FAQs – Frequent Asked Questions

Where did you start your hike?

Our journey took us 4 years and two days or approximately 4 years or 5th year with only two days to conclude from GA to ME.

2010 – We began our hiking from Springer Mountain in Georgia on 6-April-2010 and ended in Waynesboro, Virginia in July 2010.  We hiked the state of Vermont from September to October 2010 ending in Williamstown, MA.

2011 – We began our hiking from Waynesboro, Virginia on 18-April-2011 going north and ended in Delaware Water Gap, NJ in June 2011.  We hiked for total of 4 days from Glencliff, NH to Franconia Notch, NH in August 2011.

2012 – We resume our hiking from Delaware Water Gap, NJ in April 2012 and ended in Williamstown, MA where we stopped hiking south in 2010.  We then resumed our hiking from Franconia Notch, NH (we completed the state of VT in 2010) going north, but unfortunately due to Ad-Cane’s rib injury, we were forced to cease our hiking at Carter Notch, NH in July 2012.

2013 – Our hiking plans started again by hiking from Grafton Notch, ME toward

2014 – Two of us, along with David Whitney and his son, Ateon Whitney as a team, climbed from Katahdin Stream Campground in Baxter State Park, Millinocket, ME to the Baxter Peak (known as Mt. Katahdin) – total of 5.2 miles to celebrate the achievement of Ad-Cane’s dream of hiking the AT.

How did we met?

We met at HKNC – Helen Keller National Center – in Long Island when RamSham went there to learn how to work with Deaf-Blind people in 2007.  Cane told her about his dream to hike AT – Appalachian Trail – so, he was looking for a SSP – Special Service Provider – to hike with him.  RamSham agreed to work with him as SSP.

What is a SSP?

Support Service Provider (SSP) is a specifically trained and hired to work with Deaf-Blind individuals by providing visual and environmental information, sighted guide services and information accessibility to empower Deaf-Blind individuals so they can make informed decisions.

What is Cane’s disability?

Cane is Deafblind (total blind in his right eye and tunneled vision in his left eye).  He was born with Usher Syndrome (the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision).  It comes with the balance problems – not able to walk steady.

When made you decide to hike the Appalachian Trail and why?

RamSham – In early 2000’s, I visited Newfound Gap in Great Smokey Mountain National Park and saw AT trail.  I am an avid outdoor person myself, so I enjoy hiking and camping.  On that day, I made a wish to hike AT someday before I end up in the rocking chair since I thought it would be an ultimate adventure – visiting various environments across 14 states.  When Cane mentioned his AT dream, I thought to myself – it would be great opportunity to help him to accomplish his dream and at same time, get my wish fulfilled.

Cane – I love adventure.  It is my big dream to hike on AT with my vision and balance problems, so I know it is going to be a challenge for me to uptake the hiking on AT.  I want to find out if I could hike from Georgia to Maine.  I want to show the Deaf-Blind community that they can do it regardless of their dual disability – deafness and blindness.  I want to educate the world about how valuable service of SSP is to Deaf-Blind community which we constantly in need of them.

How did you prepare yourself for this journey?

RamSham – Research, research and research.  I spent a great deal of researching on equipment, food, mail drops and much more via online, magazines, books, and people.  I took some backcountry-related classes with Cane through REI in NJ and PA the year before we began hiking AT.  I am certified Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and Wilderness First Responder (WFR – known as “woofer”) though WMA – Wilderness Medical Associates from 2010 to 2013 and through Wilderness Medical Institute (WMI) via National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) from 2014.   It helped me to deal the emergency situation and injuries sustain in the wilderness which was different from the street – for example – getting to a hospital may be a few hours to days away from the trail.  I felt comfortable to be able to make crucial decision how to handle the situation in the wilderness.

Cane – I took the classes through REI on backcountry camping.  As for the food preparation, I used dehydrator.  I read a lot of books to learn about mail drops, food preparation, camping gears, and a list of essential items to bring with you on AT.  By reading, talking with people, and researching, it helped me to understand better about hiking culture – average of miles per day, using the shelters, and treating the water.

