Archives - February, 2012



27 Feb 12

By Randy Pierce

I trust you will all indulge me with a rather personal approach to this week’s blog. Usually our goal is to rotate themes from inspiration, dogs, blindness, education, and/or hiking. I share this incident because it was so powerfully moving for me and because it came at such an ideal moment in my present quest. While it may seem like a hiking tale, I assure you it is something even more powerful.

On Friday, February 17th, Justin, Dina, Quinn, and I undertook a Winter “Bonds Traverse” in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This 23.2-mile journey over 4 significant and very remote mountain summits is the longest such traverse in the quest for the single season 48. The journey began at 7:30 in the morning to light falling snow and sustained an array of emotions and experiences along the way.

The first peak, Mt. Zealand, came after 9 miles of work, the latter part involving respectable steady steep hiking. This was our last chance to realistically turn around before we were committed for the duration, though turning around there would have still meant an 18-mile day!

On the summit of Mt. Guyot, which doesn’t technically count as one of the 48, we found ourselves in a full-on snowstorm with no visibility for the sighted, reasonably steady and intense winds and a hunt for the cairns which would guide us onward to the most remote location, West Bond. But we knew the skies would clear and our spirits were as high as the bonds of friendship which brought us together on the hike. Those bonds brought us to West Bond and a reasonable clearing that afforded views of the Pemi wilderness and the surrounding sentinel summits which swelled our spirits.

We arrived at Mt. Bond in a clear and calm day of beauty from which it seemed the entirety of the White Mountain splendor was unveiled in full majestic wonder. We took the time to savor all of it and to count ourselves so very fortunate for the accuracy of the good forecast and the dedication which had brought us through the early challenge to the sweetness of this reward.

With the invigoration of our progress, we began the long and challenging descent from Bond to Bondcliff. Fairly quickly, we were struck by the ferocity of the wind which gusted mightily as Quinn and I battled from snowfield to snowdrift in the steady long steepness of the saddle. Sound was whipped past our ears instantly and the progress of our team was totally dependent on Quinn’s eyes and my trust in my companions’ ability to oversee our work and interrupt if necessary. It was wild and unbridled adventure and it stoked the fire of my spirit even further.

When Bondcliff’s mass eventually gave shelter from the wind, we ascended in a tranquility which seemed eerie given the battle of mere moments prior. Bondcliff was my second of the 4K peaks and the first in my first traverse. I still recall the UNH crew sharing my struggles and our feelings of conquest upon that summit. This return trip in winter came with so many differences and our stay was short since long miles still awaited. Thus began a hike of much reflection.

My journey into hiking the 48 this winter began at the inspiration and motivation of my friend Bob Hayes, and for the next many miles I brought thoughts of him along with me in reflection of how much he taught me, how much he shared with me, and how much he had worked with me to get me so far along this journey. I would likely not have begun nor come so far without him. This was my first winter hike without him which brought some significant disappointment for many reasons which shall remain personal to me for the moment. Like the somber drifting of my mood in this reflection, the snow had gone soft and mushy in the warmth beyond Bondcliff and down to the Wilderness trail. As darkness descended upon us and the snow grabbed and held at our feet, parts of this long day began to feel a bit like a slog.

When we reached the suspension bridge into Lincoln Woods, the trail firmed up and Quinn’s eager resolve did likewise as he took over from the break Justin had provided him on the descent of Bondcliff. We set a fast and steady pace and weary muscles and joints were called to rise up to the challenge of 12 long hours out in the White Mountain Wilderness. As our final turn to success arrived at the final suspension bridge to where we would find our cars, I shared the emotional surge within me: “I’m so happy right now that I could almost cry.” Before Justin, Dina or Quinn could respond we heard a shout of “Woohoo! – Congratulations!” in the familiar voice of my wife

Tracy! She had surprised us by driving up and waiting there in the dark for us to emerge so she could give us that inspirational boost. There was no “almost” about my response as I was overcome by the love for and from her…and my eyes did shed the tears of joy I felt so well.

