Archives - June, 2010



30 Jun 10

by The Mighty Quinn
No way I’m letting the humans have all the blogging fun! I hear all this talk about Trekker Poles, Tech-wick shirts and all that. We go to EMS so often they might be justified in charging us rent! Sure I love that Dad has a super Water Filter pump to make sure we can all drink as often as we’d like on the way up. Yes his snazzy “Shantz” have pockets aplenty for my gear too (read Charlee Bears!) and absolutely I want the big lug to put a trekking pole on the ground opposite me to help him find the points I’m showing. I’m glad the calorie-counters have added Quinn kibble increases into the mix as well – mmm, extra-hard work means extra food for me! In short I give full credit to all that equipment for the general hiker.

We are not and I am most certainly not the typical hiker! So what I’m most excited about is getting a chance to show the world the best piece of ‘equipment’ for Dad: one Mighty Quinn Guiding Eyes Guide Dog. Sure my school doesn’t necessarily sanction pups for Mountain Hiking but I do have all the curbside, staircase, low branch, door-finding, obstacle-dodging, time-saving daily routines down already. I really want to show my work leading him up the hardest challenges. I love the woods and the scents on the breeze but nothing compares to knowing how much we are accomplishing together with our teamwork and my steadfast focus and devotion.

So how about helping my credibility here. I’m officially taking questions about my preparations and the work I’ll be doing on Washington. Think you can stump me? I can handle anything. Ask away – Quinn is In!

Wag-meister Quinn
Adventure Dawg!

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29 Jun 10

by Randy Pierce

Well this project is moving along in some ways at blinding speeds (t.m.) though we haven’t even begun our first official mountain. I still have several days of anticipation and amusingly I was commenting the other day that I’m eager to get out and hike for the break from all the work. Certainly this is tongue in cheek as I’m well aware of how much work will happen on the trails. It’s a different type of work, of course, and a different type of reward. Those are the two aspects which motivate me towards these climbs. When asked about hiking Bill Bryson said it rather eloquently in his book “A Walk In the Woods.” Bill says hiking is mostly walking and I’ve been doing that for most of my life so perhaps I am experienced (paraphrased of course).

I do a lot of walking with the Mighty Quinn and our environs are typically our neighborhoods and travel downtown for various life tasks. The difference in feeling the White Mountain Forest around you is tremendous. From the feel of the air, the scent on the breeze to the entirely different set of background sounds. I once heard life described as a video game with great graphics and a bad soundtrack. I think of the sounds in the woods as precisely the soundtrack I need to refresh my mind. Still I’m not sure that is enough to get me out on a day-long expedition into deeper forests.

The notion of challenge and bringing out the best in both myself and Quinn really encourages me. I love to learn and grow and each of these experiences certainly provides such times. I love the connection built with my fellow hikers as we are challenging and accomplishing together as well. To some extent it is the achieving of a summit but more for me is the transformation from the experience.

So while there are a host of other hikes and experiences recently behind me, I admit the anticipation is largest for Washington next week not because it is the tallest or most dangerous, both of which may be true. It’s because this is the official start of a more grand challenge, not just in the hiking but in the entirety of the project. I’ve been working towards it for a year directly and probably five years indirectly if not my entire life.

It’s time to climb these mountains for the experiences they will give me. It’s time to share the experience in as many ways as possible to involve and hopefully interest many people in the Belief of Possibility.  It’s time to achieve these summits for the benefit I believe will come from my vision of the 2020 Vision Quest. I hope many of you will join me in many ways!

Be Well!

Randy

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28 Jun 10

by Carrie McMillen

So, as we get ready for the BIG HIKE up Mt. Washington, a few of you have asked, “How are we preparing?”

Personally, I am answering a lot of email from our nine other participants about car spotting (where to leave the cars so we can get home again!), arrival times and food allergies. We’ve got a great group of ten who have a lot of questions, but are genuinely thrilled to be a part of the Mt Washington inaugural hike. I’m just hoping their excitement and positive attitudes remain after they learn how early I am making them get up the morning of July 4th!

Other than answering emails, the big thing I’ve been working on this week has been our trip report. Whether your group is super-experienced or not, it’s important to outline your intentions and backup plans for a hike. So here are my 2 cents on what I think is important to document ahead of time:

  • Trip Dates (include departure time from trailhead and expected return)
  • Leader and Co-leader
  • Trails we will hike/ Mountains we will try to summit
  • Elevation gain and rise
  • Water sources
  • Overnight information (where you plan to camp or lodge for the night)
  • Evacuation plan (see below)
  • Emergency numbers (police, hospital, White Mountain National Forest, etc)
  • General hike description
  • Participant’s allergies, medical information and emergency contacts (I like to keep this printed out separately since it can contain confidential information. And then I pray that it doesn’t need to come out while on the hike, because that would mean we had an injury!)

