Archives - May, 2011



30 May 11

by Randy Pierce

Red-gold lightning bolts striking Mount Garfield, 40+ mph wind gusts atop the Franconia Ridge, and a hiking trail straight up a rushing waterfall could have made a great story of this five-day traverse around a portion of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. There is a power and a sort of magic within these mountainous woods, but the true power and purpose was found in the people and a marvelous pup!

Team 2020 joined forces with the University of New Hampshire’s Outdoor Education program for a leadership experience that provided all of us with plenty of lessons, and some incredible experiences. We all knew much less of each other before this excursion began, yet would need to depend on the knowledge, skills, and efforts of the entire group to achieve success. A young student in our Pre-hike with the Preschool Presentation asked, “Why do you climb the mountains?” I explained that there are many reasons, from the beauty and serenity of nature’s sounds, smells, and touches, to the personal challenges of the trails and terrain. Ultimately, the greatest reason is the powerful bond built by a team in undertaking experiences together. This trip delivered precisely that goal, as I think the experience changed us all in various ways.

Incredible views of the Pemi

Each hike is a once-ever experience of people and nature brought together for a common purpose, and in the process, the growth of the team and the individuals combine with the experience to bring about true treasures. We had our reasons for trepidation, as the forecast suggested a week of entirely rainy days. A similar trip last year was filled with excessive challenges that altered the plan significantly. Time and travel constraints prevented me from spending any appreciable time with the group in advance, so I could begin the bonds of understanding, trust, and friendship. Yet as we began Monday’s short journey along the Gale River Trail, heavy packs, and nervous anticipation began to blossom into laughter, songs, and the conversational explorations, that unite a group. Searching for the perfect bivvy site and building our first overnight camp launched teamwork through tarp hanging, water collecting, cooking, bear bagging, and team activities to help with leadership. The rain held off and only a small burst at 4 a.m. teased us, though the tarps kept us dry. By Tuesday morning, we put two stream crossings behind us and steeply climbed to Galehead Hut, leaving all insects behind! All had the chance to observe and appreciate Quinn’s work and as we neared the hut, we switched to students guiding me, for experience and efficiency. Packs came off at the hut and we soon took our first 4K summit – Galehead. The overlook just before the summit was captivating, and it made up for the tiny summit that barely contained Quinn’s tug of war session or the first feeling of group accomplishment.

Randy and Quinn lounging at the tent platform

Wednesday was again glorious weather. We managed some hard miles by various students sharing the challenge and experience of guiding me. Each change brought new communication styles as we built common language and understanding, while undertaking diverse and intense terrain. Most intense of all was the final mile, which included hands to the ground scrambling up a waterfall! As such, a wet but elated group reached the Garfield tent platforms with time enough to set gear out to dry in the sun and celebrate. The AMC-hired helicopter was actively dropping supplies all over the Whites, including our platform and Galehead Hut, which made for some fun sights. Now the team was coming together and dinner was followed by an impromptu talent show, which we shared with some fellow hikers met at the site. Our conversations deepened as we talked late into the night. It was a clear night with a cold and biting wind, which even drove Quinn into his sleeping bag beneath the open bivvy tarps. Our longest day lay ahead, and our most efficient morning allowed a necessary early start to get us up the hard scrambles to Garfield’s summit amidst the steady 40+ mph winds. Still more planned student guiding ensured that most had the experience with me and I with them. We paused only a short time to celebrate our second summit because the deep saddle into Lafayette awaited us.

