I imagine most people following along are friends, but I’ve been slowly marketing this blog out to others in the hiking community as we get closer to a start date – and I imagine most of them are wondering who “HelloNeiman” is and what the heck it means. Although I have already shared a lot about who I am as a person throughout this blog, that phrase has to confuse many of you … is that a real name? A trail name? An arbitrary phrase that nobody really understands? Well, maybe all three…
For some background, HelloNeiman has been my online monicker since the mid-2000s. It started out as an inside joke among friends that I knew everyone in Minneapolis … which then became a good excuse to host an annual social event for young professionals out on the town. I loved hosting parties, so back in our twenties we would rent out a bar, invite everyone we knew, and give them “hello my name is” stickers with Neiman written on it. The joke was that since everyone knew me, all you’d hear is people saying “Hello Neiman” at the bar anyways. The parties were a success, the joke evolved to be an exclamation of excitement, and the name stuck. I started using it as the title for my online blog (see Archives), and when relaunching this site decided to keep it – even if the name does not have any roots in the thru-hiking community.
BUT. Nicknames, or “trail names”, are big on the Appalachian Trail. Everyone goes by a trail name, which is used to help remember people and represent them in this life changing experience. For example, AWOL took his trail name as a representation that he quit his job and escaped to a hike, but Grandma Gatewood because that’s just what she was known as. Some people like to create their own name in advance (for example, to match the title of their online journals), others like to let the trail decide it for them … often letting a funny experience or unique situation define it. Some hikers in the community think it taboo to name yourself before the hike, but to each their own.
For me, I am torn. HelloNeiman has always been my nickname and one I’d like to use for this blog on the trail … but it does not represent the trail at all. And may even confuse people to the point of making it harder to recognize/remember me. After thinking about it, a name that would suit me on the trail much better is Orange Blaze. Most of my gear is orange, it’s my favorite color, and if I can buy a product in that hue, you better believe I do. Therefore, the name fits perfectly – when you follow the Appalachian Trail you follow a white blaze, but when you follow me (by foot or by blog), you follow an orange one.
So, for now, the blog remains HelloNeiman.com. And the trail name feels right as Orange Blaze. But who knows, maybe something fun will happen on Day 1 and throw it all out the window. And isn’t that what this is about anyways, a planned journey with unplanned adventures? I think so! So, say it with me now … Hello Neiman!