Archives - August, 2013



31 Aug 13

By Randy Pierce

"Just four more feet!" Photo courtesy of Justin Fuller.

In the wake of completing our 48 peaks during the summer hiking seasons, this week we have an exciting announcements about our “winter 48″ quest. Dina Sutin’s fantastic film “Four More Feet” about that journey has been delighting audiences throughout New England and beyond since September 2012:

“Four More Feet” is a documentary about Randy Pierce, a totally blind hiker who takes on the challenge of hiking all of New Hampshire’s 48 four-thousand foot peaks in a single winter season. Aided by his service dog, “the Mighty Quinn” and several human guides, he had just three months to complete this quest. Far more than just their story, this film provides a powerful message of perseverance and more for all audiences.

Thanks to Dina’s incredible talent and dedication, we are delighted to bring this story to you in several new ways. She has brought Descriptive Video Service (DVS) to the film in order to deliver the experience more powerfully to the blind or visually impaired communities. Better still, the audio track of the movie with the description included is being made available for free download for everyone.

You can download it from our 2020 Vision Quest page today!

While the DVS Audio format is fantastic, many of you may want to experience the film with the full grandeur of the video as well. To get your very own copy of the DVD, there’s a simple two-step process to have it mailed to you anywhere in the Continental United States.

Online Donation:

  1. Make a donation of $25 or more to our 501(c)(3) charity by clicking here.
  2. You will receive a “Confirmation of Donation Email” which you should forward to us at 4morefeet@2020visionquest.org along with the address to which you wish to have the DVD mailed.

US Postal Mail

  1. Make a donation of $25 or more to our 501(c)(3) charity by sending a check made out to “2020 Vision Quest” to:
    109 E. Glenwood St
    Nashua NH 03060
  2. Clearly indicate the address (in the continental US) to which you would like your complimentary DVD shipped

We will typically mail DVD requests within a week of the request being received.

We are thrilled with the opportunity this provides to share an incredible story with a powerful message. We hope you too will share it with everyone for whom you believe this may make a positive impact!

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25 Aug 13

By Randy Pierce

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

Henry David Thoreau

Randy and Quinn, Mt. Flume summit. Photo courtesy of John Swenson.

I completed an epic 37-month quest with my final step off the Liberty Spring Trail. Originally, this dream to summit all 48 of the mountains in NH which rise over 4,000 feet was simply a choice to celebrate my return to being able to walk and the joy of sharing life with my wife Tracy and my incredible Guide Dog Quinn. It blossomed into something far more than all our expectations.

We chose to share the goal and process through the charity we founded, 2020 Vision Quest, mainly because we thought that an ever-growing belief that spreading the idea of “Ability Awareness” might enhance and transform the lives of others. I did not understand the full measure by which it would transform and enrich my own life.

One of my first lessons was how very many paths and approaches would lead me to failure. The physical aspects of this challenge for each totally blind step was obvious and has been reasonably well discussed throughout our journey. The need to grow and learn from each experience was essential. A community of support had to choose to invest their own efforts into this process for me to reasonably succeed. “Believe and Achieve” is absolutely a fantastic mantra but one should not forget how much physical, mental, and emotional effort is likely required as well. The very endurance nature of this experience over years of life scheduling requirements is enough to challenge success, as commitment and perseverance must be continually reinforced.

Success on the summit of Mt. Flume! Photo courtesy of John Swenson.

Anyone who has not seen the interaction between Quinn and myself on a treacherous mountain trail may never fully understand how absolutely incredible that bond is and how its potential can progress. Similarly, there are many human guides who forego the experiences which might normally bring them to the wilderness so they may put their focus 3-5 feet in front of their own feet and transform their personal experience to one tending my safety and ability to navigate this terrain. It is a sacrifice and a gift which has many powerful rewards for the giver and myself as we build life altering bonds of our own in the process.

Looking out over Mt. Flume. Photo courtesy of John Swenson.

