Blind Hiker Finishes 8-Month Trek on Appalachian Trail

Bill has his own page now at

MILLINOCKET, ME (AP) Bill Irwin has completed his eight-month Appalachian Trail journey making him the first blind person to hike the entire 2,167 miles.

About 60 persons greeted him yesterday as he reached the end of the Georgia-to-Maine trail at Katahdin Stream campground, an official in remote Baxter State Park said.

Mr. Irwin was joined by about 20 friends and reporters for the final 2.4 mile leg of the journey, although he walked the last 100 yards alone, said park secretary Jean Howes.

Mr. Irwin completed his trek under sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 30s, Miss Howes said.

In recent days, Mr. Irwin had hiked in snow and sleet, but yesterday he got what Carolyn Starling, a close friend, called "prayed-to-order" weather.

"It's such a fitting end she said."

The Burlington, NC resident was accompanied by his guide dog Orient during the journey.

Mr. Irwin spent Tuesday completing difficult sections of the trail that he had missed said Ms. Starling, who hiked with him for part of the day Monday. She has served as Mr. Irwin's spokesman during the hike.

Mr. Irwin, a 50-year-old recovering alcoholic who lost his sight to an eye disease when he was 28, decided to attempt the feat as an affirmation of his faith in God. Sponsors helped pay his expenses.

"I'm no great example of anything," he said in a September interview. "Any blind person that is capable could do the same thing if they wanted to go through the same difficulty."

Eighteen fellow members of Mr. Irwin's church traveled to Maine by bus from Burlington, NC to celebrate his achievement, Ms. Starling said.

Since setting out from Georgia in March, Mr. Irwin has fallen dozens of times. He has broken a rib, worn out equipment and coped with foul weather.

He said in September that the scariest part of the trip was "starting out on Springer Mountain all alone in the middle of the worst flood in the history of Georgia...not even knowing how I was going to get down the trail."

Though he couldn't see the magnificent vistas or trailside sunsets during his trek, Mr. Irwin said he found solace in the silence of the woods and the beauty in the odors and other sensations of nature.

At the urging of Baxter State Park officials, he interrupted his hike in late October to climb mile-high Mt. Katahdin--normally the last northern leg of the trail--before winter weather closed that section.

[The Washington Times, November 22, 1991]

Mr. Irwin's refreshing modesty notwithstanding, we think Bill is a great example, particularly of perseverance ... and we're talking about the path of life which can be much tougher than the Appalachian Trail. --Earl Appleby, Jr. (CURE, 812 Stephen St., Berkeley Springs, WV 25411, 304-258-LIFE)

Bill Irwin Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 109
Sebec, ME 04481

Here is an article about some other blind hikers.