It is a long standing tradition for people attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail to adopt a "trail name". Some people allow others to choose a name for them, while some prefer to pick their name themselves (to avoid having a handle like Stumbles or Snot Nose for 5 months). On my previous thru-hike attempt, I was in the latter category, and I was given the trail name "Noel" based on my mother's maiden name. I was happy with that name as it gave me a chance to pay tribute to my mother, and I was proud to be Noel for my brief time on the trail.
I have decided for my upcoming hike to pick my name, as another way of changing my hike from the last attempt. After much deliberation, which included the creation of flow charts, spreadsheets, and an entire Microsoft Access database, I have settled on the name "Tortoise".
There are a few reasons that I have chosen this name. One of the smaller reasons is that tortoises are the single best animal on the planet. This is not my opinion. It is a fact. It has been scientifically proven.
Another smaller reason is that I feel like my hiking style has similarities to the walking style of the tortoise in The Tortoise and the Hare. I'm not a very fast hiker, but I can hike fairly consistently. By virtue of chugging along for hours on end, I can make some pretty good mileage.
However, the main reason I am adopting the name "Tortoise" is to honour my dad. "Tortoise" is one of my dad's nicknames, so I thought I would pick it as a way of paying tribute to him. My dad is the reason I am even attempting to hike the trail. He introduced me to hiking and made it fun for me. He has been my hiking partner for many years, and I couldn't possibly have a better partner.
My dad is one of my best friends, and he is also one of my biggest heroes. My dad has always taught me, by example, how to be a good person. To me, he exemplifies qualities such as honesty, kindness, open-mindedness, and integrity. When I look at the ideal person to try to emulate, I always look at my dad. I wish I could be the kind of person he is.
So in a few days I will begin hiking from Georgia as Tortoise. While I hope I can succeed on the trail, my biggest hope is that I can spend my time on the trail in a way that makes me worthy of my dad's nickname.