Blind Courage is never forgotten

So, another Appalachian Trail icon has soared to that big trail up in the sky. 73-year-old Bill Irwin has left us, but talk about a timeless legacy — boy, has this guy got one. I suppose the most celebrated of all AT thru-hikes was Earl Shaffer’s, the first one. But Bill Irwin’s hike with his seeing eye dog, Orient, has to rank as #2 on the all-time list. I never met Bill, but I’m told he was a great speaker, a gentle soul, a man of faith and an all-around tough son of a gun. Anyone who encountered him came away impressed with what a nice gentleman he was and amazed that a blind man could make it from Georgia to Maine on a trail that is often overwhelmingly challenging for well-conditioned 20-somethings with perfect vision. He took many falls and suffered substantial injuries during his 1990 hike, including broken ribs. But he and his faithful canine companion kept the faith. Bill leaves this world — and his favorite footpath — better for having lived on them.


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