Last week I spent six days on the AT between the Mt. Rogers visitor's center and the Brushy Mountain Outpost just outside of Bland. The hike was a chance to test out my gear in some colder weather and see how my body held up under consecutive 10+ mile days.
The first night was a Friday, and I didn't depart from the Visitor Center until after 3pm. The weather was dark and dreary, the kind of overcast that makes early afternoon feel like dusk, so I hurried along a windswept ridge even though I knew I had plenty of time to get to the shelter before night fell. I enjoyed the walk. The trees were still bare, allowing glimpses of the farmland in the valley below. A distant gap in the clouds allowed some sunshine to filter through, so beyond the foreground of empty dark woods, the emerald fields and blue-gray ridges were lit up like stained glass.
I fretted a little about the possibility of camping alone, but when I arrived at the shelter, two hikers were already seated around a crackling fire. They introduced themselves as Duct Tape and Sleepin Bear, a section hiker and thru-hiker respectively, and they asked if I had a trail name.
"Possibly," I replied, thinking back to 2016 when I was given the moniker "Little Bear" due to my stoveless diet of nuts and berries. I hadn't loved the name, and I was holding out to receive a better one on trail this year.
"Possibly?" Duct Tape said. "That's a good trail name." Sleepin Bear nodded in agreement.
I grinned and explained myself. I possibly had a trail name, but I wasn't sure.
Later in the conversation, when we were talking about our jobs, I was asked if I planned to move overseas again after my thru-hike.
"Possibly," I answered without realizing it. "but I'm not sure."
"I really think you should be Possibly," said Duct Tape.
I was starting to like the idea, especially that the word contained my real name within it, at least if you don't count the small spelling difference.
"Maybe," I answered.
"Maybe? I think you mean Possibly."
I laughed. "Possibly."
I continued to warm up to my new name. It was fitting, really. Since my freshman year of college, my closest friends have often teased me about my indecisiveness. It's not that I lack commitment, but rather it's because I value commitment that I always want to thoroughly analyze every option before making a decision, so that I can feel confident in my ability to follow through. And during this analysis period, I answer nearly every question with "well, possibly."
Once I decide, you can count on me. But until then, I guess and I second guess, I wonder and waver and waffle, and I study (and stress over) every possibility.
I spent a chilly night in the shelter with Duct Tape and Sleepin Bear, wearing every piece of my clothing as well as the trash bag I had used as a pack liner. The temperature only flirted with freezing, and I could not stay warm. I began to rethink my (supposedly) 30° sleeping bag.
The following morning, my food bag was covered in frost. I made oatmeal for breakfast and waited for the sun to creep above the ridge. When Duct Tape asked me if I would be stopping at the Settler's Museum and Lindamood School, I grinned. "Possibly."
When I skimmed the shelter logbook before departing, I saw that he had written a short entry and signed it Duct Tape, Sleepin Bear, and Possibly.
That seemed to make it official. I set off in good spirits. I was about 40 miles into my thru-hike, and now I had a trail name.