Quinn



22 Jan 18

Quinn on Mt. Flume. We love you, boy!As we pass the anniversary of the loss of Randy’s Guide Dog, the Mighty Quinn, we share a post from January 30, 2016 when Randy shared a chapter from his book-in-progress about taking Quinn’s ashes on his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.

Read “The Ashes of Kilimanjaro”

 

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10 Dec 17

By Randy Pierce

Quinn, Randy, and Tracy on a winter hike“Joy is a loyal companion, love is a faithful friend, fear is a terrible adversary, and hatred is a merciless enemy.”

–Matshona Dhliwayo

On December 11, 2004, a golden bundle of Labrador retriever came into this world as the ninth puppy in his litter. It was an inauspicious start perhaps for a pup who reached such lofty peaks of success well beyond climbing and guiding. The Mighty Quinn demonstrated love, loyalty, and friendship to me on an unrivaled level which those who witnessed typically found astounding. He had dedication and devotion for certain, and his competitive intensity showed an intelligence and focus beyond all my expectations. In his barely 9 years of life he lived more than most ever dream and he touched the lives of thousands. Much has been, deservedly, shared about Quinn’s life and death.

On the anniversary of his birth, I take a special few moments to reflect in joy upon how very fortunate I feel to have had this amazing boy in my life. I think about our mountain adventures and often play a video we call “Winter Celebrations with the Mighty Quinn.” Dina Sylvester created this video at the request of Michelle Brier and I am so thankful for both as it is a fight for me each time I listen to it. For me it captures the joy he felt in his life, or specifically in our winter hiking adventures. I listen for the subtle background sounds of interactions, the clear love and fun in our communications, as well as the playfulness which is interwoven in our work together. Playfulness was a centerpiece of his  life for certain. There is no description to this video at this time though I have had it shared with me at times. I know there are countless moments of Quinn joy throughout, so I encourage you to enjoy the short three minutes of heart lifting opportunity to choose, like I will, joy.

While I cannot say there will be no hint of sadness in my reflections, I can tell you with certainty that I would gladly choose all of the moments of sadness I’ve ever experienced before, now, and ahead because of the loss of Quinn–I would consider all those moments of pain a bargain price for the incredible joy, love, courage, and freedom Quinn brought into my life during the time we were blessed to share company together. It is why in recollection each day, and especially on his birthday, I choose joy!

“Dogs, lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and the mistakes we make because of those illusions.”

–Dean Koontz

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18 Dec 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Monroe.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Monroe.

The plan suggested it was to be a demonstration of Ability Awareness. It was to be an appreciation of the diverse gifts provided by winter hiking. It was a chance to savor the easier footing I would experience as snow filled in those twisty, rocky, root-filled routes we call trails in the White Mountains of NH. The experience would prove to be far greater in scope than I ever realized and like so many things in life, the vastly heightened challenge enhanced the rewards received in like proportion.

The greatest gifts were the many friendships found along the trails from Greg Neault at the base of Hale to Justin Sylvester who took the photo to the right and Dina Sutin who filmed the teaser below as well as the accompanying film. Many friends were found and forged along those trails along with the lessons of perseverance, planning, and preparation. As winter arrives five years later, I’m so vastly different than I was when that first December 22 climb of Tecumseh began. I thought it worth a moment to look back and share a little with all of you who were with me and some who have joined us since those days.

I have so many thankful moments, so many delightful moments, and so many inspiring moments, I could fill a book well beyond the scope of this blog. As my holiday gift to the blog readers out here, I will share a tale in the blog comments for every person who comments and requests one. Similarly for our social media friends if you share our post and tag me so I can be aware of the share, I’ll give you a tale on your post as well. Happy Holidays and my thanks for the greatest gift of all that winter: Quinn’s incredible work, love, and dedication.

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10 Dec 16

By Randy Pierce

Hiking Mt. Isolation in 2013Mt. Isolation via Rocky Branch was looming as a daunting challenge for our team as we closed in on the completion of our non-winter 48 summit goal. As its name implies, it has some significant separation from many other trails
and routes more commonly hiked in the White Mountains and our team was a little short of the ideal numbers for the added risk my blindness brings to remote hiking. I had interacted with Mike Cherim  a few times on the internet and was glad for his willingness to join our team. We had a considerable amount of experience already on the trip and we were generally well prepared so he joined to meet, learn a little about the guiding process we use for my total blindness, and to share the enjoyment of hiking.