While no blind person had ever managed to summit all these peaks before this quest and while I’m absolutely proud of myself and those who provided the instrumental support to help this goal be achieved, the real meaning of the quest is yet to come: how we all use the experiences to demonstrate what each of us as individuals might achieve despite the various adversity we are certain to all face throughout our lives. It highlights how much greater a positive community interaction can help us all rise to individual and group peaks of realized potential.

I will forever be changed by this quest and I am sure I will be sharing the experiences for many years to come. For now, I wish to share this one thought and hope for all of you. This quest isn’t about hiking, mountains, nor even the accomplishment for which I am so very proud. This is about the choice each and every one of us could and should make personally to reach out for our own “peak potentials.”

After the hike--we celebrate with our community! Photo courtesy of Rick Stevenson.

I wish for all of you the rewards which will come from finding something in your life deserving of your appreciation and passion. Seek the ways to achieve that with all the effort it deserves. Do not limit how high a goal you may choose to set. Be aware of how to build higher and higher steps towards this goal. The reward is in the journey more than the destination and yet the destination is yours to reach. I’ve touched the sky too many times through this journey to not realize the fundamental truth in that. Better still, I’ve been touched by the inspiring stories of many who helped me reach the sky either directly or through the examples they have set in their own pursuits.

“Believe and Achieve”… and then savor the rewards you will deservedly earn!

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17 Aug 13

By Randy Pierce

During rare moments, we may make a decision which will play a significant role in transforming our lives. On even rarer occasions, the power of that choice may create ripples well beyond our expectations. Such was the nature of my 2009 decision to undertake climbing “the 48.”

Randy sits back on his heels in a field with Quinn in a heel by his side. Quinn and Randy meet eyes with a look that shows their mutual love.I decided to do this in celebration of the gift of Quinn, my return to walking, the wonder of the wilderness, and my hope that through the choice to share this process I might make a positive impact for anyone who faces a little adversity in their lives. The challenges, rewards, friendships, personal growth, support, and most definitely the broader positive impact is well beyond any expectation or hope I might have initially held.

There have been both losses and triumphs in the formation of 2020 Vision Quest, which is about so much more than just our hiking these peaks. Through it all, we have created an organization that adds a value that I’m tremendously proud to be a part of supporting, and which will continue to accomplish beneficial actions and have positive influences well beyond the hiking portion of our Quest.

It all began with the choice to hike those incredible trails and summit those peaks in full awareness that each totally blind step would be potentially perilous and decidedly difficult. So they have been–but despite the adversities we’ve faced along the way, August 24 at 7:00 am we will depart the Flume Visitor’s Center in Franconia Notch and begin climbing the Liberty Springs route towards our final summit: Mt. Flume. Given all that we’ve learned and experienced, we hope to take our team over Mt. Liberty, out to Mt. Flume and back to the trailhead by 5:00 pm where several friends are already committing to be present with coolers and grills to refresh our weary team.

The team on the Southern Presi traverse hike share a high five. The camera captures their triumph from below.

Job Well Done - Southern Presi Traverse

I fervently hope still more friends will be present whether they’ve hiked some mountain trails, leisurely toured some of the many tourist options showcasing some of the wonders of the White Mountains or simply bringing their own gas grills and supplies to celebrate with us. Without a community of support, my hikes would have been so vastly more difficult and it would be unlikely I’d be finishing this year. Without community, the worthy results of 2020 Vision Quest would not have reached so many people and lives with such a positive message. Even without community, I will still celebrate the final part of our original quest, but with each person joining us live or in virtual support, my celebration and our greater goals will be enhanced with the motivation and inspiration such extensive efforts need.

So please, do consider joining us live to experience some of the magic and marvel we’ve found in these majestic treasures of New Hampshire’s Wilderness. Do share our Facebook community as we strive to spread our message further each day. Do share our website and the messages and possibilities it helps to create in schools and communities where we deliver our best outreach steadily.

The end of the official hiking is far from the end of our real quest, but we are poised on a marvelous pinnacle of accomplishment. From this vantage, I have a vision of just how much more we might accomplish–and as it has been throughout, much of that accomplishment hinges upon those who share a belief in our mission and message. How much can you help share our message, support our cause and join our team?

