Help 2020 Achieve Peak Potential!

by Rachel Morris

It’s not too early to save the date (and buy your tickets) for this year’s Peak Potential Charity Dinner & Auction, in celebration of 2020 Vision Quest’s 2011 season.

Peak Potential 2010 was a huge success for us and this year promises to be even bigger and better! We’re returning to The Derryfield in Manchester, NH, with its beautiful views of the Derryfield Country Club, on Saturday, November 12. We kick off the event with hors d’oeuvres and a preview of our auction items at 6:30pm, with dinner seating at 7:00pm. Festivities run until 11:00pm. Ticket prices are $100 each, or $175 per couple. For the best price, you and seven friends can grab a table of your own for $600 ($75 per person).

Last year’s menu was popular enough that we’re sticking with it – you have a choice of Pan Roasted Salmon, Cranberry Walnut Chicken, Prime Rib, or a vegetarian Spinach Stuffed Tomato. There’s a cash bar available and we’ll have DJ Will Utterback returning to keep things hopping with music from the 60’s to today.

Peak Potential 2010, courtesy of Green Photography:

Our auction includes numerous silent auction items and a few special “package” deals that will be bid on in a live auction during the dinner, with Randy (and Quinn) as our auctioneers. If you or your business has something to donate for the auction, let us know. Some of our most sought after items are event tickets, travel related items, meals at a favorite restaurant, spa services, and so on. Not sure if it’s right for us? Ask!
Randy will give a presentation covering some of 2020 Vision Quest’s most memorable moments of the 2011 season, including the following:
•       The mountains summited this year
•       Quinn’s momentous Tug-of-War victory over Patriot star Tedy Brushy at the top of the Belknaps
•       What it means to be able to speak to area children about achieving through adversity
…and more.

All these things have been possible with the generosity of our donors, and through fundraising events such as this one. Buy your tickets online or by mailing a check to us at 2020 Vision Quest, 109 E. Glenwood Street, Nashua, NH  03060 (be sure to tell us it’s for Peak Potential and let us know your meal choices). Join us in this year’s celebration!


Learning to Lead

by Kara Minotti Becker

When I’m asked to take charge of a thing – whatever thing – my first reaction is probably similar to everyone else’s. I’m flattered. I feel important, like my opinion matters and my expertise is valued. It’s a good feeling.

And like most others, I assume that because I’m in charge, I’m, well – in charge. You know. If there are things to be done, I’ll do them – or be the one to ask others to. If there are questions, I’m expected to have answers. When there are problems, I’ll be the one to solve them. I also immediately start feeling the pressure – like I better have this thing wired, at least I better look like I do! People are handing me the reins. They’re counting on me. I better not need help, or not know a thing, or be unsure about a decision. I better be perfect.

Let me tell you, this is a mistake I’ve made a thousand times. When Randy and Carrie asked me to lead the Madison-Adams trip over the July 4th weekend, I did it again. I’ve often wondered how many times you have to learn a lesson before you stop forgetting it. Apparently in this case, at least one more time.

Leading a trip like this is a big responsibility under any circumstances. But when it’s your dear friends you’re taking into the wilds of the White Mountains, and especially when one of them is counting on you to deliver the next success in his excellent and worthy cause, you don’t want to make mistakes. You want to be – or at least seem – perfect. So when I was asked, I immediately began planning to be just that. But I’ve noticed that the same thing happens every time you make this mistake.

You overlook the most valuable resource you ever have at your disposal: your team.

When you try to have all the answers, you don’t get the benefit of the experience, creativity, and different point of view that others can provide. What a waste!

This dawned on me a few weeks back when I was asking Carrie, the 2020 hiking manager, for her advice on trails and terrain on Madison and Adams. She gave me a huge amount of useful information, insight, and advice. But I suddenly realized there was someone else I should be asking: Randy. Randy spends more time hiking mountains, researching hiking mountains, thinking about hiking mountains (and maybe good-naturedly cursing about hiking mountains) than any of the rest of us put together. He’s more an expert than I am by far at this point. So why wasn’t I asking him?

