On July Fourth, they reached the highest summit in the U.S. Rocky Mountains, 14,400-foot Mount Elbert, and raised a U.S. flag.
“Although it is not officially on the Colorado Trail, we could not pass up this possibility,” Thomas told followers on his Facebook page, which he updates regularly with the challenges and joys of the hike.
Thomas went blind in 2006 and made headlines two years later when he hiked the Appalachian Trail, covering 2,180 miles over six months.
He had finished law school in 2006 and was about to take the bar exam when an autoimmune disease targeted the macula in his eyes. He lost his vision in eight months.
“I would consider it one of the low points in my life,” Thomas told the Observer in a 2014 interview.
He picked up distance hiking because it involves survival techniques that appealed to him, he said.
Metrolina Association for the Blind in Charlotte provided instructors to help him develop new interests.
“I had instructors every day to teach me new things so I could get on with life,” he said. “Braille is like learning Chinese and text messaging all in one swoop.”
He’s also hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail in California and Nevada.
He and Tennille started on the Colorado Trail on June 19 and have been featured in The Denver Post and on Denver TV stations.
“There is no margin for error,” Thomas told The Denver Post by satellite phone from the summit of Georgia Pass, explaining how a blind hiker navigates 489 miles of obstacles from Denver to Durango. “Loving life but getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.”
“I use every resource available and all my senses to navigate,” Thomas told the newspaper. He said he uses echolocation, “like a human bat,” to know where he is and where he must go. “Everything in the world has a particular sound, and from those sounds I can get a primitive idea of what an environment is like,” he told the paper.
Thomas’ longtime hiking partner, Dave Baumgartner, arrived from California to take pictures and shoot video of the expedition.
Thomas, meanwhile, has been chronicling the hike on his Facebook page.
On Wednesday, after a steep 3,000-foot climb, he wrote: “It is hard to believe we are almost half way through. This has been a very physically and mentally challenging trek thus far and we are looking forward to seeing what is over the next mountain for us.”