We have already met our tagline many times and in many ways: “Achieve a Vision Beyond Your Sight!” Vision did not end with the loss of my sight nor does it end with the accomplishment of this Quest. It begins with each choice that help us grow our community of support and as such it begins with you all for what you have done and what you do next to be a part of our team. Thank you for sharing this vision!

A brilliant orange sun begins to rise above the darkened southern presidential range - as seen from Mt Bond. The sky is a firey orange to yellow fading into a light blue.

Sunrise as seen on Mt. Bond

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16 Aug 13

By Randy Pierce

“Climb the mountain to see the world, not so the world can see you” David McCullough

Quinn and Puppy In Training Frisco survey a view of majestic mountains from Signal Ridge

Quinn and Puppy In Training Frisco survey the view. Photo Courtesy of: John Swenson

There are many reasons why I and many others choose to climb mountains. Spectacular panoramas are a common reason and Mt. Carrigain provided this magnificently on our next to last hike of the original 2020 Vision Quest.

Robert and Jennifer approach via a beautiful path over arched with trees

A view of the trail Photo Courtesy of Roberta French

Once nicknamed the “Great Watch Tower of the Wilderness,” it is positioned perfectly to reveal the unfurled horizon’s general splendor as well as the vast majority of the peaks in our quest. All too frequently on these mountains, foreground mountains hide further peaks. But here, the angles play to the favor of Carrigain’s location and all but 4 of the 48 are exposed. The views along Signal Ridge and atop the platform of the summit are as majestic as any to be found in the White Mountains of NH and yet those are such a small bit of the worthiness of the experience I find in the journey.

It is all too easy to focus upon accolades over achievement as Mr. McCullough gave us in the same speech as his quote above. The mountain vistas are one of the many rewards and the summit an accolade of sorts as well. The reasons we have for arriving at a trail-head in the early morning hours, the motivation behind the many miles of wilderness-walking and the perseverance through myriad moments of doubt or hesitation at challenging moments along the path are for more significant parts of the experience for me. The views we may glimpse inside ourselves are likely more poignant to our lives. Hopefully there is little surprise in observing also that the inspiration of our companions on the literal and figurative path of the peaks may inspire beyond even the wonders of nature which for me are the garnish on the plate of offerings the experience delivers.

Our Carrigain crew as always begins with the Mighty Quinn. It also included Frisco, a pup on his final week in NH before heading to Quinn’s Guide School to perhaps become the future freedom for a blind person. Two older friends also joined us, a bit removed from their hiking days but returning as part of their support from our annual auction. This couple brought their two very young daughters and a young dog on a newly reconstructed knee! All three of them on their longest journey of this magnitude ever.

Robert flies a small pink kite on the summit.

Robert plays with his kite on the summit (Photo Courtesy of : Jennifer Liang)

Newer (kite wielding!) friends who have made many miles possible in life and on trails joined us once again to lend experience and laughter. Another fine couple carved out a day as they have done annually since our hiking began despite the busy lives surrounding them. A winter hiking partner and her no-longer-too-young-to-hike pup also came, as well as four of us who have made nearly every hike of this season together. The final piece was our leader, a very close friend, flown in from Seattle to join us for the only time in our many hikes as distance keeps the physical presence far less frequent than the many methods of support for our efforts and experiences on and off these mountains.

A diverse and different crew we were, all gathering and seeking something likely a little bit different from the opportunity. Still more hikers would be met along the way, some finishing their 48 for the first time, some who run them regularly. There were some for whom the call is rare and some who immerse as often as possible. Some pass in mostly silence, some encourage, some offer greetings and tales of their story in these storied mountains but all are likely seeking to have the experience change them.

Whether they want to relax from the hectic world, to forget a trouble or two left beyond the trailhead or perhaps to invite a change in their attitudes for a future they are only starting to plan in their minds. The mountains and wilderness have enough remoteness to escape, enough expansive view to humble our perspectives, enough stability to ground us, and enough altitude to unleash the belief in limitless possibility beyond. The trials of the trail help us immerse fully and when we emerge atop the ridges and peaks a change is often the reward indeed.

