By Randy Pierce
“While the optimist, pessimist and realist were debating the fullness of the glass, the opportunist snuck in and drank it!”
Quinn was as enthusiastic about a hike as I’ve ever known. After our success on all 48 4,000-footers this winter, perhaps he was growing used to the benefit of the faster pace that winter footing gives my blind hiking and he may have had some slightly different expectations for the start of this new hiking season. On May 19, a picture perfect “blue bird” day at the base of Mt. Jackson in Crawford Notch, our crew began the short but allegedly gnarly footing route of the Jackson-Webster Trail. Quinn’s energy was evident in the harness pull as he guided me up the trails, as comfortable temperatures and an absence of bugs made for ideal walking.
All too quickly the terrain forced Quinn’s eager speed desires into the slow pace required for him to show me every boulder, crack, crevice or root which is significant enough to lead to some harm. It was a dramatic change from our winter experiences atop the smooth blanket of snow. I’ll admit to some dismay at the full ramification of our less practiced return to this type of trail and the particularly challenging footing of non-winter hiking. I even had a few moments to ponder if Quinn was being over-cautious but it seemed clear that most of his alerts were very much necessary and the trail was simply a challenging route of roots and rocks.
As we do on occasions when the terrain suggests that a human guide might be more efficient, I took some of the strain off the Mighty Quinn and capitalized on the benefits of having Rob Webber guide me for the stretch run to the summit scrambles. This complete shift in communication and approach typically allows a little faster travel.
Arriving upon those summit scrambles requires me to use only the verbal guide as my hands and feet explore the trail to work the slightly more technical sections. I recalled how challenging these were on December 25 and relished how much more readily we managed in late spring! It took very few moments before we were all basking in the sun on the summit with an incredible collection of astounding views for the sighted to share. For our picnic feast we had the requisite summit cookies and other delectables which are rarely a part of the winter experience. I was amused to reflect that more time was likely spent on this one summit than all the winter summits combined!
As with every summit though, there is still a full measure of work remaining in the descent. Knowing the downs are more challenging for me we continued with human guides as Rob, Dan, and Robert all shared some of the work of guiding me along the path. While this does involve a lot of communication and concentration, there’s an opportunity for a tremendously impactful teamwork experience. It was again clear to me how challenging I find the footwork on this type of trail! We did finish with Quinn guiding me out the final steps and a great dinner with friends on an outdoor patio nestled in those amazing mountains.
My final reflections brought home the reality and intensity of summer’s challenge as well as the different aspects and powerful rewards to be had when choosing this opportunity. I’ll hike in the winter and I’ll hike in the summer and love the very different experiences. As I put peak #23 for 2020 Vision Quest behind me, I know there’s more than half of the hard work still ahead. Fortunately I’m well aware of the marvels and delights also waiting around every turn of the trail!
Even more fortunate for me, I know there’s plenty of people ready to make the experience better for the camaraderie bursting out of the experience in laughter, conversations, teamwork, blood, sweat and undoubtedly some eventual tears. Thanks to the crew of Tracy, John, Jennifer, Robert, Jen, Justin, Renee, Gary, Rob and super pooches Jackson and Quinn for all being a part of this particular peak! The 2012 season is officially and very successfully underway!