Courtesy of http://www.ellison-photography.com/

Most of you might be thinking some of this is obvious information – why the heck would you need to be so official about it? Well, when you start counting the topo lines on the map (or try the AMC White Mountain Guide descriptions if your eyes are tired of squinting), you learn some things about how prepared you need to be. For instance, from my perspective, Randy will have more of a challenge going down, so it’s good to know how much elevation loss there is and how rocky it will be.

When considering an evacuation plan, I try to think of ways to get off the mountain. Are there shorter trails out? Are there huts that have radios to communicate? Are there toll roads that can take somebody down in a car? Also, it’s not good to split up a group, but if it absolutely necessary due to injury and the group is big enough, I think BEFOREHAND about how I would split them up: keep a leader with each group, keep the strength divided up while having the slightly stronger group do the hiking out and have a designated sheltered waiting place where the first group stays. I consider these types of things because with these logistics already mapped out, it will free up my time to focus on an emergency if we do have one.

In addition to bringing a copy in my pack, I will typically give a hike report not just to Randy for his information, but also to a friend not coming on the trip, so that they are aware of our overall plan. This person is always someone I will contact soon upon return so they know not to come looking for us!

I don’t think a trip report is crucial for when you spontaneously grab a friend and go on a hike (but still tell someone where you’re going) – but when you’ve got an overnight group of ten people (and don’t forget a super-cute guide dog!), it’s pretty important to me to think some of these things out beforehand.

See you out on the trail!

Carrie

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28 Jun 10

Quinn next to the summit stones of Mt. Welch

by Tracy Goyette

One of the earliest lessons that I learned in interacting with Randy and the Mighty Quinn was to allow Quinn to do his work.

I can recall being frightened at each obstacle whether it was something for Randy to stumble upon, bash a knee or crack a skull. I was sure that Quinn might miss it. Often, with a spoken warning from me, Randy would offer a good natured “Yep, Quinn’s got it.”

I learned, after more time with Randy and Quinn, that there were some very good reasons why my desire to share knowledge of each obstacle was more of a hindrance than help. Randy offered some simple thoughts on this to me which I’ll share with you now.
1. Quinn is phenomenal but not infallible. If at any point you think Quinn is in danger of injury (like broken glass on the sidewalk) or if Randy was in serious danger – DO speak up. Otherwise…
2. Animals are  creatures of habit. If Quinn learns that he does not need to be as vigilant when a specific person is around then he may start being more lax at other times causing an even worse injury than the occasional mistake he might make with Randy’s full trust.
3. Input overload.  Consider the notion of a back seat driver.  We sighted folks can often resemble a back seat driver.  Certainly with all of the best intentions but nevertheless providing too much information when none is needed.
Now, imagine how the fears I spoke about earlier escalate when our intrepid heroes are navigating rough terrain of the mountains. I have recently been asked by several people “Tracy, I worry about Randy and Quinn and I’m not engaged to Randy; how DO you do it?”
The answer is, it is very hard.  Yet, I cannot second guess every step they take without worrying myself (and them) crazy.  Instead of providing constant feedback I try to remain vigilant as I walk in front of them. I am constantly weighing, is this a time when I should warn him or am I exaggerating the danger of this area? When I notice a particularly rough spot I do worry and I pause and look back, ready to chime in with a word of warning.   What is my most common sight when I do that?   I see Quinn with as much concern on his face as I feel at that moment.  I also see this remarkable dog making the right decision most of the time.  Seeing Quinn’s work day after day does inspire trust and comfort and has taught me, through experience, to believe.
Thank you Quinn, you are one remarkable dog!
Tracy
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27 Jun 10

by Randy Pierce

As you can imagine, we’re a pretty enthusiastic bunch, with a can-do attitude. But sometimes there are situations where you have to make a tough call, and not be mislead by your own eagerness — especially when safety is the issue. From the begining I’ve been concerned that we’d be able to make those kind of tough calls, and today I got my first proof that yes, we can, even though the result is disappointing to me.  We cancelled our Cannon Mountain hike today and it was absolutely the right choice. For an assortment of reasonable reasons, we had a collection of our hiking folks cancel and were left with a late night before the hike and only three of us prepared to make the trip. Three may be a fine number for many mountain hikers but, on the risk-management side of hiking blind, it is not optimum. Rather than unnecessarily risk  a problem on the trail – should one occur – growing into something significant , we decided to have a restful Sunday on our last weekend before the Mt. Washington climb instead.

