Archives - September, 2012



29 Sep 12

Quinn and Randy climb the summit!

By Randy Pierce

Join us on Wednesday, October 24th at Chunky’s for the Nashua, NH hometown screening of “Four More Feet”, Dina Sutin’s brilliant film that captured our incredible winter quest to climb all 48 4,000-footers in the New Hampshire White Mountains in one winter. Meet the team and filmmakers – Randy, Quinn, Dina, Justin, and many others!

WHEN:
Wednesday, October 24th
Doors Open: 6:00pm
Film: 7:00pm with Q&A to follow (the film runs about 50 mins)

Randy and Quinn trek through snowy trees.

WHERE:
Chunky’s Cinema Pub
151 Coliseum Avenue
Nashua, NH 03063

TICKETS:
Adults – $8 advance – $10 at the door
Children (12 years and under) – $5
Senior Citizens (65 years over) – $5
*100% of ticket proceeds go to support the 2020 Vision Quest Charity.

To order advance tickets please email us at 4morefeet@2020visionquest.org.

We not only want you to join us for the showing, we want you to spread the word! Please share this with all of your friends, families and co-workers! We can’t take everyone up the mountains with us but want to share this tremendous experience with as many people as we can.

Randy, Justin, and Quinn hike through icy cold to reach the summit!

More about “Four More Feet”
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. Against a backdrop of the White Mountains’ most majestic winter moments, it showcases the experience shared by Quinn, Justin Fuller, Randy, and many other hikers along the path. www.fourmorefeet.com

You can also read about it in an earlier blog post here.

This film delivers a timeless message that everyone, no matter what age, can appreciate what it takes to dig a little deeper within ourselves to achieve a goal which may be initially just beyond our reach. Everyone can “Achieve a Vision Beyond Your Sight!”

A special thank you to Chunky’s Cinema Pub who is donating the theater for our event so that all ticket proceeds can go to the 2020 Vision Quest charity. Come early and have dinner or dessert or both! Chunky’s makes it a great night for the whole family – and a tasty one too.

We hope that you can join us for a fun and inspirational evening! If you have any questions, please contact us at 4morefeet@2020visionquest.org.

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24 Sep 12

By Randy Pierce

“Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears”

—Lyrics from “Sunrise, Sunset” – Fiddler on the Roof

This three-day deep wilderness hiking excursion on Aug. 4-5 produced four of the most remote peaks in the 48 and brought us 80% of the journey to our ultimate goal! It also provided an unparalleled experience as the result of a simple choice in the midst of this expedition: I had been told the sunset from Mt. West Bond was amongst the most incredible experiences within the White Mountains, so our trip was structured so that we could ensure that seeing it was likely.

There is a quote by Sally Edwards that my wife Tracy shared with me which helped to motivate our choice: “When was the last time you have done something for the first time?” We decided that we would not only marvel in the West Bond sunset, but we would also sleep at Guyot campsite in our tents for a short night, rise early, and be on the summit Mt. Bond to watch the sunrise the very next morning. It is a choice that I will never regret and an experience I will never forget!

From my view, this was an “old school” hike with four University of New Hampshire alumni from the 80s as the centerpiece (John, Matt, Mark and Randy). But 2011 graduate and trip leader Kyle might disagree with the notion. So might non-UNH students Tracy and Erik or even Guiding Eyes graduate the Mighty Quinn! Whether we had never met or not in many years, this group had some high expectations to match the hiking chemistry of the last several trips that have been exceedingly kind to the 2020 team. The group and the trip would surpass all hopes and expectations for more of the trail magic that motivates many to undertake these experiences.

Friday’s car spot was quick and efficient with a bit of significance to noting that our cars were spotted roughly 40 highway miles away from each other. This certainly highlights the distance of our traverse even though the shortcut through the mountains made for part of that difference. Day one had the car spot and a leisurely start on the Zealand trail. Just 2.75 miles of fairly gentle trail had us at the fork for the Ethan Pond trail where we would camp, ¼ mile below Zealand hut. Shortly beyond the junction we found magnificent campsite opportunities and had a private grotto with all three tents set up and lunchtime spent laughing and marveling at the beauty of our campsite for the night.

Swimming at Thoreau fallsWe were so far ahead of schedule that we geared down for a 2-mile gentle hike to the infamous Thoreau Falls. This subtle railroad grade had been fully returned to a natural trail and had many narrow points along the beautiful White Cliffs but provided no unreasonable challenges. It did share views of the entire Zealand-Guyot-Bond ridge including the mass of the Z-Cliffs where we hoped to be for lunch the next day. As we emerged to the falls and cascades, an incredibly beautiful sunny day heated the rock slabs and created a refreshing and soothing contrast between icy stream and sunny slab! With no pressing time schedule and being entirely surrounded by a wilderness valley, our trip might have been complete just for this much experience. The dynamic of the friendships had already begun to shine. Quinn’s “mighty leap” from atop a boulder and into the pool plunged him under the water and wagging tales soon were snoozing in the sun in complete contentment.