On the early ascent my Dog Guide Quinn did the work and those new to our team got to appreciate the subtle ways we worked the trails together. As we reached the general flats across the valley with the mud, water crossings and narrowed trails, I switched to a human guide for speed and efficiency under those situations. An experienced friend took that role (thanks, Sherpa John!) and Mike watched occasionally asking a few questions about the process. Mostly though, we were a comfortable group of friends sharing the wilderness. Mike’s excellent eye for photography proved to be an excellent eye for sharing some of the descriptions I might otherwise have missed. The easy-going comfort with which we all fell into conversations as well as times of quiet appreciation highlighted an awareness for allowing our group dynamics to develop naturally to allow us all to appreciate the hike in ways we wanted and needed.

Guiding can be mentally taxing, and as John was a little tired Mike offered to give it a bit of work. He was a natural and showed quickly that he translates his personal comfort and grace on the trails to his ease in guiding my steps through it as well. By the time we rose out of the valley to the ridge line and up to the remote summit, we were all friends sharing the marvels of the wilderness and learning to understand each other and the treasures of experience and knowledge each had brought along with them.

This is not a story about that hike. However, that journey can be found here.

Winter guiding with Randy's groupThis is a story in which I want to talk about guiding. Mike guided me much of the way out of that trip, somehow amazingly taking me through the muddiest of trails while keeping his boots shiny and clean. Better still I was safe and smiling, albeit a little weary. Mike is in tremendous shape which is part of why he is able to be so effective in both guiding and his work with Search and Rescue. His mental toughness to keep high focus through a long day many find grueling was truly impressive, particularly for someone undertaking this for their first time.

It was no fluke either as he would join me and guide more for our Carter Dome trek and once again highlight the knowledge, skills, fun, and friendliness with which he shares his passions for the trails and wilderness experiences. I’ve had many human guides on my mountain treks and a couple tremendous dog guides. I make no secret that my life bond with my dogs has much to do with my preference for our work together even as I understand there are times when the right choice is to use a human guide for a stretch of trail or occasionally longer when speed or types of risk suggest it. The more time I spend with guides the better our effectiveness and rapport develop and the more effective a team we become.

Redline GuidingIn two epic trips with Mike Cherim, it was clear to me how talented and capable we were as a team and he is as a guide in general for me as a totally blind hiker. As such I am not surprised by and absolutely support his  choice to make his passion a career choice with many options to enhance the experience of those who choose from the many fun packages–weddings anyone?!

In fact, I applaud your choice if you decide to use his services with Redline Guiding but more importantly I suspect and the review agrees that you will applaud his services should you make such a choice. In this appreciative blog for his services and all my present and past guides, I have only one simple bias which is that I experienced and appreciated the time we shared on the path and so too, I suspect, will you.

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28 May 16

By Randy Pierce

Moosilauke - Flags on 48

Randy and friends fly an American flag atop Mt. Moosilauke in honor of those who died in service, both civil and military.

In honor of Memorial Day, our thoughts appropriately turn to the many men and women who have given their lives in service to our country. This week, in respectful appreciation, I will simply thank  them for the service they gave and the freedom I experience.

My only aside from this is to appreciate particularly a trio who are no longer with us and have served so very well. My father, Theodore “Bud” Pierce, served in Korea and has been gone from me nearly four years. My two prior dog guides, the Mighty Quinn and Ostend, each spent their lives in loving service to me directly and I’ll choose to reflect on them this memorial Day as well.

Thank you to all who have served and no longer share the living world with us.

Quinn on Mt. Flume. We love you, boy!

Quinn on Mt. Flume.

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30 Jan 16

By Randy Pierce

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

Randy and team watching the sunrise on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Randy and team watching the sunrise on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I just emerged from a difficult anniversary as it has now been two years that the Mighty Quinn is gone from us. The week leading up to it, WGBH in Boston and several other public television stations re-aired NHPTV’s “Windows to the Wild” episode of “Hiking in the Dark.” How incredible is it to know television stations air programming to honor our marvelous boy and his incredible accomplishments?

If you missed this New England Emmy Award-winning show, you may find it on our website in the collection of worthy videos we keep for your perusal.

This week, we release my January writing collections intended for the book I hope to release at the end of the year. Those who have chosen can be pre-reading and commenting upon the story of my life’s adventures and the lessons found along the path.

If you wish to join in that experience, I refer you to our invitation for that opportunity.

