Our July New Hampshire heat wave is not untypical, nor is the choice to seek some solace from the heat by hiking amidst the elevation of a 4000-foot peak. Aware of the real dangers of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, we were relieved to have an early morning shower easing the challenge and risk. Our task was to hike a longer distance on some generally moderate trails to the summit of Mt. Starr King and then along the ridge to Mt Waumbek. The mostly wooded course would limit the relief of wind on our long humid hike, and we expected the heat to be our larger challenge.
Mt. Waumbek is part of a ring dike complex, which means it was formed by volcanic activity. In fact, it bore Pliny Major as its name for many years in honor of Pliny the Younger, a Roman who provided the only written eyewitness testimony of the infamous eruption on Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Vesuvius, at 4206 feet, is a similar height to our climb, and the tale of James Holman humbles each and every one of my efforts. He was the first blind person to summit Mt Vesuvius and he did so while it was still active. The tale of his life is remarkable, and during that particular expedition, he dealt with a fair bit more than our July jaunt in the White Mountains.
Team 2020 - Waumbek!
Still I’m quite proud of the nine friends who joined Quinn and me, and overcame the heat of our journey. A diverse group shared a collection of wilderness and life details as we took up the steady climb to the Chimney overlook of the Northern Presidentials from the summit of Starr King. One of the gentlest ridge trails brought us to a vastly restricted view from the wooded summit of Waumbek. While the light breezes did cool some, the heat was steady from the high noon sun. As we returned at a comfortably quick pace, we left the elevation-gained coolness. As a group, we had plenty of water and we supported each other well, yet as we reached the relief of the trailhead, I could still feel the light touch of some heat exhaustion. I needed an electrolyte boost and the cooling benefit of an ice pack on the back of my neck to regain full comfort.
Even one of the gentler challenges of the 48 teased us with a lesson in respecting all factors that can place a hiking group risk. I’m certainly no James Holman, and unlike him, I had a fantastic team of support throughout this day. I respect and appreciate the experience with the people and the mountain, as well as all of the hikes past and in the future. Each hike to come will have unique rewards and challenges, and Mt. Waumbek has now carved out its place on our path!
Vision loss is a challenging experience, regardless of the extent of the loss. All the levels of loss are a disrupting change and require some transition. I felt, in my first adjustment to ‘legal’ blindness, that it was almost criminal to complain, given that I still had some usable vision. The simple fact is that loss is hard, vision particularly, since we rely on it for so much of our interaction with the world.
Accepting the reality of that difficulty is essential, both in anticipating the effort required to make the adjustments, as well as the willingness to seek out solutions and/or help in learning the skills and tricks to resume a normal life. Learning to be safe is the first step, and that starts with the ability to take steps. Mobility training and potential use of a cane, or eventually a guide dog, allow someone to understand the many non-visual details for safe travel. Even learning to better use the limited vision can make enormous strides possible.
Safety around survival skills from cooking, to how to set a thermostat, to managing grooming and hygiene, or even use a remote control are all made easier with a low vision specialist’s consultation and teaching. Creativity and an open mind allow the solutions to match the individual’s needs and wants, but it can be tremendously daunting to seek these solutions out without the right support.
This is true for any amount of loss. In fact, my hardest transition was not the one to total blindness, but rather the first loss where emotional turmoil and the lack of helpful connections created the most overwhelming response. A feeling of guilt, that I didn’t need or deserve help, limited my willingness to accept reasonable options that could make the transitions better. So, whether it’s low vision or blindness, there is tremendous benefit to reaching out and learning how some simple suggestions can help change focus to a positive direction, with a safe foundation of tips and tricks for managing the changes. This conviction is a large part of my inspiration to have 2020 Vision Quest help ensure that services will be there for those who can benefit from them!
It’s not too early to save the date (and buy your tickets) for this year’s Peak Potential Charity Dinner & Auction, in celebration of 2020 Vision Quest’s 2011 season.
Peak Potential 2010 was a huge success for us and this year promises to be even bigger and better! We’re returning to The Derryfield in Manchester, NH, with its beautiful views of the Derryfield Country Club, on Saturday, November 12. We kick off the event with hors d’oeuvres and a preview of our auction items at 6:30pm, with dinner seating at 7:00pm. Festivities run until 11:00pm. Ticket prices are $100 each, or $175 per couple. For the best price, you and seven friends can grab a table of your own for $600 ($75 per person).
