Goals for 2017

By Randy Pierce

My “vision” for 2017 as it pertains to both the 2020 Vision Quest and myself is admittedly fraught with a little more doubt than usual. I’m generally a confident planner with a fair bit of will and determination, yet that was not enough for me to deliver 2016 in quite all of the ways I hoped.

I still count it as a successful year despite the many setbacks and it is for those setbacks I have a little trepidation in setting my sights on the peaks ahead for this year. I still would rather reach for the highest summits and learn to celebrate the higher altitudes even when I’m not reaching every peak with perfection. I think if I reached every goal set forth at the start of the year, perhaps I wouldn’t have challenged myself quite enough.

So with this in mind, some of these goals are reaches but most are reasonable stretches given the supportive team striving for these goals together.

Student posing with Randy and Autumn at schoolSchool Outreach

As the heart of our mission, I’d like to see us elevate from the 54,000 students we’ve reached in schools at this point to more than 60,000 by this time next year! We continue to receive tremendously positive testimonials from students, teachers and administrators as well as parents, so perhaps you might want to volunteer or refer a school to our “For Educators” page that they may schedule a visit from Autumn and and me.

The Book

Delayed by my health challenges, the book writing project halted near the halfway point and that is a setback I consider unacceptable. Its return is a high priority and several other pursuits are getting relegated behind the priority this writing deserves. The plan is to have it finished by the arrival of my birthday in June!

Running Old and New

First up in the running goals is our return to the Boston Marathon with the ability to train properly and appreciate a fully healthy run. We’ll announce the guiding details in the near future but the training program is already underway and going well.

It will be my first of three marathons this year, as I intend to run the Nashua “Gate City Marathon” in May. A special feature of that marathon is the relay option in which five-mile loops will enable many to be part of the celebration as partial participants or spectators from the downtown central location of my hometown!

Lastly, it is my plan to return to the California International Marathon in December and once again attempt to compete for the B1 National Marathon Championship which I was fortunate to win back in 2014.

One other novelty run mixed into the many enjoyable local runs in which I’m often eager to participate is a 7.6-mile run highly touted for having only a single hill. It’s a hill I know rather well since the race occurs along the Mt. Washington Auto Road. Getting into this race is a little tricky but I’ll be doing my best to gain entrance so that in June I can find yet another way to the top of the rock pile infamous for the worst weather in the world.

2020 Vision Quest team on the top of KilimanjaroWorld Traveling

Our Kilimanjaro team has not finalized the late summer plans but it looks very much like a trip to Peru and the Inca trail may be in order. We may visit the ancient city of Machu Picchu or the incredible Rainbow Mountain or even some other as yet undetermined treasure of the Andes. We simply miss the team and experience and so are seeking yet another opportunity.

Certainly there are many more goals great and small which are in my thoughts and which may develop. I want to help the Peak Potential team improve on what many felt was our best ever Peak Potential event last November. I want to always ensure I’m learning, growing and helping others around me do similarly. I hope you’ll help hold me to some of these goals and perhaps join me in the achievements and celebrations!


Dome sweet Dome — Everything we seek in a peak!

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.


Bonus Blog: A Little Drama Enters the Quest for Success

The hiking crew takes a much-needed break in the heat. Photo courtesy of John Swenson.

By Randy Pierce

Nine hikers for the 2020 Vision Quest team circled around the Zeta Pass trail junction on Sunday, July 14. Three of the target peaks (Moriah, Middle Carter, and South Carter) had been achieved but Carter Dome lay ahead as a 2.4-mile out-and-back journey while another 3.8 miles of descent from Zeta Pass to the trailhead would still await the group. A difficult decision loomed.

Randy and Quinn work their way up the ledges. Photo courtesy of John Swenson.

Until you’ve hiked challenging mountain miles, it can be difficult to understand the added weariness from elevation and the terrain work. Saturday morning ten hikers started up Mt. Moriah: Jennifer, Robert, Tracy, Rob, Dana, Kyle, Greg, Randy, and a pair of Johns. Heat and humidity built quickly and just reaching the summit of Moriah took an exhaustive toll. The team made significant equipment and strategic adjustments to ease some of the most significant challenges and support each other.

The value of a team working in this fashion is hard to explain well, but without the joint dedication to succeed this quest, many would be far more littered with failures. Even the mighty Quinn had to be helped down a particularly challenging ledge section on the back side of Moriah.

When by plan we bid farewell to day-hiker Rob, our team was diminished and a few more adjustments were necessary for the final stretch to the Imp Shelter. Staying on the ridge would save us much elevation in getting to our next day’s peaks but it had also added gear weight and other challenges. It also created fantastic bonding moments for most of the team.

Dana climbs up a challenging path on North Carter. Photo courtesy of John Swenson.

Reasonably rested and well-fed, the group set out early Sunday, knowing the toughest stretch came early with a harsh scramble up North Carter. It was the ideal time to reach it and slight cloud cover held the heat at bay for a time. The feelings of accomplishment and pride in work together helped create the euphoric celebrations at each summit.

While North isn’t an official member of the 48, it remains a location this group cherishes. Similarly, the “Silly Summit”  of Middle Carter rang with the laughter of a team proud and elated. Though concerns for endurance were present by South Carter, the gentle but deep descent into Zeta Pass brought us to the crucial decision.

It is so easy to want to push yourself to the limits when a goal is close. The consequence of not adding those 2.4 miles right then would mean adding a full ten miles additional day hike into the future. Perhaps most challenging is the presumed “pressure” which comes with trying to keep to a schedule.

We are trying to finish our epic original quest by August 24 and there are not many opportunities to add in another difficult day of hiking before then. The reality is that pressure is entirely artificial and the factors of the moment must be the status of the team as individuals and as a group.

Summit success! Photo courtesy of John Swenson.

Everyone wanted to find a way to just make it happen; yet many were able to really evaluate the impact of those additional miles and hours into the safety and the enjoyment which are both critical parts to all our hikes.

We chose to descend and leave Carter Dome for another day, another day in which we’ll be fortunate to experience the wonders of this wilderness and the magic of the mountains. Whether this compromises the schedule of the 2020 Vision Quest is uncertain but that is irrelevant to the wisdom of the decision. I’m incredibly appreciative and thankful for a team which worked through all of the distractions to choose the right response.

For now our August 24 goal remains to finished all 48 and we must see what reasonable options exist to revisit Zeta Pass on the way to achieving the summit of Carter Dome. So this is we find ourselves with a little drama worked into the final five peaks in our mission!

The sun sets from the Imp Shelter. Photo Courtesy of John Swenson.

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