As I was buying a copy of the Mountain Echo on Tuesday, August 2, a young man with a back pack walked by.
“Are you hiking the PCT?” I asked.
“Yes I am.” he replied.
“Do you need a ride to the trail head?”
“Not right now,” he said, “I have to go to the Post Office to pick up a package.”
So I took him over to the Post Office. He is from France. His trail name is Fuck-It.
Trail names are one of the fascinating aspects of PCT culture. My mind has become a maze of trail names. I can no longer keep them all straight.
When we come into this world, our parents give us a name. While our minds are just beginning to bud with the learning of words and rudiments of vocabulary, we are taught that we have a name and that is who we are.
Most men, even if they pick up a few nicknames, stick with the name their parents have given them at birth. Our last name identifies our family heritage and our first and middle name tell us something about what thoughts our parents had at the time we were born. It’s the name that the hospital puts on our birth certificate. Therefore, it is our legal name – the name by which the state defines us. In order to change our legal name, we have to go through a legal process in the courts.
Many women of course, assume their husbands last name. That too is a legal procedure.
When people leave the world of everyday life to travel through the wilderness for months on the PCT , they have a unique opportunity to choose their own name. If they are traveling as a family, they can rename their family.
It is an interesting opportunity to rename oneself. One may be revealing oneself, if effect saying this is who or what I am. Or one may be re-inventing oneself, saying this is who I want to be.
Perhaps one is identifying with a fictional or fantasy character. Some hikers allow others to name them. Some just choose an early experience on the trail. In any case, one is creating a new identity for the duration of one’s journey on the trail.
A lot of trail names are very obvious. Brit Family Robinson is a British Family on an adventure. Six Tacos once ate six Tacos. Walking Home lives in Washington State so he is walking home. Troubador carries a guitar. Cracker’s last name is Graham, so since he was a child his nick name has been Graham Cracker. Jet Pack carries a silver pack. New York is from New York… and so on.
Even though I’m not hiking the trail, I have now chosen a name for PCT hikers to identify me by: Pit River, because I live in the Pit River Basin and write the Pit River Country blog. My wife told me her PCT name is Glow Worm.
A lot of the names of PCT hikers are somewhat enigmatic, like Animal Style, Boom, Gummy Bear, Hydro, etc. Yet they suggest something about the person. Each name has a story.
I don’t know why the young man from France named himself Fuck-It. I only know that every time he says the name he smiles a shy, mischievous, enchanting smile.
An hour or so after I left him at the post office, I got a call from Burney Lodging telling me a hiker needed a ride.
“Is he French?” I asked.
The person on the phone called across the room, “Are you French?”
“Yes he is French.”
So I picked up Fuck-It at the motel. When I got there he very happily took the lid off of the box he had gotten at the Post Office revealing a beautiful brand new pair of hiking shoes!
On the way to the trail, he told me that he is studying computer science in college in France. He hopes to become a web designer or programmer but he doesn’t want to work in an office. He hopes to be able to work from home or work while he travels. Just have a nice little computer and support himself while he explores the world.
Fuck-It is a free spirit who wants to experience life to its fullest.