Randy being led by one of the students

A long and dangerous descent seemed to last forever before the rise of Lafayette began. We thought we might never reach tree line and the famed Skookumchuc Trail. The theme of the day was endurance and support, and appropriately so. Finally, we achieved the Franconia Ridge, and each false summit allowed the powerful winds from the south to punish us. The wind would buffet us all and challenge our balance while making hearing impossible. However, the splendor of this ridge and the long line of the mountain spine are unparalleled. We took Lafayette late into the afternoon and knew we would forego the Lincoln spur for sake of time and energy. We achieved three summits, more than any other single Team 2020 hike. Most powerful of all was the growth of this group in our experience. We closed the day with a trip to Greenleaf Hut to celebrate and finally feel the signs of the end of our journey. The change was palpable and yet feelings were mixed with an eagerness to end a weary trip versus the desire not to lose the moments shared on the trip. When the red-hued bolts began to strike all over the range and on the Garfield Ridge that we had camped on the night before, we were all glad of a roof and walls around us. It finalized the magic of the evening and the journey. Friday’s descent on a steep, wet trail was slippery and a bit treacherous across the three agonies, and we finally made it to the end of the Old Bridal Path. Words cannot describe the emotions throughout such a journey nor the changes in the people who shared it, but each of us will hold it forever in our memory, and for me at least, reflect on it with incredible appreciation. Quinn led me on the last leg out of the woods, just as he had led me into them. Along the way, I was led, taught, and moved by some incredible students and a Professor friend of mine. Their mark is on me and I hope we gave them something worthwhile to remember as they go forward. That’s the purpose of all this, to share, grow and savor the many rewards of life. There was power in the Pemi and even more in the people and pup who shared it!

2011 – 2020 Vision Quest & UNH Pemi Trip


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23 May 11

by Randy Pierce

I have heard more than a few questions about Quinn’s safety on a hike, and while I’m out in the Pemi Wilderness with him, I thought I would comfort some folks and share with all of you that Quinn is very well tended. With our approach, we follow the adage of a quote I love well: “We do not plan to fail, we fail to plan.” That is to say, we do plan for Quinn’s safety, and hopefully reap the benefits of this choice.

Quinn’s gear includes his own sleeping bag for warmth and to help him dry quickly, which sadly looks necessary for this trip. He will have several paw ‘boots’ to protect him from the rough rocks and these boots have been tested to ensure they give protection and traction. We have a dog safe marigold bug repellent and a bag of cornstarch to soothe bites or chafe. Also, I will carry a full extra meal for him for each day and the extra water to ensure he’s drinking steadily and sufficiently. All of these advance supplies have us prepared to deal with many concerns using a preventative approach.

Taking care of Quinn

On the hikes, we use his best alert signal to us, the tail wag, to know how he’s feeling. Each stop involves a little quick check on him to ensure nothing is amiss. We know that a dog’s conditioning typically exceeds our own but practice on the trails helps us understand the mental energy he uses, and helps us ensure calories and rest are supplied to let him enjoy the experience fully.

Most importantly, we have learned what types of terrain are challenging for him directly or a worry for me. If I am sliding off the icy monorail and have the risk of stepping on him, we switch strategies to a human guide. When steep terrain requires I be guided differently, we ensure he works with a sighted person to keep his pace and route appropriate for the terrain. This is especially essential since we know he wants to worry about me, and occasionally he takes a more direct route to me if left to his own devices.

Quinn is not only my essential link to independence and safety; he is my well-loved and cherished companion. I will not deliberately put him into any dangerous situation without taking all the proper safety precautions. If this experience should ever show signs of displeasing him, I will tend to his happiness as a priority, and ensure he doesn’t deal with such a situation again.

It is for this reason, his sheer delight at our mountain explorations, that I do keep him with me in our work together to accomplish these 48 summits. So check the tail in our video and photographs for the evidence that everyone on our hikes can assure you is present. Should this ever not be the case, Quinn can join all of you in watching our Spot Adventures and awaiting my wilderness return from  the warm, dry, and safe confines of a comfortable home!

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18 May 11

by Randy Pierce

We’ve learned so very much and come such a long way in our first season that it truly seemed fitting to make the long trek of Owl’s Head our first success. More than this, though, my friend and hiking mentor Sherpa John is leaving New England with time enough to share this one last hike with us. John has an appreciation for the Pemi and this mountain which is infectious and rare. His leadership and a fantastic team led to one of my proudest successful summits!

