Bill Irwin was an amazing man who did an amazing feat – he was the first blind man to hike the entire Appalachian Trail with his guide dog Orient. Now he has received his reward – leaving this earth for a heavenly home on March 1, 2014.
Bill wrote about his journey in the memoir, Blind Courage. I bought his book back in the early nineties and it became my favorite read for years until I did my own thru hike in 2007. Bill was an incredible inspiration. I still cannot believe he hiked this trail blind.
Just last summer I decided to approach him to see if he would look over my book on my AT hike. I wasn’t sure what to expect as he was always busy. But I found him wonderfully warm and eager to take time to read my book and endorse it.
Here is what he said to me via e-mail about the book only a few months ago (July, 2014) -
“I can sit in my new home on top of a mountain facing the last 110 miles of the AT. Straight down our driveway is White Cap Mountain, I know you remember that one. To the extreme left is Barron and Chairback range and to the far right is Mt. Katahdin, that we call, “The Mountain”, around here as it is so magnificent! Albeit 90 miles away from our home my wife, Debra can see this magnificent mountain from her chair! How blessed can a person get! Eh? Praise God for His wonderful surprises and love for us!
I did read every single wonderfully written word of your book and thoroughly enjoyed all of it! I just wanted it to go on and on; the dream of every writer is to have his audience to say that, and I do mean it!
I feel like I know you like a book! You are the only person that has had to go through much more testing an whittling than I! :O).
I have prayed a lot about what to say in a very short space; this is so difficult as I could go on and on about Mountains, Madness, and Miracles 4,000 miles Along the Appalachian Trail, but knowing how it works with publishers I know that every word that I write must count and that is where a lot of prayer comes into play; just what to say that will let people know exactly what a spiritual journey this actually was for you! here goes
John Wesley, a great leader of the past once said, “It is the duty of all believers to go out into all parts of the world and share the gospel message with all whom they meet and occasionally even use words.” This means that what one does is so loudly spoken that another cannot even hear what they say.
And in this new book of Lauralee Bliss, Mountains, Madness,and Miracles 4,000 miles Along the Appalachian Trail, is exactly what Lauralee did! In the beginning, and even earlier in her planning of this very arduous task that God called her to, she was mostly focused on her own aspirations and life goals. This was definitely a priority! Then as time and the innumerable difficulties transpired her spiritual growth became evident and by the time she got back home from her first thru-hike of the most difficult and famous trail in the world, The Appalachian Trail, she was much more focused on her son, Joshua who was with her, and her husband, Steve, who, without his help Lauralee would not have been able to accomplish this great journey. And a journey it was at that! She took the focus off of the destination, which was very anticlimactic, and focused on the journey which transformed her life into a more Godly and selfless person. I know without one bit of doubt God smiles every time He thinks of this courageous woman who took a chance on losing her life, and that of her only son, known on the Trail as, “Paul Bunyan”, to share the message with everyone with whom she met and did it mostly with her feet and not her mouth.
I cannot even imagine anyone else who had so many obstacles to encounter than Lauralee and she did it like a champ. You must read this great and inspiring book; it will literally change your life!
Well, this is my opinion, and I am sticking with it! Huge :O)
It was certainly a pleasure for me! The time it took was nothing compared to the blessings I received by doing it! Time well spent!”
Well, Bill it was time well spent reading your adventure in Blind Courage year after year and using your
example as an inspiration to make my hiking dream come true, no matter how tough it can be. Thank you!!