Quinn and Randy relax after swimmingDinner’s debates over dehydrated meals and the sharing of tastier delicacies allowed for an early bedtime and gentle breezes. Early risers were packed up and reaching the hut before breakfast was served for those guests. We met several friends and connections and had to force ourselves away to reach the trails in a timely schedule but not for lack of opportunities to enjoy reconnecting with people. It is simply marvelous to feel so much a part of a much greater hiking community!

Zealand is steep and the rocky trail slowed progress enough that eventually Kyle took over guiding me while Quinn enjoyed the hike in trust of someone he believes has the experience to guide me without his supervision! We worked hard and reached the overlook of the Z-Cliff with delight. This view adorns the cover of Steve Smith and Mike Dickerman’s book “48” and with good reason. It is a spectacular view which make the mountain climb completely worth the journey, a foreshadowing of the feeling we would have many times and in many places along this trip.

View of ZealandAtop the sparse views of Zealand we rested briefly and sent out our first Spot message to our Facebook community before repacking and heading for the last serious climb up Mt. Guyot. Knowing that the spaces were limited at our remote destination, we wished to ensure our group could claim a tent platform and so a little equipment adjustment send everyone but Kyle, Tracy, Randy and Quinn ahead to set up tents and be certain our night’s rest was secure.

The heat and humidity were considerable, once again reminding me the fantastic invigoration my “Chill Towel” provided throughout the entirety of the hike! The sustained steep of this glorious peak effectively ended the elevation gain for our entire trip even though the col rule prevents Guyot from counting as a peak over 4,000 feet. (Don’t tell that to thirsty bodies and weary legs which earn every step of the climb.) The views from the peak are excellent but an unnamed sub-peak we dubbed “Quinn’s Knoll” was in our opinion the most fantastic viewpoint we’d ever experienced in the entirety of the White Mountains. All around are simply remote and majestic peaks, valleys and deep wilderness views that will likely remain with anyone so fortunate as to have earned their way out here on a day with any visibility!

A very short jaunt brought us to the junction with the trail spur to Guyot shelter. It’s a quarter mile of challenging hike down into the campsite, but the water source is renowned for the cold and freshness that the day’s efforts and heat had made so enticing. We had an excellent spot as we rejoined our companions and we were fantastically ahead of schedule 2 with several hours to relax, unpack, feast and prepare for our sunset hike.

Eager for the highly anticipated trip, Tracy and I set off with Quinn to get a head start on our faster moving companions who were prepping everything for the potential of the early morning departure. Tracy guided me in a somewhat romantic appreciation of how well our work together had allowed for such hiking opportunities. Rested and with most pack weight left at our tents, we made our way out of the spur and the reasonably short distance to the West Bond Spur. Another half mile with some tricky points and we were on the craggy outcropping that thrust West Bond into a Pemi overlook and a pair of horseshoe canyons of breathtaking grandeur! Here all seven of the Bond companions came together for a few hours of the most inspirational relaxation. The sunset developed steadily and gloriously between Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. We laughed and shared the experience as much as possible along with a little dark chocolate and red wine that had made the long journey with us! Our spirits had climbed incredibly and exponentially higher than the trails and yet another moment of magic was added to an incredible hike.

Bondcliff at sunset.

It was during this time we decided for certain that we would rise early enough to ensure we savored the Mt. Bond sunrise consecutive to this sunset. Though it did mean we begrudgingly wound our way down from West Bond and back to our tents. John guided me and we were the last to return to camp. The moon lit the trail for him with a headlight ready as needed. There was a serenity in the night during which I could not have wanted for better company to share and discuss.

We rose for 3:30 though Matt was sufficiently eager as to have been long awake and vastly packed for the trip. The plan had been for my slower pace to require me to leave sooner but the entire crew was so efficient we all departed effectively together. The site of 30 (maximum) had been filled with more than 80 hikers and people literally had fallen asleep on the trail leading down to the site! We navigated them mostly by moonlight with Kyle guiding me again for the speed and silence. The moon again shone so brightly the morning hike required no other lights for the sighted of the group. We had again that same serenity of wilderness night to envelope me in an atmosphere of awe and appreciation. Our crew all too easily gave the shout of exhilaration that the summit had been obtained and well before the sunrise would unfold for us.