What types of special adaptations/equipment/support did you need to participate in this activity?

RamSham – I do not require any special adaptations/equipment.  I wear hearing aids, but I choose not to wear it on the trail because of sweat problem and too expensive to lose it in the woods.  It costs around a thousand of dollars to obtain a hearing aid.  As for the support system, I do need support from time to time since I am working as solo SSP with him and do not have 2nd SSP to relieve me.  It is a full-time job – not just 40 hours for 5-day week, but from sunrise to time to go sleep on daily basis.  I get pretty exhausted from time to time, so I still ask around for some help from hikers, people or friends.  It doesn’t happen often, though.

Cane – I use my trekking poles to help me to maintain good balance on the trail.  I wear the protective guards from my wrist to elbow on my both arms, shin guards for my shins, and full leather gloves (used to be fingerless leather gloves until I experienced an injury to my finger which required surgery to remove the splint in August 2010 in Maine) for my hands to protect them from hitting into the trees or falling on the rocks.  I wore the safety glasses for my eyes for a brief period in 2010 until I decided to stop wearing it due to fogging problem.

What is your final destination? When do you expect to be there?

RamSham – to summit Katahdin!  It is not the question as when we will summit, but it is the test of our teamwork to accomplish Cane’s goal – to hike the entire section of AT.

Cane – My goal is to reach Katahdin as my final destination.  We plan to arrive Katahdin no matter how long it may take us to complete – by end of this year or next year or whenever.

What kinds of challenges have you been confronted with?

RamSham –

2010 – The challenges that I confronted are to deal with my own physical pains and discomfort – hiked after my foot surgery (to remove neuroma from my right foot) in January 2010.  It was extremely painful to hike on my foot over the rocky trail or talus footpath for first three weeks.  I cried and dealt with my swollen foot every night.  In mid-May, my foot finally healed enough for me to hike with manageable pain level that I can tolerate with.  Secondly, I deal with my own illnesses that surfaced on the trail twice.  It was not fun trying to hike, working with Cane as a SSP and dealing with my illness at same time.  There are no sick days for SSP on AT.  Thirdly, when I become exhausted from all-day hiking or working with Cane once in while, I become an inefficient SSP to Cane because I couldn’t do my duty by providing the service that he needs – giving him the visual information, interpreting what people are saying, showing him where things are when he asks and etc.  Lastly, I communicate with Cane via tactical sign language which means Cane places his hands on my hands and I sign.  He understands what I am signing to him without having to see me sign.  It is not a problem communicating with him at night, but it is challenge to communicate with hikers who do not know sign language without any lights in campsite or shelter at night.  😉

2011 – 

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –

Cane –

2010 – My challenges are to hike over the rough terrains – for example – boulders, talus, stales, uproots, and rocks to climb and on the narrow trail – for example – difficult for me to maintain a balance without falling off the trail.  My feet are sore and beaten up from time to time because it is extra work for me to maintain a good balance with my trekking poles over the rocky terrains – for example, my ankles getting twisted from side to side, my toes getting blisters from sliding and stopping going downhill, and stubbing my toes onto the rocks or logs.  My head get banged up by hitting into the low branch of the tree occasionally.  My legs sustain multiple scabs from time to time by hitting the cragged rocks and branches from trees or logs.

2011 –

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –   

What were some of the toughest miles that you travelled?

RamSham –

2010 – I would say from Hot Springs to Erwin – that was when I was stricken with first illness.  It was my mind over matter to get myself up and keep hiking and working for Cane throughout this difficult episode.  Secondly, the first few weeks of extreme ongoing pain in my foot was difficult enough – from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Hartford, Tennessee.

2011 – The trail between Susquehanna River and Delaware Water Gap was sometimes challenging due to its cragged rocks to hike over.  I fell once and scrapped my left shin very good.  The PA rocks bite me back for stomping on ’em for long while!  Cane fell headward onto cragged rock in middle of boulder field and split open on his head.  He bled profusely, but  wasn’t injured seriously.  We were able to hiked out around 7 miles to hitch to get a ride to hospital which was around 40 minutes of driving away!  My WFR (Wilderness First Responder) training was useful and put in a good use!  😎

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –

Cane –

2010- The toughest miles I hiked was before NOC – Nantahala Outdoor Center in Wesser, North Carolina.  It was raining and getting dark at that time.  I slipped and fell for many times due to muddy trail and slippery rocks.  I didn’t have a good grip on the trail and rocks, so my legs stretched too far which caused me some pains and discomfort.