Few of us in this world are spared the grief and pain of losing a loved one to death’s cruelty. Many of us understand all too well the bonds we can form with our beloved pets. My Dog Guides are so much more to me than a pet — and their loss takes a piece of me with them each time. Fortunately for me, their presence in my life leaves such a larger legacy of love, learning, and growth that I am far more for the experience of having had them in my life. As I ease away from the sadness and nostalgic reflections brought by Quinn’s passing, I want to share with you just a few paragraphs which I’m releasing to those following the progress of my book as mentioned above. It was a gift of sorts I gave to myself and an honor I felt my Quinn deserved when this year provided the opportunity. This is from a chapter I call “The Ashes of Kilimanjaro.”

***

I was physically exhausted. Despite the freezing temperatures, my cheeks were wet with the salty warm tears pushed out of my sightless eyes by the heaving sobs lurching from deep within my abdomen. All of my muscles ached with their oxygen-deprived exertions which had propelled me to the top of this Pillar of the Earth. I had not slept for two days and three nights which left an exhaustion nearly as complete as my grief. My hand trembled slightly as I used my index finger to slide through the weather-crushed rock which felt like sand to me as I began to form the letters of his name. Q – u – i – n – n.

Below his name I pressed my fingers more firmly and deeply to create a hole. Reaching into the chest pocket of my snow pants I withdrew the pristine handkerchief which had been so carefully prepared one week earlier.

Tracy and I had gone to the meditation room in the back corner of our home in Nashua, NH. In that room the ashes of my three boys are kept in a place of honor for the love, life, and joy we shared together. I hold none of my dogs more dear in my heart for each unconditionally and entirely gave entirely of their being to the partnership we shared. I too gave each my best love and care as I learned from them and with them so many lessons of being a better participant in the world we share together.

We pause there beneath a beautiful tapestry of Quinn from our final hike together. Pearls have been worked into the piece to provide a braille translation of the quote from Ghandi. I think briefly on Rachel Morris for giving us the quote, Kevin Gagnon for giving us the tapestry, but mostly of my Quinn gone from us for over a year and yet still so powerfully with me in everything I attempt. Tracy and I unfold the crisp new white pocket square and each of us reach into Quinn’s urn and  collect some of his ashes for the journey. I’m surprised to feel the bits of bone whichare mingled within the ashes and it pains me for reasons I cannot fully explain. Ever so gently, I refold the handkerchief with his ashes now held within. I tuck that into the chest pocket of the ¾ snowpants which will be worn only on the summit ascent. 

A sob shakes me from my remembrance and I feel Jose place a comforting hand on my shoulder. I pull open the handkerchief and ease his ashes into the hole. I feel the tears flowing steadily and I allow the drops to roll off my cheek and into this honorary grave I’ve created here atop the tallest stand alone mountain in the world. I mutter to myself what may have seemed barely coherent to Jose from our isolated retreat here on Uhuru’s peak. “I love you so much, my dear sweet Quinn-boy. You gave so much to me. It was you who taught me to fully walk again, it was you who taught me to run and who ever so patiently guided me to learn how to hike. We shared a lot of peaks, my beautiful boy, and all because you believed in me, encouraged me, supported me with an unrivaled spirit. Of course you are here with me today too and while I may never reach a higher mountain summit, we will forever bound across limitless peaks of love and achievement. A bit of you will always belong here as your love and friendship are the highest summit any of us could ever know.”

Then I simply cried until there was no more water for my tears. I hugged Jose tightly loving his friendship even as my heart yearned most for the thick furry body of Quinn to force itself under my arm and against my side as he did so many times in our past. Ever so slowly, we turned back to our team gathered around the summit sign for this tallest of Kilimanjaro’s peaks.

***

Learn how you can read more book excerpts.

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2 Jan 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy signs a book

Possible future book signing?

Those in attendance at our Sixth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction in November were afforded a very limited opportunity to be an integral part of the experience ahead. For those not in attendance, we want to now invite you enjoy a part of that experience. We have created a private and secure website where each month throughout this year I’ll upload a portion of my writings intended for the book. This will allow for all those participating to have an advanced reading of all the sections under consideration for the final product well in advance of that book release. You’ll also have insight into sections which while very pertinent to me may not make the final entry into the book. As such you’ll have a more complete and full experience than those who ultimately receive the final version of the book which we anticipate releasing next year.

How does this become possible for you? For a donation of $55 to 2020 Vision Quest, you may have your email added to the list receiving the monthly release of my writings to our secure site. You’ll be able to visit that site at your convenience and review not only that month’s release but the entire year’s uploads. This is a great means for you to help support the incredible work of 2020 Vision Quest while proving yourself with a very rare and special gift into my newest and perhaps most epic quest of all.

Randy and quinn on Mt. Monroe.

