From Warning to Crusher


I thoroughly enjoy listening to pod-casts and audio-books to help break up the monotony while hiking ten plus hours a day. I only use one ear-bud so I can remain connected to the environment and other hikers, but primarily, my fear of not hearing rattle snakes prevents me from utilizing both ear-buds. In fact, my fear materialized a few days ago.

While listening to an audio-book, I hiked down into a steep canyon early in the morning. As I quickly approached a switchback I heard a hiss that my subconscious instantly registered as an immediate threat and my subconscious forced my legs into reverse and by the time I saw the rattler I stood five paces further back. Shrouded mostly in the shadows, the snake sat exactly at an end of a switchback. I clicked my trekking poles together to make noise in hopes of scaring it off, but it just stared at me. I then tossed a grapefruit-sized rock down the trail like a bowling ball, but the snake was still content on holding its ground.  

I decided to cut the switchback and carry on with my day.  As I climbed out of the ravine I saw two other hikers starting their descent into the snake inhabited ravine, so I shouted as loud as I could to warn them of the threat.  After this incident the couple, Short Step and Too Close, started calling me Warning.  Customarily, hikers are bestowed with trail names during the initial weeks of a thru-hike.  I started using the name "Warning" but then I ran into Rags.

I started hiking from the Mexican Border with a handful of hikers, and Rags was one of them.  I hiked with him for a few miles on day one, but he came down with a fever and left the trail.  I thought he went home, but to my surprise he stayed the course.  After his recovery he started hiking again and caught up to me in Big Bear Lake, and he started calling me Crusher.

I liked the name for a variety of reasons. Rags said I reminded him of Wesley Crusher from the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show.  Rags didn't know that I was addicted to Star Trek as an elementary school aged kid.  In those days I used to wear husky-sized pants because I watched too much Star Trek and ate too much peanut butter, but that's a whole different story.  It's almost comical how life has changed in the past decade and a half.  The name Crusher spans the spectrum of my personal transformation, yet in the end I'm reminded that I am still the same person I've always been.

During my internship in Costa Rica with EMI, my fellow interns nick named me "The Punisher" because on our weekend adventures I wore a Nike compression shirt that they said made me look like a highly-trained assassin.  When I hiked the Colorado Trail last year I wore my punisher shirt and I also wore the same shirt when I ran the Pikes Peak Ascent.  For the PCT I changed to a long sleeve sun shirt for the desert, but my friends from EMI still ask if I'm "punishing the trail." To a certain degree, Crusher seems like an evolution of The Punisher.

Some hikers call me Crusher yet other hikers call me Warning. I am faced with the dilemma of choosing between the names.