Archives - August, 2012

29 Aug 12

By Randy Pierce

Announcing that Tracy and I were “expecting Twins” created an interesting social media sendoff for our longest single day hike of the 2020 Vision Quest hiking project: North and South Twin, together with Galehead, all on July 21. The jovial approach belied significant respect for a section of trail expected to be our most difficult. My prior experience on that stretch supported this assessment of difficulty; in addition Backpacker Magazine gave special attention to that stretch when rating the region. It deemed that hike the second most challenging day hike in the United States! That section descends from the summit of South Twin to the AMC Galehead hut in the col with Galehead Mountain.

Drew and John were the hike leaders for the expedition with a mixed range of experiences in the diverse group of Randy, Tracy, Erik, Sharon, Tim, Mike, Chris, Aaron, Andy and yet another Chris. The Mighty Quinn shared warm greetings with Mike’s pup, Tahoe, and we were ready for the trip!

The day started cool and we progressed on the trails at high speed for the first few miles until we encountered the first of a trio of respectable stream crossings. These were challenging points; different people in the group evaluated the best means for each of us to cross, though keeping the blind guy dry so early in a long hike was an additional consideration. It’s always wise to bring an extra pair of dry socks to use if necessary after the stream crossings–but unfortunately I had managed to leave my intended pair in the dryer! Several different people had route suggestions and were feeling pretty challenged at finding a particularly clear option. Many of my friends were willing to spend a lot of time helping to ensure my best comfort.

Then there was Drew who took command and plodded through the shallowest section with me to save that most valuable resource of time… or was it my patience! Either way, it worked and there wasn’t much water impact, just jokes and laughter. True to the guidebook warnings, these crossings earned our respect and caution though neither Quinn or Tahoe seemed to have any trouble!

After the final crossing, the fantastically smooth and easy trail vanished and was replaced by a steady uphill march for two miles. While nothing was unreasonably challenging, our pace was slowed and the temperature began to rise steadily.

As we neared the summit of North Twin, an ideal overlook arose on our left with great boulders to provide seating. Soon we were teased by the

mass of the Presidential range and peaks into the northern Pemi Wilderness along the Twinway. You burn a lot of calories climbing steep sections, and a food recharge had been well earned. We were well ahead of schedule and while we were feeling the climb, spirits were nearly as high as the summit was close. Thus shortly after we had begun, four hours of labor had produced the first of the Twins and a happy crew atop the wooded summit.

Starting the descent, we switched from Quinn’s work to Drew’s guidance to keep time steady on the downhill. The group was again making fantastic time and we worked our systems to keep the steady pace which quickly brought us the 1-mile jaunt to South Twin’s above-tree-line views in every direction. This time, the short break wasn’t so much for rest as it was to appreciate the splendor. Doctor Drew had delivered the second Twin and had a few words to share about the experience of being in such a remote setting!

It was almost all downhill from there as the next 0.8 mile would drop 1,200 feet of elevation on the trail that had taken me three hours in my first journey there mere weeks before the founding of 2020 Vision Quest. It was perhaps aptly described as being less like a trail and more like one of the twins had spit up boulders the entire distance to the col!

The plan was that all of the group who wanted to add Galehead to their list of summits would go ahead at their comfortable pace to the hut and take the Frost trail out and back. On that trail, they would experience the overlook into the backside of Lafayette and Owl’s Head on the way. All would wait at the Galehead hut to rest, refill water, and bring the full group together. I had already achieved Galehead with UNH in 2011 and this would allow for my slower pace on the tricky journey.

Sharon and Tim remained with me with Sharon’s first time guiding me on a hike taking place on that most challenging stretch. We were slow and steady with Tim helping select routes and Sharon talking me through the challenges while Quinn watched intently. It was slow going, but my pride and appreciation at the success and the improvement from the first summer trip there was immense. Timing was ideal as the last of the group arrived from Galehead in time to finish the rest stop, share a foot stretch and begin the final stage.

The footing near the hut is particularly perilous to ankles and I had guide help from John to get me through the worst of it and to the top of the Gale River Trail. There CJ took over and we quickly developed a quality communication through steadily easing trail. By the time we had passed the new bypass trail we were cruising seamlessly and listening to the many conversations and bouts of laughter from our group which had come together so well.

By the time the final mile of the long day had arrived, the traverse brought everyone to weariness–well, everyone not named Erik or Quinn! Quinn was in fact demanding his job back and ready to show that he could put some speed into the teamwork. We left the sweeper (that final person ensuring the rest of the team is ahead) behind and reunited with Andy and Aaron. The car spot team stole the drivers to retrieve vehicles while the overflow people relaxed and reflected upon the accomplishment.

It was a long hard hike and as always the latter part always seemed like the limit of what we could do, but the smiles and memories were etched firmly upon each of us. It’s unlikely this exact group will ever share a hike again but not for want or appreciation of the company. We always will have those moments and for some of us we’ll likely have them very intensely for a long time. It’s one of the many aspects of sharing an experience that cannot really be relayed properly in the retelling. Just as the images are never as vibrant and wondrous as the eyes report or the viewer shares while in the moment.

