Archives - June, 2011



29 Jun 11

by Randy Pierce

Prior to this year’s hiking schedule, my collective knowledge of Whiteface and Passaconaway could fit into a single sentence – likely spelled incorrectly! One of the aspects of this quest in which I delight is the historical explorations for each hike. I was amazed at the incredible tale of Passaconaway and the rich historical depth missing from my school education. He was a great chief who united the disease/plague depleted tribes to ‘wage peace’ upon the European settlements throughout the 1600s. He (potentially) lived  to a venerable 120 years of age and interestingly relevant to the timing is that a great cirque upon the mountain was not forested,  such that trees of more than 400 years still live, thereby providing a living connection from his time to our own!

The trail up Whiteface

On June 18, 2011, we set upon the slopes of Whiteface with the chance to congratulate an inspiring hiker (Congratulations Pat!) who would finish his 48 with these last two mountains. He was by himself, and while we shared the trail for a time to allow him to marvel at Quinn’s work, it highlighted for me the shared journey of so many in these mountains. We reached the Blueberry ledges many had warned me would be challenging. Rain had held off long enough for us to pass sections that might otherwise have been too much for us when wet and slippery. We were afforded some incredible views of the Ossipee Ring Dike Complex, the entirety of a majestic lakes region, the “Bruschi” Belknaps, as well as both the Tripyramids and Chicorua’s magnificence. There is good reason Chicorua is the most photographed mountain in the entire world!

Whiteface achieved, our group of Kyle, Aimee, Tracy, Quinn and I came together such as these experiences allow. The thunderstorm rolled through without rain slowing our pace, though it did blessedly eradicate the presence of black flies. Still, the saddle, as most seem, was long and slow getting us to our campsite near 6:00 p.m. We setup our tents and decided we could attempt (pack-free) a speedier push for the .7 miles of trail that would give us our second peak for the day. Kyle led me for speed, and our focus was as strong as it has ever been on a summit. When the one incredible view unfurled to display the Tripyramids, I realized that in roughly half an hour we’d come to 40 yards shy of the summit and barely realized the impressive work that entailed. The surprise celebration of success came quickly, even on the unremarkable actual summit. We descended before dark to dinner and a quiet camp in the woods below. This was our sixth summit of the young season, while the prior year’s start to 2020 Vision Quest had given us only five total successful summits. We were proud and admittedly a bit tired as meals gave way to stories, and soon to slumber and the sound of wind whispering to us of some secret messages of reflection.

Dicey Mill Trail led us out on Sunday, Father’s day. It was the gentlest of all the trails I’ve yet encountered and our speed was higher than normal. We arrived to the trailhead before many day hikers were setting out that morning. Each of us had many reasons for appreciating the benefit of an early retreat but I know that these summits will stay with me for a long time. I think the experiences I shared with the others will remain with me even longer, thanks to a small and strong team!

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27 Jun 11

by Tracy Pierce

Our hike of Mounts Whiteface and Passaconaway on June 18 & 19 was a fantastic success. We completed the overall trip with just a few minor injuries (scrapes, bug bites, and a single turned ankle) and in record speed. We overcame a thunderstorm, bugs, and super challenging ledges. We enjoyed beautiful views and great camaraderie. I also learned a lesson that I hope I won’t soon forget.

View from Tracy's safe perch

I am incredibly afraid of heights and this hike certainly tested that fear! When we approached our first ledge, I was leading the group, and I came upon a sharply slanted ledge that dropped off to nothing. I thought that the trail traversed the ledge and instantly I froze. Our hike leader Kyle
stepped forward and determined that the trail took a 90-degree turn and we didn’t need to cross the ledge, which scared me so much. The views of the Lakes Region, Ring Dyke Complex, and the mountains in the distance was incredible, yet I moved to what I felt was a safe spot, and clung to a tree as Kyle bravely looked out onto the view below us.

Randy asked Kyle if he could join him on the ledge so Kyle might trace the outlines of the mountains in the distance. I’m ashamed to admit that I, as the scared and concerned wife, promptly said “No way!” Randy, ever
mindful of my feelings, said nothing and waited at a safe perch instead.