There I was, making that same old mistake. I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t a proper leader – the expert with all the answers. Ah, ego. You’re never far away, are you?

Luckily, as I mentioned, I’ve made this mistake before, and now I know just what to do. It’s easy – all you have to do is drop the pretense and ask questions. Go to your team, and ask away. How should we do this? What do you think of that? This is my idea – do you have a different one? It’s amazing how much better your plans will be, but more to the point, how much better you and your team will be when you approach things this way. You relieve the pressure on yourself. Your team feels empowered and involved. Everyone develops a sense of humor, and the understanding that we’re not perfect, but together, we’ll figure things out as best we can.

So that’s what I did – I called Randy and started asking questions. As we talked I realized there was so much we could cover, and it was so much fun to do so, that we really should get together to do it (which we are, this Friday in fact – which means I get to talk to Tracy too!) This week, I’ll be bugging the rest of the team about their ideas, concerns and suggestions for the trip. Now that I’ve learned this lesson again for probably the 397th time, I’m really looking forward to it!

I’ve always passionately believed that true leadership comes from below – as support, encouragement, and enablement – not from above, as disconnected (if well-intentioned) instruction. But you can see how that latter happens. When we’re asked to take charge, we want to live up to the compliment and be worthy of the trust. The real key is what we do next as a leader. In the end, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn this lesson again. Maybe this is the last time I’ll have to.

But probably not.


Lofty Goals for 2011

by Carrie McMillen

Our 2011 hiking schedule has been posted!

Last year, we had many unknowns and challenges as we started out on this grand adventure. Our experiences were vast – we dealt with a few (luckily, minor) injuries on the trail, we made a decision not to summit a certain 4K due to timing and safety, we camped in the backcountry and we were part of the Flags on the 48 atop Mt Liberty. We had ups and downs, physically and emotionally, and I think we can all agree that it was the culmination of all these experiences that has left us feeling richer and more comfortable with what is to come.

Mt. Adams ascent

So what exactly is to come this season? If you check out the schedule on our hiking home page at, you’ll see that our goals this year are BIG. This year we’re dusting off the training wheels and going for the gusto!

Our 2011 plan is to summit 16 4K summits by the time snow flies next winter. Yes, we may be a bit ambitious and perhaps even a tad crazy (we did five in 2010). However, we are starting the season much earlier and increasing our efficiency with multiple day trips, allowing us to summit several peaks on a weekend. Here are a few of the highlights we are looking forward to:

Owl’s Head in mid-May – Our first hike of the season will test those camping skills not to mention some stream crossing doozies, as the spring runoff season will have peaked. It’s a good thing Quinn likes water and Randy has those gaitors and Teva water shoes.

Partial Pemi Loop – This will be Randy’s longest overnight backpack trip this year, but will be supported by hut accommodations. Last year, he climbed a few of the Pemi mountains with a UNH group and faced some of the hottest temperatures on record and it proved to be a few of the most grueling days of his life. We are hoping for much more manageable weather this year!

Adams and Madison – For anyone familiar with the Northern Presidentials, you’ll know that Mt Adams is an enormous pile of jumbled rocks at the top and Quinn will not like it one bit! For the sighted, this mountain is a challenge because you are boulder hopping on slanty rocks and it’s easy to slip. For the 2020 group, this will mean some slow, careful hiking supplemented with human guides (I think I might also try to sneak in some kneepads into Randy’s pack).

Carter Range – This hike will be another 3-day trip (like Adams/Madison) taking advantage of the AMC hut system we love. The concerns here are trying to summit 3 mountains over the course of one weekend along with some incredibly steep terrain. I hope that since this trip is later in the season, we’ll be faster, more efficient and better versed in the terrain.

So feel free to follow along via our website and via the Spot GPS as we hike throughout this summer – we plan to have information on each hike, both before and after the trips. Moreover, as we move into summer, we’ll also be asking the community for any terrain advice for our upcoming trips. Stay tuned!