We began strong with heavy overnight packs and a higher level of fitness than the previous year. Quinn quickly showcased his talents to the wonder of some of the new folks watching him work a mountain trail for the first time. We reached the Black Pond ahead of schedule and prepared to undertake the Bushwhack which avoided some very perilous early spring crossings of the larger rivers required in the conventional trail. For this we planned a human Guide and Sherpa John did the honors. Though we soon learned this made it more challenging for Sherpa to navigate, as the nature of guiding me caused him to be shifted left and right in disorienting fashion. We switched out and had learned one of many quality lessons of the trip.

The next lessons would come in the several significant stream crossings we still had to manage after connecting back to the main trail. In my Teva water shoes I could use two hiking poles and the voice of someone on the far bank to navigate the streams strong and well. Bone chilling cold and swift currents were in full force for all and ultimately dangerous enough that Tim, Robbie and Sherpa had to tend Quinn’s safe crossings which included carrying him at some points! The icy glacial sides of the river bed made clear the cold and harshness of this challenge and this  was one of the hardest parts of the trek.

We reached the hardest part, the Owl’s Head Slide, at 4:00 p.m. and this was just barely too late for a reasonable summit attempt. We didn’t want to return down the slide in the dark (headlamps for the sighted!) or manage the risk of such dangers knowing anything going awry would be better handled with a morning response. Camping in such a remote location was a great bit of quality time and community building which even exceeded the summit ‘high five.”

Leaving our full packs behind, Sherpa led me on my undertaking of the slide. It was an experience unlike any other of my hikes so far. Its unrelenting steepness, loose footing and wet, even icy, challenges were impressive. It is no wonder a moose even met its end on this slide not so very long ago. Still, with my hands to the ground for almost all of it, we made great time and soon stood higher than “the spring”.  The unmaintained trail had the extra challenges of the long lingering deep snow, post holes, and many blown down trees. For Quinn’s safety and speed I used Robbie as my guide again. We hit not only the old summit but added the additional half mile of rough work and searching to get to the ‘new’ summit as well. We were right on schedule and pleased especially since the ice and snow depth had significantly enhanced the challenges.

Our descent down the slide was a marvel of efficiency as I backed down on hands and feet for the bulk of it. I think our success surprised all of us and the pride at the bottom of the slide was something earned by every member of the team. We supported each other physically and emotionally, well deserving the elation we felt. Resting only for lunch, we picked up our packs for the long hike out.

During this break I bent to pick up equipment and struck my head into a tree that I had been warned of earlier. This moment of sloppiness would challenge me for the next few hours. My head was pounding, my balance impacted and now the burden of my wet pack would make me struggle too much. A mentally weary Quinn would have been my guide, but he reacted to my unsteady struggles by not wanting to lead. He knew I was not at my safest and wanted me to get stable first. We took him off duty and I tapped the human guides for the next stretch. I slipped and fell a bit more during this struggling time and the rain began to fall lightly. By the time we crossed the streams which had grown from the prior day, we achieved a speedy safe efficiency. It was incredibly taxing but the results were ideal. Enough so we kept Quinn off duty for the remainder of the trip.

Our final challenge was a Bushwhack gone slightly awry. The Spot Adventure shows the challenges and realities of such expeditions. A steady soaking rain, thick fog and weary hikers can miss the mark and force back-up plans. Sherpa and Tim coordinated to bring us to the streams which would allow us to exit via Franconia Falls. This was hard hiking for certain and mentally draining as well. The team pulled together, gave full support and the aching muscles were pushed to successfully get us all through this. Robbie set a new record for human guiding time and most of it in the unfamiliar bushwhack approach.

