A 44-year old Minnesota man named Mike Hanson will set out tomorrow to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which is of course always a major undertaking for any hiker. But in Hanson’s case, it is an even more formidable challenge considering he has been blind since birth, and will navigate all 2174 miles of the AT through the use of a GPS device.
The Appalachian Trail is considered one of the true classic long distance treks by backpackers the world over. Running from Maine to Georgia, while crossing through New Hampshire, Vermont, and a dozen other states, the Trail offers everything from steep mountain passes to beautiful open meadows and gorgeous alpine valleys, complete with rushing rivers. By all accounts, it is an amazingly scenic hike from end-to-end. Of course, none of that will matter to Mike, who won’t see any of those backcountry vistas while he makes the hike.
Hanson will use a special GPS device that connects to his cellphone, and he hits the trail with it already programmed with all of his waypoints, including sources of water, campsites, shelters, and more. With all of that data in place, he’ll be able to hike confidently knowing where he is in relation to those places at any time. To make things even easier, the device will actually talk to him in a computer generated voice, keeping him updated on his progress. A high capacity 32-hour battery will help keep the GPS powered at all times.Mike says he intends to average about 15 miles per day, which means it should take him approximately seven months to reach Mount Katahdin’s Baxter Peak, the trail head for the AT in Maine. He will also stop in a town once a week in order to restock his food supply and pick up any gear items that he might possibly need.
The blind hiker won’t be alone on this trek however, as he’ll be accompanied by filmmaker Gary Steffens, who will document the entire hike. Steffens says that he won’t do any of the navigating along the way, and that he’ll simply follow Hanson up the trail, capturing every moment of the hike.
Mike says that he is making this journey to prove that the visually impaired are still able to lead full, independent lives and are far more capable than many people believe. If successful, he will become the first blind man to make the trek by navigating it himself. You can find out more about Mike on his website and follow his progress on his Facebook page.