The book, which took a little more than two years to complete, is an “autobiography of hiking,” the author said.
A native of Pennsylvania, Curran, now of Powell, explained how his fascination with hiking began, and what led him to write a book with hiking as its theme.
Diagnosed at an early age with rheumatic fever, Curran was unable to play most types of sports, so as a means for exercise he took up walking, which he recalls “was a distinctly strange pastime for a youth in the 1950s.”
“I could not run and play with abandon, for, if I did, terrible pains in my ankles and knees came at night. It is unnatural for a young boy not to play sports. To learn discipline in the face of my condition required me to turn down invitations for games where there was no visible handicap [help] and to stand aside from the major social functions of childhood, a scarring experience for a young boy,” Curran explained.
He learned, early on, to accept his physical limitations and not be bitter about his fate, he said.
To his delight, Curran discovered he enjoyed the long, solitary walks he took regularly for his health.
“The farms and forests around our small town were as tranquil as anyone could imagine and in my distant memory of childhood in the fifties that world exists as some Shangri-La of a long lost paradise. With friends or alone, it was a wonderful area to explore on foot,” he said.
At age 11, he and his parents moved from Parkesburg, Penn., to Largo, Fla., partly to help improve his health.
But Florida’s environment was a far cry from Pennsylvania’s hospitable forests and farmlands, Curran quickly learned.
“Florida does not entice one to hike in the wilderness or even to stray very far from town. First there are the mosquitoes that come in swarms like emissaries of the dark side of nature...Furthermore, the snakes inhabit any overgrown area, which is a definite discouragement to wandering in the woods or dales,” he said.
Of his time spent in Florida, he said his walks were mostly confined to the town in which he lived, or the nearby beaches.
At age 23, Curran relocated to Knoxville after graduating from college and went to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Shortly after moving to the area, he learned from a local physician that the rheumatic fever was cured and that he could do any physical activity he wanted.
“I was 23 years old and the doctor said, ‘There is nothing wrong with your heart and you can do what you want. We now know that in 95 percent of the cases, the effects of rheumatic fever are cured over time by the body itself.’”
Dumbfounded, and relieved by the doctor’s news, Curran said he felt “like a person reborn, like one sentenced to prison for life and then found innocent and set free.”
The doctor advised him to take it easy and “work slowly into activities.”
“I wouldn’t go out and climb Mt. Le Conte right away,” the doctor advised.
Yet that immediately became Curran’s goal — to climb Mt. Le Conte — or at the very least, to transform his walking to the next level and hike in the mountains.
It was his goal to live his life without physical restrictions — to be without fear of pain — he said.
Six months after he received the joyful news from the doctor about his health, he hiked Mt. Le Conte, and has, from that time since, hiked 175 trails and visited 35 states in the U.S.
“Hiking for Fun and Pain” sums up Curran’s determination in the years following his clean bill of health to live life “reborn” with no physical restraints and explore the mountains, valleys and woodlands in the United States and abroad.
And explore he has done. The fact that Curran has years of experience hiking comes through in his writing.
“The ambiance of a trail can be ever-changing as the same path can yield radically different experiences with each season revealing unique characteristics or even with different weather conditions creating distinctive moods,” wrote Curran in his book.
In addition to recounting some of his most vivid trail experiences — all described with good natured humor of course — Curran includes throughout the narrative words of advice to readers, especially readers who are novice hikers, leaving such nuggets of advice as “never hike alone” and plenty of cautious reminders detailing how important it is to always plan ahead and be in good enough physical condition to take on the demands that can accompany any outdoor adventure.
The idea to write a book about his experiences just sort of happened, as Curran explained it, and was something to do after he retired from 28 years of service at TVA.
Before long, he had an account of his travels and trail experiences that was book length.
The tricky part was finding a publisher.
“It took some research to find a publisher,” he said.
How he discovered Oconee Spirit Press was from reading David Hunter’s column in the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“I saw where David Hunter of the Knoxville News Sentinel published his books through Oconee, so I looked into them as well, and sure enough they were willing to publish my book,” Curran explained.
This first book project will most likely not be his last. During the interview, Curran revealed that he is already thinking of what his next book project will be. He is tentatively calling it: “Adventures of an Ordinary Life,” a book about his various life experiences.
In the meantime, he said his focus will be on promoting and marketing “Hiking for Fun and Pain,” which is currently available on Amazon.com for $6.95 in paperback and $3.99 as an ebook.
Curran also has a website where people interested in his narrative can go and view breathtaking views of mountain scenery from his excursions, and learn more about his story. Curran’s website is www.hikingforfunandpain.com.