What’s With The Trail Names?

It started in 2007 when we did our first San Juan Hut-to-Hut on the Telluride to Moab route. We just took shipment of a brand new Ventana “El Conquistador de Montana” (ECdM) fully suspended tandem mountain bike in the fall of 2006 and just in time for our annual tandem rally. When we learned of the San Juan Hut Systems routes to Moab, we knew we were up for it.

We got to Telluride and on the first day out, the last stretch to reach the hut above Last Dollar Pass was a scramble, 300′ up a steep rocky jeep trail.

Jeep Trail to Last Dollar Hut
Jeep Trail to Last Dollar Hut @ 11,000′

Not ridable with a tandem and certainly not with a Bob trailer. So it became a shuttle process getting bike and Bob up there. After getting his bike parked at the hut, Todd came back to help with the process. His help dragging everything up likely saved me at least a half hour of work, and potentially a heart attack given the altitude!

Todd earned his trail name “The Sherpa” right there.

Trail names are a common practice among hikers on long distance trails like the AT and CDT. To some, it reflects a person’s desire to leave “The Real World” behind and fully immerse themselves in the experience at hand. One could debate which life is the real one, the one on the job or the one on the trail. In any case, life on the trail is an entirely different experience than sitting in a windowless office, cubicle, or factory floor. And, it’s an unalloyed life … eat, sleep, ride. You are a different person there, responding to different stimuli, different challenges and different motivations. Having a trail name helps delineate those worlds, those parts of yourself.

Todd has an earned name, traditionally as many travelers do. His is the most meaningful. Todd is one of your best bets, a great partner on getting through a tough adventure.

But Karen and I have taken names on our trips with Todd just for fun. On a tandem, everything is teamwork and Karen and I think lovingly of the bike as part of the team. Ventana calls our bike’s color “Grinch Green”; I guess after the Dr. Suess character and we call the bike “The Grinch” in conversation, so … “Team Grinch”.

My first tandem ever, a fire-engine red Fisher Gemini hasn’t been replaced by the cushy new ride. It’s a rigid frame, enduro style tandem that has seen a lot of mountain biking as far east as New Jersey and as far west as Arizona.

The Fisher Gemini
The Fisher Gemini

It’s not up to the task of ski slopes and rock gardens, but it’s an excellent rough road, rail-trail kind of machine. We decided it was the better choice for the Allegheny Mountains Loop since there’s nothing technical anywhere on the loop, road and trail conditions are within it’s service parameters, and it climbs like a single.

Hmmm … it’s Red.

It’s a Fisher.

“Team RedFish”.

That was easy.

But this “Tee-El-Ar” character? The person who did the Great Divide backwards against better advice? That too is a taken name, rather than given. It’s simply the initials to the phrase “The Long Road” (TLR) representing that person’s view of life, on trail or not, and given some texture to make people wonder where this character hails from. The answer is …  ___________________  (fill in the blank).

Life Behind Bars