I’m embarrassed to share this interchange, because my own fear caused me to do something that is in opposition of emphasizing ability awareness that 2020 Vision Quest encourages. In placing my own fear onto Randy, I prevented him from having an experience that he would have enjoyed. I was so scared on that ledge that I didn’t even realize or remember what I’d done until Randy and I talked days later. I’m glad Randy brought it up. Certainly, I’ll be scared again in the future, but I’ll have this lesson to help me remember to
trust our team and the care that Randy exhibits when undertaking something dangerous.

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22 Jun 11

by Kara Minotti Becker

When I’m asked to take charge of a thing – whatever thing – my first reaction is probably similar to everyone else’s. I’m flattered. I feel important, like my opinion matters and my expertise is valued. It’s a good feeling.

And like most others, I assume that because I’m in charge, I’m, well – in charge. You know. If there are things to be done, I’ll do them – or be the one to ask others to. If there are questions, I’m expected to have answers. When there are problems, I’ll be the one to solve them. I also immediately start feeling the pressure – like I better have this thing wired, at least I better look like I do! People are handing me the reins. They’re counting on me. I better not need help, or not know a thing, or be unsure about a decision. I better be perfect.

Let me tell you, this is a mistake I’ve made a thousand times. When Randy and Carrie asked me to lead the Madison-Adams trip over the July 4th weekend, I did it again. I’ve often wondered how many times you have to learn a lesson before you stop forgetting it. Apparently in this case, at least one more time.

Leading a trip like this is a big responsibility under any circumstances. But when it’s your dear friends you’re taking into the wilds of the White Mountains, and especially when one of them is counting on you to deliver the next success in his excellent and worthy cause, you don’t want to make mistakes. You want to be – or at least seem – perfect. So when I was asked, I immediately began planning to be just that. But I’ve noticed that the same thing happens every time you make this mistake.

You overlook the most valuable resource you ever have at your disposal: your team.

When you try to have all the answers, you don’t get the benefit of the experience, creativity, and different point of view that others can provide. What a waste!

This dawned on me a few weeks back when I was asking Carrie, the 2020 hiking manager, for her advice on trails and terrain on Madison and Adams. She gave me a huge amount of useful information, insight, and advice. But I suddenly realized there was someone else I should be asking: Randy. Randy spends more time hiking mountains, researching hiking mountains, thinking about hiking mountains (and maybe good-naturedly cursing about hiking mountains) than any of the rest of us put together. He’s more an expert than I am by far at this point. So why wasn’t I asking him?

There I was, making that same old mistake. I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t a proper leader – the expert with all the answers. Ah, ego. You’re never far away, are you?

Luckily, as I mentioned, I’ve made this mistake before, and now I know just what to do. It’s easy – all you have to do is drop the pretense and ask questions. Go to your team, and ask away. How should we do this? What do you think of that? This is my idea – do you have a different one? It’s amazing how much better your plans will be, but more to the point, how much better you and your team will be when you approach things this way. You relieve the pressure on yourself. Your team feels empowered and involved. Everyone develops a sense of humor, and the understanding that we’re not perfect, but together, we’ll figure things out as best we can.

So that’s what I did – I called Randy and started asking questions. As we talked I realized there was so much we could cover, and it was so much fun to do so, that we really should get together to do it (which we are, this Friday in fact – which means I get to talk to Tracy too!) This week, I’ll be bugging the rest of the team about their ideas, concerns and suggestions for the trip. Now that I’ve learned this lesson again for probably the 397th time, I’m really looking forward to it!

I’ve always passionately believed that true leadership comes from below – as support, encouragement, and enablement – not from above, as disconnected (if well-intentioned) instruction. But you can see how that latter happens. When we’re asked to take charge, we want to live up to the compliment and be worthy of the trust. The real key is what we do next as a leader. In the end, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn this lesson again. Maybe this is the last time I’ll have to.

But probably not.

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20 Jun 11

by Randy Pierce

Certainly, my first and most significant challenge initially was coming to terms with my blindness and the impact I would allow it to have on my life. Since then, I find the most challenge lies with misconceptions of or hesitation from others. This is why I was so impressed and inspired when I learned the story of a 7-year-old girl named Abby and the open-minded help she gets from her friends and family, particularly her mother Penny who keeps a very worthy blog called “Adventures with Abby.”