Sunrise at West Bond

The summit of Bond is large enough for all of us to unpack, begin breakfast preparations and appreciate the boulder seats thrust out of the summit. Views were a full 360 degrees of wonder and perhaps highlighted by the coming light over the looming shadows of the massive Presidential range to our east and a bit north. Ever so slowly details flooded into the darkness and the sun rose to welcome in a brilliant and beautiful morning. I wondered how many have been so fortunate as to appreciate the sunrise on one of these amazing mountains and then a consecutive sunrise on another such peak! I had not and may not ever again but if I were to think on how much was given in the experience I would chide myself as a foolish man for not planning another attempt.

The chill temperatures eased considerably and though a wind was still brisk, we turned our steps towards Bondcliff even as low clouds raced over the Lafeyette ridge, across the Pemigewassit Wilderness and completely enveloped Bondcliff in a wall of thick fog. It gave the impression of hiking through the Scottish Highlands and provided an entirely different type of wonder. Companions were lost in the fog only a few short steps ahead or behind. The voices would call to with an eerily hollow distance.

Matt leading Randy to Bondcliff through the fog

Matt led me down a trail that had so extremely challenged me in my traverse two years prior. As is often the case when someone guides me for the first time, we become a team and experience the partnership and friendship in a way I rarely find anywhere else in the world. The foggy isolation only enhanced that feeling as a friendship more than twenty years separated after college was easily appreciated anew for the people we each had become. It was not long before we stood on the summit of Bondcliff with fog occasionally opening enough to show the daunting depths of the cliffs that plunge into the Hellgate gorge below! This was our fourth and final peak of the journey and our group had bonded so naturally and thoroughly in the experience.

We knew that ahead lay Bondcliff’s version of the “Hillary Step”. We knew there was a steady descent into the Lincoln Woods and we knew a very long, albeit level, trek through to the trailhead remained. Still, for me the group had finished the journey to completing our bonds of friendship and the rest would be vastly in reflection and appreciation for all that had been experienced!

Mark was the person who had connected me with the others back in my freshman year at UNH. We worked together at the MUB cooking breakfast before classes and he introduced me to the others in the fraternity of Phi Kappa Theta. We were not a typical fraternity and these are atypical men still today. I was proud to see the quality of people that were there and the suggestion we probably had a solid foundation back in school as well. So Mark guided me the stretch of narrow trail from Bondcliff to the Wilderness trail. Each guiding is different and each system takes time to develop but always there’s a chance to appreciate a little bit of the view from the other’s perspectives. This is true of trail and life and no less so with my long absent friendship with Mark. The years melted away though not so easily from a body tired by a long weekend of hiking.

At the Wilderness trail Quinn took over for the easiest of the final miles of the journey. While he could have done many other sections he accepts that sharing the experience is part of the enrichment of the entirety of the adventures. He’s a patient pup! Now it was time for Tracy and me to ease behind as others made great time striding towards the suspension bridge and the stream soak that would clean and refresh from the weekend. We were clear by 3:00 easily and the rain did not begin until all were in vehicles retrieving cars.

We came together one final time to feast and toast an incredible experience. Though I say it’s about the people more than the peaks, the marvels of the natural wonders within the White Mountains were definitely a powerful enhancement to our bonds of friendship. I think about my belief in the phrase “Choosing the Right Response” which titles a book I hope to someday publish. Choose your friends and your paths wisely and the rewards will continue for the entirety of your lives. I have look forward to a lot more of life and adventure ahead and to choosing friends such as these and journeys such as this!

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22 Sep 12

By Randy Pierce

Corporate presentations and keynote public speaking events have become a significant part of the 2020 Vision Quest outreach. We have received many testimonials that praise the powerful impact of the core message and poignant delivery of our presentations. For these corporate opportunities, we typically request a modest honorarium to the 2020 Vision Quest charity. Travel expenses may also be requested when applicable, but we feel that the benefits of our program are more than sufficiently significant for this charitable donation.

We remain committed to providing all schools and nonprofits a variation of our presentation similarly customized to their needs for absolutely no cost. An important way to support these charitable efforts is ensuring that we continue to schedule corporate opportunities as well.

The goal of most public speakers is to provide inspiration, motivation, and ideally methodologies which result in improved efficiencies in the working environment. Reviews of our presentations suggest that we accomplish all three of these in a manner which has sustainability in the long term.

When we give a presentation, we begin by presenting the challenges that I faced in my journey from a typical life to complete blindness and confinement to a wheelchair. I share the severity of the lowest point on that path and offer the methodology I developed with much support to work through this adversity, which I hope will help others in achieving their “Peak Potential” both figuratively and literally.

