Monday, August 31, 2009

North Carolina hiker took on Appalachian Trail, was first blind person to do it alone


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- People thought he was crazy. A blind man disappearing for months to hike one of the nation’s most grueling trails.

Imagine hiking 2000 miles through 14 states.

Trevor Thomas (pictured), 35, hiked for six months on the Appalachian Trail and he did it blind.

"I have a very odd eye disease. It’s called Atypical Central Serous Chorioretinopathy," Thomas said.

He’s only been blind for about five years. Doctors told him they didn’t know why he developed the condition or even what caused it. But he didn’t let it stop him from being active.

"I started and kept walking and kept walking and kept walking," Thomas said.

He began his hike April 6, 2008 and finished October 8 the same year. Every now and then, other hikers followed him.

"People would drop off,” Thomas said. “People would join. It was always different every single day.”

For the most part though, he did it alone.

"For about 400 miles it was just me hiking by myself hoping that I could stay on the trail," Thomas said.

He didn't always, but he did stick with it no matter the pain.

"I took a pretty nasty fall and I broke two bones in my left foot,” Thomas said. “I managed to take a tree limb in my head."

He even did what he calls backcountry surgery on himself. "I stitched my head together with super glue," Thomas said.

In Maine, winds threw him off the side of the mountain. "I landed about 15 feet down, but ended up breaking four of my ribs and cracking a hip," Thomas said.

He got up, hiked 40 miles to the nearest town, and found there wasn't a doctor.

“All the local townspeople sent me to the large animal veterinarian,” Thomas said. “And all they said was, ‘You have broken ribs. It's going to be very, very painful. We recommend you quit hiking’ and I said, ‘No I don't think so.’"

So, he kept going, hiking through Hurricane Kyle.

"Out of the five rivers I had to cross, I fell in four and almost drowned in every single one of them," Thomas said.

But he did it. He finished the trail and became the first blind person ever to do so alone.

"I will put this experience on the Appalachian Trail up there with anything I've ever done as probably the most rewarding experience I've ever had," Thomas said.

He proved his independence to himself and he's not done yet.

Thomas is currently planning a 2800 mile hike from Mexico all the way to Canada. He'll be the first blind person to even attempt it.