About Curious George

Pilot for 40 years; retired! Hobbies are hiking, bicycling, camping, journaling.

End of the line…

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

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Hudson River

Today I climbed (and decended!) Bear Mountain, walked through a trailside zoo, and crossed the Hudson River.

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It rained yesterday, so clothes are wet; same tonight, so staying in a ballfield picnic area, with 10 other hikers.

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Heading to a state park tomorrow, and will reach Connecticut Saturday.

New York!

Thursday marked the beginning of my 7th week of hiking. The weather has been warm! My focus is to stay hydrated, but at this time of the year, some of the water sources start drying up. I’ve had to drink brown water a couple of times; I filter it, so it’s safe, but not too appealing…
On the other hand, at one of the road crossings, I had 2 hot dogs and a Coke from this gentleman:

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Friday afternoon, I crossed into New York! Another milestone on the hike.

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I was expecting the physical part of the hike to ease up, as the hills are not as high,  but no such luck. As our guide book says, “Despite the unimposing profile, rocks and upbrupt ups and downs make this section challenging.”

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Sections like this, sometimes 500 feet high or more, have to be scaled using hands and feet, rock climbing vs hiking. Challenging, especially knowing that there is the climb down on the other side!

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Today was a zero day, clean clothes and a shower. Small things like these, or just a cold soda become a big pleasure! I’m just to the west of Fort Montgomery, NY, and should cross the Hudson River in 2 days.

New Jersey border

Today was perfect hiking weather – overcast and cool. And finally, a day with few rocks on the trail, much appreciated psychologically. Even came out of the woods for a change!

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At noon, I stopped at small cabin that the owner makes available for hikers. He has electricity and well water, both nice features.

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In the afternoon, I saw my first bear in New Jersey, a cub. He took off as soon as he saw me, and I did the same, looking around for mama! Reached the shelter area by 5pm, dinner of potatoes and Spam, yum, and cookies for dessert. Goodnight!

New Jersey

Today was day 2 in New Jersey. I don’t keep close tabs on total milage, but I am at 1324.4 miles, or 864.7 miles to go! I also passed 400 miles on this year’s hike in 34 days. Not bad!

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Tonight, I am at the Gren Anderson Shelter, but staying in my hammock. It’s comfortable, but I also needed to let it dry out from this morning’s thunderstorm at 4am! I stayed dry, but my tarp got packed up wet, standard practice.

It’s nice to complete another milestone, leaving Pennsylvania and the rocks. However, these first couple of days have been no picnic, and still difficult footing.

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We have passed a couple of nice lakes, and someone took the time to make some formations.

Pennsylvania “Rocks”

Happy Father’s Day! My friend, Papa Monkey, and I are taking a well deserved zero today in Stroudsburg, PA. This is our last full day in Pennsylvania, as we are a mile from the New Jersey border.

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20 days. Rocks and poison ivy. Nice shelters. 2 of the most difficult days of hiking, not because of the steep climbs, but of the difficult footing. Few posts due to exhaustion every day… Life is good!

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A big THANK YOU!

Support. I will venture to say that almost every hiker to pass the halfway point on the AT has a great support system. This is a complicated undertaking, with equipment, health, social, and financial aspects.

This past week, my son was first in the hospital with a bloodclot in his leg, and now in a therapy center. Without my wife Janet’s help, I would be off the trail to take care of his situation.

Instead, I am able to continue my journey. Janet handled this major event, as well as all the other things we usually share to run our lives. She is with me every day in spirit!

Thank you, Janet! I love you!

1193 miles

Two 18 mile days finds me at the 501 Shelter, next to PA route 501. Very nice place with an AT caretaker living in a house next door; unique!

Pennsylvania is known for rocks; here are some more.

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Also coal:

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And this!

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Off to bed at the early hour of 8:30….

The Doyle Hotel

I reached Duncannon, PA around 2pm, after 10 miles of rocky trail and a 1000′ descent. Another hiker friendly town, the AT heads down Main Street and then First.
Prominent on Main Street is the Doyle Hotel.

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Unfortunately, the hotel and Duncannon reflect much of small town America; little industry and half of the buildings shuttered. The Doyle is tired, and in need of a major refurbishment. Yet it’s beautiful in its own way, sleepy, nestled between 2 hills, one of which I have to climb tomorrow!

Here’s a brief history:

Originally a three-story, wooden hotel built in the 1770s, it was a stopping point along the main route going north along the Susquehanna River and has a rich and storied history. It caught fire and burned to the ground in 1803, replaced by the current brick building. In 1880, it was purchased by Adolphus Busch of Anheuser-Busch fame, and it opened again as the Johnson Hotel in 1905. Busch died in 1913, and the building reverted to the Budweiser Company, but was quickly sold off, with many other places, when Prohibition hit in 1920.

The hotel then went through several private owners, finally becoming The Doyle in 1944 after Jim “Doc” Doyle won $444,444.44 in the Irish lottery. Doyle owned and operated the hotel into the 1990s. It again passed through two different owners until 2001, when current owners Pat and Vickey Kelly bought it.

I wish them well!

Pennsylvania!

Wednesday, June 1st, I crossed the Mason/Dixon line, and stepped from South to North, from Maryland into Pennsylvania. During my short time in Maryland, I passed many Civil War memorials and tributes to fallen soldiers. I also climbed the first Washington monument:

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Pennsylvania, so far, has been rocks, rain, and mist. I’ve now passed the maze, and this rhodendron tunnel.

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Friday was a major milestone for my fellow through hikers, for they passed the halfway point on this year’s trail.

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An even bigger milestone was 10 miles further on, at the Pine Grove general store. This is the site of the ice cream challenge: to sit down and eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting! 2 of my hiking partners did it; I chose not to make myself sick, so just ate a wonderful, huge burger.

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This was also my longest hiking day, at 22 miles, 20 to get the burger and soda, and 2 more after dinner to find a campsite.
Today, I am taking a “zero” at the Allenbury resort, in Boiling Springs. A zero is a day off, free from hiking, to rest weary legs and sore feet. This resort has fallen on hard times, is for sale, and offers hikers a room for only $40 per night. Dated, but clean.
One of the joys of rising with the sun!

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