Woman Who Can't Walk Teams Up with Blind Man for Hiking Adventures: 'He's the Legs, I'm the Eyes'
Melanie Knecht and Trevor Hahn are showing the world the meaning of teamwork.
The hiking buddies, who both live in Fort Collins, Colorado, have worked together to navigate Colorado mountains and trails ever since meeting at an adaptive exercise class, according to Good Morning America. Knecht was born with Spina bifida and uses a wheelchair to get around, and Hahn lost his eyesight due to glaucoma five years ago, the outlet reports.
After they bonded over their love of the outdoors, the pair started hiking together. During their treks, Hahn carries Knecht in a secure harness on his back, and Knecht gives verbal directions to guide him along the trail.
“It just seemed like common sense,” Knecht told GMA in a recent interview. “He’s the legs, I’m the eyes — boom! Together, we’re the dream team.”
“This way, we both have purpose and this huge responsibility,” Hahn added to 5280.
The pair documents their adventures on the Instagram account @hiking_with_sight. On their profile, Knecht and Hahn describe their hikes as “a journey of purpose between two friends, one who cannot see and one who cannot walk.”
Hahn told KDVR that he continued to hike and climb mountains after he lost his eyesight, relying on adaptive techniques like following the sound of a bell.
“But it didn’t really give me a purpose. Like, I was just following this bell,” he said. “It would be really cool if I could have a purpose on the trail.”
After hiking with Knecht, Hahn now feels like he has his purpose.
“It made me so happy to help someone experience what I’ve been able to experience my whole life,” he told GMA. “Just getting on top of a mountain, a car can’t get to it, you just feel that sense of accomplishment. The best part is being able to make her smile. That gives me purpose.”
For Knecht, the best part of their hikes is being able to leave her wheelchair behind.
“I’ve been in a wheelchair my whole life, and it’s an amazing feeling to leave it literally miles behind on the trail,” Knecht told the outlet. “I even couldn’t get in it if I wanted to, and that’s a great feeling.”
Next up for the duo? Hiking a fourteener — a mountain that’s over 14,000 feet tall. According to GMA, they plan to make their attempt in August.
“There’s definitely a learning curve,” Knecht told 5280 of training for their biggest climb yet, adding that the most important skill for the pair is “communication.”
“I’m trying to warn him about obstacles far in advance, but also tell him if he’s about to trip on a rock or root in that moment,” she said. “I have to interrupt myself to give directions.”
“It takes a lot of teamwork,” Hahn added. “If I fall, she falls.”
Knecht also shared her advice for others who have friends with disabilities.
“Ask questions of people with disabilities, to see what they like and what they want to do,” she told GMA. “Don’t not include them because you think they won’t be able to do something.”