I am reposting this great blog on hiking, even when facing physical challenges. It's good to reflect on others and their amazing ability to enjoy life with determination, inspiration, and grit.
My name is Brandi and I am a hiker. I am visually impaired. First I will explain my vision acuity. I was born with a rare eye condition that doesn’t have a name. Only about one hundred people have my condition in the United States. The condition is incurable. The eye condition I have closely resembles Cone Dystrophy. For the longest time I was diagnosed with Cone Dystrophy. I will not be able to drive. My vision is very blurry. It is hard to make out objects. If I am sitting in the front row of any show or lecture I still can’t see what is on the projector. I also am color blind, although I can see colors I just can’t tell the difference. If someone were to line up a yellow and green pen together I wouldn’t be able to point out the green one because they would all look the same to me. Even though I cannot see well, I do not let it stop me from doing the activities I enjoy. I love to hike and camp. I’ve been hiking ever since I was able to walk, way before anyone knew I had a vision disability.
I love to hike because it helps me to relax. I enjoy being outdoors with the beautiful foliage and animals. I also get a chance to experience and go places I have never been before. I love to travel to new places. When I was fifteen I hiked Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. That was a tiring hike for me but I did it! I hiked Mount Jefferson in New Hampshire when I was eighteen. Last year I hiked up to McAfee Knob in Virginia. I can climb rock scrambles. I can hike any trail with little assistance. The only assistance I use is a hiking stick which basically takes the place of my sight cane. I use that to poke around for roots and loose rocks.
I have hiked around Europe for a month with my student ambassador delegation. Well, not really hiked, but I was on my feet more then I was sitting. The only time I had to sit was when I was on the bus which was almost never. It was difficult traveling on my own in the enormous city of Paris France. I had to navigate the busy streets of Seville Spain in the dark, never fearing the worst. I am not afraid to do anything on my own.
While on the trail I face many difficulties. I have fallen. The worst that has happened was when I was hiking with my dad on Mount Jefferson and there was a crevice that was hidden by vegetation. I stepped in it and banged up my knee. On that same trail I got temporary disorientated. I couldn’t figure out where the trail was. As I hike I face a lot of challenges. When I hike I cannot see the roots or the trail. Everything camouflages. The sun is a challenge for me too. I am sensitive to light. I will sometimes wear sunglasses when I hike. Sometimes I will just have them off to marvel at the trees. I haven’t hiked in the dark, but I would like to try. Flashlights don’t help me much. When it shines on an area I just see blurry images. If a flashlight is shone on a root I wouldn’t be able to make out details such as length or depth.
Although I can’t see well, most people who meet me will never have guessed. On the trail I show no signs that I have vision impairment. Over the years I have acquired special adaptations that help with hiking. Having great balance is the key for me. When I trip over something I act quickly. However, sometimes I do stumble over, but I recover quickly by regaining my balance. I have adapted to being quick on my feet. I often memorize my natural surroundings, much like a human GPS. Having been on a trail once, I have an innate ability of remembering where it goes and how long it is. As I mentioned earlier I carry a hiking stick, one which is the length of my sight cane.
Hiking has helped me develop patience for myself and others. I regret that I don’t do it enough. Unfortunately, I do not yet have a trail name; certainly it will come with time. I would like to start hiking again more frequently once this college semester is finished. In the future I would like to hike Katahdin in Maine and feel the exhilaration of yet another accomplishment. In the near future I plan to go hiking with my dad in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Feel free to contact me and ask me questions. If you see me on the trail make sure you give me a holler.
Hope to see you on the trail soon.