I could not forget how I feel about my companions on the journey, my companions of every prior journey, and the experiences of that particular day. They are only magnified by the exclamation, the crescendo, the pure inspiration and motivation shared so beautifully by the loving choice made by Tracy. I can only know for certain how appreciative and fortunate I feel by the many positive gifts of so many people along my way. I will always attempt to express this in all the ways I reasonably know and yet often will fall short. The measure of success I hope does exist should be in all of those people knowing how well they have impacted my life – especially my very fantastic wife. Thank you all!

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20 Feb 12

By Randy Pierce

2012 officially commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. It’s been 23 years since they began to have a positive impact in my life and roughly a decade since I began to actively advocate for their cause and their mission. They have been a crucially important part of my journey to where I am today.

Yet in the last week, I’ve had three separate encounters with people living locally who were completely unaware they could be getting significant benefit from the many diverse services that this organization provides. Unfortunately, blindness is often treated as some ugly little secret which is hidden away. The sad reality is that many people still do not know the help that awaits with a simple phone call.

For 100 years, the mission of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind has been “to advance the independence of the blind and visually impaired.” They have well earned their reputation as a highly rated charity and an excellent resource for the many people managing the challenges of vision loss. The immense loyalty from those who have been helped so greatly by their kindness has done much to sustain the organization, but the work is far from over.

I urge you to spread the word so that more people in need are aware that they don’t have to suffer alone, and so that these services may be preserved for the continued benefit of people who deal with the very real challenges of blindness and vision loss.

To celebrate the start of their second century of work, the New Hampshire Association for the Blind created this video, featuring the tag line: “Living better with vision loss for 100 years.” Quinn and I were proud to lend our support and make a guest appearance:

NH Association for the Blind: Living Better With Vision Loss for 100 Years

In honor of an organization which has literally given 100 years of essential support to so many people, I hope you take the time to watch the video, visit their website, and perhaps find the means to share their goals and help be a part of more than just the celebration of what they’ve accomplished.

Thank you for that consideration and most especially thank you to the NH Association for the Blind!

Contact them at:
25 Walker Street
Concord, NH 03301

services@sightcenter.org

1-800-464-3075 (Toll free in NH)
603-224-4039
www.sightcenter.org

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13 Feb 12

By Randy Pierce

Reflecting on the meaning of Valentine’s Day, I think of the power our hearts have to share kindness. Kindness is one of the qualities I most respect. I think it is an excellent means of addressing the harsh reality of one of the principle concerns I am often asked about during my presentations at schools: bullying.

My feelings on how to deal with bullying start with this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Many of us slip into a little cruelty now and then–whether intentional, or the result of a moment of weakness from inattentiveness, anger, frustration, exhaustion, or our own hurt feelings. Hopefully we try to be aware of our actions and their impact upon others in order to stop cruelty before it progresses too far.

This type of behavior does not necessarily make someone a bully. Labeling people can be dangerous and potentially inaccurate; it’s people’s actions that should always be viewed as inappropriate, more than the individual him/herself.

Bullying behavior is acting deliberately cruel to others on a regular basis. So our first challenge as a society is to prevent people from making the deliberate choice to be cruel or mean again and again. We all need to take every opportunity to encourage and support positive choices and demonstrate the value of kindness while not accepting, ignoring, or participating in the cruelty.

Despite our efforts to build more positive communities, we are likely to encounter people who frequently participate in bullying behavior. We need to understand that someone’s bad choice to be deliberately cruel reflects more on themselves than on us.

Sometimes we can be extra sensitive to cruel words because we perceive a grain of truth in them. The sad reality is that sometimes our hurt reactions can lead us to participate in a mob mentality where we join in the cruelty.

Some join in the cruelty to protect themselves from being attacked. Some have a shortage of self-confidence or a misguided sense of what makes a good role model. These feelings of self-doubt or self-protection can intensify the feeling of victimization and only makes their defensive reactions to the bullying worse. Victims of bullying should realize that when others react to their bullying by becoming bullies themselves, it doesn’t make the abuse more valid or “true”–it only means that more people are making the poor choice to be cruel.

The best way to fight bullying and reduce the cruelty is to prepare ourselves and those we love with defenses and appropriate responses. This helps encourage emotional health in ourselves and our community. The more we build self-confidence, the less impact bullying can have.