Last year’s menu was popular enough that we’re sticking with it – you have a choice of Pan Roasted Salmon, Cranberry Walnut Chicken, Prime Rib, or a vegetarian Spinach Stuffed Tomato. There’s a cash bar available and we’ll have DJ Will Utterback returning to keep things hopping with music from the 60’s to today.
Peak Potential 2010, courtesy of Green Photography: http://green-photography.net/
Our auction includes numerous silent auction items and a few special “package” deals that will be bid on in a live auction during the dinner, with Randy (and Quinn) as our auctioneers. If you or your business has something to donate for the auction, let us know. Some of our most sought after items are event tickets, travel related items, meals at a favorite restaurant, spa services, and so on. Not sure if it’s right for us? Ask!
Randy will give a presentation covering some of 2020 Vision Quest’s most memorable moments of the 2011 season, including the following:
• The mountains summited this year
• Quinn’s momentous Tug-of-War victory over Patriot star Tedy Brushy at the top of the Belknaps
• What it means to be able to speak to area children about achieving through adversity
All these things have been possible with the generosity of our donors, and through fundraising events such as this one. Buy your tickets online or by mailing a check to us at 2020 Vision Quest, 109 E. Glenwood Street, Nashua, NH 03060 (be sure to tell us it’s for Peak Potential and let us know your meal choices). Join us in this year’s celebration!
I first met Randy a little over 20 years ago, and in the last 7 years or so, we have become very good friends. Both of us were active in athletics as kids and adults, and this was immediate common ground for conversations. Later, we started going to Patriot games together and Randy has come to my school (I teach PE and Health) a couple of times to talk to my students. When Randy told me about starting up 2020 Vision Quest a few years back, I thought it was a great idea. He is always one to take on challenges, and this was a big one.
Randy’s enthusiasm was tangible from the beginning, and I very much wanted to be involved, so I signed up for the Mount Pierce hike last year.
Team 2020 at the hut on Pierce last year. The author, Drew, is in the light gray coat.
Not being a huge fan of camping, a day hike like this was perfect for me. I knew a few others in the group that day, and while it was a long hike, it was a great trip. It was my first time hiking in the Whites, and it was just a wonderful experience. I looked forward to doing at least one hike every year with 2020 Vision Quest.
Little did I know that Randy had bigger plans. This year, he asked me to lead to the Mount Waumbek hike. At first, I wasn’t sure that I was the right person. After all, my first (and only) hike in the Whites was the previous year. Randy can be persuasive, however. He pointed out that I help lead 50+ students up Mount Monadnock in Jaffery, NH each year. Of course, this was also going to be a one-day event as well, making prep a little simpler. Finally, Mount Waumbek is one of the smallest 4,000-foot peaks at 4,006 feet, making the hike an “easier” climb. How could I not say yes?
There really is no such thing as an “easier” or “simpler” hike. Each trip into the mountains and woods has unique difficulties and areas for concern. In leading, I am taking on the responsibility of not only myself, but also the whole group of 10 (11 with the Mighty Quinn). This time I will only know Randy, Tracy, and Quinn. However, Chris Garby, an experienced hiker, is co-leading the hike with me. I’m sure his knowledge and experience will be very useful during the trip. The rest of the group is not strangers so much as friends I just haven’t met yet. In addition, sharing a beautiful trip into the Whites is a great way to get to know others.
If I have learned anything from Randy over the course of our friendship, it is that all challenges, big and small, should be met with a positive attitude and a willing work ethic. No matter what the challenge is, taking it on leads to a better sense of self and stronger relationships with those involved. Of course, if this hike is a great time as well, I’m sure Randy will try to convince me to do an overnight hike next year.
There are many reasons this was the most daunting hike to date. The weather forecast did not help much, as thunderstorm potential was present every day of our trip. Our group hit the trailhead at 7:00am on Saturday with good weather and appropriate anxiety. A sense of urgency kept words and packing efficient as we began the 3.8-mile ascent up Valley Way. Quinn sensed the apprehension as his work was cautious but quick through the easier early miles. As the terrain steepened with a few trickier points, Rob Carroll shouldered the challenge of guiding me, while Cliff Dike took on Quinn care. We became quickly efficient at communicating and our speed was solid as is evident by our reaching the hut by 12:30pm.
