Recreation Bureau Chief, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
For many people, recreation includes testing their personal limits. Spend a little time in any Massachusetts state park, forest or reservation, and you will find people of all ages, sizes and abilities walking, running, swimming, cycling or otherwise transporting themselves across the landscape, strengthening their bodies and their spirit as they connect with the natural world, their companions, and themselves. Some take on a bigger challenge than others.
On July 24th, while hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) over Mount Race in the Mt. Everett State Reservation, I met Mike Hanson of Minnesota. You often encounter “through hikers” along the trail in Massachusetts. Through hikers are attempting to walk the entire Appalachian Trail, more than 2,000 miles, between Georgia and Maine. Mike is not your typical hiker though – he is blind.
Using two hiking poles to feel his way along the steep and rocky trail and a special Geographic Positioning System (GPS) designed to keep him on course, Mike and his videographer companion have negotiated more than 1,000 miles so far. But the magnitude of that accomplishment is hard to imagine until you watch Mike travel 100 feet. When I met him, he was making his way down a steep and rocky section of trail that requires full attention for even the strongest hiker. Carrying a pack that weighed over 30 pounds, he was probing for handholds and footholds with his white hiking poles and testing every foot placement to make sure that a stray rock, root, or crevice wouldn’t be the last step of his incredible journey. In this slow and deliberate way, he was walking over mountains to Maine. It’s fitting that his adopted trail name is Bulldog.
Mike hopes to make a point with his incredible journey. He’d like the public to recognize that people who are blind are capable and adaptive technologies like GPS can foster their independence. He notes that more than 70 percent of the visually impaired are unemployed and he’d like to demonstrate that the disability does not preclude independence and accomplishment. He made his point with me.
Follow Mike’s amazing journey on his Facebook page at the Hanson Appalachian Trail Campaign or visit his website.
And you can be like Mike. Whatever your abilities or limitations, stretch them today.