The 2174 mile long Appalachian Trail is a tough enough challenge for any backpacker to handle on a single thru-hike. The classic trail runs through the Appalachian Mountain range of the Eastern United States, from Maine to Georgia, and passes through 12 other states along the way. It is a truly epic hike with truly epic challenges. But now, according to this story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a blind hiker is going to take on those challenges for himself.
44-year old Mike Hanson set off this morning from the Georgia end of the trail, and hopes to complete his journey in seven months time, when he’ll cross the finish line in Maine. Along the way, he’ll use a special GPS device that connects to his phone to help him navigate and he says that the device offers him everything he needs, except for the view. In fact, the gadget offers 32-hours of battery life, which is vital to a hike such as this one, and verbally reads the GPS information to the hiker as he goes.
Mike plans on covering roughly 15 miles per day, with a stop once per week in a town to resupply. The entire journey is also being filmed so that a documentary can be made of the hike, which means that Mike will be joined by cameraman Gary Steffens, who says that he won’t navigate at all, he’ll simply be along for the walk, following Mike at every turn.
As the article points out, Mike won’t be the first person to make such a hike, but he might just be the first to navigate it himself. Of the 11,000+ hikers who have completed the thru-hike, 3 or 4 of them have been blind. Those have tended to go with others as their guides or used a guide dog instead. Hanson has programmed the entire route of the AT into his GPS device, and had already tested is route finding out on a 40 mile stretch to be sure that it all works. With success on that stretch of the trail, he’s now ready to uses his gadgets to navigate its entire length.