The immediate excitement was the approach of a medical helicopter. An ankle injury had forced a hiker to spend four days at the hut awaiting weather good enough to land a helicopter and evacuate her from the challenging trails. This was an ominous reality check despite our successful work thus far. We enjoyed lunch at the beautifully renovated hut while debating the timing of going for Adams during this better weather. Uncertain of how well we would manage the terrain of either summit, we opted for the practice of the shorter Mt. Madison. The decision was rewarding as Kyle led me along the most challenging footing I have yet traversed in these mountains. Our significant work together in the past paid dividends as well. We made the summit in well under an hour and clear skies with no wind gave us the opportunity to appreciate the beauty that surrounded us. It is simply awe-inspiring to experience the full majesty of the heart of this 300 million year old mountain range unfurled from atop the northeast corner of the Presidential peaks.
Slower but steady and satisfying work led us back down to the AMC Madison Springs Hut. We fully appreciated the many renovation upgrades and a turkey dinner, which was an incredible repast for this group of hungry hikers. The ‘buzz’ of many enthusiastic members of our team and the full entourage of travelers was an excellent energy burst. Some enjoyed a naturalist presentation while Kyle’s advance scouting of the Gulf Side Trail unearthed a different bit of nature. A young, but large moose had wandered above tree line and watched us from the shoulder of John Quincy Adams. We shared Kyle’s find with many and all delighted in the rare experience before settling onto a bench to once again savor a spectacular sunset. Day one was in the books with complete success and thoughts were turning to the deteriorating weather reports and tomorrow’s monumental goal.
Packs were loaded before breakfast and we were quickly upon the trail to seek the peak before the weather arrived. It was a very pleasant morning and Quinn was called upon initially. The terrain was challenging for our work together, and due to the time pressure, we attempted human guidance once again. John Corbett’s tall frame and long strides would match my own well and so he joined the ranks of those guiding me. Our speed increased as we worked together along the edge of the beautiful King’s Ravine. It was more than an hour to traverse the Gulf Side Trail but we hit Thunderstorm Junction earlier than the storms and still felt strong in body and mind. A storm was definitely coming but there was some time, so Kara Minotti Becker, our leader, took over as my guide while Ben Becker took an additional role to scout the route for her as we ascended the summit cone of Mt. Adams. Whether it was our focus, the anticipation, or the success of this double team, the terrain seemed less challenging than Madison to me. The crevices were deeper, the stones sharper and more erratic, yet our route led us smoothly to the summit just as the wind began to rise higher.
Even as the celebratory summit picture was taken, two probing cloud hands reached over Mt. Washington and hurled the dense storm clouds over the summit and towards us. We ratcheted up the urgency significantly and began a hasty descent! Moments later, we realized the terrain would be considerably more difficult going down, and Kyle took over guiding with Ben’s continued scouting. As the first drops began, pack covers and rain gear was donned just in time to withstand the worst of the sleet, which began to pelt our trail and us. Our progress was necessarily slower than we would have preferred, but still quick for the pre-trip expectations.
It had turned to rain by the time we rounded the exposed western edges of the ravine and we were managing the slippery wet rocks very well. We finally found the comfort of the hut, and a long afternoon and evening allowed the group camaraderie to grow stronger as we celebrated our successful experiences. We read books from the hut supply, played games, and partook of the educational presentation on Geology of the Presidentials, while heavy rain and dark clouds encased the hut. It was a long but gratifying evening in which our “Adams Family” hungered for more hiking together.
Monday, July 4, brought us beautiful weather for our descent down Valley Way, which would signify the full success of our trip. Feeling the confidence of our prior work, we allowed time to dry much gear in the warm sun as we shared stories and jests atop the col. Finally, at 9:30am we reluctantly released our hold upon the hut. Kara worked the more difficult and steep section, to practice the different challenges that going down presents for me. After a couple of hours of the slower terrain, Ben replaced her for his first work guiding me, though he had watched and learned much previously. With the somewhat easier trail frequently dotted with the grooved slots, which challenge Quinn and I together, Ben made a long two hours of work, up to the easier final stretch where Quinn eagerly took back his job, and raced out with me in tow. Our expedition was at an end, and yet another team had become a key part of my life and the experience of our quest. These mountains deserve all the daunting words and emotions they held in advance of this trip. This group deserves all the accolades for undertaking the challenge, building our bonds, and savoring an exquisite experience. I may not ever be so fortunate as to assemble this team again but I will always treasure this journey and hope for the possibility for an “Adams Family Reunion” on whatever adventure might await!
Hudson Nottingham West Lions Club shut down on Tuesday, June 21, 2011, after years of service. This was my Lions Club, and we turned in our charter with most members joining the Hudson Lions Club – but why? President Lillian had read this year’s impressive list of philanthropic contributions of funds and service, yet the organization was not able to continue. Times are changing, and I am left to ponder the reasons why, as well as the full impact of the closure.
