Archives - September, 2015



26 Sep 15

By Randy Pierce

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.
-  Tom Hiddleston

Team all together in Aurusha before the hike

The team hangs out all together in Aurusha before their epic climb! An important, supportive community.

I’m writing this before departing to Tanzania for my attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. When we publish this, the success or failure of that summit goal will be known. To me though, the success began with the belief that it was a worthy experience and the confidence to choose to try for it. Hundreds of people with whom I speak often relay to me their lack of belief in their own abilities to attempt a variety of things, sometimes within the realm of common activities for the majority of people. What is it which allows doubt or fear to paralyze people in their pursuits? Why even are people so easily consumed by their own lack of confidence?

One of the simplest approaches to easing this challenge is to surround ourselves with people who encourage and support our ideas. Our basic community has such a powerful impact upon us and we forget that we ultimately choose the people with whom we share our lives. I have a marvelous accompaniment of supportive friends and for me it constantly makes a difference. I, in turn, encourage myself to always be that supportive influence in their lives as well. If we are commonly given doubt from the outside, it’s simply no wonder it might ease into us and impact our own thoughts and feeling for ourselves.

Secondly, I believe we so easily focus upon the negatives in our world. Yes, I too have many doubts and some fears which could easily paralyze me if I gave them the chance. I choose to focus on the means of resolution to challenges, of the rewards and benefits possible rather than those doubts and fears. It isn’t that I do not realistically evaluate them and identify the crucial points–it’s that I dwell on solutions more than problems and rewards instead of failures. Whether this approach is of help to anyone else, I cannot be certain, but I do know that in my pursuit of my own peak potential and my well wish for all of your similar abilities to reach new heights, I think the most perilous peak of all is the choice not to climb!

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19 Sep 15

By Greg Neault

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
–Robert Frost

Group of climbers posing at the summit of a mountain in the summertime

The “Lost Boys!”

Robert Frost’s classic verse feels every bit as true today as it did in 1916. A commentary on deviation from the norm, it extols the virtues of a life spent traveling off the beaten path. Taking the path less traveled can sometimes seem a daunting task–people have a natural fear of the unknown. The temptation to stick to known routes and the feeling of comfort we get from the familiar often overshadows our desire for growth and change. However, sometimes life gives us some much needed encouragement to blaze new trails, often in the form of mistakes!

As this blog hits social media, a Monday morning will be unfolding. Breakfast will be eaten, commutes undertaken and a return to the safe and comfortable routine of the work week begins. As your morning is commencing I shall find myself embarking on a journey down a path much less traveled in my circles, somewhere between the Tanzanian city of Arusha and Camp 1 at 9,400 ft on the flanks of Mt Kilimanjaro. As I now sit at my desk at home amid a flurry of activities aimed at preparing for this adventure, I find myself reflecting on the path that led me to this juncture. That path forked unexpectedly one August day in 2008 and has continued that trend, much to my benefit.

The first of these fated forks occurred as this path of mine crossed that of some other folks in the White Mountains. A half dozen spirited gents up from Boston on a weekend outing to hike the Bonds. We shared a campsite and a few laughs on the first night of our backpacking trip through the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We bid them adieu in the morning as we moved on, expecting it would be the last we’d see of them. Little did we know, a mistake was to encourage the blazing of some new trail on their part, both literally and metaphorically. Two days later, we encountered the same, although much less spirited, group of gents. They had taken a bit longer a stroll than planned and were now quite far from their beds with little sunlight remaining. We offered them an alternative route out of the woods and a ride to their car, an offer they accepted with great verve. The miles hiked that day with the Lost Boys, as we had dubbed them, proffered more bonds than had their hike the day before. I left the Pemigewasset Wilderness with sore feet and what I anticipated would be lifelong friendships.

Sadly, after three years of adventuring together, my friend Christian Gagnon was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He was very suddenly hospitalized and, with a weakened immune system, was unable to return to the wilderness or engage in the outdoor activities that he loved so much. I spent the next few month’s weekends alternating between hikes, hospital visits, and attending to my other responsibilities. It was on one of these hikes that the path forks again, but this time, the mistake was mine.

Group standing on the summit in the wintertime.

Meeting up on Mt. Hale!

I was out for a hike on a crisp December day with a relatively new friend, in Aaron Sakash. We had designs on climbing Mt Hale via the aptly named Hale Brook Trail. However, an error on my part lead Aaron and myself astray, hiking up the wrong access road and finding ourselves at the North Twin trailhead. We were amidst the debate as to what our plan of action should be from there, when we were happened upon by a half dozen spirited ladies and gents out for a winter’s hike. The shepherd having become the sheep, I was informed by one of these gents that Hale was their goal as well and there was a route to access it from the North Twin Trail via an unmarked and unofficial trail. After laughing off his directions (take a left at the tall straight skinny tree seemed a bit ridiculous at the time), he asked us to join their group for the trip to the trail junction, he would point out the turn and we could carry on about our way. He warned, however, that they may slow our progress a bit, as his friend Randy was blind.