I believe kindness is the key to this resilience. When we’ve received enough kindness in our lives, it boosts our own defenses. When when we reach out to others in kindness, studies suggest that it helps both us and the recipients of our kindness to be more resistant to the impact of bullying.

An active participation in a diverse set of interests helps, too. The more activities we enjoy and the more points of our lives we can create from which we can define our world, the less a negative impact from a single source will have upon us.

To use a football metaphor, encouraging kindness and a diversity of interests build a healthy defense, and doing these things proactively builds a positive offense!

As a caring community, we can protect others from becoming victims by being attentive when we listen to and interact with those around us. Supportive kindness can help ensure the best preparedness. We should also encourage victims to talk about bullying–no one should ever think they have to bear the horror of bullying in silence. There are times when it can be addressed directly with bullies and times when that approach may only worsen the situation. Each unique assessment should consider a victim’s valid concerns, and hopefully offer multiple options (with an evaluation of the likely results of each option). This way, we can help victims of bullying to feel empowered and ultimately have the confidence that the best solution can be reached.

All of this begins with each one of us being mindful, aware, and kind in all of our interactions. We as a community need to lead by example and together we can help fight bullying from its roots and up.

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6 Feb 12

By Randy Pierce

The quest Quinn and I have undertaken this winter is simple in concept. We are attempting to join a very elite group of hikers who summit all 48 of the more than 4,000 foot peaks in a single winter season. Only 46 people ever been recorded as accomplishing this feat–and none have been a blind person or a guide dog team tandem!

As people have begun to learn about our undertaking, they have often asked what inspires me to attempt it. There are many reasons for which I’ve chosen to make the significant sacrifices necessary to have a realistic chance of succeeding.

Inspiring view of the White Mountains in winter.

First and foremost, this opened an entirely new world of experiences as we explore the White Mountains while they are in their full winter majesty. Few hikes can compare to the Southern Presidential Traverse of January 23, for example. It began at a chilly 0 degrees F, but as we hiked through the crisp, open air of the undisturbed and pristine wilderness, I listened to the descriptions of beautiful scenery. Pictures of the full panorama of isolated mountain views painted themselves in my mind, with such beautiful details as the rime ice that made fist-sized diamonds jut out and explode in glittery splendor from the intense sunshine. We spent the afternoon above tree line on a hard pack snow field, which gave gave to Quinn and me the dizzying freedom to take almost any route we wanted along our way across Mts Monroe and Franklin. It was the most liberating experience of my hiking career. It is a day which I expect cannot be readily recreated but fortunately is with me forever onward.

Quinn guides Randy through the winter wilderness.

More than the experiences though, we are hoping to achieve other benefits as well. This will certainly be training for the additional challenges of our 2020 Vision Quest to hike these mountains in the non-winter months. It is also hopefully a much needed awareness boost to all the things supported by our 2020 Vision Quest. In particular, I want to promote the notion of “Ability Awareness,” our school presentations, and perhaps even a celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the NH Association for the Blind which very well began my belief that blindness was not an end to my journeys!

Quinn is presently within the prime of his hiking and guiding abilities. The reality is that a guide dog only works for an average of 6-8 years. We are now in our sixth year together; I sadly know that our guide team time will come to an end much sooner than I would ever hope. He is most responsible for starting me on this path in the mountains and I truly hope and believe he’ll get me through the mountains on our 2020 Vision Quest. Yet if anything should change that prematurely, I will at least have this winter mission, facilitated by a very supportive offer from other strong, experienced, and very kindhearted hikers to help us undertake it. In achieving this, I will ensure Quinn’s well deserved legend, and I will have shared with him the full splendor of our partnership on an epic quest which reaches very deeply into my spirit.

We are beyond the halfway point of mountains for the winter and have climbed more of the peaks than I had in my entire life before this winter, and yet, success is still not ensured. I believe in our team and our will to finish. I will give it all of my best efforts and will continue to sacrifice significantly in the pursuit of this particular dream.

So while “Super Sunday” resonates for many in different ways, I’ll have a fair amount of my thought and heart invested in the Super Goal set before Quinn and myself. I hope any of you who read this will consider sharing it with your friends, family and all other sources who might benefit from our story or who might help ensure the overall success of our missions.

A happy team, ready for anything!

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