Here’s a list of some common terminology used on the Appalachian Trail.
Bear Pole – A pole that has hooks at the top where hikers place their food bags to protect it from critter invasions at night.
Bounce Box – A box that a hiker sends to himself or herself that usually contains practical items (e.g., nail clippers, band-aids, medicine, etc) that a hiker doesn’t want to carry in his or her pack. A hiker can reseal the box and “bounce” it to the next post office along the trail.
Blue Blaze – A 2×6 inch blue rectangle that is painted on trees to guide hikers to shelters or other side trails along the AT.
Bog Boards – A series of wooden boards laid over the trail where deep water or mud has accumulated or where vegetation is fragile.
Cairn (rhythms with “air”)– A stack of rocks to help hikers find their way. At times, they signal a turn in the trail. Resist the urge to push over cairns.
Cathole – A hole dug at least 6 inches deep for the deposit of human excrement.
Duff – The rich decaying layer of soil that includes dead plants and other organic matter. It helps in the decomposition of human waste.
Double Blaze – Two white blazes vertically aligned on a tree. They signal a turn in the trail.
Gaiters – Protective clothing that covers the lower leg and ankle. It can be helpful in keeping water, rocks, and other debris from getting into your boots. Gaiters can be high (covering legs and ankle) or low (covering just ankles).
Flip Flop – To hike from one terminus to the halfway point of the AT, then drive to the other terminus and hike back to the halfway point. For instance, a hiker does a flip flop if he/she hikes from Springer Mountain to Harpers Ferry then from Mt. Katahdin to Harpers Ferry.
GORP – Trail mix; Stands for “good old raisins and peanuts” or “granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts”
Half Gallon Challenge – Hikers celebrate getting to the halfway point by trying to eat a half gallon of ice cream at the Pine Grove Furnace store in Pennsylvania.
Hostel – A place that is nominally priced ($15-25) where hikers can stay overnight and/or resupply.
Huts – (aka shelters and lean-tos) Huts are the same as shelters or lean-tos – it’s a three-walled wooden structure every 8 to 20 miles along the AT. Huts are located down blue-blazed trails. However, in the White Mountains, huts are expensive ($80-100) resorts for tourists. Lucky hikers can work for food and shelter at some of these huts.
Lean-tos – (see huts or shelters)
Maildrops – Care packages and/or hiker supplies that are mailed to post offices or hostels for a hiker to pickup.
Nero – A near zero or low mileage day of hiking
Northbound (NoBo) – Hiking from Georgia to Maine
Ridgerunner – A person who hikes parts of the Appalachian Trail and informs visitors of impending weather, trail conditions, and other helpful information.
Privy – Outhouse; A designated area, usually near a shelter, for elimination of human waste. It’s either covered, partially covered, or exposed. Click <HERE> to read more about privies.
Section Hike – Hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail rather than the entire trail in a year
Shelters – A three-walled wooden structure every 8 to 20 miles along the AT. Shelters are located down blue blazed trails. Click <HERE> to read more about shelters.
Stile – Wooden stairs that lead up and over a fence or barbed wire. Stiles are usually encountered when hiking through farmlands.
Thru-Hike – Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail within a year
Slack pack – To hike without a backpack or with a light day pack
Scat – Animal excrement
Southbound (SoBo) – Hiking from Maine to Georgia
Topo Map – A topography map which shows all the features of the land.
Trail Angels – People who help hikers with acts of kindness (Trail Magic) such as giving hikers rides to hostels or by leaving foodstuff where hikers can find them. Some trail angels are previous section or thru-hikers.
Trail Magic – An act of kindness for AT hikers usually in the form of free food and/or drink. Trail magic is commonly found near road crossings or shelters.
Trail Name – A name, other than your own, that a hiker takes on during his or her journey. The trail name can be self created or given to the hiker. When someone is given a trail name, there is usually a story behind it.
White Blaze – A 2×6 inch white rectangle that is painted on trees to guide hikers along the Appalachian Trail.
Yo-yo – Completing a thru-hike then turning around and doing it again in the reverse direction
Zero – A day without hiking