The surge of adrenaline and enthusiasm we found at the Franconia Falls was tremendous. Our group then began the long but vastly easy Wilderness trail egress. So much pride and sense of accomplishment poured out even as those final three miles extended into full darkness. Headlamps here were certainly safer than on the slide had we opted for the prior day summit. The day was long and demanding but our crew found dry clothes, celebrated an amazing success and still had the strength and desire to linger longer together. We met at the Woodstock Station for the hot meal and camaraderie such an expedition demands. I will never forget many moments of this marvelous trip or the strength and dedication of the incredible people who were part of the adventure. The views on this hike are not the majestic panorama sought by many, excepting perhaps upon the slide. There were glimpses of the ranges and wilderness which was very worthy yet the most spectacular aspect by far was the spirit of the people who rose up to this challenge and showcased the power of human potential! It was that spirit to which we toasted each other at the end of an incredible journey. Our second season begins with success on all levels and I am thankful for the ever growing Team 2020 Vision Quest and this Owl’s Head expedition!

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16 May 11

by Randy Pierce

“This is the hardest physical day of my life,” I had said last year on the second day of the Pemigewasset backpacking trip. This was not exactly what my friend Prof. Brent Bell hoped to hear as we contemplated the trail ahead, six miles of some of the tougher hiking in the Northeast.

Randy on the challenging Pemi trip in 2010

The collaborative team of 2020 Vision Quest and the University of NH led us in the Pemi to hike up Bondcliff, Bond, and down to Guyot shelter. This was a project we had conceived to help prepare for the beginning of the 2020 Vision Quest (on July 4, 2010), and a unique educational experience for the students in the class. The challenge took a tremendous toll upon my spirit and willpower, but we had our educational experience. As a group, we learned about hiking with Quinn, the need for sleep, and about the resiliency of a group when water is low, bugs are abundant, and everyone is tired. We put into practice a team effort amidst a perfect storm, and additional challenges made this an experience I could never forget. The experience was a tremendous success in many ways. So why not do it again? This  year we return with a new group of students and considerably more knowledge and practice, as we undertake the loop from where we ended it last year.

We have an assortment of goals to achieve in this expedition. The students are learning to lead an Outdoor Educational Experience, which presents some untypical challenges. Teams of students plan the route, the day’s curriculum, and the pace – any mistakes or errors are part of their experience. If the student leaders begin to hike the wrong way, we will hike the wrong way until the error is apparent. Mistakes are great teachers, so we will enter the experience knowing it will not go perfectly, but if it is anything like last year, the most important aspect of a trip is the people you work with, not the summits you stand upon.

As we come together as a team, we will blend our various abilities and perspectives to succeed in journeying through some rugged terrain. With a quality journey may come some transformations for all of us. While last year was about learning and preparing for the launch of the 2020 Vision Quest project, this year hopes to display unity and accomplishment as an official part of Team 2020. If this hike succeeds as planned, it will be the most successful peaks achieved in a single 2020 Vision Quest hike.

We will head up the Gale River trail after camping out in the Wilderness and sharing some team building exercises. Galehead hut will be a break point from which we may leave some of our supplies and make the round trip to the summit of Galehead Mountain. The night’s rest should launch the hard traverse to Garfield Tent Site and some of the most challenging terrain in our experience. The steep sections will provide plenty of opportunity for problem solving. From this highest of tent sites in the Whites, we will be preparing for a ridge traverse to include both Garfield and Lafayette. Descending to Greenleaf Hut gives us another quality resting point for evaluating our progress through that point. Mount Lincoln may give us the final 4,000-foot peak of the journey if we have been sufficiently successful. Otherwise, we will make our way to the UNH outing club cabin and eventually depart into Franconia Notch.

Professor Brent Bell and Randy Pierce

While Professor Brent Bell and teaching assistant Amaryth Gass are ultimately the leaders for the entire excursion, each day different students will be charged with managing all aspects of leadership in practice. This creates some constant change in the group dynamics, adjusting to accommodate the differences in leadership styles. Overall, we must adapt to the pacing, terrain, weather, and individual tendencies to make a successful team. We will build trust and communication, as I have done with Quinn, and the more effectively we do so, the more powerful our experience will be. Undoubtedly different and yet similar to last year, success is not in the summits, but in the process and the growth. In that, I’m reminded that obstacles are often opportunity disguised as hard work. As hard as the days ahead may prove, I’m eager to embrace the challenge and reap the rewards for myself, our hiking group, Team 2020 and all those who may follow our tale.