A Hiking Season in Review…

By Carrie McMillen

Randy & Carrie's 1st hike together on Mt. Welch 5/1/10

It’s been an incredible season with 2020.

I’ll be honest – I started out this summer with a lot of nerves. When there is a bunch of unknowns out there, one tends to make up scenarios in your head about what could happen (I think I’ve shared some of those qualms here before). Will we actually summit anything? Will we get stuck in the middle of nowhere and have to be evacuated? How do I keep Randy or Quinn from slipping on the mossy rocks? Do people think we’re insane?

Now, as we prep for Mt Pierce, I feel surprisingly calm. I think it’s because I’m confident in the people around us and in Quinn and Randy’s techniques. The amount of strength in Randy, Quinn, and in our entire team astounds me.

Having never hiked with Randy, Quinn, or the team before May of this year, I am amazed at the differences between then and now. My two favorite moments from this summer encapsulate my pride in that strength:
-The conversation at Lake of the Clouds where we decided it was too risky to descend Mt Washington – on that hike, I witnessed Randy admitting he couldn’t do something for the good of himself and for the good of the team. Also, the group became stronger by being smart and by honestly looking at our limitations.
-Attending to Randy’s two injuries just below Mt Field – the team reacted super quickly to a bit of gore and bruising and each person took a unique role to ensure we had a safe hike down. We learned urgency, safety, first aid skills, and teamwork here.

So this is what I come away with at the end of the season:

I am amazed at the strength and determination in our team, in the hikers, and the friends we have had along the way.

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and hike with people who carry extra gear, who wait patiently around the next bend, who brainstorm solutions for the challenges we are facing. These are the kinds of people who put the mission before themselves – through patience and kindness. I can’t thank you all enough.
Yes, we have a few more mountains to climb! Mt Pierce should be a great celebration of our accomplishments and strengths from this summer and I am looking forward to welcoming some new hikers to our team this weekend. I’m sure we haven’t seen even a portion of the challenges on the other peaks that lie ahead – after Pierce, more await us next summer in terms of weather, potential injuries, and rocky trails.

Will these things worry me as they did this summer?
Yes…but thankfully, not quite nearly as much as before!


Where's the Beef?

by Carrie McMillen

I never knew beef could be such an important part of a trip. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but I’ll eat pretty much anything on the trail. So, when I heard about how a few of the hike participants had eaten steak tips once on a previous backpacking trip, I was pretty excited. The steak tips ended up being a really important part of the trip – they became both the high and low points of the weekend.

Steak tips as a way to heal

Kara applies frozen steak tips to Randy's injured knee.

About an hour into the hike, as you may have read about by now, Randy’s knee swelled up like a ping-pong ball within seconds after his fall. I knew having something cold on the injury would help, and Kara had to remind me that in the depths of someone’s pack were some tasty and frozen steak tips. After 20 minutes of freezing Randy’s knee, the swelling went way down and we were ready to move on. I really think that the icing minimized the extent of his injury dramatically.

Having an injury on the trail made this all very real. I’ve always carried first aid gear, but have opened it for only a Band-aid or some Neosporin. Maybe I’ve been lucky all of these years – but this hike made me a lot more alert to the fact that this may occur more than once as we summit these formidable 48 peaks. I learned a lot on this hike – about the resilience and determination of Randy, about the strength and support of our team, and about the inequities of the first aid kit. I bought a large survival/ first aid kit, but until you have an actual injury, it’s hard to know what you’re missing. Unfortunately, we probably won’t have frozen steak tips on every trip, but we instead should definitely have instant cold compresses. We should also have Q-tips for cleaning out cuts, butterfly bandages, and tweezers that don’t look like daggers (sorry, Randy!). Luckily, a few of the participants offered up some of their personal first aid items to supplement what was missing. (Tip: a squeeze water bottle is great for flushing out a wound!)

Steak tips as a way to bond

Rob cooking up the steak tips. Mmmm!