I was taken aback. I had left my brief conversation with the man without so much as an inkling that he couldn’t see me as we spoke.  My disbelief was elevated further when he told me that not only was this blind man hiking, but that he also intended to summit all 48 four-thousand foot peaks in the state in a single winter. When you don’t know, all you can do is doubt, and that is precisely what I did. We hiked with the group for the better part of that day and, by virtue, got to hear more about their plan and process along with their mission to reach out to people and raise money for great charities. At the conclusion of the trek, he invited us to look him up on social media to track his progress along the way. Once again, we bid them farewell, figuring our paths may not cross again.

Christian Gagnon posing by a peak.

Christian Gagnon.

Whenever I visited Christian in the hospital, he always asked if I had been on any hikes lately. At first, I felt bad telling him about my woodland adventures while he was stuck in that sterile hospital environment. I realized shortly, however, that he really wanted to hear about it. He couldn’t do it himself, so it was better to experience it second hand than not at all. When next I visited, I had quite the tale for my friend. “You’ll never guess what I saw on my last hike,” I said, and then told him of my encounter with the blind man who aimed to climb the 48 in ONE single winter! Like mine, his eyes went wide at hearing this, but where mine had been filled with skepticism, his were full of wonder and possibility.

“What are you going to do?” he asked me.

I was puzzled by this question. Christian was undergoing treatments for his leukemia which involved chemotherapy, radiation, blood transfusions, and a lot of medications. Some times he was more lucid than others. My first thought was that he must be a bit confused, not quite following the story. But, he was on point. “To help him–you have to help him!” was his reply. Christian told me that most people don’t do things like that with their lives. He said when you see somebody trying to do something special, something great, something selfless, that it is your responsibility to help them do it. He also told me that he hoped he would get to meet this man when he was feeling better, he wanted to hike with him and hear about his journey.

Unfortunately, Christian’s journey was cut short. I read the story of the day I found the Lost Boys as we laid him to rest on March 2, 2012, just days before Randy completed his 48th winter peak.

I may have lost my friend, but I have not lost his wisdom. Since that time I have done whatever I could to help Randy reach his goals, however small or large a contribution I could make, and I will continue to do so. The doubt and skepticism that once clouded my vision has been replaced with the wonder and possibility that made Christian’s vision 20/20.

As I sit here on the verge of another great adventure I look back on the road that lead me to it. I accidentally took the one less traveled by, and that HAS made all the difference.

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12 Sep 15

By Randy Pierce

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro

This is it! Single digit days will give way to our September 18 departure. When Monday, September 21 arrives, we’ll have already hiked our way past the Machame Gate and onto Kilimanjaro’s massive shoulders. We will make every reasonable effort to share updates along the way and I’ll give you those details now but first a few announcements and thoughts are worth sharing.

When your team is a perfect 10 (members) already, why would you turn the volume up to 11? The answer is simple, when is it not the right time to help someone reach for a dream and once in a lifetime opportunity?! Jennifer Uhlman has guided me along the steep sections of Mt. Carrigain and supported our team in the Mt. Snow Tough Mudder, now she joins the rest of the team.

So on that notion of the seeming “Once in a Lifetime,” I find myself so tremendously blessed with the belief each day we can work towards something which possesses rewards we will indeed treasure forever. There are those moments which resonate beyond our expectations and I count so many in my own life that I have come to believe for all of us the choice to experience such moments is with us. I’ve long suggested I’m a problem solver more than a risk taker and as such try to ensure planning is at the root of many of my quests. That’s all fine and true yet still there is value in words I reviewed today.

“If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.” — Drew Houston

We are taking this trip together as a team and for those not joining us directly, I welcome you to follow along and live in this instance vicariously through our progress. Help us celebrate accomplishments and commiserate the hardest of the challenges. In the process, I hope you are evaluating what dream should be just ahead in your life and what excuses for not reaching may be eradicated to leave your goal ready for you.

Thanks to the ingenuity and kindness of our friends and hiking partners www.RoarLoud.net, you can follow us live or review the history of our progress via the Delorme Inreach technology. Simply visit:

https://share.delorme.com/RoarLoud

We will be sharing progress on our own 2020 Vision Quest Social Media and the front page of our website. The reality is these will be progress updates with no images to be shared until we have completed our descent from the mountain and may send a few of the images along for our friends, family, and community. I’m tremendously excited for all aspects of this experience and intend to put my best effort into the entire attempt. Ultimately it is always the journey and not the destination which is of highest import and I hope that journey includes crossing the crater rim as the sun rises impossibly distant from that incredible height. Thank you for allowing me to share my adventures and I hope for all of us the drive to reach for our peak potential can be constantly and successfully pursued!

You can also follow our friends and their marvelous Roarloud project via:

Facebook
Blog
Twitter
Instagram

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5 Sep 15

By Randy Pierce

With a mountain as large as Kilimanjaro on our horizon, we are slated to have a more quiet start to our school presentation approach this year. As this is a cornerstone of our mission, I wanted to encourage each and every one of you to help us by becoming an active part of our outreach. I’m sharing a blog from a few years ago and celebrating that we have now increased our school contact to more than 43,000 students. We have finished the marvelous update to our “For Educators” page and are building the essential list of volunteer drivers. We still need you to help share the opportunity with teachers, administrators and parents as well as choosing to be part of the volunteer system which makes this all possible. I won’t return from Kilimanjaro until October but Kristen Taylor is eagerly ready to help coordinate and schedule presentations going forward to make up for the lost month this year. So will you help? It’s as easy as the “ABC” blog below suggests!

ABC Back to School Special!

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