Melanie Knecht is 29 years old. She was born with spina bifida (a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly) She uses a wheelchair which made it difficult for her to undertake adventurous activities. Trevor Hahn is 42 years old, and five years ago he lost his sight due to glaucoma but continues to hike. He would initially rely on teammates for guiding him with spoken directions and by ringing a bell. But then he met Melanie Knecht and together, they form a great hiking team.
The duo befriended each other during a course for adaptive exercise. They found that they shared similar interests and passion for nature and outdoor activities. That’s how they team up and thus commenced their journey of undertaking the adventure of hiking hills and mountains together.
“To us, teaming up to do this just seemed like common sense,” Melanie was quoted to as saying by Outside.
Melanie is able to walk because of a custom-made carrier similar to a backpack that enables Trevor to carry her. Melanie, on the other hand, is a great guide. The best part of their team is that they feel comfortable in each other’s company. “We both have the same responsibility: if one of us goes down, the other one goes down. It shifts the whole dynamic from feeling like a burden, to being essential for someone else’s experience in the outdoors,” Trevor was quoted to as saying by The Trust for Public Land. He also said that the fact that we’re each helping the other out takes the pressure off.
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Knecht says she loves the feeling of freedom, leaving her wheelchair behind.
Melanie is a professionally trained singer and “the queen of imaginative invectives,” which makes her a fun and able guide. She aptly describes the terrain underfoot and landscapes they traverse.
“He’s the legs, I’m the eyes — boom! Together, we’re the dream team,” Knecht told Faith Bernstein of Good Morning America.
We both have the same responsibility: if one of us goes down, the other one goes down. It shifts the whole dynamic from feeling like a burden, to being essential for someone else’s experience in the outdoors – Trevor
They admit 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.” Knecht told 5280.
“It’s been great to share our story with people, and I hope that it encourages other people to try what we’re doing, or just for anyone to think outside of whatever box they’ve been put in. It goes to show you that we really are stronger together,” Knecht continued. The duo is active on Instagram and share their experiences there.
The duo, however, loathes being called “inspirational.” Hahn told Outside reporter Miles, “I’ve always hated it when I’m out snowboarding and someone shouts down from the lift to tell me that I’m inspiring. It can feel demeaning. You’d never say that to someone shredding the mountain who can see.” Knecht shares the sentiment, wanting the focus to be on her “accomplishments alone,” not on her being “the woman in the wheelchair.”
The duo proves how we can accomplish bigger things in life we don’t let our disabilities dominate us.
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Image credits : 5280.com