Randy and quinn on Mt. Monroe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit this page to make your donation and join us for this experience.

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15 Aug 15

By Randy Pierce

Randy and team go through electric shocks in the Tough Mudder they did in March 2015.

Randy and team go through a series of electric shocks in the Tough Mudder they completed in March 2015.

Our adventures have often captured attention and earned us some remarkable media attention. They are, however, so very far from what we do and why we do it. Those adventures are entirely funded personally and we use the attention to hopefully draw focus to our real work. While this information and more is available for those who do explore our website, I wanted to highlight it for the readers of our blog and social media directly.

I once believed everything fun or important in my life was over. I thought I could not and would not have a life worth living. I made jokes and mostly treaded through waters of denial, frustration, and even anger. This is a far distance from the person I’ve become and I never want to forget the roots of those feelings when I first transitioned to blindness at the age of 22. What made the difference for me was the right people and the right perspective.

As I’ve since learned and often try to express, “Going blind is so much harder than being blind.” In fact, for any of us the first encounter with any challenge is so much more difficult than it is once we choose to plan a path for going forward. While there are countless friends and family in the fundamental part of my conversion, two organizations in particular deserve my appreciation and much of the efforts of 2020 Vision Quest. As such, we raise funds and proudly donate those funds to the NH Association for the Blind and, forever in honor of the Mighty Quinn, Guiding Eyes for the Blind. I hope through my efforts and the involvement of many to ensure the life changing services those organizations provide will always be available for the manyh who would benefit so greatly from those services. That’s the “why” behind the fundraising–and yet, still not our core mission.

Newmarket School 2013

Randy speaks at Newmarket School, 2013.

I have a goal to help every single person who might experience feelings similar to my own at that lowest time. I want to demonstrate by my actions and encourage through my words as well the notion of “choosing the right response to any adversity,” about believing in possibility and setting goals to continually strive to reach the peaks we all deserve. I especially wish to provide this opportunity and perspective to students of all ages and to enhance all of our communities by the building and sustaining of each individual into the teamwork which makes life and possibility more successful. I have been fortunate to earn and receive the support of so many people and organizations in a multitude of ways. Whether joining into the core team of volunteers for 2020 vision Quest, helping my own adventures, helping us connect to schools, businesses, and organizations to further our message, donating directly or by attending events like our Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction, there have been many transforming this message from an “I” into a “we.”

While it’s hard work and thousands of hours, it is also incredibly rewarding to observe the positive impact we have already had in our brief five years. There are times I’m tired from the adventures, the presentations, the organization and administration efforts and yet when I think of how high we still have yet to climb and what spectacular views await, I find it easy to reach out for this team to join together and continue our climb. I hope you’ll consider sharing this and joining the efforts in whatever way works for you.

(Coming next week: let’s talk about a smaller team as I introduce you to the Kilimanjaro Team heading to Africa on September 18!)

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8 Aug 15

By Randy Pierce

Why would a blind man climb a mountain? Recent sharing of my plans to join a group of friends in climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro has caused some to raise that question once again. Several years ago I gave what I felt was a fairly powerful answer and I think now is a worthy time to share this once again. In addition to my perspectives of the time which remain true today, I simply believe there is so much benefit in being in the moment of experiences which are of value to you and doing your absolute utmost to find ways to fully appreciate every aspect of those many moments. It’s how I’ve lived much of my life and I still marvel at just how much reward I’ve received for taking this approach.

*****

“A Sense of the Summit”

By Randy Pierce

Originally posted on July 23, 2010

“Randy, as a blind person, what exactly is the thrill you get from the hiking to the summit of a mountain?”

I understand the dubious nature of that question even when posed by my well-intentioned friends. It is difficult for most sighted folks to fully comprehend my world without sight. I certainly did not and could not grasp the thought when I had vision. In my imagination, my idea of being blind was neither worse nor better than it actually is, just inaccurate.

Randy and Quinn at a waterfallIt isn’t that my other senses are any better than before I went blind. It’s that I pay better attention to my other senses now. In doing so, I have learned a little more of the language of scent, sound, touch, and taste. The enhancement that this new ‘language’ brings to all my experiences is astounding. Vision can be splendid and awe-inspiring, especially when considering the scenic views of nature found in the White Mountains. Vision can also be a distraction, hiding away some other hidden sensory gem of an experience.

