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Blind Appalachian Trail Hiker, Bill Irwin, Has Passed Away

Sofia Moro, Getty Images

I was very sad to read this weekend that Bill Irwin had passed away. Who is Mr. Irwin? He is the first hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. He was 73.

In November 1990, Mr. Irwin and Orient, his guide dog, arrived in Millinocket. Their journey took nine months and was a total of 2,167 miles. Mr. Irwin became the first blind person to make the solo hike from Georgia to Maine.

As you might expect, he did write of this journey. The story told in “Blind Courage” is about the hike and about the journey of his life that brought him to that trip. I LOVE this book. It is about his personal struggles before the hike, his growth during the hike and of course there is Orient the guide dog. Mr. Irwin had the unique experience of having to provide ‘on the job training’ to Orient to become a hiker!  He even comments at one point in the story about how he believes Orient has figured out the Appalachian Trail markers, because when there was a decision to be made on direction, Orient was make important to making those choices and did so successfully.

Mr. Irwin had done book signing here and there over the years, I now deeply regret never making it to one of those events. So, thank you Mr. Irwin for sharing your stories with all of us.

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