One of the coolest parts of being a thru-hiker is the community along the AT. Since people are encouraged to stay in shelters (3-sided wooden platforms) to reduce the environmental impact of thousands of hikers, you get to socialize each night with incredible people.
I've met an entrepreneur who sold her coffee business and is in transition, military veterans who are excited to explore the east coast, college students taking time off, fathers hiking with their kids, retirees, and more. All of these people have compelling stories and clear reasons for being on the trail; I've loved learning and living with them. We've shared some fun adventures: the picture above is a bunch of us piled into a maintenance van since the shuttle that was supposed to take us to the post office was nowhere in sight and 2 hours late. Still, we were all smiles because we were in a car instead of walking!
Perhaps my favorite part of the trail community is the tradition of taking on a Trail Name. It could be related to what you eat (Honeybuns eats one daily), what you read (Little Tree), what you do off the trail (Freud), or even how you hike (Hobble and Jelly Ankles). Some people name themselves while others are named while on the trail.
My trail name is Mantis--I wear a ton of green and use my hiker poles pretty aggressively. In a way, I named myself, but others have agreed that it fits. A few other names that were thrown out for me were Slim and Boys2men. I'm pretty happy with Mantis as a result :-)
PS- a HUGE thank you to those of you who sent me mail so far! The lady at the post office said she's never had a hiker get so many packages and the people I'm hiking with are definitely jealous. My next mail stop can be addressed to: Devin Underhill, General Delivery, Hot Springs, NC 28743. Try to have it arrive by 3/23 and be sure to include a return address just in case. Letters, postcards, and small packages are definitely appreciated!