Speaking of sharing, Andy had a few fantastic IPAs (Dogfish) to offer and teased us all by showing a cooler and grill ready to tailgate in the hiking style. Those of us without such foresight in the planning settled for holding on to the experience a little longer at the Common Man in Lincoln. Our numbers had dwindled but we kept the rest of our crew with us in spirit. For me those spirits are with me even now as I reflect on peaks 27 and 28 for our 2020 Vision Quest!


25 Aug 12

By Randy Pierce

As the summer slips towards the horizon, we at 2020 Vision Quest begin preparations for a return to school presentations. In the two years since the start of our charity project, we have spoken with nearly 16,000 students while fully supporting the rest of our mission.

I’m glad to report that as the school year approaches, my enthusiasm is rapidly increasing for the opportunity to share our message with more schools and students than any prior year. My goal is to visit at least one school each week and provide as many presentations for each school as they deem beneficial.

To reach this goal, each and everyone of you reading this has the opportunity to help us schedule the visits and for some of you to even help us reach our destination. Most of our presentations come from parents or teachers who learn about the opportunity we provide and then coordinate the event with us. I have spoken to grades kindergarten through college and I adjust our basic messages to best challenge each group. I have spoken with groups as small as ten students and as large as 880!

The best situation ensures a reasonable range of grades/ages to allow us to raise the challenge and complexity of the message appropriate to the group. We often select the date and times for presentations so that we can give several consecutive presentations to different grades within the same school.

Often scheduling a school presentation begins with someone sharing our website or specifically the “For Educators” page. Please continue to watch that website, as an updated revision is coming this fall!

Once a schedule has been tentatively made, I begin searching for transportation options. We are an all-volunteer staff and are always trying to assemble and coordinate volunteer drivers to help us keep pace with the school opportunities. While frequently a parent at a school may provide this, there has been tremendous community support to help us achieve our mission of reaching far more people than peaks!

Would you like to be a volunteer driver? Drop me an email and join our team of volunteers! I’ll send out an inquiry for any date requested by a school and follow up appropriately to make this work.

The reviews of our presentation have been excellent and we have a reasonably significant list of recommendations. Last year was hectic with our winter hiking quest and it certainly had an impact upon our number of school presentations. This year is our opportunity to reach higher still and ensure that even more students have the chance to meet Quinn and learn from the  experiences and adventures which highlight our core philosophies for a successful approach to life.

Will you help us to achieve these goals? Can you help us provide more opportunities for students of all ages to realize the impact of believing in possibility and choosing the right response to all situations? I will, and with Quinn and your help beside me I believe it will be our best year ever!


18 Aug 12

By Randy Pierce

On November 17, 2012, we’ll hold our third Peak Potential Annual Charity Dinner and Auction at the Derryfield in Manchester, NH. This event is crucial to help us continue in our mission. In this, our third year of 2020 Vision Quest, we’ve achieved historic milestones, and we couldn’t have done it without the support given by our community of friends, sponsors, and the incredible efforts of our team! We invite you to the Derryfield for a third year to help us celebrate in this year’s evening of accomplishment, always with a vision towards the achievements ahead for the benefit of all who need it.

While I believe the 2020 Vision Quest website provides an excellent resource for our mission and the adventures that highlight that message, I’d like to take a moment and add my own personal note on why I so proudly believe in the need for our work.

Randy and Quinn give one of their many school presentations.

In this year of incredible accomplishment, I am most proud to share that we have reached more than 15,000 students at schools throughout New England since our inception in July of 2010. In fact, at the first presentation in the fall will very likely reach hit the 16,000-student mark! The message in our presentations is always customized for each school, depending on the needs of that community. Most often the central themes are:

  • Ability Awareness
  • Believing in Possibility
  • Goal Setting
  • Problem Solving on the Path to Achieving through Adversity

Our presentations reach many community groups such as the Lions and Rotary and have included a significant number of corporate presentations, which helps fiscally support the 2020 Vision Quest charitable efforts. All of these efforts we have steadily increased the range of opportunities that we have to impact the lives of people of all ages.

Randy presenting a check for $10,000!

All net funds raised by our project are split between the New Hampshire Association for the Blind and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. This past June at the conclusion of our 100-mile walk across New Hampshire, we provided each organization with a check for $10,000.00 in our continued demonstration of support.

Most of these benefits we give back to the community would be nearly impossible without our Peak Potential fundraiser each year. Not only is it a chance to celebrate the historic accomplishments of the past year while looking forward to the promise of the year ahead, but it provides the biggest means of support for our efforts throughout the year.

So we urge you to attend! Buy a table of 8 by Labor Day and get the absolute best value we can provide while ensuring the future of 2020 Vision Quest. I’ll be crafting a special presentation along with a video montage by the 2020 Vision Quest staff as we review all of the accomplishments of the year and what we hope to achieve ahead. The Derryfield dinner promises to be incredibly delicious as always, and the live auction has always provided many laughs to go along with the benefit of raising money for a good cause. Our silent auction invariably sends many people home with great bargains and an appreciation for the many who contribute to the evening’s success. A little music and dancing will round out the evening, and I’ll have the chance to personally thank and socialize with our guests for the night.