So it was for me on Carrigain and on all of these summer 47 now behind me. Each time I’ve changed a little, grown a little, learned much of myself, my companions, and even of these wilderness wonders. I climb these mountains for myself, I share the story as part of a cause for which I believe there is much value in the sharing. I return to the reflections for me and hopefully refine them just enough for all of you that you may seek your own peaks, escapes, growth and inspirations on the journey of enhancing our lives ever forward on the paths we choose. Carrigain may have been the Watch Tower of the Wilderness to some and so too are we the Watch Tower Wardens in the Wilderness of our own lives.

A view over treetops of many mountain ranges and a beautiful painted sky.

Photo Courtesy of : Jose Acevedo

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10 Aug 13

By Randy Pierce

Some challenges seem too great if you focus on what you can't do.

I am absolutely not intimidated by the term “disability.” I have a disability–several actually–though the primary inability to see is what is most referenced with the term. Disability effectively means what I cannot do, or more accurately, what I cannot do at this particular time. It’s a reasonably apt description and I believe that most of us could generate an extensive list of things we cannot at present achieve.

Understanding our limitations is valuable for certain. However, I find it far more valuable to focus upon an awareness of what we can accomplish and that is why I prefer to put the emphasis on the phrase “Ability Awareness.”

Ability Awareness is an emphasis on all that is presently possible for us to accomplish. Perhaps equally powerful is the realization that converting a disability ability is frequently possible through the process of goal setting and problem solving. I consider this process and potential to be a part of the notion of “Ability Awareness” as I use it in my personal approach to life and as I discuss it in our presentations.

I hope many will give thought to how much more important what we can do should be than what we cannot. Similarly, I hope most will come to believe that what they cannot do is vastly limited by their willingness to believe and problem solve. The rewards for me have been incredible and I’m reasonably certain are part of anyone’s ability to reach their peak potential.

Turning disability into ability!

*Photos courtesy of Tracy Pierce and Justin Fuller.

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9 Aug 13

By Randy Pierce

First stream crossing on Carter Dome.

It was an ambitious goal for our Carter-Moriah hiking team a few weeks ago to achieve all four summits, and more unrealistic with the hot and humid pair of days we chose for them. So while there was some trepidation in the initial decision to skip Carter Dome, the reality was a wonderful gift as the Dome earned a hiking day of its own.

Hiking on a schedule can provide an element of obligation and pressure if keeping the schedule is too significant. The completion of our initial 2020 Vision Quest to climb all 48 peaks in the non-winter is just such a situation. Adding this “make-up” hike into the schedule was difficult and moreso as the weather in the White Mountains suggested more rain, something all too prevalent this season.

Departing Nashua at 4 a.m. with steady rain dampened the spirits a bit. Arriving to the trailhead for 19-mile Brook Trail with clouds but no rain eased that considerably and the voices of our hiking companions coming together finished the job of building enthusiasm. It was a Friday morning, and while many would be undertaking the normal working world routines, we were headed into the deep woods of Zeta Pass and beyond.

Kyle would lead and hike with us for likely the final official 2020 Vision Quest hike while Stephani was undertaking her first with our crew as Mike returned for his second, opting to share his Isolation experience again. Sarah was sneaking in one more hike while John, Dana, Tracy, me and Quinn came together as they have for much of this final season. A successful day would put us back on schedule with just “two to do” in our goal.

Sun streaming through the trees near Zeta Pass.

The pace was steady and the temperatures a comfortable cool as our hike along the brook delivered cascade after cascade and the peaceful quiet of a forest’s early morning. Shortly after the first mile, a light rain began to play percussively upon the leaves of our woodland canopy, some small bit of which dripped lightly upon us. However, the hike was underway and spirits were undaunted.

Much laughter and conversation kept the crew climbing past water crossings and trail junctions and soon the rain was gone and sun rays were streaming through breaks in the trees. Near to Zeta Pass, we paused as the ground was steaming and the low foggy swirls seemed to dance in the rays of those sun streamers. As each person walked through the trail, a swirling of the fog enhanced the splendor of the scene.