Once we were done freezing Randy’s knee with steak tips for a second time before dinner, we had the pleasure of eating them. I was gone for about 45 minutes getting water and by the time I got back, the boys had rigged up a fancy campfire – and those steak tips melted in my mouth as I finally relaxed from the day. Add to that a delicious lentil stew with fresh rosemary and we had ourselves a recipe for a great evening. We spent several hours reminiscing about past hiking experiences and got to know each other better through interesting and challenging questions. As the evening got later and darker, I’m sure we were smiling big with full bellies and great company.

Every hiking trip is different – some go smoothly, some don’t. The bumps of this trip were…literally, bumps. There were many things to think about as Randy hit his knee twice and sliced his hand, and trust me – my mind was going a mile a minute as I considered the ramifications of his injuries to himself and the group, while simultaneously thinking about how to treat the situation. I’ll be honest – it’s mentally tiring to balance all of those things as a leader.

But, I have to say that even with the ‘bumps’, this trip was smooth and sensational. I specifically am grateful for the way we cherished each summit as a group and for the many ways we took care of each other, whether it was cooking a meal, helping breakdown a tent or taking some weight from Randy’s pack. And, I was tickled when nature provided her own few magical moments like the old worldly mossy glen at a stream crossing and the gray jays that fearlessly landed on my outstretched hand. To paraphrase Randy from the weekend: ‘It’s moments like these that keep me going.’

And steak tips.


Back Country Bruises (with a Bonus!) – Part 2

by Randy Pierce

We set out early the next morning, though not too early as to over-push it. The trail atop the ridge was beautiful and we made excellent time. All seemed ideal, even on my sore knee – that is, until a second mishap occurred.

We were walking on the edge of a washout section of the trail. The three-foot-deep washout was boulder-strewn and hard to navigate. Quinn took the flat high ground to the left, because I walk better on flat ground. As I stepped down with my left foot, the dirt and roots of the washout collapsed and dropped me into the wash. I released the harness and leash from my left hand, so as not to trap Quinn while I tried to  catch myself, but sadly I sliced my left palm on a spiky stump fragment  – just as my injured left knee took yet another hit.

The team, having practiced the day before, was amazing. I am exceedingly grateful for the efficiency with which they got pressure on my two bleeding points, then got my knee elevated and iced. Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate is the order, R.I.C.E. for those wanting the mnemonic. All was accomplished in moments, and though I was sore and concerned, I was in good spirits. During my twenty minutes of ‘ice’, my hand wound was cleared of debris and tended by the amazing crew. Everyone was excellent, and I’m grateful. My spirits took a small hit here for obvious reasons, but the team support was solid – and it was at this point that we observed a little mountain magic, which may have made the difference for me.

We had been told that atop Mt. Field, one could hold out a hand with dried fruit and the Gray Jays would perch on your fingers and eat the fruit. At this very stop, the Jays revealed themselves, and we tested the rumor with an awe-inspiring delight. When ready, I stood and partook of the process, marveling at communing with these birds. I felt a bit as if I was in a Fairy Tale, and my knee and hand hurt a lot less for it.

We continued on, a bit slower, to the summit of Mt. Tom, where we were again treated to better views than anticipated. We called in more of the Jays and even had them perch upon my pack, which of course had the names of our $100 donors (thanks!). One of those names, by the way, is a Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppy that is being raised to do the same job as Quinn!

We eventually began our descent, knowing this would definitely test my knee. I don’t think I can praise enough the work of Quinn or Tracy’s efforts ahead of me in trail blazing and sharing just enough information to keep us focused and safe. It was tough terrain, but we made good time – and my comfort and confidence in the progress Quinn and I have made was clear. We are a strong hiking team. He knew my injury and he helped me much, occasionally getting me to shift feet for a tricky point, and occasionally giving me stability on a rough area. He knows how to show me when we can do something readily and conversely, he knows how to alert me when I must step or sit down for a significant drop. We did the trip well, arriving at the end of the first rough stretch in time for Carrie to decide that she and Dave would go ahead for water refills while the rest of us could attempt the Avalon spur. Carrie and Dave had done the spur previously, and the team had used a lot of water to flush my injuries – so were lower on water than ideal.

