The Appalachian Trail is no joke, even for the best of hikers amongst us. The trail that is located in eastern United States is about 3,500 km long that majorly goes through forests. If you cant understand that kind of distance, let us put it into perspective for you. The trail goes through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Phew! Thats a long, long way to walk!
But can you imagine hiking alone through the trail completely bereft of your sense of sight? Well, hiker Bill Irwin did just that back in 1990. He took eight months to complete his journey and all he had with him was his trusty seeing-eye dog, Orient. And he is the only person to have done so. Twenty five years, and no one has been able to achieve what Bill Irwin did. Hiking through the Appalachian Trail alone is formidable enough, doing it completely blind is feat worthy of epics!
Bill Irwin was not born blind. He lost his sense of sight in his left eye at the age of 28 and by the time he was 36, he was completely blind. A crippling addiction to alcohol and several failed marriages late, in 1987, Irwin became a Christian, and three years later, at the age of 50, was when he decided to go on what he called a pilgrimage to share Gods love and a Christian mission.
Irwin set out without any map, compass or GPS. Irwin and Orient together were lovingly called the Orient Express by hikers. They averaged at 8.2 miles a day. Irwin managed to hike over ledges, cliffs, streams and bridges which are difficult enough for a person without any disabilities and he read trail signs with his fingers. He slipped, he fell, but he picked himself up and got back to work: something many of us dont have the courage to do.
Orient, who was a German shepherd guide dog, was his rock through his ordeal. Although his health was good during most of the trip, he did also endure some problems during the journey because of the harsh terrain. Sometimes Orient would prevent Bill from falling and when they would go off the trail and Orient would sniff out other hikers to get them back on track.
Bill Irwin died March last year after a two year-long battle with prostate cancer at the age of 73. There are so many who leave earth without leaving any trace behind, but Bill Irwin left behind an important lesson. What this man has taught us is that adventure should not be forgotten about in the face of adversity. He inspires us to take on challenges despite the odds stacked against us. Perseverance is key, and if we want something badly enough, we should just go out and get it.
Hey, reader. You there, sitting on your laptop, reading this article, procrastinating on the adventure of your dream: yes, were talking to you. You must be thinking that you need to save up to go somewhere, or your work life is a bit too hectic and youll probably postpone on the trek that you wanted. Read Bill Irwins story, and let it encourage you to do the things you want to do now. Because no matter what, adventure should not wait.
PC: Cody Duncan