The Florida Trail is a challenging hike that covers over 1,100-miles of varying terrains. Parts of the trail are through swamps, while other areas are along busy roads. Kyle Rohrig was determined to complete the trail with his loyal hiking companion, Katana.
Katana is an 8-year-old Shiba Inu that recently went blind. The seasoned hikers had previously completed many long distance hikes like the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. When Katana’s vision started to fail on the Pacific Crest Trail, the team left the trail so she could get surgery, but later returned to finish the hike.
Kyle could not imagine leaving his partner behind when he knew how much Katana enjoyed the hikes. The blindness was just another challenge they would overcome. Kyle also thought that Katana could use a boost to her confidence.
Since completely losing her eyesight, she had become understandably more cautious and unsure of things. She moved around her home fine by memory, but new places made her nervous.
On January 8, they set out on The Florida Trail, making it their greatest challenge yet. They started at Big Cypress, in the Everglades and thought it would take two to three month to complete the trail. “It was very wet, muddy, buggy and at times we were wading through water, mud or swamp for miles … sometimes up to my waist,” Rohrig told The Dodo. “It was a tough, wet year to hike this trail.”
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He documented the hike on his Instagram page, posting pictures and videos to remember the journey. He posted a picture of Katana crossing a narrow board with the caption, “Sights unseen, she walks the line.”
Katana would hike about one to two miles a day and her dad would carry her on his back for the rest. She fit perfectly on top of his backpack and took in the fresh air. “She loved every second of the freedom out there and getting to explore new places,” Rohrig said. “I truly think that’s every dog’s dream.”
The pair faced more unexpected challenges when they encountered alligators, snakes, and washed out trails. However, they persevered and completed the trail in 72 days. They completed another grueling trail together, but even more importantly Katana got her confidence back.
“It was emotional seeing her do so well,” he said, “as if nothing had changed since our nostalgic days when first getting into long-distance hiking.”
They plan on many more hiking adventures, but for now Katana is thriving at home with her new confidence.
Watch Katana lead the way in the last 200 miles of the Florida Trail in the video below.
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This is one of the best/longest videos I have of Katana leading me down the trail. For those who don’t know – Katana has no eyes. This was within the last 200 miles of our 1,100 mile thru hike of the Florida Trail. The main goal of this hike was to give Katana the confidence to live the best/highest quality of life a blind dog could hope to live. She rose to the challenge and succeeded in spades! . . . . #floridatrail #thruhiking #travel #nature #adventure #wanderlust #photooftheday #picoftheday #dog #dogoftheday #dogstagram #dogsofinstagram #doglover #campingwithdogs #hiking #backpacking #dogs #hikingwithdogs #Shiba #ShibaInu #hikingdog #traveldog #adventuredog #animallovers #instadog #doglover #doglife #dogs #ilovemydog #petstagram
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.
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