The summit of Mt. Avalon is a very short spur off the trail, and we again did this without our packs…well most of us. Kara kept her pack on, for first aid and other vital needs. The craggy point had some unusual terrain and made for a great climb. Some of the spur trail required a 4-limb scramble, so Quinn could not lead me, but he came along and was excited for the challenges. We loved the view but rested only for a moment, as we had much work ahead in our final steep descent.

The Tom/Field 2020 Team

The next phase of the Avalon Trail is very steep and challenging – even for the fully sighted. It quickly earned my respect. It was not my most challenging down section, but very close – and Quinn was tireless in keeping me safe and oriented. Kara led us for much of this stretch, giving Tracy a well-deserved break. We made great time given the challenge, and we accomplished faster than Carrie expected. When we rejoined with her and Dave, there was a jubilant sharing of restocked water and much celebration. We knew this hike would be a success, despite the injuries. The team had come together marvelously and we had bagged a trio of peaks, two of which were part of the 48 on our list.

There are so many memories of the experiences on those mountains. The lingering bruises certainly have me reflecting on them, but the most powerful memories are of the teamwork and friendship built in sharing the marvels of the White Mountains. Seriously, how many people can stand atop the highest peak in a glorious range and have wild birds landing in their palm? How many people can know the value of friendship and fun so deeply at the core of that peaceful sanctuary? I’m certainly a happier person for it. Thank you to all those who hike with me and to all those inspiring me along the way!


Comfort is Heavy

by Carrie McMillen

We’ve all experienced that moment of indecision when we’re packing for a trip.

You ask yourself – do I squeeze in that hardcover bestseller book I want to read even though my suitcase weighs a ton? (Answer: usually, yes) This may not be a big deal at the airport or on a train where you can conveniently say goodbye to that bag during your travels. However, if you’re backpacking it’s a different story…

Carrie and her pack in Colorado
Carrie (middle) and her pack, contemplating mountains in Colorado.

So, how heavy is YOUR pack? Mine is 42 pounds.

At least that’s what it was on my most recent backpacking adventure last summer in Colorado. That’s a typical number for me, although it depends on how long a trip, how difficult, and what ‘extras’ I’ve packed. I’ve run into backpackers on the trail who consider themselves minimalists – they sleep under the stars, they only eat rehydrated food – and they boast a pack weight of around 25 pounds. Admirable? Sure. But I’d like to hope that maybe they aren’t enjoying themselves on the trail as much as I am!

For those of you who like facts and numbers, your pack’s weight should be a reflection of your fitness and comfort level in addition to a general factor of 1/4 to 1/3 of your body weight. (The minimalists mentioned above use ratios like 1/6). For the rest of you who don’t like facts and numbers, you can determine your appropriate weight by stuffing your pack full of everything you think you want, and then try it on. Then take something out because it will feel too heavy. Try it on again. Repeat at least six more times. Then try to get your friend to take something for you!

I am one of those people who will sacrifice a bit of weight for comfort in the woods. I don’t bring my solar hairdryer or my iPod – but I do bring a few things that will help my happiness on the trail, as they pertain to food, drink, and sleep. So, if you’re not scared of the number 42 (or higher) and you’re headed out into the backcountry – here are my comfort items that will add both weight and happiness to your trip:

Thick sleeping pad (22 oz) – My biggest challenge is always sleeping on the ground. It’s worth the price and weight for a thick pad with air chambers (the foam pads are far less comfortable!). Get self-inflating if you get light-headed easily.

Camp shoes (6 -11.5 oz) – Your feet are so tired from the boots; you’re going to love feeling a new pair of shoes while walking from your tent to the stove!

Earplugs (.001 oz) – ok, I might have made up the weight, but these things are priceless. Guaranteed you won’t hear snoring neighbors or bears.

Camp pillow – (8 oz) – Typically I stuff a fleece inside a stuff sack, but I’ve also found the inflatable neck pillows for the airplane work well, too.

