Melanie Knecht and Trevor Hahn are exploring nature and hiking on top of mountains by helping each other.
Melanie Knecht and Trevor Hahn are proving to the world that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. While Knecht was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don't form properly, Hahn lost his vision five years ago due to glaucoma, a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve of the eye. But now the duo has teamed up to explore nature and hike on top of mountains. Explaining why they make a dream team, Knecht told Good Morning America, "It just seemed like common sense. He's the legs, I'm the eyes -- boom! Together, we're the dream team."
When asked how the team came to be, they revealed meeting at several outdoor activities before finally having each other's back. The duo, who live in Fort Collins, Colorado, first met during an adaptive boxing class. Just a few weeks later, they ran into each other once again at an adaptive rock climbing class. Here they learned about their shared interest and love for nature. Knecht has been exploring the outdoors for a long time now and it began in her childhood when she would go camping. Last year, she visited the Easter Islands and was able to scale steep cliffs in a carrier on the back of someone.
Hahn too has been an avid lover of outdoor sports and continues to take part in them despite having lost his vision. When the two met, they came up with a creative idea that could help them both enjoy nature by themselves as they ventured into the Colorado wilderness. Knecht secures herself in a carrier which is then hoisted onto Hahn's back by a hiking partner or a friend. Then Hahn hikes along the trail while following the verbal directions given by Knecht as they make their way up. Speaking of their effective thinking method, Knecht said, "I describe everything I see and exactly how Trevor needs to move."
Apart from enjoying each other's company and being surrounded by nature, the two revealed that the best part about hiking is providing each other the opportunity to do something that is hard to come by. "It made me so happy to help someone experience what I've been able to experience my whole life," shared Hahn. "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." Knecht loves the freedom that comes with these outdoor activities. "I've been in a wheelchair my whole life, and it's an amazing feeling to leave it literally miles behind on the trail," she expressed. "I even couldn't get in it if I wanted to, and that's a great feeling."
There's another thing that makes the two feel great about partnering up while hiking and it is the feeling of not being a burden on each other. Knecht explains that there is always guilt they feel while asking an able-bodied or sighted person for help and then being unable to extend the same assistance to them. But when it comes to the pair, they perfectly understand what it is like to live with a disability and help each other on the journey "We go a little slower and need to take lots of breaks, but that's what we both need," said Hahn. Due to their creativity and open-mindedness, the two have been breaking barriers. Now they are encouraging able-bodied people to consider finding more adaptive solutions for their friends with disabilities. "Ask questions of people with disabilities, to see what they like and what they want to do. Don't not include them because you think they won't be able to do something," shared Knecht.
You can follow their inspiring journey on Instagram.