I’m disappointed and of course a little frustrated.  I’m also proud of the fact we don’t put ego or any other factors before the primary consideration of being safe.  I didn’t want to disappoint anyone with whom we’d shared the hike plans.  I didn’t want to miss the last chance to test our various pieces of equipment before the first official hike next week. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to escape to a beautiful mountain on a near ideal weather day. I know it’s the right choice, I support the decision and by the time we are headed to the next hike I hope my emotions will fully accept the decision as well.

Old Man April 26, 2003 – before the fall

One other consolation… We’ll be back to Cannon soon enough…

Randy

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23 Jun 10

Crawford Path Western slope of Mt Washington from Edmands Path on Mt Eisenhower.

Mount Washington Observatory Photo www.mountwashington.org

by Carrie McMillen

Mt. Washington is a daunting hike for anyone, with sight or without. When Randy asked me to lead him and a close group of friends up the mountain, I can honestly say that my first reaction was “Sweet!” And then about two seconds later, I thought “ummmm…WHOA.” How the heck were we going to do this?

Many sighted people do it as a day trip (I’m talking hiking here, NOT driving up the toll road!). It can take anywhere from 6-12 hours round trip, depending on your fitness level and choice of trails. So when I started thinking that “ummm…whoa,” I knew my biggest challenge was going to be how to give us the best shot at making it.

That led me first to securing overnight bunks at Lake of the Clouds AMC hut (a mere 1.4 miles from George’s summit) so that we could split the hike into two days.  Once the hut was confirmed, I talked to a number of hiking friends who discussed the challenges of Tuckerman’s and the rocky East-sloping trails.  A West-side approach was clearly the better option, especially given the hut’s location.  A new hiking forum friend, Sabrina, also advised us, based on hiking with her blind mother, to try the Jewell Trail which is easier (although longer) because of the footing.

In the end, we’ve chosen to ascend the Ammonoosuc Trail, parts of which can be steep and rocky.  But it also has a mild beginning and is the shortest – I’ve seen Randy conquer a few technical rocky ledges and have the confidence he can do it well.  Descending on steep and rocky terrain is what we’ll try to avoid – therefore, we will either descend via the Jewell Trail or via the Crawford/Edmands Paths.  This decision will remain last minute (not just to annoy you all!) but because it will depend on whether we summit Washington the first day or the second.  I don’t presume to predict the outcome, given the crazy weather conditions on Washington, but we clearly are hoping to summit on Day 1, so we can celebrate at the hut that evening of the 4th!

See you out on the trail!

Carrie

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23 Jun 10

Tracy (Goyette), Randy and Quinn

by Randy Pierce

In 2009, while hiking some simple woods with the Mighty Quinn, Guide Dog Extraordinaire, I reflected upon how fortunate I have been with the manner in which I am able to meet challenges.

I by no means hold the monopoly on challenges. But like everyone, I have had my share and the opportunities that arise from them. Just three years ago I was confined to a wheelchair. Now, I not only walk, I hike. I run. I explore the expansive world around me with Quinn leading the way. I am so very appreciative.

So when Quinn and I were invited to hike a local mountain with Tracy, we took her up on the invitation. On the hike, I was amazed at the attention, devotion and ability with which Quinn guided me up the challenging trail. Resting atop the summit of Pack-Monadnock, I reflected well upon how a series of small steps had led to this very gratifying accomplishment.

Metaphorically I delight in reaching summits and in the notion of achieving a goal and attaining new heights and the whole process that goes with it. On that day, experiencing a world which had seemed out of my reach, my spirit was bolstered and I knew that it was time for more of this type of journey in my life. This is how the 2020 Vision Quest was born.

While the 2020 Vision Quest has quickly evolved well beyond my initial thoughts (look I have a website!), in its essence it epitomizes using small steps and community to accomplish a grander result. I do not consider the 48 peaks just a checklist to race through. For me there is an accomplishment to setting 48 as the first of many goals in my future and I intend to savor the entirety of the experience which leads me to and through all of the individual ascents.

Along this journey I will savor and share these moments and, the trails willing, inspire and motivate others to create their own moments. Thanks for joining us.

Be Well!

Randy

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