As much as I love the community of the Appalachian Trail, there are still a lot of people out there on it who are eager to judge the hikes of other hikers. (Myself included, she admits sheepishly). Your gear is too heavy. You’re not hiking fast enough. Slack-packing is a sin.
Trail names are another place where there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way.”
I did it the wrong way,
I chose my own trail name.
This is one of those f*cks I choose not to give.
I chose the name Ruby Throat, shortened to Roo, because the hummingbird is one of my totem animals. Small but mighty.
Now, I’m not a feather-waving shaman or anything like that. I’ve just always had an affinity for animals and if an animal keeps showing up in my life in various ways or if I feel a particularly strong reaction to a certain animal (wonder, awe, curiosity, beguilement, even phobic fear), then I investigate.
Strong reactions tell me there’s something to learn there. Or there’s something of that animal’s spirit and energy I need to embody.
So, small-but-mighty hummingbird has gifted me with a lifetime of enthrallment. I think of her as one of “my” totem animals, offering a life time of inspiration and lessons.
But she's also a perfect trail totem
Because that small but mighty energy comes in handy on every single mile of the trail.
Not to mention the energy of “accomplishing that which seems impossible,”* because the hummingbird migrates the length of the AT every year. Twice.
And the hummingbird teaches us how to hike our own hike by teaching us “how to find the miracle of joyful living from our own life circumstances.”*
Finally, hummingbirds are fiercely independent, a particularly powerful symbol for us solo hikers.
So, yeah…Ruby Throat, better known as Roo, proudly doesn’t give a f*ck about what other hikers think about choosing her own trail name.
Better that than being called Ass Hiker.
*From Ted Andrews' book, Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small