Blind Hiker To Take On Appalachian Trail

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Mike Hanson is a lifelong outdoorsman who happens to be blind. But in his 42 years that has stopped him from doing very little: Hanson hikes, camps, fishes and hunts (he listens for game; someone helps him aim the gun).

Now, this coming spring, Hanson, a 42-year-old attorney from St. Louis Park, Minn., has plans to take a multi-month hiatus to hike the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail.

He’ll go from Georgia to Maine, solo and unsupported, a journey Hanson anticipates will entail eight months of travel at about 10 miles of trekking per day.

“I want to show the independence of people with disabilities,” he said.

For Hanson, who will bring no maps and does not use a guide dog, progress each day will be made by literally feeling his way along the trail, tapping a cane thousands of times a mile to avoid roots and rocks.

A voice-enabled GPS system will alert Hanson of his proximity to pre-programmed waypoints—trail shelters, huts, road crossings, streams, mountain peaks—keeping him on course as he treks through the wilderness.

“GPS is changing the way the blind and visually impaired can explore and learn about the world,” said Janet Dickelman, president of the American Council of the Blind, Minnesota. “We’re seeing the very forefront of the movement.”

Go here for my full story on Mike Hanson in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/1244/story/1473666.html

Hanson’s web site is here: www.blindhiker.com

By
Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.
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