This wonder buoyed our steps further and a snack break at the pass let us recline on the rare bench built in the very place we’d opted out of our last hike to this summit. Sitting at 4,000 feet already, we knew it was a totally different status than our last visit. Strong and eager, we set upon the trail traversing the side of Mt. Hight and reaching the Dome before lunch. We took a short stay to record the official summit and observe the overlook towards the presidential peaks, and we set our goal for a bonus hike of Mt. Hight on the return trip.

Randy and Tracy kiss at the summit of Mt. Hight.

Mt. Hight has a 360-degree view from its rocky summit and proved an ideal leisurely lunch location. The skies which had vastly cleared to give us excellent views let us bask in warm sun, with a cool mountain top breeze to hold the comfort. We knew we were indeed a fortunate few capturing such a moment together. As the clouds began to return and distant sounds of rumbling thunder suggested it was time to begin our descent, there was a contentment settling deep within.

That descent was perhaps the steepest and most tricky footing of the hike, yet it passed quickly enough to put us back to Zeta pass with perhaps more enthusiasm than we’d departed a few hours earlier. Swift and steady hiking began to build discussion of stopping at the massive dammed swimming hole near the lower trail section.

The group cools down with a swim after a long day of hiking.

Discussion led to reality and soon many were diving and swimming, sometimes shrieking as the icy temperatures shocked our systems on this late August afternoon. Cold water soothed our feet while the woods were soothing spirits. Yet another delight was revealed when Mike spotted a blue heron watching our revelry from just a short bit upstream.

Reluctantly, boots were donned and we swiftly traversed the last section of trail at speeds which belied a blind hiker was being guided! Unwilling to relinquish the day quite yet, we retreated to a nearby restaurant to share toasts and food aplenty. I don’t think it can ever be sufficiently expressed how a shared experience of such majesty as these mountains provide meaningful connections which linger in every reflection of the day. We captured it all on our return to Carter Dome and were gifted with an experience that we fortunate few will likely treasure often.

All of this because a weary crew on a previous hike made the right decision. Pushing just for a goal would have made the peak possible, but likely more of a drudgery than the celebration it deserved. That same crew finished a three-peak weekend in celebration of the experience, the wiser among them already knowing that another day in the White Mountains would be ahead and that was a blessing not a curse. Dome Sweet Dome was a blessing indeed!

Another gorgeous summit achieved!

*Photos courtesy of John Swenson and Mike Cherim.

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3 Aug 13

By “Sherpa” John Lacroix

Hiking on Mt. Isolation

Almost 4 years have passed now since I first met Randy and Quinn on Mount Agamenticus in Southern Maine. Prior to that meeting, I had never met a blind hiker, though had heard stories of a few in existence. They were largely elusive in nature to say the least. It has been an immense pleasure to get to know Randy over these years and to watch him develop and ultimately flourish as your everyday peak-bagger.

When I first met Randy, I wrote a trip report of my own titled “Seeing Is Believing” (linked to above). Every time I hike with Randy, I try to bring some new folks along so they can indeed see it, and believe it, that a blind man and his dog are legitimately tackling each and every 4,000-footer in New Hampshire.

I’ve done the 48, a few rounds now actually. I attempted to hike them all in one winter and came a few peaks short in the final week. I know a small part of the struggles, both mental and physical that Randy is taking on in his quest to complete the 48. Certainly winter hiking comes with perks. The rocks and roots are largely filled in by deep sticky maritime snows. Summer offers challenges some would say are unimaginable for this team. And yet, they soldier on. The rocks and roots are all there. So are the raging stream crossings of an unusually wet spring and summer, mud pits of various and sometimes surprising depths adorn the trails, and the bugs are as bad as they’ve ever been.

Stream crossing on Isolation.

