple items such as band-aids, antibiotic ointment, meds, nail clippers, duct tape, and ibuprofen. We will often be close to the roads and towns, so if there are any big injuries, we can get medical attention fairly easily.

That pretty much wraps it up for my gear list. There will probably be a few other small items that I have forgotten to mention, but I have described the most important items that I will be taking. Thank you for reading and be sure to watch the video attached. You can subscribe to receive email updates when we post. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel as well. May all your trails be happy, and just remember to keep taking the Next Step.