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Crossing Over April 16, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Alabama, Georgia.
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(Note: I’m VERY behind on my blog postings, today has been my first time with internet access since I got into Alabama, so I’ll be working on catching up for the next day or so.)

Just before the Georgia/Alabama border is a tiny little town called Esom Hill. Though the town is small, it carries a big reputation… I’d been warned to be very, very careful if I got anywhere near the place. I was hot and exhausted and almost out of water when I saw a sign for a grocery store – food, drinks, and happy meal! – just a few hundred yards off the trail. Relieved, I turned down the road to refill my water and buy some beef jerky.

The entire town’s dog population crowded around to greet me. It was not a friendly greeting however. They barked and snarled, following me as I wearily stumbled down the short road. At the end of the road was a tiny empty post office, small empty fire station, and a building with a sign that said “Esom Hill Trading Post.” Ah, the grocery store! I went to the front of the Trading Post to find it was boarded up, and guarded by a rusty, dented suit of armor, wrapped in chains and padlocked in place. My heart sank. Was the grocery store sign a hoax, and this Esom Hill place was deserted?
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But then I noticed cars parked around the corner. There was a store that said “Lucky 777 Grocery” or something similar. So I pulled my baggage to the door and opened it to find… a VERY crowded casino. The gamblers inside didn’t appreciate the sunlight streaming in through the open door, so I quickly asked the first person where the grocery store was. She pointed down the street and I was on my way.

Sure enough, there was a small grocery store down the street and around the corner. It was the size of a small gas station convenience store, and in fact there was even a gas pump in front – disconnected and knocked over, however. But they had water and beef jerky, everything I needed. A lady named Susie was working there, she was very friendly to me. I talked with her a while about my adventure, and she told me to keep her posted on my progress.

As I was leaving Esom Hill, I stopped for some pictures of the cool Trading Post and suit of armor.
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While I was snapping these pictures, a work truck pulled up and the driver rolled down his window.

“You commin’ through this town?” the driver asked with a heavy southern accent. I explained I was walking on the trail and had just stopped at the grocery store. He shook his head in disapproval. “You’d best not be here after dark,” he warned. “Don’t you be in this town after dark. We got some ruffians around here!” I assured him I was on my way out, and I hurried on my way. The dogs escorted me out of town, even more menacing than when I arrived (one even bit my suitcase several times, and when he snapped at my face I gave him a quick dose of pepper spray – many thanks to Steve and Sarah Boshear who gave it to me a year ago).

A few hundred yards down the trail from Esom Hill is the Alabama border. I could feel excitement growing as I got closer and closer. Finally, crossing my first state border! I stepped onto Alabama soil on April 4th, around 6:30 (which is 5:30 Alabama time).
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The Georgia portion of the trail is called the Silver Comet Trail, but the Alabama side is called the Chief Ladiga trail.
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As I was walking down the Chief Ladiga trail that evening, an attractive girl about my age came onto the trail from between the trees to walk her dogs. Laurie looked me over, with my rolling suitcase and overabundance of baggage weighing me down – I am rather a sight to see. “Where are you headed?” she asked. “Are you in some kind of trouble? Do you need help?” I explained about being on an adventure walking across the country, photographing and writing along the way. We connected instantly – we had the same creative spark and keen sense of adventure. Laurie had also done some photography, and she told me about the tiny robots she builds (see some of her work on facebook and flickr). We walked and talked for a long time, and before we knew it we were far from the “Esom Hill danger zone” (which was why she was concerned to walk with me in the first place) and at her friend Teddy’s place.
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(Laurie and Teddy – unfortunately I didn’t get the best picture with the two of them)

Teddy was fun to hang out with. He had strong opinions about a lot of things – he thought the government was always watching, he hated the internet and wouldn’t use it, and he would protect the people he cared about without question. He talked SO MUCH like Billy Bob Thornton’s character in “Slingblade” it was uncanny.
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Teddy doesn’t really like to be photographed.

I stayed at Teddy’s place for two nights. I walked a long time to make it over the Alabama border on the 4th, and was exhausted the day after. Teddy was cool to hang out with and a lot of his friends stopped by on the 5th, who were all interesting to talk to. On the 6th I was on my way again, very thankful for the comfortable couch and pleasant company I enjoyed my first few days in Alabama.

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