The Appalachian Trail spans more than 2,000 miles across 14 states, traversing woodlands and peaks from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is one of the world’s longest continuous footpaths, and each year thousands of individuals attempt to hike the entire thing.
For any thru-hiker, making the trek is an accomplishment (fewer than 25 percent successfully complete the journey). But that’s especially true if you’re blind. Which is why it’s so impressive that Minneapolis-based attorney Mike Hanson set out along the Appalachian Trail in the spring of 2010. Using only a GPS device and trekking poles, the visually impaired Hanson plotted and completed the majority of the Appalachian Trail without outside assistance, making an important point about the power of technology and the independence of those without sight.
Born in Madison, Wis., Hanson has been blind since birth. When he was born prematurely, doctors gave him a high concentration of oxygen, which damaged his retinas. Despite his impairment, Hanson is an avid outdoorsman. As a child, his father’s stories about pheasant hunting in rural South Dakota inspired him to seek out wilderness. Later on, Hanson became a president of Capable Partners, a program designed to help visually impaired individuals partake in hunting and fishing by providing them with seeing partners as aides.