Before moving to my new home state of Colorado in 2011, I had the honor of guiding Randy and team out to Owls Head. Many consider Owl’s Head to be one of the least popular summit of the 48. Nine miles from the nearest road and without any spectacular summit view. It was a two-day excursion that took everything we had to make it out and back. We took on bushwhacks, steep rocky slides, feet thick ice and knee deep snow on that trek. Not to mention the mind numbingly frigid streams.

On our first trip together, Randy stood emotional on top of South Twin and asked if I “really thought he could hike Mount Washington.” Never mind the 48, in one trip, Randy went from thoughts of 48 success to just summiting the tallest one. I told him then, “Randy, I truly we believe that with patience, we can so anything we put our mind to.” And so it was. It was on the Owl’s Head trek that I saw just how far Randy’s patience and mental resilience would take him on this journey. To the end.

Dry River Trail on Mt. Isolation

So it was with Isolation that I had the honor once again to guide Randy to and from one of New Hampshire’s highest peaks. This time, to the other of the least popular peaks. Isolation is a 14.6-mile round trip on the Rocky Branch route from US Route 16. A closed hike, we had packed it with 10 human souls and one guide dog. Unfortunately, the day of the hike only saw 6 human souls and the dog.

Doubts were expressed in the parking lot about our ability to negotiate the days hike with such a small crew. I never doubted it for a minute. I’ve seen what Randy is capable of, and heard of other tales along the way. Never once did I doubt our ability to make it to the summit, especially now with Randy exhibiting signs of “Summit Fever.” Though, I had convinced myself early on, that we’d get as far as we could before having to turn around at a reasonable time and that’s truly it.

Hiking through the wilderness at Mt. Isolation.

Our crew consisted of Randy and Quinn, Tracy, Jim Roy, Mike Cherim, Rick Stevenson, and myself. Quinn led to the height of land before I took over and guided Randy down to the first of five river crossings. It’s tough being 5’6″ and guiding a 6’4″ blind man. Trees I casually walk under without a thought I sometimes forget to mention to the other guy. Randy, in all likelihood, has a few dings on his head from this hike. It’s ok though… it builds character.

While guiding Randy, I watched him flip upside down and lay in a trail-turned-stream, bump his head a few dozen times, and get lost in shin-deep muck. Mike took over from River Crossing 1 to the summit. He did a fine job for his first time, really communicating well with Randy to tell him of the trails hazards and obstacles. They made surprisingly great time. We were on the summit in about 7 hours. There, we enjoyed a spectacular views of a cloud covered southern presidential range. I’d guide Randy back through the river, which we chose to just trudge through given our wet status, and then Mike would guide him back out to the car from there. All told, our 14.6 mile day took around 14 hours to complete.

The views get better as you near the top!

I could go on and on about the beauty of the Dry River Wilderness. The soggy trail. Soul-sucking mud. Lack of any truly spectacular views we all long for. I could go on about how well this team worked together to seamlessly get to and from one of the longest summits in a day. I could go on and on about how it rained at the end, and we all finished a bit soaked from head to toe. But that’s not the story here. The story continues to be Randy, Quinn, and Tracy. A family who has set out on an unimaginable journey to complete the 48 4,000-footers in the non-winter season. Close your eyes and hike a mile sometime, then think about it, then remember that that’s not even close to what it’s like for Randy. Think about his tenacity, his resiliency, his mental drive. Get out there and see it with him. See it all. Because Seeing is Believing.

It has been an incredible honor to guide Randy on his Owls Head and Isolation journeys. I appreciate his trust in me and others to lead him to these places given their unfair and unfortunate reputations. But as I’ve always told him, “Sometimes the view within is better than the view out.” We all need to remember that Randy continues to lead us… where our leading him is merely circumstantial. Thank You, Randy. Left-Right-Repeat, my friend. The end of the journey is near. It’s all downhill from here now. We’re all with you in spirit, no matter how near or far away we live. And thank you for the amazing opportunities to be a small part of your journey.

Fist bump! We're with you til the end.

~Sherpa John

http://www.sherpajohn.blogspot.com

*Photos courtesy of Tracy Pierce, John Lacroix, and Mike Cherim.

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