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10 May 11

Tedy Bruschi joins forces with Team 2020 on a training hike of the Belknap range

by Randy Pierce

We set our sights high for 2020 Vision Quest, and yet are still amazed and humbled when a guy like Tedy Bruschi joins the team for a hike! Three-time World Champion, Pro Bowl-er, and for many, the very heart of the Patriots Dynasty –- these are just the most obvious honors earned by this fantastic man. In addition to his great athletic talents and work ethic, Tedy also exemplifies heart and determination. The world was inspired when, just days after winning the Super Bowl, Tedy was afflicted by a stroke and -– true to his Full Tilt/Full Time, “Never Give Up” mantra –- fought his way back to the Patriots line-up.

I have been fortunate, as my fandom has crossed over into friendship with him through the years, and this led me to invite Tedy to help us raise awareness for our project. In typical Tedy fashion he took this slight inspiration, and created so much more for himself and others with his response! As he told us, we planted the seed that led him to not only join with 2020 Vision Quest, but also with the NFL’s own Wounded Warriors hike of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, in support of wounded veterans.

I’ve learned a lot about hiking as we’ve progressed on this journey, and yet there is still so much more for me to learn. So when Tedy inquired about joining me for a training hike I turned to someone who was cut from the same cloth as Tedy -– “Sherpa John” Lacroix, who is both an outstanding mountaineer as well as an inspiration in his own right. And he did not disappoint: Sherpa John and his Human Potential provided the ideal guidance from start to finish. With “The NH 48” still in the treacherous spring season of ice-glazed summits and hazardous, collapsing frozen snow trails (called “monorails”), we settled on the Belknap range as challenging, rewarding and southerly enough to have finally emerged from winter’s long grasp.

Tedy notices the camerawoman!As we set out on the morning of May 2nd, introductions were quick and informal despite the celebrity overtones; Tedy’s jovial nature quickly put everyone at ease. The immensity of the experience of hiking with Tedy Bruschi was further put into perspective by the stunning news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, which many of us –- Tedy and myself included -– only learned while on the trail. The power of such enormous news can elicit a range of reactions.

One of the aspects of hiking and in fact of any team experience is the camaraderie that binds everyone together. The original news of the 9/11 attack had brought unity to our country, and also to the Patriots team which Tedy helped take to its first Superbowl championship that season. Today this news similarly brought unity to our group as we each reacted to the meanings behind it, and shared those reflections. This profound feeling of closeness permeated the entire hiking experience.

One of 2020 Vision Quest’s primary points of emphasis is what I call Ability Awareness, which Quinn’s incredible work in particular always showcases. For me, there is some marvel in simply walking. Hiking, at some level, is simply walking -– though on more challenging terrain and with nature providing an astounding sensory tour. Tedy likewise seemed to be struck by a new awareness of this rich sensory experience; his infectious appreciation was a pleasure to experience, and will no doubt bring a positive presence to the Wounded Warrior program.

Mt. Washington in the DistanceBy the first ledges of Mt. Piper our guest had fully grasped the call of a hike and already was talking about returning with us for one of the 48 in the future. By the summit we lounged on a stone sofa overlooking the views of the Lakes Region and the splendid White Mountains beyond. Tedy didn’t hesitate in answering the call to add a fourth summit, Whiteface, into our planned route even though it added two miles and a return up Piper before we could continue our tour of the Belknap range. Clearly, endurance and conditioning won’t be a challenge for Tedy even upon Africa’s top peak!

But before we could continue on our trek, I had to give Quinn his reward for the amazing guidance he gives me: a mountain-top round of tug-o-war. This break for fun is non-negotiable, and he goes at it with full vigor, no matter how many miles we’ve covered on the trail. Intrigued by Quinn and his many remarkable skills, Tedy asked if he could “do the honors” on a later peak. Quinn of course is a lifelong Bruschi fan, and has apparently long dreamed of going head to head with a pro football superstar. He brought his best mental game to the Pats captain, who even in “defeat” gave us one of the most delightful memories of the trip!