2011 –

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –

What are some of the toughest miles that lay ahead of you?

RamSham –

2010 – I keep hearing about how tough and very rocky terrain it is in northeast part of Pennsylvania, so I am aware how it will be a challenge for Cane to hike over them.  I am going to do my best to see Cane to get through this challenge in one piece and without sustaining any major injuries.

2011 – The challenge of Pennsylvania did live up to its reputation for real!  Glad that we got past that and will focus on getting started from New Jersey toward Massachusetts in Spring 2012!  In the month of May was pretty hard on us with many days of rain.  My feet were in terrible shape after being wet in the boots for 3 days in row.  It was so painful that I couldn’t walk without any pain.  With Cane’s injury to his head, we had to take a few days off which was helpful for my feet to heal.

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –

Cane –

2010 – I heard from the hikers and read the book written by a blind hiker named Bill Irwin about how rocky terrain in Pennsylvania is, so I am thinking about getting a rollerblade helmet and knee caps to minimize injuries from falling down.

2011 – 

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –

What was your most memorable experience so far?

RamSham –

2010 – My most memorable experience so far was to hike with a group of wonderful hikers (Rico, Magic Lungs, and Silver Fox)  for 3 weeks from Hartford, Tennessee to Damascus, Virginia.  It was so amazing to see how they learned ASL – American Sign Language – and finger spellings in order to communicate with me and Cane.  We supported and cheered on each other to hike on daily basis.  It was definitely a motivation for me personally during that time especially when I was ill for a couple of weeks.

2011 – My fond memories were:

  • gathering with our friends and loved ones in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
  • kind couple who ran Bed and Breakfast Inn from Waynesboro, PA
  • hiked with Bear Jew and Rock Puncher most of the way
  • witnessed Cane meeting and chatting with Bill Irwin at Appalachian Trail Museum,

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –

Cane –

2010 – I had a wonderful time at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia on the weekend of 14-May-2010.  It was great to meet some of hikers again that we met prior to the Trail Days.  I felt that they are part of my AT Family.

2011 –

2012 – 

2013 –

2014 –

What would you like to share with other individuals that may have a similar disability about this hiking experience?

RamSham – I am Deaf and only speak for myself as a Deaf hiker’s experience.  Some people commented to me that how can I hear anyone’s yell for help, crumbling rocks beneath me as I walk across, animal coming to attack at me from behind and etc.  It doesn’t stop me from hiking just because I simply cannot hear.  I am proud to be a Deaf person.  I hike because I love what I am doing – being part of wilderness, getting away from civilization, getting in touch within myself, and meeting other wonderful hikers and people on- and off-trail.  It is challenging for anyone, with or without disability, to hike AT in different way – physically, mentally and/or emotionally.

Cane – I met many wonderful hikers that were amazed at my ability to hike independently with my limited vision.  They were wondering how I was able to hike with my trekking poles on my own while my SSP was hiking ahead of me.  Some of the hikers hiked along with me and witnessed my falls, trips or injuries and were awestruck that I kept getting up and going on.

Is there anything else you would like to communicate to readers?

RamSham – When you meet anyone who has any form of disability for first time, please do not be afraid to look appear stupid or unsure what to do.  Just ask the person how s/he would like you to communicate or interact with him/her.  Please feel free to ask any questions, no matter how stupid you may think they are, because it is only way to learn coming from a person with disability.  Mostly important of all, people with disability are human like everyone else.

Cane – Individuals with various disability have different experiences while hiking AT – for example – a blind hiker named Bill Irwin – he was a blind person who had a good hearing, had a good balance and used his guide dog to hike on AT.  I am deaf-blind hiker who is using SSP to hike on AT, therefore his and my experiences are unique in their own way.

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