On Friday, 1 July 2016, I took my last step on the Appalachian Trail. This was obviously a tough decision, but best for my health.
I crossed the Hudson River on Tuesday, June 28th. I walked another, fairly easy, 45 miles the remainder of the week, and reached Connecticut Friday morning. My son picked me up, and took me home for a planned rest and family visit for the 4th of July weekend.
What I kept to myself, was that I’ve had a brace on my left knee for the past 8 weeks, the same knee that forced me to leave the trail in 2014. My knee held up fine until last week, but I started to get a pain as I walked through the tough, rocky sections… I was in camp on Wednesday, and a gentleman my age was limping around after his day’s hike. I had this sudden thought, that he looks just like I feel!
So, I had 2 days of easy hiking to evaluate where I’ve been, and try to be realistic about my goals. I hiked 9 weeks this year, and 532 miles. Both accomplishments I am proud of, yet I was hiking much slower than my pace 2 years ago. My health was catching up with me… This year, I finished the AT in Virginia, and the states of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and reached New England by setting foot into Connecticut. In total, I walked over 1455 miles of the AT.
With this in mind, and hours of beautiful weather and forest to contemplate my plan, I reluctantly decided that choosing my time and place to leave was a better alternative than to continue a few more days or weeks, with a similar, but worse outcome of damage to my knee. The trail will be there, if the calling ever comes again.
It has taken me a week of reflection to finally sit down and write this note to family and friends. Your support has been wonderful, and a major reason I persevered. Though I did not reach my goal, I learned a lot about myself along the way. I did things that even in my 20’s, I’d be proud to accomplish. I climbed hills and rocks when I was physically and mentally exhausted, and smiled at the top! I saw 5 rattlesnakes and 4 bears in the wild. I proved that I could and did survive for weeks in the woods, and love it…
Thanks to you all!
Alan aka Curious George