As usual we used Spot technology to track our hike in real-time and keep the record of it. Yet throughout the nearly 9 hours of effort – 8 hours and 54 minutes ironically, matching Tedy’s football jersey number! — the actual terrain covered tells only part of the tale. The real journey is the human experience to share, inspire, challenge, support, and — best of all -– to celebrate. These values are at the root of 2020 Vision Quest and the nature of those who undertook this hike. We achieved five summits, four of them unique, on the physical terrain, and yet achieved many more peaks in our experience, which will be remembered forever. Meeting the legendary Hal Graham of Trail Rights; hearing the weather reports from atop the fire tower; impromptu snow baseball on the summit of Gunstock; relaying tales which made a difference in each of our lives… We all grew together as friends.

Tedy shared one such tale with me, as he took a turn guiding me down the rocky steps of Gunstock’s trail. While Quinn and I have years to practice these approaches, Tedy and I took only moments and set out to see how it worked. He was stable and sure of foot, which supported me on steps. His strides matched my own allowing him to relax and relay the tale:

It was a turbulent, rocky team flight for the Pats, and Tedy was called on to select some music to ease the tension. He chose Blaze of Glory by Bon Jovi, which some might have found dubious given the terrifying flight conditions, thousands of feet in the air! Yet the relief and jubilation he reported upon the landing was not unlike our own landing on this day together.

For me however, the “landing” was literal, as I became so engaged in his story that I missed an angled half-step and lost my balance. Falling, I flipped my legs into the air, striving to land on my pack for the cushion it would provide. This was a small blaze — more of ignominy, than glory — but it’s part of the journey in hiking blind. Undaunted we finished the rougher section, and then Quinn resumed his duties once and for all, for the rest of the hike.

At the base though I asked Tedy to make us part of the team and break it down for us as he did for so many years with the Patriots. The real Blaze of Glory is not just succeeding on the climb, but in the summit high five of achieving together. But don’t forget that the path to the summit is only half the journey, and so at the base Tedy called out to all of us as a team, then singled out two of the more outstanding contributors in our victory: “How do we feel about Sherpa John and the Mighty Quinn!!?!!”

I feel pretty fantastic about both. But how I feel about Tracy, Kyle, Sarah, John, Randy and Tedy all being part of Team 2020 on that fantastic day is something even more amazing! So how about it: why don’t you join Team 2020 for a hike as well, and become part of something you’ll never forget!

Other links about this hike:

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9 May 11

by Randy Pierce

We are always training, but not just for hiking! Building community and sharing inspiration is part of our mission, which is why we are announcing two opportunities to experience a day with us where we will enjoy some very accessible trails and mountains! You can marvel at The Mighty Quinn working on a trail, or relax with a picnic lunch atop one of the summits. Our plan is to spend some quality time hiking with and appreciating our supportive community. While there is no charge for hiking with us, there may be nominal parking fees charged by the sites we’ve selected. The links below should help you plan and research all the details. Also, we will soon have a special T-shirt available to everyone on Cafe Press to commemorate the experience (and remember, a portion of all Cafe Press purchases goes to our fund raising efforts for charity.) There are even rumors that Quinn will have his Signature Stamp ready to adorn the shirts of those who join us!

The first date is Saturday, May 21 at Pack Monadnock in Miller State Park. Team 2020 will arrive by 8:30am and begin climbing the Wapack trail, which has some impressive challenges almost immediately. The Marion Davis Trail provides a gentler climb to the top, and there is also a road that can be walked up. We’ll reach the picnic area at the summit and spend time socializing and feasting until 1:00pm, when we will descend the Marion Davis Trail to finish the day. This is the mountain where Quinn first showed his passion and prowess for hiking, thereby beginning our 2020 Vision Quest!

