Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blind, Solo, and Through-Hiking the Appalachian Trail!

Mike Hanson from Minnesota, is hiking the AT this summer from Georgia to Maine. No guide, no guide dog - just himself with pack and hiking poles. Wow! He is committed to drawing attention to the capabilities of people who are blind and also the use of adapted GPS for blind hikers.

Mike has been an active outdoorsman for thirty-some years and has been preparing for this year's trek for a few years, securing funding and testing his methods. Now in his mid-40's, he is navigating the trail at a pace most through-hikers would find frustrating, using his poles to tap out comprehension of the roots, rocks and obstacles along the way. Traveling about ten miles a day, he has already covered 1000 miles. This past weekend while he was passing over Race Mountain in Mt. Everett State Reservation in the Berkshires, he met DCR's Chief of Recreation on the trail hiking - which is how I found out about Mike's trek. Wish I could say I met him on the AT!

Mike's mission is to help raise awareness about the need to employ  blind people. Over 70% are unemployed according to the most recent surveys, which leads to unnecessary dependence upon public assistance as well as psychological difficulties such as depression. With his achievement, he hopes to help combat misguided or uninformed perspectives of people with visual impairments.

In using adaptive Geographic Positioning System equipment, Mike is also pioneering a new field. Part of his preparations for this trip have involved testing every aspect of what could happen while on the trail, including extreme temperatures, battery failure, and dense tree cover. His GPS unit works where cell-phones do not, and he uses a voice-activated, voice-based program wearing a blue tooth receiver. A GPRS program puts him in touch with nearby points of interest and service, as well as where he can access cell-phone reception. His journey is being filmed by a videographer companion, so he is not entirely alone, but his effort is fully solo and I look forward to seeing the film after his achievement is complete!

You can find out more about Mike's trek, his gear, and his progress on facebook and at his website and blog. Go Mike!

1 comment:

Tristan Benette said...

Hiking sticks have been useful to the disabled, that are used as a guide in the absence of a dog to guide them. Because of hiking sticks, they can go wherever they want to and enjoy life. It only proves that disability can never hinder one's will.