Randy, Tracy, Quinn get down on the dance floor at last year's Peak Potential.

There several other ways to participate, even if you can’t make it for the evening. Consider taking advantage of our four levels of Sponsorship Opportunity. We’re also still looking for donations of services and items to the auction. Perhaps you can share this blog post or our website with friends, family, or companies–after all, our community of support is the most valuable partnership we can ever have.

Whatever the means you feel inclined and able to help, we urge you to do it! The 2020 Vision Quest team works hard in all our efforts, but we couldn’t achieve so much and give so much back to the community without this event and people like yourself who participate in the Peak Potential in some way. You help to bring us ever closer to the remarkable vision we strive for.

Thank you for your consideration and I hope to share the evening with many of you on November 17!

Be Well!
Randy & the Mighty Quinn


11 Aug 12

By Randy Pierce

This past winter, I set out to summit all 48 of New Hampshire’s peaks over 4,000 feet high in just one single winter season. Filmmaker Dina Sutin chose to capture this trek on film because she believed there was a compelling story for her to discover and share. The resulting documentary delivers a journey from exhilaration to exhaustion, and ultimately triumph! With a backdrop of the White Mountains’ most majestic winter moments, it showcases the experience shared by Quinn, Justin Fuller, myself, and many other hikers along the path.

We understood the challenge going into the quest: no blind person had ever climbed the 48 and only 46 people had ever achieved this feat in a single winter season. I would set out with Quinn and the support of some pretty incredible other hikers to demonstrate both canine and human potential. I’m very proud of the achievement and the support which made it possible but I think that Dina’s film has more than matched that accomplishment.

Her initial teaser has been crafted into a powerful 48-minute piece. We are pleased to announce that it is being showcased in as many places we can manage in the very near future.

The name “Four More Feet” is meaningful on several levels. It obviously refers to the four-paw drive of the Mighty Quinn who was a substantial part of the success. Then, he might look at it as the four feet of myself and Justin, who was unquestionably the most fundamental human element of my successful finish. But the most powerful part of the name, I think, is unveiled in the movie’s message about perseverance to accomplish difficult goals.

For me, each time I share the experience of her film, I get to relive the “hikes” into history with some new friends along the trails. So I hope you’ll take a look at our homepage or the movie page for Four More Feet and come experience the journey with me and the Mighty Quinn!

“Four More Feet” is coming soon to a theater near you!

Saturday, September 1, 2012
AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch
7:30 p.m.

The first public preview for New Hampshire. Join me, Quinn, Justin, and the filmmaker for a Q&A session after the film.

AMC Highland Center Website

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Essex Cinemas, T-Rex Theater
8:00 pm

Myself, Quinn, Justin, and the filmmaker will be at the show and available for questions.

Proceeds from the ticket sales will go to:
- $2.00 per ticket to cover administrative costs incurred by Essex Cinemas
- 25% of remaining total will go to the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- 75% will go to 2020 Vision Quest


4 Aug 12

By Randy Pierce

First and foremost, Quinn and I wish to send our best wishes for a return to full health for our canine friend Atticus! It seems from the most recent post on “The Adventures of Tom and Atticus” that this popular pup is in fact on the trail to recovery.

And who, you may ask, is Atticus?

Atticus is a marvelous 10-year-old dog who shares life with writer Tom Ryan and has become rather famous thanks to the book Following Atticus. This book chronicles their tale of great adventure in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and, perhaps more significantly, in life. Their journey preceded the single-season winter quest undertaken by me and Quinn. Given Quinn’s and my experiences together, their story resonates strongly with me. The book is a delight and we highly recommend the read, as well as the continuing accounts of their remarkable journey and accomplishments found on their blog.

“Atticus’s Army,” the nickname for the group of Tom’s and Atticus’s enthusiastic fans, has developed in large part due to the pair’s blog and Facebook presence. Through moving and insightful accounts of their continued explorations, they are making a difference in each other’s lives and have inspired a vast community of support that Quinn would be proud to have.

As Tom points out in his July 26th post, “A Shared Joy”:

“Yes, I am haunted by the thought that “forever’s too good to be true,” but I’m also old enough to understand that all we really have is today… and the wagonloads of memories we’ve collected together.”

We absolutely have this moment to appreciate all the things in our lives. Whether we choose to use this moment for that purpose is up to each of us. For Quinn and me, and apparently for Tom and Atticus, the bond with a dog adds delight well. He said it fantastically:

“Love a dog and you find yourself connected perpetually with childhood. You feel the happiness, the carefree nature, the innocence of it – all through a link with a four-legged friend who can’t speak English. It’s such a gift.”

So if you’ve taken any delight or inspiration from the incredible adventures shared by Quinn and me, I urge you to consider giving yourself yet another gift: take the opportunity to read Following Atticus, and join the many inspired people who are “following Atticus” themselves through Tom’s blog at “The Adventures of Tom and Atticus!”


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