Despite years of planning and months of training, my first day on the trail was a shit show!
I got lost – even though I had two physical maps and GPS.
I got a blister – a whopper of one right on my left heel. Yes, yes, yes, my boots are well-worn, well-traveled and have never from the day I bought them two years ago, caused a blister!
But the SWCP is unlike any trail I’ve ever been on.
It’s a staggering 630 mile-long national treasure that hugs England’s southwest coast. The scenery is unmatched, and the area – like its people – are steeped in rich and colorful history and heritage.
And this path – is a freakin beast! The elevation climbs and falls so dramatically that if you were to complete it – it would be like summiting Mt Everest FOUR TIMES!
Day one: I did 12.5miles, walked 33,703 steps over 6:45hrs AND gained 2715 feet in elevation…..and day one is called, “an easy day.”
Hey, I signed up for this! What I didn’t sign up for – but what I had hoped for – was an adventure.
Bagged it on day one.
Leaving Westward Ho! (England’s only town to include an exclamation mark in its name), I walked along its famed seafront and colorful beach huts.
The path went up and down on the cliff side and the path’s famed “acorn markers” guided me in and out of a dense forest. I got all turned around and ended up on a beach. Luckily a stranger pointed out my errors and set me back on the right course.
Heading up on the stairs (yes, stairs – the trail is full of ‘em) I paused at the top of a fiercely high cliff to catch my breath and to take in the spectacular scenery.
I stopped to have lunch on a bench overlooking the water in the hamlet of Buck’s Mills. I could only finish half of my sandwich so I went searching for a garbage can. Voilà there was a can that was being washed out by a local.
I asked him if it was ok if I tossed my trash in his garbage can.
“It’s not dog poo, is it?”
“No, it’s half of a bacon sandwich wrapped in foil.”
“I’ve had it with all these London gits bringing their beasts down here and leaving their poo bags all over the place. One arse had the nerve to fling it on a tree limb…. He said it was his protest because there aren’t enough poo recepticals along the Path…. It’s a bloody path, there’s no secret poo collector who comes out at night and picks up their shit.”
Ahhhh- I get it, and told him, we have the same shit show in the States.
One thing turned into another and my new angry friend started telling me his story.
He’s from these parts, grew up in a “Noble House,” studied philosophy at Cambridge, joined the Army, and invented a plane for England’s Special Forces. He says the Israelis wanted it too, buttttttttt he ran into “legal” problems with the government. Oh, his 19 year old son is training for the Olympics but “he’s probably ‘buggered it all’” because he fell in love with a girl who left him broken hearted – so now his 19- year old son’s only chance at a “good life” is his “fallback plan” – to get in to Cambridge!
It was hilarious, marvelous, and bizarre all at the same time. I just wanted to toss my sandwich – but my new friend, Jonty, wanted to toss around some more family lore.
He told me how, as a little kid, they used to steal and collect items from the many ships that crashed at night or in storms on the rocky shores. I said, like pirates? and he said yes, finder’s keepers – the local laws favor the residents not the ships.
He also says the locals like to “have fun” with those “London arses” who park wherever they want to, even though numerous signs clearly state -> No Parking!
Jonty says the locals like to give the rude visitors a welcome they won’t forget – they let the air out of the tires, or, if there’s time, hoist the cars up on big bricks and make the visitors pay them off to lower their cars and get the hell out of Dodge, or to be more correct, Buck’s Mill.
I had had enough. I didn’t know if I should laugh, cry, or run like hell!
I told him I had to get going and off I went giggling all the way up hill until, yep, that dreaded feeling – I knew I had a blister. I wasn’t one mile from my destination and there I was with the hiker’s curse.
I wanted adventure.
I wanted stories.
I got that and more on day one.
As for the blister, as I said to Jonty, shit happens. I guess you gotta take all the bluster with the blisters.