We support this discussion with powerful slides and a two-minute video to provide full credibility of the process. We then invite all those present to take a metaphorical journey with us as we anecdotally connect our methodology to their individual challenges. The sometimes humorous, often inspiring process is customized towards the desired vision of our host as we highlight such concepts as Achieving Through Adversity, Problem Solving, Communication, Teamwork and understanding the potency of having a Vision!

We conclude with a question and answer section. This is where we see if we have succeeded in reaching our audience on the individual level while inspiring a newfound perspective for their personal lives as well as their approach to their career. I am proud to say that our success rate is very good! Embracing a corporate vision and investment into the benefits of communication and teamwork are just some of the valuable takeaways from our presentation.

We encourage you to consider the benefits provided by a visit from me and Quinn to share an hour or more with your company or conference. Drop me an email if you’re interested in scheduling us!

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15 Sep 12

By Randy Pierce

Quinn in a coy moment.

Autumn is sneaking into the air and the fall season brought some big news to the 2020 VQ team of Quinn lovers. The trainer who taught Quinn at Guiding Eyes will be joining us for the Peak Potential Charity Event and sharing her part of the experience of this incredible career. She took Quinn in from his puppy-raising and helped guide him to the skills which eventually led to our team pairing in 2006, just before his second birthday–a birthday he happens to share with her.

His trainer has tremendous insight into his development as well as the progress Quinn and I made to earn our way to graduation. Those attending our Peak Potential event will have quite a treat and so will the Mighty Quinn as he has the opportunity to greet his trainer after six years.

Puppy Quinn sits on stairs with the caption "Stairs... I want to climb mountains."

Ambitious, even as a puppy!

In appreciation of this news, I thought I’d share a couple of Quinn stories worthy of telling. Not long after Tracy and I had begun climbing mountains together, she found the journal created by Quinn’s puppy raiser. On the back cover was a treasure made all the more powerful by the fact that we had already begun climbing without knowing it existed. It was a picture of Quinn sitting next to a flight of stairs with the handwritten caption, “Stairs… I want to climb mountains!”

Keeping with the stairs theme, Quinn and I were at the University of New Hampshire discussing with Brent Bell the possibility of me starting to join the Outdoor Education programs hikes in the White Mountains. Stepping off of what I distractedly thought was the curb Quinn had shown me, I was soon in a scramble down a flight of stairs!

The University had built an addition to a location I thought I knew well and this long cement staircase could have led to a severe injury and early end to hiking. While I flailed and stumbled down the steps, Quinn reacted quickly and kept pace enough to ensure I had just enough harness pressure to keep to my feet. Gasping for breath in heart-pounding panic, I miraculously stood on my feet at the bottom, barely aware of how I had not taken a severe injury inducing fall. Quinn meanwhile wagged mightily and gave his little hop of excitement to reassure me that he was there to keep me safe!

While I didn’t fall for Quinn then, I had indeed “fallen” mightily for him back in Yorktown Heights when we had been matched as a team! Through the years, he’s managed to reach a lot of people with his attitude and accomplishments. Perhaps you’ll share a story or two of your experience with Quinn directly, or even from just following his legendary life!

What a friendly fella!

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8 Sep 12

By Randy Pierce

Most of us at one time or another have probably been excluded from a conversation, activity, or opportunity. It invariably causes hurt feelings. Sometimes we may feel inferior, undesired, and unappreciated. Often anger and resentment are a natural response. I find this particularly true for those who care about me and witness discrimination against me.

We have friends here in NH who recently made headlines in a story of discrimination. Abby Duffy is a remarkable 8-year-old who also happens to be transitioning to her blindness with confident grace and skill. I’ve had the good fortune to spend a little time with her and her family and well understand the impressive life challenges they are managing. As such, I’m even more disappointed to have learned of a recent incident in which an employee at the Museum of New Hampshire History refused to admit her with her blind cane.

Federal Law clearly makes this illegal and the museum absolutely has a policy ensuring access to blind patrons with their canes and/or service animals. But because of the unacceptable lack of education of one staff member, this girl was exposed to the very real danger of being hurt. Her family aided her through the experience and the museum has since issued apologies, but what can lessen the risk of recurrence in the future?

Over the last 23 years in which I’ve dealt with my own blindness, I’m pleased to have observed tremendous increases in the awareness and education of the general public. I have been refused admittance for my cane, for my guide dog, and even for me because of my blindness, but fortunately for me I’m a strong-willed and reasonably communicative advocate for the education of someone discriminating against me. Despite this, I have not always been successful; the ugly reality of ignorance and occasional cruelty remain real parts of the challenge. Equally powerful has been the side of the law and specifically the ADA to educate people and encourage them to abide by the laws–and provide fines and other more powerful incentives for those who continue to refuse to reject discrimination in all its forms.

