The Appalachian Trail is well marked and most hikers navigate the journey without the need of a compass or extensive maps. However, the process of following the marks and signs of the trail has developed its own set of trail jargon.
Blazes: The 2 by 6 inch paint swatches on trees, rocks, fence posts, bridges, and lamp posts that mark the trail. White blazes mark the official Appalachian Trail.
Purist: a Thru-hiker that is committed to passing every official white blaze on the A.T.
Blue-blazer: Blue blazes mark routes to shelters, to other features off the main trail and to short cuts avoiding certain parts of the A.T. A Blue-blazer is one who takes advantage of these routes and is not committed to passing every white blaze (The purist will retrace the blue blaze taken to a shelter in order to begin the hike where he/she left the trail).
Yellow-blazer: someone who hitchhikes around trail sections – named for the highway yellow center line (usually frowned upon by purists).
Red-blazing: hiking after a nasty, bloody tumble.
A common trail phrase that is an important one for me to remember is “Hike Your Own Hike.” Regardless of the approach to the hike, the goal should be to accomplish your goal with integrity and fulfillment. Why be critical of yellow-blazers if that is the way they have decided to enjoy the A.T.? This is not a game or a competition for me – I just need to try to be true to my calling and my agenda and my goals for the journey.