Journal (10 oz) – Call it my luxury item – this allows me to reflect in the woods and write my experiences down on paper. Priceless, but not weightless…

Special drink – (2 oz – 16 oz).  This can come in the form of your favorite tea or cocoa. Or, it could come in the form of something more potent (note: bottle of wine (2+ lbs))

Special food – This can come in the form of M&M’s (1.69 oz), a jar of peanut butter (12 oz), or steak tips (24 oz).  You are going to be hungry – bring something fun to eat! Just don’t forget the cast iron skillet (6.6 lbs) to fry up those steak tips.

So what is 2020 bringing for their comforts on Tom/Field? Guess you’ll have to wait until after the weekend to find out!


Are Randy’s Ankles Made of Rubber?

by Carrie McMillen

So by now you’ve read some of the details of our momentous weekend on various posts and blogs. I wanted to offer a hike leader’s perspective. Here it is: this trip was TOUGH.

Each of us carried 20-30 pounds on our back (Randy is rumored to have over 45 pounds) up a very steep trail, some of the time moving very slowly and a lot of times, not moving at all. We stopped for various things – water, food, one bloody knee, dozens of hikers wanting to pass, doggie boot switches, stream crossings, ladders and scrambles. We stopped numerous times to debate the best way to tackle the next sets of rocks. Carrying weight while standing or moving slowly over a long period of time can take a physical and mental toll on anyone. I hiked the Ammonoosuc Trail two years ago in dense fog. I thought it was kind of challenging from a mere physical perspective, but I didn’t remember it being THAT HARD.

After this weekend, I will never look at a trail the same way again.

With each step I took, I thought about the clues on the ground that Randy and Quinn were grappling with. Where are the rocks? Are they even or pointed or irregular? What is sticking out at shoulder height that they could run into? What audio (waterfalls, talking) is affecting Randy’s experience? Are hikers getting impatient to pass? I kept looking at the amazing and varied terrain that Randy hiked over and I kept asking myself incredulously, “Are Randy’s ankles made of rubber?”  (Answer: yes)

I will never look at the simplicity of an AMC guide book trail description the same way again. A basic paragraph explaining a rocky, steep trail with several stream crossings barely begins to hint at what we might encounter. Throughout the trip, my mental acuity was on high alert as I observed dozens of conditions that affected Randy’s hike. And those conditions weren’t just about the rocks – add in streams, weather, eight other people, an Adventure Dawg, water and food issues and you’ve got one recipe for a big challenge.

Perspective can change throughout a hike and I felt myself not only trying to put myself in Randy’s shoes, but also trying to do the same with the other eight team members. Each of us experienced something different out there. I was amazed to witness emotions such as nervousness, elation, pride, happiness, frustration, pain, patience, hilarity and exhaustion. You can see it was a bit of a roller coaster.

But through all of the ups and downs, an enormous sense of pride and camaraderie grew exponentially in a matter of just two days. I think all of us evolved and gained perspective in ways that have touched our lives tremendously.

Shortly into the hike, we reached a section of descending steps which were uneven. As a leader sweeping in the back, I asked the hikers behind me to patiently wait while Randy worked through the problem. As the line began to pile up behind us with 10 or so hikers, a woman in the back impatiently called out “Hey, can we get going here?” I explained that we were leading a blind man up Mt. Washington and she immediately turned red and apologized over and over.

Things change when you see things from a new perspective.  My advice? Be open to it and be patient.

That’s what we did.


PS I’m so proud of everyone!


"He who fails to plan, plans to fail."

by Carrie McMillen

So, as we get ready for the BIG HIKE up Mt. Washington, a few of you have asked, “How are we preparing?”

Personally, I am answering a lot of email from our nine other participants about car spotting (where to leave the cars so we can get home again!), arrival times and food allergies. We’ve got a great group of ten who have a lot of questions, but are genuinely thrilled to be a part of the Mt Washington inaugural hike. I’m just hoping their excitement and positive attitudes remain after they learn how early I am making them get up the morning of July 4th!