Kara Minotti Becker, Brent Bell, Randy Pierce, Erik Weihenmayer, "Sherpa" John Lacroix, Skyler Williams on the summit of Agamenticus

Our second site is Mount Agamenticus just beyond the border into Maine from Portsmouth, NH. The scenic summit overlooking the ocean will make our Saturday, July 16 date ideal for those wanting to appreciate a fantastic nature walk in the summer. Once again, we will arrive at the parking lot for 8:30am and start towards the summit at 9:00am. Though our route won’t be determined until later, we’ll enjoy a picnic on the scenic summit before departing a little after 1:00pm to complete another fantastic excursion. We first climbed Agamenticus with Erik Weihenmayer, and Professor Brent Bell and Sherpa John of the University of New Hampshire. That hike began our initial partnerships and the final planning stages for 2020 Vision Quest.

Once again, there may be many opportunities to observe Quinn’s work and share stories as we appreciate the community and progress made during our first year. So, let us know by email or Facebook that you intend to join us, and we’ll look forward to sharing time and fun! Consider this an excellent opportunity to share with us your part in our community and help us appreciate the benefits we all bring by reaching for our peak potential in the appreciation of life!

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2 May 11

by Sherpa John Lacroix
www.sherpajohn.com

Owl’s Head, at 4,025 feet, serves as a white whale to many a New England peak-bagger. Its thickly wooded summit sits quietly amongst the storied trees of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, some nine miles from the nearest road. There are many reasons why many peak-baggers save their long walk to Owl’s Head until the end of their pursuit of the 48. Words such as long, misery, boring, tough, and no view are, in my opinion, hardly a fair set of adjectives to describe the mound. I prefer to use words to describe the hikers who whine, words such as weak, tired, capricious, and missing.

Owl's Head from West Bond

Owl’s Head is a peak that carries with it more speculation and debate then a New Hampshire town hall meeting. From the summit sign wars between hikers and the Forest Service, to the scrubbing of paint blazes from trees, to the removal of cairns, to the re-discovery of a new highest point, Owl’s Head is a mountain that gets the least amount of love of all the 48 four-thousand-footers.

I’ve enjoyed all six of my previous journeys to the summit of Owl’s Head. A peak I’ve summited in all four seasons and a peak that, when asked which of the 48 is my favorite, gets serious consideration if not the choice of the day. The walk to Owl’s Head is long, but it’s also amazingly gorgeous. Along the Pemigewasset River and the Lincoln Brook, through an amazing re-growth forest priming with beech wood, birch, and fir, it is a shame to think that any hiker could fail to enjoy the immense beauty of a forest that was a barren wasteland by the late 1800’s and a raging inferno in 1907. It’s because of the torn history of this place and its steady revitalization that one of our nation’s most important conservation acts, The Weeks Act, was passed in 1911.

The trail leading to Owl's Head

All history aside, this mountain could very well prove to be the white whale of 2020 Vision Quest. However, on the weekend of May 13, it is the goal of a partnership between 2020 Vision Quest and Team Sherpa to prevent that from happening. For Randy and Quinn, hiking on the trail during the more summery months has proven to be a real challenge. A challenge they have risen to repeatedly on previous expeditions. The first peak of the 2011 season, Owl’s Head will offer up a new challenge to Randy and his trusted companion, and that new challenge is the challenge of multiple bushwhacks.

Along the nine-mile trek to the Owl’s Head summit are two incredible river crossings that challenge even the heartiest of sighted hikers. During this time of year, those crossings carry with them a level of risk that would be foolish to take on under less than ideal conditions. With a hearty snow pack still clinging to locations of elevation, and warmer temperatures causing swollen rivers from snowmelt; this expedition will choose and all but require the challenges of a bushwhack.

I am humbled by the idea that Randy trusts me to lead him on this incredible hike. A two-day expedition that will allow us to camp primitively near the base of Owl’s Head Path, I hope to enjoy the fruits of our labor at the summit of mighty Owl’s Head. There, I will bring Randy to the viewing spot to describe a most remarkable view of Lincoln Slide and the Franconia Ridge to our west, and the Bonds to our east. While the challenges before us are large, they are not impossible. With good faith, teamwork, and a vision beyond our sight; it will be done.

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