I’m on a bus!!
Not quite like "I’m on a boat"
For those of you that don’t get the reference google it (It's a song by Lonely Island)
A bus to Gainesville, the closest I could get to the trail by bus but still 38 miles to go. As I got on the bus though I spied a girl carrying an AT booklet and a sleeping mat so once we both disembarked at Gainesville I enquired how she was going to get onto the trail. She had a shuttle booked that was going to take her to Dahlonega and I managed to catch a ride with her.
Only 15 miles to go…
Unfortunately the hostel (they do exist!!!) she was staying at was booked out so I ended up staying at another cheap motel as it was getting late. There was a Wallmart closeby so I walked there to get my supplies.
Walking seems to be less catered for in the US than driving is. Pavements appear to be an optional extra in rural towns that start and end at fairly random intervals. Shops too if they are not in the town centre are well spread, each with their own carpark and not with guaranteed pedestrian access. My trip to Wallmart was down one road which I crossed twice to try to stay on the pavement or at least on the largest portion of runoff with a quick road sprint to get into the carpark. Wallmart supplied me with all my supplies and I found a roadmap which showed me where the trail was which I guestimated to be around 15 miles so I went into Taco Bell (via the road access) to celebrate.
I took a long time perusing the menu and got a weird smile from the attendant when I told her it was my first time to her enquiry if I wanted to order. I think the smile was linked to the thought “He’s not from around here is he”. That thought made me smile so it was all smiles at Taco Bell.
All packed I went to bed early and woke full of beans (Taco beans) at 5am. Maybe it’s jet lag, or a time zone shift, or the excitement of the trip ahead either way I was out the door by 5.30 am and walking. Maybe it wasn’t the traditional start to the trail as most people get dropped off at Springer Mountain (the official start) and I was planning to join the trail where the road intersected the AT (about 10 miles in) but in my book near enough is good enough and walking down the highway waving at cars as they drove past I felt the freedom of my last big trip (Cycling Solo: Ireland to Istanbul, copies still available see www.hazeledwards.com).
I was in high spirits and that didn’t even stop when I felt a blister forming on my left heel. So if anyone had bets on how long a blister would take it was -5 miles. Yep that’s right, I got one before even getting onto the trail. Luckily I was prepared for this eventuality so I bandaided up and kept going. Walking strongly I made it onto the trail (at Cooper Gap 12.4 miles into the trail) by around 1 and met a couple of guys there that welcomed me to the trail and the concept of ‘trail names’