Other than answering emails, the big thing I’ve been working on this week has been our trip report. Whether your group is super-experienced or not, it’s important to outline your intentions and backup plans for a hike. So here are my 2 cents on what I think is important to document ahead of time:

  • Trip Dates (include departure time from trailhead and expected return)
  • Leader and Co-leader
  • Trails we will hike/ Mountains we will try to summit
  • Elevation gain and rise
  • Water sources
  • Overnight information (where you plan to camp or lodge for the night)
  • Evacuation plan (see below)
  • Emergency numbers (police, hospital, White Mountain National Forest, etc)
  • General hike description
  • Participant’s allergies, medical information and emergency contacts (I like to keep this printed out separately since it can contain confidential information. And then I pray that it doesn’t need to come out while on the hike, because that would mean we had an injury!)
Courtesy of

Most of you might be thinking some of this is obvious information – why the heck would you need to be so official about it? Well, when you start counting the topo lines on the map (or try the AMC White Mountain Guide descriptions if your eyes are tired of squinting), you learn some things about how prepared you need to be. For instance, from my perspective, Randy will have more of a challenge going down, so it’s good to know how much elevation loss there is and how rocky it will be.

When considering an evacuation plan, I try to think of ways to get off the mountain. Are there shorter trails out? Are there huts that have radios to communicate? Are there toll roads that can take somebody down in a car? Also, it’s not good to split up a group, but if it absolutely necessary due to injury and the group is big enough, I think BEFOREHAND about how I would split them up: keep a leader with each group, keep the strength divided up while having the slightly stronger group do the hiking out and have a designated sheltered waiting place where the first group stays. I consider these types of things because with these logistics already mapped out, it will free up my time to focus on an emergency if we do have one.

In addition to bringing a copy in my pack, I will typically give a hike report not just to Randy for his information, but also to a friend not coming on the trip, so that they are aware of our overall plan. This person is always someone I will contact soon upon return so they know not to come looking for us!

I don’t think a trip report is crucial for when you spontaneously grab a friend and go on a hike (but still tell someone where you’re going) – but when you’ve got an overnight group of ten people (and don’t forget a super-cute guide dog!), it’s pretty important to me to think some of these things out beforehand.

See you out on the trail!



How the heck do we get up Mt Washington??

Crawford Path Western slope of Mt Washington from Edmands Path on Mt Eisenhower.
Mount Washington Observatory Photo

by Carrie McMillen

Mt. Washington is a daunting hike for anyone, with sight or without. When Randy asked me to lead him and a close group of friends up the mountain, I can honestly say that my first reaction was “Sweet!” And then about two seconds later, I thought “ummmm…WHOA.” How the heck were we going to do this?

Many sighted people do it as a day trip (I’m talking hiking here, NOT driving up the toll road!). It can take anywhere from 6-12 hours round trip, depending on your fitness level and choice of trails. So when I started thinking that “ummm…whoa,” I knew my biggest challenge was going to be how to give us the best shot at making it.

That led me first to securing overnight bunks at Lake of the Clouds AMC hut (a mere 1.4 miles from George’s summit) so that we could split the hike into two days.  Once the hut was confirmed, I talked to a number of hiking friends who discussed the challenges of Tuckerman’s and the rocky East-sloping trails.  A West-side approach was clearly the better option, especially given the hut’s location.  A new hiking forum friend, Sabrina, also advised us, based on hiking with her blind mother, to try the Jewell Trail which is easier (although longer) because of the footing.

In the end, we’ve chosen to ascend the Ammonoosuc Trail, parts of which can be steep and rocky.  But it also has a mild beginning and is the shortest – I’ve seen Randy conquer a few technical rocky ledges and have the confidence he can do it well.  Descending on steep and rocky terrain is what we’ll try to avoid – therefore, we will either descend via the Jewell Trail or via the Crawford/Edmands Paths.  This decision will remain last minute (not just to annoy you all!) but because it will depend on whether we summit Washington the first day or the second.  I don’t presume to predict the outcome, given the crazy weather conditions on Washington, but we clearly are hoping to summit on Day 1, so we can celebrate at the hut that evening of the 4th!

See you out on the trail!



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