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A Blind Man’s Quest To Backpack The World

From the inception of the human race on planet Earth, intrepid men and women followed their ‘adventure inclinations’ to explore the continents, oceans and outer space.

manmountainSome raft, some swim, some climb and some fly. And some sling a heavy backpack onto their shoulders for the ultimate personal quest. Whatever drives each of us, that ‘Spirit of Adventure’ tugs at our heartstrings and plays upon our minds.

Individual human beings create their own quests in the natural world in order to give their lives meaning. But what if you’re totally blind? What do you do? How do you do it?

The fabled Colorado trail winds 486 miles from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango, Colorado. It peaks at 13,271 feet while most of the trail runs above 10,000 feet. The trail encompasses 89,000 feet of vertical climbing.

Blind raconteur, Trevor Thomas, 46, became the first sightless backpacker to complete the arduous trek along the Colorado Trail along with his guide dog, Tennille in 2015. Whether you look at Amelia Earhart or Charles Lindbergh, someone must gather the courage to go “Where no one has gone before.” Once that person breaks through the “impossible” quest, others gain courage to lift themselves toward their highest and best.

Thomas, of Charlotte, N.C, said, “Hiking started off as a way for me to get my own life back. But it has turned into a crusade for independence for blind people.”

As a writer who has packed the Colorado Trail, I can tell you it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s rugged, wild and can be dangerous.

Yet Thomas prepared to succeed. As a blind backpacker, he fell many times. He failed in 2011 to complete the trek. Later, armed with a GPS system, which monitored his journey, he sent messages to friends and family. He carried a satellite phone for emergencies. His expedition leader created a mile-by-mile instruction guidebook for Thomas to follow with his talking iPhone.

The system warned him about cliffs, lakes, streams and other obstacles. Along with his high-tech equipment, his guide dog Tennille carried him through countless dangers. Thomas said, “When you take vision away, you have to rely on every other sense—touch, smell, hearing—so in a sense I think I get a more robust, multi-dimensional experience.”

In 2002, Thomas became the first sightless backpacker to complete the 2,175-mile Appalachia Trail. It’s known as the “tunnel of green” because trees dominate the entire trail while leaving trekkers in the woods the whole journey. Later, Thomas finished the 2,654-mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. To add icing to the cake, he completed the 211-mile John Muir Trail from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney.

Ironically, as he began descending into blindness, his friends gave him a litany of reasons for not doing anything. “Everyone told me about all the things I couldn’t do,” he said.

One of his friends, the first blind man to summit Mt. Everest along with the tallest mountains on all seven continents said, “Thomas pushed the envelope more than anyone else in the category of backpacking.” Not a bad compliment from a man who pushed every category into the “no limits for blind people.”

The Power of Adventure:

When coyotes howl outside your tent, that may be adventure. While you’re sweating like a horse in a climb over a 12,000-foot pass, that’s adventure. When howling headwinds press your lips against your teeth, you face a mighty adventure. While pushing through a raging rainstorm, adventure drenches you. But that’s not what makes an adventure. It is your willingness to struggle through it, to present yourself at the doorstep of Nature. Can any greater joy come from life than living inside the ‘moment’ of an adventure? It may be a fleeting ‘high’, a stranger that changes your life, an animal that delights you or frightens you, a struggle where you triumphed, or even failed, yet you braved the challenge. Those moments present you uncommon experiences that give your life eternal expectation. That’s adventure!” FHW

With that in mind, Thomas said, “The reality is, blindness is not the life-ending injury or illness people think it is. I hike to give people hope.”

Thomas does more than that! He offers every person the opportunity to examine his or her life and choose to take that quest higher—along the magnificent Colorado Trail.

Reach Trevor Thomas: www.blindhikertrevorthomas.com

Read more posts by Frosty Wooldridge here. Frosty is a blogger for JenningsWire Online Magazine.

The online feature magazine, JenningsWire.com, is created by National PR Firm, Annie Jennings PR that specializes in providing book promotion services to self-published and traditionally published authors. Annie Jennings PR books authors, speakers and experts on major high impact radio talk interview shows, on local, regionally syndicated and national TV shows and on influential online media outlets and in prestigious print magazines and newspapers across the country.