14 Aug 10

by Randy Pierce

The day was a fantastic story of achievement for both Quinn and me. Cannon was a two-day planning event for both 2020 Vision Quest and Powderhouse Productions. They had heard of the inspirational work of the Mighty Quinn and wanted to film it for an inspiring project of their own. The interesting catch is that the film crew had precious little hiking experience, but they really wanted their final day of filming to involve hiking one of the 48 with us.

We filmed all day on Wednesday in Nashua, and then made a trip to Hidden Valley Campground where I gave a presentation to a group of boy scouts while they filmed. I learned a few things about their 14-member production crew during this time. I was very confident that they were capturing some quality footage, which was encouraging. However, the crew had difficulty keeping within desired time constraints – this would be a significant concern to me in our attempt on Cannon.

The latter concern escalated as they moved the trailhead departure time from my requested 7:00am to 8:00am, and then for a variety of production reasons, failed to arrive at the trailhead until well after 9:00am. In fact, the film crew was not actually ready to hike until after 10:00am. Time is among the biggest challenges for our success, and I’d given up over three hours of time already. Though this was an earnest attempt at Cannon, we decided to untypically allow the time impact within all reasonable safety levels. To ensure full comfort in this approach, I had asked both our 2020 hiking manager, Carrie McMillen, and UNH Professor of Outdoor Education, Brent Bell, to join us in undertaking the hike.

As we began the hike, the crew’s prior level of appreciation for Quinn was dwarfed by his astounding work on the trail. I mostly walked with our celebrity host, Ethan, as he watched us work and asked many questions about our progress. We repeated certain stretches to help the camera work, and often paused for the more poignant questions to get full impact on film. The crew was working hard to manage the trail with their equipment, and by the time we hit Lonesome Lake, it was clear that many of the crew would not continue onward with us. We all had lunch just past the impressive bog rails we had traversed around the lake. During lunch, we adjusted the plan; we would continue up with a small camera and sound crew, while the rest of the crew would hike down to take the tram and meet us at the summit.

The trail from Lonesome Lake to Kinsman Ridge is steep and has some good staircase work, which is actually an area where Quinn and I are strong. It was slippery and moderately challenging, with plenty of great opportunities for the film work. Now, the group was small enough that the bonding of the group began to develop in earnest. As we reached the Kinsman Ridge Trail, it leveled briefly at the col between the Cannon Ball and Cannon. The next .2 miles were very steep with hard scrabble, and everyone needed all four limbs for hiking. Due to this terrain, Quinn went off duty, and I managed it with the guidance of the sounds of a person ahead of me.

It was slow going and hard climbing, even for Quinn. This wasn’t our hardest challenge to date but it was a solid stretch of work. Our halts for camera time were reduced to ensure we’d achieve the summit in time. As we finished that section and Quinn returned to me, we made great time to the summit. Again, more film crew pauses held us for nearly an hour more. However, it was fantastic for their story and well worth the time spent – but it also removed any chance of our making a descent. This hike was about the production company getting their story – there was no failure on our end. We actually still felt strong and energized enough to undertake a descent, but we didn’t have enough time to make it reasonable. I was also skeptical that any of the film crew had the strength or energy reserves to continue. Instead, we all took the Tram down in an astounding 7-minute ride.

I learned more about working with Quinn on this hike, I have many new perspectives from the film work, and I became familiarized with Cannon Mountain. This increases my interest in returning and experiencing the mountain more fully with an official 2020 hike and a complete summit ascent and descent. In the meanwhile, I know there’s a fantastic story on film, and I look forward to being able to share more details with you soon.

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