“We Serve” is the motto of the organization, and it carries with it a community emphasis. This motto also answers Helen Keller’s call for “Knights of the Blind.” This service is the primary challenge. While there are many worthy organizations and charities deserving of the generosity of many caring people, commitment and service seem to be dwindling. It’s steadily more difficult to find and develop younger members that are willing to commit to the leadership and work required in making many of these organizations function. In our high-paced, rapidly changing world, many choose not to put focus and attention toward a cause, and a real risk exists that more “Out of Service” signs will come for very important and beneficial groups.
I absolutely have a bias for the work we are doing with 2020 Vision Quest, and I’m fortunate to have some significant support. I do hope many will help us survive so we can continue our mission. I also hope that even more people will think about the many organizations that could use the real commitment of joining and giving of time and effort. Bill, Lillian, Geri, Rick, Blanche, Charlene, and so many others are just ordinary people who cared enough to invest themselves into my Lions Club, and our community is better for their care and service. I’ll be joining them in their next venture even as I continue to strive to see that 2020 Vision Quest is an avenue for making a positive difference. Goodbye Hudson Nottingham West Lions Club, and thank you for your service!
The Northern Presidential range is dominated by the daunting Mt. Adams, and it will be by far the most challenging peak in this year’s hiking season. At 5,774 feet, it is the second highest in the 48 after Washington, but in many ways presents a more formidable challenge. Adams’ 4,500 feet of elevation gain is the absolute most in all of the White Mountains. Its cracked, boulder-strewn cone is often considered to be the most challenging terrain. Thus, Adams represents perhaps the supreme challenge for me personally, and for all of our team, during the entire 2020 Vision Quest.
Courtesy of Sherpa John: www.sherpajohn.com
Weather is frequently the most difficult factor for any hiker, and here again Mt. Adams stands tall. We’ll make our summit attempt through a convergence of paths known ominously as “Thunderstorm Junction.” It is said that there are more lightning strikes on Mt. Adams than any other point in New England. Though we could not verify this detail, we can confirm that Adams’ mystique has landed it on a list of the top 10 ‘Holy Mountains’ as maintained by the Aetherius Society, who are said to keep their symbols upon the summit.
The best path: Thunderstorm Junction
While we chose Thunderstorm Junction as the shortest section of the challenging summit cone, the very threat of lightning would drive us from our task. As fearsome as lightning can be as it rolls through your town, imagine the same experience on an exposed mountain ledge, with no means to escape or even hide. And given my necessarily deliberate pace, we must only attempt to approach this region if both the forecast and the view confirm we are at very low risk of fast-moving storms.
We will undertake both Adams and its neighbor to the north, Mt. Madison (fifth highest in the 48), during a three-day climb based out of the AMC’s Madison Spring hut. The plan is to ascend the Valley Way trail from the northwest. This moderately steep trail will bring us to the hut nestled in a col between the two pyramidal peaks. If time is sufficient we hope to climb Madison that very day. While only a 1 mile round trip from the hut, the terrain is similar to what we’ll encounter on Adams, and we hope to gain from the experience.
And then there’s Plan B
Courtesy of Sherpa John: www.sherpajohn.com
If weather or timing do not allow that practice run, we plan to achieve the summit of Mt. Adams the next day, July 3. Many backup plans are ready based on the conditions on the mountain, and we hope to find the window of opportunity to travel the 2.4 miles of challenging terrain and achieve Mt. Adams’ notorious summit. We anticipate an exhausting day which allows us back to the hut to rest one final night before making our July 4 return down the Valley Way.
Many hikers have managed these summits, but every experienced hiker who knows us well has said this will be an enormous challenge. We could do everything right and yet be forced to forego the attempt of a summit should the weather not hold sufficient clear skies. Even wet rock will greatly magnify our challenge – but of course we are more mindful of the larger dangers of being trapped in hypothermic conditions – — yes even in early July! – — while lightning rages around us.
As you know, we are not doing this because it’s easy. But never before have we looked forward to a hike with such vivid awareness of the dangers we may encounter.
So we’ve prepared more than any peak previously, we have three days of potential to consider a summit and we are prepared to accept any weather reality. After all, all we can ever do is give our best efforts, plan well and make the most of the realities which can challenge or limit our choices. Win or lose, I expect an experience to remember. And I have little doubt that our 8 person team will come out of the endeavor charged by the experience we intend to share!