Abby’s resilience has never been in question, as this very active and outgoing girl seems to have battled less with the challenges herself than her own family has. She strives to avoid being different and to undertake as much as possible with an admirable courage and independent drive. This soon-to-be second grader spent last summer not dwelling on her journey into blindness, but learning to ride her bike instead. Her mother Penny relayed this with deserved pride, “She never really went through the sadness that Chris and I went through when we realized our daughter was legally blind. She was bummed yes, upset about being different yes. She never let it stop her from doing what she wanted to do.”

For a parent, though, this journey was filled with more challenges. “It’s heartbreaking to realize your child isn’t going to experience the world like you believe a child should experience the world. Watching your child walk right by you, not recognizing you as their mother, is a crushing feeling the first few times it happens. I quickly realized I needed to stop feeling sorry for Abby and myself. We needed to focus on her education because that would be the biggest challenge. I needed to stop worrying about what she couldn’t see but rather what she could do, and what I needed to do to help her do what she needed.”

Abby, Randy, and Quinn

Abby has been teaching many lessons, as Penny also shared, “I have had MANY misconceptions. I thought losing one’s vision was the worst thing that could happen in your life. I thought it made you dependent on others, and all my dreams for my little girl would never come to be true. Now I realize that Abby will be able to still go to college and have a chance at a career in whatever she would like. I thought Abby becoming blind was an end, but now I know it’s a beginning.”

One of Penny’s lessons was learning to keep an open mind, which allows her to explore the unknown in search of education into all the possibilities that can exist for Abby. Often, things such as Braille, which can seem intimidating, are actually an incredibly empowering tool. I took the time to share their recent discoveries from August of last year to now, as they explore the ramifications of blindness, with Abby as their guide. Even Penny herself is surprised when she recalls how far the adventure has taken her, “I already look back at my old posts with my old concerns and don’t’ recognize the person who wrote them.”

I am enjoying many of my own adventures with 2020 Vision Quest, and yet none can compare to the adventures I find in the human experience. I am glad to have met and become inspired by some fantastic folk and look forward to many similar adventures ahead!

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13 Jun 11

by Randy Pierce

Finally, we take a break from our many hiking topics and address a common question. Do the challenges of it all overwhelm me? Many see the outward signs as me sustaining a steady positive, and they often presume that I’m either putting on a show or never overwhelmed. For the most part, neither is true. I am absolutely aware and buffeted by the challenges. It is my choice to take on these challenges directly and reach a resolution, or at least a plan for such immediately. This philosophy keeps me from letting the sustained weight of such a load wear me down, but it does not prevent frustrations as I deal with it. I’m well aware that I do not hold a monopoly on challenge, yet I am also aware that my problems are not inconsequential. For me, the trick is in defining the real issue up front and thereby allowing for real problem solving, and an acceptance that change is often a necessary aspect of removing a present concern.

In its simplistic form, there are mornings when I wake up and think, “Yeah, I’m still blind; can’t I ever get a break?”, and I view this as a natural and acceptable way to feel – but it really isn’t the key. The root of the issue is most likely a need to travel somewhere or utilize my time more carefully as many tasks may take longer. Whatever the frustration is that led to that thought, it is more about what my blindness is making more difficult. With steps and a plan, anything can usually be resolved, even if the resolution may involve reaching out for help.

On a more complex level, it is generally understood that the feeling of controlling our situation gives us comfort and eases frustration. I may not be able to control my blindness for now, but I can significantly impact most of the ways that this challenge impacts me. Learning to apply that lesson to all aspects of our lives can make a significant difference.

Our 2020 Vision Quest team is accomplishing some tremendous things. In the process, the work can be very challenging and can seem to spin a bit out of control. It’s actually one of the hardest aspects of my present life – to manage the caring people of team 2020 along with the other responsibilities of running a charity. The reality is that these things are not out of control, though there are real needs that must be given proper attention. While these challenges contribute to my most recent and pressing feeling of being overwhelmed, I continue to try and take my own advice. I guess we’ll see how well it works as we progress, but in the meanwhile, maybe some of you might be thinking that you have some time and skills to offer us in strengthening our mission. How about an email?

