The Von Trapp Family on the Appalachian Trail

In the winter, before we left for our thru-hike, we gave ourselves trail names. This is not a conventional practice. A lot of hikers acquire trail names on the trail. They are given to them by fellow hikers.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

We were leery of strangers naming us. We wanted to name ourselves, pre-trail, based on how we wanted to be known, how we perceive ourselves. And we certainly didn't want to be named based on an infamous trail incident (a common practice).

The kids especially had fun choosing their names.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

The trail names Otter, Tenacious Bling, and Padawan were such good choices to represent their individual personalities, interests, and thru-hike perspectives.

I chose the name FIMBY for the very pragmatic reason that should a fellow thru-hiker ever want to find me in the future, googling FIMBY is the best way to do that. And maybe hiking the trail would be a whole lot of fun in my back yard. (The answer to that is yes, and no.)

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

I hadn't even considered that we'd be christened with a family trail name. Which would pretty much render my pragmatic FIMBY null and void since on the trail I became known as "the Von Trapp mom" for the simple reason that we were the Von Trapp family.

By our best recollection it was The Mailman and his crew of female family companions who named us that way back in North Carolina. (By the way, if you read that Trail Journals entry I linked to you might be interested to know that Red Hawk and Bloodroot started the same day as us, met the kids that first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter in Georgia and remained good friends throughout the entire hike, summiting one day after us. They acquired their trail names the old fashioned way, on the trail.)

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

The origin of us becoming The Von Trapp family is not completely clear, but somewhere along the way the name stuck.

Why the Von Trapp family?

We have asked ourselves this question often. We don't know the lyrics to Edelweiss and Padawan is the only one of our children who even remembers watching The Sound of Music.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

As far as we can tell we picked up this name because Tenacious Bling liked to sing in the early days of our hike, mostly songs from Disney's blockbuster movie Frozen.

And we also dressed similarly back in Georgia and North Carolina - black Sole Runner boots, wool socks, and dark shorts - which may have inexplicably brought to mind Austrian children in lederhosen.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

The rest is a mystery to us. We are not a musical family singing our way to freedom through the Alps, nor do we reside in Stowe, Vermont.

Once we realized the name was permanent however, we did attempt to teach the kids Do-Re-Mi. Due to laziness on our part and a musically challenged child (I know, I know, all the more reason to persevere), we gave up that endeavor opting instead for our usual alternative-progressive-pop-rock music mix broadcast through our bluetooth speaker.

An aside: Yes, we were those thru-hikers who played music, and later audiobooks, out loud on the trail. With our music and audiobooks, specifically books in the Ender's Game series, we attracted groupies, other bored-out-of-their-brains thru-hikers desperate for a diversion from rocks, trees, roots, and mud.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

Toesalad became a Pied Piper of sorts, leading the children of the AT astray from a pure wilderness experience (which it isn't to begin with so I say this tongue-in-cheek of course). Seriously though, audiobooks saved the day, saved many, many days on our hike and we did try to be sensitive to others by turning it off as soon as we saw day hikers or weekenders approaching.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

Though unclear about its origins, we appreciate our family trail name because it was given by the trail community and is now a part of Appalachian Trail thru-hiker history.

Off trail we are known as the Tougas family but our trail community knew us as the Von Trapp family. In fact, we had a few funny incidents with thru-hikers talking about the "Von Trapps" to people off-trail who only know us as the "Tougas family", not realizing they were talking about the same people.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

The Von Trapps was our cover name while accomplishing amazing feats of physical and mental endurance. It was the name that took our family across a threshold of immense personal and familial growth, an experience in which we all became Jedi Knights, not just Padawan Céline. It was a code name bestowed by a community of people who like to tell legendary tales.

Von Trapp Family 2014 Appalachian Trail

The Von Trapp family - our superhero identity.

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  • Kelly

    Kelly on Oct. 28, 2014, 1:19 p.m.

    What an incredible adventure and experience. I love and appreciate your naming of the gifts and challenges. It would be hard to imagine that type of experience without many a challenge. This post's story though, clearly a gift. 


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