I’m sorry for what Abby experienced and I’m disappointed that I doubt it will be the last time she encounters this in her life. I’m hopeful that she and her parents will continue to improve their techniques of advocacy to minimize the impact of ignorance and discrimination. I am hopeful that the steady progress I’ve seen year to year enables more and more people to be sufficiently educated towards a world without any form of discrimination and less tolerant when it does occur.

My personal strategy for managing discrimination is to follow the steps below until the discrimination is retracted or until there is clearly no means to change the discriminator’s poor decision on that day:

  1. Ensure I have the full listening attention of the person attempting to discriminate against me.
  2. Explain to them why their action is illegal and have them repeat their intent to do it despite hearing that information.
  3. Request to speak to someone in a higher position of authority than they hold.
  4. Record their name and given reason for choosing to discriminate against me.
  5. Explain that I will necessarily follow up with legal authorities as a result of their illegal action.
  6. Remind myself to stay calm and polite no matter what approach they choose for managing their end of the discussion.
  7. Request anyone nearby able to witness the decision and obtain contact information if possible.
  8. Depart and immediately follow up with the many state and federal agencies appropriate to the situation.

There is no guarantee that any of this will change the emotional impact of the situation. There is no assurance things will change in the future, but ultimately the progress does seem real and with the continued efforts of everyone to advocate in all reasonable situations, there may be a time when discrimination is far less the challenge than it is today.

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1 Sep 12

By Randy Pierce

“The roar of applause upon raising the American flag gave me goose bumps up my entire back, finishing at the base of my neck. Hiking Mt. Moosilauke to raise the American flag on 9/11 as part of the Flags on the 48 program, I wasn’t sure what emotions I would feel. I anticipated feeling patriotism, some sadness, and being filled with very reflective thoughts. However I did not anticipate the tremendous pride I would feel being part of a team that displayed a tribute to our fallen heroes of September 11.”

–Rob Webber as part of 2020 Vision Quest’s Flags on the 48 tribute 2011

Mt. Liberty, Flags on the 48We founded 2020 Vision Quest on Independence day in the year 2010, the same year the “Flags on the 48” graciously allowed us to be part of the team on Mt. Liberty. There was some powerful anticipation in celebrating Liberty, Independence and Community even as we were slowly learning just how poignant the community experience was for this program.

Last year in anticipation of the experience, I wrote a blog expressing my belief in taking Positive Steps. The words I wrote then remain very true as I anticipate our opportunity to again be part of this program:

“There are times in our lives which leave an indelible mark upon our memory. September 11, 2001 is a poignant example of such a time. I can still readily draw forth the stunned shock of the moment the tragedy became real for me. Today, ten years later, I am gathering with many of my community to celebrate our tribute to 9/11 and the positive impact of the choices we have made to take steps forward.”

I remain convinced that in all challenges, the most impactful point for any of us is the moment we choose to begin taking positive steps forward.

This year we have been assigned to join a group tending the flag on the summit of the northernmost of the 48. We’ll be atop Mt. Cabot where last winter we climbed while bald eagles soared on the updrafts of the cliffs of this peak. I think it appropriate that the symbol of our country was so evident on my last trip to this mountain and that spirit will be so strongly in my heart as I reflect upon friendship, sacrifice, choices and the power and emotion available to those who choose to see first with their hearts. As Helen Keller so aptly said, “the most beautiful things are viewed with our hearts and not our eyes.”

Moosilauke - Flags on 48

I hope that wherever you are as 9/11 arrives this year–or even Saturday, 9/8, when the Flags on the 48 will celebrate the event–you find the time to reflect upon all things dear to you and the many sacrifices involved in preserving them. I hope you will think of all the opportunities you have to take steps forward in a positive response to any circumstance. I’ll cherish the service of many who help support this outlook and I will recommit myself to giving the best service I can in the ways which I am afforded opportunity.

Should you want just a hint of the flavor of how worthy and moving this experience may be, I encourage you to watch the video montage crafted by Tracy last year or read the words of my friends Jenifer and Rob as they wrote about their views on the experience. I took the time for all three of these things and feel better prepared to appreciate the moment and my life as a result. Thank you Tracy, Rob, and Jenifer!

Tracy’s Video Montage from Mt. Moosilauke 2011:

Jenifer Tidwell’s 2011 Flags on the 48 Anticipation and Commemoration

Rob Webber’s Reflections on Mt. Moosilauke 2011

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