I’d like to close this blog post with a quote from the person for whom Mt. Hale was named. I hope to always have the same success with his quote as I did with his mountain:

“I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~Edward Everett Hale

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6 Jun 11

by Kyle Dancause

In sports, there is much talk and concern over the dreaded letdown game. For those not familiar with the term, a letdown game is one where a team comes off an emotional, meaningful victory and turns in an uninspired, lackluster performance in their following game. Another contributing factor to a letdown performance is when a team looks past their present opponent to a more daunting, challenging foe looming in the near horizon. Whether you believe in this letdown concept or not, acknowledging its possibility allows us to see how Team 2020 may be perfectly positioned for a letdown performance.

The sign indicating the way to Passaconaway's summit

As the interim coach, or hike leader, of Team 2020 on our upcoming game against Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passaconaway of the White Mountain Sandwich Range conference, I must warn my team against a letdown performance. Team 2020 is on a roll. With recent success against perennial powerhouses Owl’s Head, Mt. Garfield, and Mt. Lafayette, the Vision Quest squad is off to a roaring start for the 2011 hiking season. Randy and Quinn’s successful return to the Pemi is proof of the vast improvements they have made since this time last year. With new experiences and new hiking companions, the team continues to learn, reflect, and grow stronger. As Vision Quest’s confidence and excitement grows, we inevitably begin to look ahead to what many are calling the game of the year, the clash of the titans, as team 2020 takes on #2 ranked Mt. Adams and #5 ranked Mt. Madison on July 4th weekend. So there you have our current situation, sandwiched between a successful trip to the Pemi and a looming battle with the Northern Presidentials. Do you think Team 2020 may be in danger of that letdown performance?

I don’t. With Randy wearing the captain’s armband and Quinn and Tracy sharing the assistant captain duties, I have full confidence that Team 2020 will be physically and mentally prepared for Whiteface and Passaconaway. I have faith in Randy’s attitude and leadership, Tracy’s unwavering support, and Quinn’s tail wagging, that our leaders will get our team motivated and ready to go. I have been told by one rather knowledgeable and experienced friend that Whiteface and Passaconaway pose some of the most challenging, viewless hiking of all the 48. I’ve read trip reports that claim that the rock scrambling on the Whiteface ledges can be quite intimidating and dangerous. With 12 miles of hiking and significant elevation gain over two days, we have a stiff challenge in front of us, but I look forward to the hard work, learning experiences, and most importantly, time spent in the woods with good friends.

For those who still have doubts of a letdown game, I leave you with a brief tale of Passaconaway – more of which I’ll share to the team in the locker room before the game. Passaconaway is named for the legendary chief of the Pennacook tribe. Passaconaway was revered as a great Indian chief, medicine man, and peacemaker to both the natives and white settlers. There are two unique tales about Passaconaway’s death which I learned from reading a short excerpt from Charles Beals’ Passaconaway in the White Mountains. The first story claims that Passaconaway was buried in a cave on Mount Agamenticus in present day York, ME, a significant mountain in Randy and Quinn’s hiking history.

The second tale is as follows. The native’s feared the mountains and seldom, if ever, visited the summits. The most feared was Mt. Agiocochook (Mt. Washington) where the natives believed The Great Spirit resided. I leave you with the tale.

“The tradition runs that there was to be a Council of the Gods in heaven and it was Passaconaway’s wish that he might be admitted to the divine Council Fire; so he informed the Great Spirit of his desire. A stout sled was constructed, and out of a flaming cloud twenty-four gigantic wolves appeared. These were made fast to the sled. Wrapping himself in a bearskin robe, Passaconaway bade adieu to his people, mounted the sled, and, lashing the wolves to their utmost speed, away he flew. Through the forests from Pennacook and over the wide ice-sheet of Lake Winnepesaukee they sped. Reeling and cutting the wolves with his thirty-foot lash, the old Bashaba, once more in his element, screamed in ecstatic joy. Down dales, valleys, over hills and mountains they flew, until, at last, enveloped in a cloud of fire, this “mightiest of Pennacooks” was seen speeding over the rocky shoulders of Mount Washington itself; gaining the summit, with unabated speed he rode up into the clouds and was lost to view?forever!” – Charles Beals

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