AT Southbound (SOBO) Part 1 – Touchdown in the USA

I’m writing this from a little town in New Hampshire, USA after some serious hiking. I’ve stepped off the Appalachian Trail for a day and hitchhiked into town to resupply. That means to pick up some days of food before heading to the wilderness again. I’m also going to get a shower and do my long overdue laundry!

I’ve been so excited to keep a regular blog going but it’s been hard until now. The trail seemed to have other ideas with the hard terrain and weather. There were huge rain storms destroying my phone and no signal for weeks at a time. Also, all reliable home comforts have become a thing of the past! It’s been an overwhelming introduction to what a long wild hike is really like. So I’m going to take you back to the beginning of the adventure and tell you what it’s been like. From my arrival to right now… and then beyond!

The First Steps

I arrived over here into the States smoothly and was lucky enough to have my old school friend Alice Perrett (from Devoran, Cornwall) fly out to join me for the first part of the hike; the 100 mile wilderness.which is known to be a real challenge – especially if you’re going Southbound like me.

But what am I hiking?

The Appalachian Trail runs through 14 States down the East Coast of the USA, and most people attempt it from Georgia in the south To Mt Kathadin in the north. The reason they hike in this direction is because the terrain up here in Maine and New Hampshire is extremely tough on the body and mind, and people prefer to let their bodies get ready over the 1800 mile hike up. Hmm, not me.

Is it hard?

Many Southbounders actually quit the trail after the first 100 miles wilderness. It’s tough, full of privation and can be a real shock to the system. Alice knew this and didn’t want me to face that alone. So, like the special friend she is, she came to join me.

Gail posing in front of a green door at Bath train station with shiny clean clothes and gear
At Bath train station with my shiny clean clothes and gear! Ready to go catch my flight.

Travelling to Millinocket

Alice and I on the coach to Monson in Maine

We took the day train to London, made our way to Heathrow and arrived into Boston extremely excitedly. It was then a few strategic hops from coach to coach to get us up into rural Maine. We sat next to passengers who were fascinated with our accents and our reasons for coming so far.

On one coach way out in the woods, the grumpy driver heard me talking. His face split into a huge beaming smile. ‘Cornwall!!!!’ He drawled in his Maine accent. ‘Poldark!! Ma’am can I ask you, is it really as beautiful as that show? I watch it all the time here with my wife and we think it’s the most beautiful place. Tell me all about it!’ Proof, not that we needed it, that the magic of our County spreads like sunshine across the world.

Once settled in to the tiny town of Millinocket from where we would enter the 100 mile Wilderness , we packed and repacked all of our food about 10 times before realising we’d bought way too much and it was all too heavy. Irritated and exhausted, we hastily gave some away to other hungry hikers who had just come out of the forest and then we tried to sleep. I already had 40 mosquito bites, had worn a headnet just to walk around town to keep the black flies from biting my face and I was suffering from some nasty jet lag. What on earth was it going to be like stepping in to thousands of miles of wild forest? I only had about 8 hours of sleep until I found out.

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