In a poem entitled Thanatopsis, William Cullen Bryant wrote, “To him who in the love of nature holds / Communion with her visible forms, she speaks / A various language” I’m still getting better at appreciating the ”various language” of nature, but try to imagine some of this with me. The babbling brook is easy to hear and visualize, as is the rushing roar of a waterfall. Those experiences are powerful, single-sense perceptions. Standing on a trail and pausing for a rest, you feel the wind caressing your skin as it cools the moisture on your brow. The air carries upon it the scent of pine and the sound of branches rustling in the same breeze – not just the sound of the wind moving one branch or one tree but an entire forest in a symphony of subtle sound. With practice, you can even tell much about the type of forest within which all of this exists. In appreciation, a deep breath pleases the palette with crisp and fresh air – rife with flavor lost to a mind distracted by the stimulus of sight. If that sounds incredible, it is. Each trip, I encounter a few more of these moments, and yet each mountain, each moment, is different and speaks to the “surround sense” world which I am privileged explore.

Many experiences confirm the reward that entices me to the trails. I gain vast and rich experience through the eyes of my fellow hikers and through our mutual accomplishments. I crave the accomplishment of the summit and the bonds of community. I desire the mental reflection atop a summit with nothing above me and the world sprawled below. But most of all, I yearn for the chance to learn the deep and rich language of synesthesia for all my senses, within a wilderness that has so very much to say – if only I can learn to listen with all of the senses still available to me. In the ascent, the descent, the summit, and all along the journey, it is this full sense of the world that is my reward. What a “various language” indeed!

See the original post here.

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4 Jul 15

By Randy Pierce

Fireworks

Happy Independence Day from 2020 Vision Quest!

David Letterman may have retired but we can still have a little summertime fun while reflecting upon the top things 2020 Vision Quest has meant to me. Perhaps you’ll have a different order or a few new items to share with us?

10. “Watching” fireworks on July 4, 2010…
…from atop Mt. Washington on our first hike of our quest!

9. The Peak Potential event of  2012
My Dad died that very morning and I needed all the love and support given to me by our community to get me through that night. We had so much to celebrate from the year and folks helped me do that while barely holding it all together.

8. Our final steps to the summit of Flume for our All-Season 48 finish
This was all the more special as Tracy, John, Quinn, and I shared the moment and those final steps together!

7. Ringing the bell for Oberto’s Hero of Summer at the Tough Mudder in LA!
A slightly selfish moment of appreciation for an accomplishment and experience which only happens when you are willing to truly reach beyond comfort zones with all that you can give to the experience!

6. National Championship at the California International Marathon 
Really? This takes sixth? It might even be lower except the teamwork and pride with Jose elevated the experience tremendously as did Tracy’s finish on the same day.

5. Atop Cannon Mountain for the final peak of my single Winter 48 completion
I still hear “Beautiful Day” playing and the cheers and laughter of a perfect winter day.

4. The Boston Marathon
Not just the finish but the entire experience leading to it, through it, and even the aftermath. I worked very hard for the goal and with a purpose well reported elsewhere. The pinnacle moment for me was cresting Heartbreak Hill but I applaud the entire experience.

3. Quinn’s legacy of achievement, dedication, and devotion
Hard to believe this isn’t number one as the boy is certainly top in my heart always. His impact to 2020 Vision Quest will always be integral to our success.

2. Feeling the steady growth and considerable support of an inspired community of friends old and new
I did not have the vision to fully appreciate how many people and places would find our work resonates so well for them.We’ve accomplished so much together and for me the lesson is clear that it’s always the people who matter the most… and for me pups are people too!

And the #1 aspect of 2020 Vision Quest for me thus far has been:

1. Knowing the positive impact of our school presentations on over 42,000 students and counting!
I never realized how much this part of the quest would positively impact our world and me personally. It is the heart of our entire mission to me. When the work is overwhelming in various ways or other challenges emerge, I always come back to the letters from students and teachers to build my strength and my belief that what we do is worth every bit of effort and more.

The truth is there are so many other worthy moments from learning to ski with Brent Bell, Century bicycle rides, Owl’s Head slide, Mt. Welch, Ms. Autumn’s arrival, and so many more. Hiking with Tedy Bruschi didn’t make this list? Winning an Emmy Award with Willem Lang and Windows to the Wild? What about the release of “Four More Feet” and the incredible friendship of Justin and Dina? Well, that’s why maybe all of you might share a different moment or aspect of what we do. I can tell you that handing a donation to Guiding Eyes and NHAB every year is an important foundation of our mission and one from which I take a great amount of joy as well.

The reality is we are now over half way to the year 2020 from our inception and I could not be prouder of the team and community helping us to reach for and achieve this dream every day. Thank you and Happy Independence Day to all of us celebrating our independence in so many varied ways.

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