Becoming “Free Spirit”


It is time for a long overdue introduction.

Hello! Nice to meet you. I am “Free Spirit.”

This is what I’m known as on the trail, this is what my trail family calls me, this is what my hiking partner named me on day three of hiking, this is what I identify with, this is my name for the next 6 months.


In case you’re not familiar with “trail names,” how it works is when you escape from the real world and create a completely new lifestyle and transform into a whole new person on the trail, you no longer identify with your old self and so your old name becomes irrelevant. Therefore, a fellow hiker is given the honor of giving you a “nickname” which is actually a pretty big deal because this will be how you introduce yourself, how you sign the trail register, and what you are known as for the entire duration of your hike.


You can be given a trail name on the first day, or the third month, or somewhere near the end. There really are no rules, except that you should not give yourself a name, but let others do it for you. And when someone else gives you a trail name, it can be for any number of fun reasons.

Last year, I met a hiker named RockStar. He was dubbed RockStar because when he was relaxing in a naturally hot spring with fellow hikers, a local who often frequented that spring looked around at the fit, young men in the water, and asked, “Hey boys, why don’t you take your shorts off?” Mind you, this local was not a beautiful naked woman, but a nude, elderly, overweight man, and therefore, this request was not received well. The boys mumbled, “No, it’s okay,” or something along those lines, and the man fell silent for a minute or two. Then, again, “So, boys, I have an idea. Why don’t you get those shorts off?” The men insisted, “Nah, we’re going to keep our shorts on.” A few minutes later, again, “Hey, so, why don’t we all take those shorts off?” RockStar, who was not yet known as RockStar, turned around and looked directly at the man, and said, “Sir, let’s get this straight. These shorts right here are not coming off, okay?” And the chubby naked man thought about it for a while, and then said, “Oh! I get it! You must be a rock star! A lot of rock stars come to this area to bathe in the hot springs and don’t want to be recognized. I completely understand,” as if that made any sense at all. Rock stars can be recognized based on the appearance of their genitals? Anyway, all of the hikers in the hot water called their friend RockStar ever since then.

You can be given a trail name for various other reasons, such as based on where you’re from (“Philly”), how you look (“Smiley” or “Mad Dog” or “Dirty Kid”), how you walk (“Roadblocker” or “Tailgater”), how you dress (“Fancy Pants”), what you do (“Munchies” or “The Giver”), and the list goes on and on. These are all actual people I’ve met hiking the PCT, and yes, they are known by their nickname for the duration of the time they’re hiking, and often, even afterwards.

When I hiked for a month last year, I was known as Mermaid (I had purple scaly leggings on when I began my hike). I planned to continue as Mermaid this year, but was soon renamed Free Spirit (I began my hike with a shirt my mom gave me with the words “Free Spirit” on it). I also wore a flower headband that was supposed to be a hat band but didn’t stay on my hat for very long, and I brought along my free-spirited personality. Everyone instantly said that “Free Spirit” fit me really well and that I should go by it, and it actually was pretty difficult to mentally shift gears and decide to go by a different name. I felt like I was going through an identity crisis! Haha. But after enough people called me “Free Spirit,” I realized that I liked it, I identified with it more, it did fit me pretty well, and so I let go of “Mermaid” and became “Free Spirit.”

Now that I’m no longer Mermaid, my pack’s name doesn’t really make sense… Last year, my pack was Ursula, this year I call him Leviathan on good days (he is monstrous) and Leech on bad days (he does feel like a parasite latched on to me after 10 hours of hiking). But now that I have a new pack to replace my old one with, I guess a new name is warranted, possibly one that goes along with “Free Spirit.”

This may seem silly to you, but this is what trail life does to you. Don’t ask me what I named my feet! 😉


About elinatravels

I’m Elina Oliferovskiy, a Russian-born 27-year-old restless soul who’s never really found a place to dig her roots in deep ever since I moved to the United States in 1998. I move every year or two, backpack for months at a time, and occasionally live and travel in a motorhome--and I (usually) love every minute of my (somewhat) nomadic lifestyle. Feel free to follow along on my journey by reading my blog!
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9 Responses to Becoming “Free Spirit”

  1. Always love hearing about trail names and there origins! Thanks for sharing and have fun out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fancypants says:

    Such a coincidence! I’ve been following your blog this year as I live vicariously through the Class of 2016 after finishing my thru last year.

    Yet I had no idea that we’d actually met last year until you mentioned my trail name — I remember you as Mermaid! Awesome to “see” you again. Congrats on getting back out there! I’m looking forward to reading about many more adventures you have.

    (Oh, and maybe I’ll run into you. I’ve been out doing trail magic — burgers, eggs, bacon, fruit, sodas, and beer last weekend at mile 403. Planning to hit Sonora Pass or so a little later this year!)

    — Fancypants


    • elinatravels says:

      Hi Fancy Pants!
      I’ve mentioned you more than once in person as well…. someone had pants similar to yours and I mentioned that a hiker with unzippable vents in his pants was given the trail name Fancy Pants, and another girl with fun leggings was toying around with the idea of going as Fancy Pants and I mentioned that there was one last year. So–you are not forgotten here on the PCT! 🙂
      Also, just so you know, you basically are the one who gave me the trail name Mermaid. Someone asked me what my name was and I said I didn’t have a trail name yet…they then asked me what I’d like as a trail name. I said I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure how it worked yet, but I looked down at myself and saw my scaly leggings, and said, “Something like ‘Mermaid’ would be cool, maybe?” I immediately had a bunch of naysayers tell me that I can’t give myself my own trail name, and that ended there. So when I saw you at the post office, and you asked me my trail name, I repeated this story to you. You said you think I should still go by ‘Mermaid,’ and I said, “Well, I’m told how trail names work is that someone else has to call me the name before I can accept it…” And you said that you’re another hiker and you’ve now dubbed me “Mermaid.” Apparently, either some other hikers overheard this conversation or they were your friends and you mentioned my new name to them or something, but next time Rally saw me, she said, “Oh, hi! Mermaid, right?” right in front of the group of naysayers. I looked at them with a smirk on my face, and they said, “Guess you’re going to get to keep the name….” Haha! So it all started with you, really. 🙂 And it was so much fun being Mermaid! But Free Spirit is great too.
      I’d love to run into your again while you’re trail angeling! I’m at the Sauffley’s now and plan to rest here a day or two…or maybe three…(achilles is acting up again), but hopefully, I’ll see you up ahead somewhere! Burgers sound awesome, and did you read my last post titled after bacon?! Maybe that’s why you mentioned it… But I’d probably end up writing a blog post about you if you make me some bacon! 🙂


  3. Bill "The Teutonic Knight" Jennings says:

    Concrete walls are not hiker registers. You had an opportunity at Warner Springs Community resource center and blew it, as well as no identifying name for the Southern Terminus Register except poor discarded “Mermaid” and a quote from W. B. Yeats. But, glad you’re out there.


    • elinatravels says:

      “Mermaid” was what I started off with, as it was my trail name from the month I hiked the year before. I didn’t yet know who I was going to be on trail or my style of leaving my name in a register. I also must have either signed the one at Warner Springs or not have noticed it. I would never have ignored a trail register on purpose.


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