Tracy



29 Jul 17

A steep, rocky, uphill trail

When you’re blind, a lot of things can feel like a steep uphill climb.

By Randy Pierce

“Patience? How long will that take?!?” – Tracy Pierce

I firmly believe going blind was much harder than being blind. While losing sight had many challenges of varying intensity, being blind for some time has lessened the burden considerably. Still, there is one persistent challenge with a solution I attempt constantly and yet so often struggle to manage: almost everything I attempt simply takes more time to manage without sight. This can lead to frustrations and failure unless I plan for the potential extra time and learn to practice patience in everything I attempt.

Planning more time is a benefit although we all still have the same number of hours in each day. So as I prioritize the things I hope to accomplish, there are more difficult choices of things to exclude simply because I know I should allow additional time.

This time manifests immediately in the finding of items I need. This is mitigated by better organization, although that organization requires some initial setup time. Identification of items whether by tactile or technology is typically more time consuming. Travel usually requires a little more planning and preparation, whether to ensure Autumn is also prepared or that any coordination involved has been managed with possible delays included. Often this involves putting myself at the scheduling of others which means building in margins. Bus schedules have an earliest possible arrival and I need to be there by that time even though they may not arrive until the latest window. Several times it is well past that later window before I can determine reasonably they must have driven past me without stopping. Hopefully I’ve left myself enough time for back-up plans!

I admit these time drains are frustrating, moreso when I’m caught waiting outside in particularly unpleasant weather. The reality is that these concerns are part of the world in which I exist and to be frustrated by them too much would be to allow constant negativity into my world. This is why the notion of practicing patience is so valuable.

Part of that is learning to understand what is truly urgent and what is only important at varying levels to me. The more urgent, the more time margins I allow and patience I plan into events. The lower the importance, the more I can tighten those windows and accept the consequences if things go awry. These truths hold whether you are blind or fully sighted–it’s just that blindness affords me many opportunities to test my patience, as not only will most things take me longer, but also I’ll likely have to gently educate people around me for how and why things may take longer. Sometimes we can agree upon shortcuts to alleviate the process and sometimes there are good reasons why those shortcuts are not acceptable. In the latter case, it is often the explanation of why which may require the most patience and consume the most time. It is also the best reason for patience, however.

The best moments for education and team building occur when done from a platform of patient knowledge sharing. Reminding myself of that notion is a significant part of the motivation to success in finding my patience. I just hope you may forgive me if you encounter me in a time of failure and perhaps give me a gentle reminder to get back on the path!

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1 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

“But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be, whenever and wherever the hour strikes and calls to noble action.”
– Joshua Chamberlain

I am a student of history and found particularly powerful the tales which highlighted the nature of those brought together 154 years ago on the fields of Gettysburg. It is not the awful brutality of battle and war which captures my interest, but the notion of causes which are so intense, the dream of learning better methods of resolving differences and the many testaments of the human spirit which can emerge in times of tremendous challenge.

Joshua Chamberlain shared many thoughts I admire greatly and with a rich language that sings to me still. Many will have diverse opinions on what was contested on the battlefield; a likely reality is many agendas were being realized throughout the war.

I believe firmly in the right of all people to be free and equal, judged foremost by the merit of their choices and actions. I similarly believe this battle did much good to advance that notion ultimately, although to this day it is a work in progress we strive to better achieve. Still in celebration of those people who chose to make a stand often with the ultimate personal sacrifice on the line, I will be traveling to Gettysburg with Tracy, Autumn, Gene, and Coach to delve deeply into the history while walking the pathways of such vital historic significance.

I’ll stand on Little Round Top and consider the many charges faced by so few. I’ll walk Pickett’s Charge and wonder how the human spirit could have done so with the thunder of cannons and the nearly certain death. I will know that my life is different because of those people who took a stand for ideas which though costly were also worthy. Mostly I will think myself fortunate to live in this country where I too may lend myself to ideas and causes in which I believe fervently and yet do so without significant risk of my life.

I will celebrate the birth of our country for all those ideals which are often challenged and challenging but always rewarding for the ultimate freedom to pursue with a plan the means to make it a better country and better world. I am glad that our fireworks are for celebration more than the aspects of battle they simulate. I will remember the cost though… and be grateful.

Fireworks

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24 Jun 17

Sweeping shot of Machu PIcchu with Huayna PIcchu in the background.

A majestic view of Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in the background.

By Randy Pierce

“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.”

-Hiram Bingham

On September 14, our journey will begin as members of our 2020 Vision Quest team from around the country will travel to Peru for yet another epic adventure of a lifetime!

I will treasure the team and experience from Tanzania which took us to Kilimanjaro’s rooftop of Africa as well as the Serengeti’s incredible safari experiences. Many of that team are returning along with some new additions to experience some remarkable treasures of South America including Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas:

“For the first time since dropping out of graduate school, I remembered an unpleasant weekend spent struggling to comprehend the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s explanation of the difference between calling something beautiful and calling it sublime. Nowadays, we throw around the word ‘sublime’ to describe gooey desserts or overpriced handbags. In Kant’s epistemology it meant something limitless, and aesthetically pleasing entity so huge that it made the perceiver’s head hurt.  Machu Picchu isn’t just beautiful, it’s sublime.”

-Mark Adams, Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Initially based out of Cusco, once the capitol of the Incan Empire, we will depart by bus and then train in the ludicrously early morning hours of September 18. This will bring us to Aguas Calientes from which we can launch to Machu Picchu Citadel and guided explorations. Our morning excursion include a hike of Huayna Picchu Mountain (the large mountain that sits directly behind Machu Picchu), rated one of the scariest hikes in the world! This will provide us with a rare perspective on the region before we finish our explorations of the fortress city and return to our base in Cusco.

We’ll have little time before the deeper excursion begins: a four-day, three-night trip into the Andes culminating in a geological wonder called Rainbow Mountain.

A breathtaking view of Rainbow mountain.

A breathtaking view of Rainbow Mountain.

Day One: Our first day will take us above 12,000 feet to a maximum of nearly 15,000 feet and includes Tinqui Village, Upis Hot Springs and the Vilcanota Range will loom in the distance with Ausangate and Cole Cruz mountains dominating the landscape.

Day Two: Our second day takes us to nearly 16,000 feet as we traverse Arapa Pass to Lake Pucacocha within view of the western ice-fall of Ausangate.

Day Three: Our third day brings us our first views of the Rainbow Mountain. We ascend to Ausangate pass (16,170 ft) to see the colored mountains, as well as Vicuñas, and alpacas, then we descend to Alccatauri Village (14,435 ft). After lunch, we will follow a llama trail to Minasniyuq Pass to have the first views of the Rainbow Mountain (16,479 ft) and camp at Surine Cocha (15,748 ft) on the banks of the beautiful Lake Surine.

Day Four: Our final day we will hike to the summit of Rainbow Mountain (16,469 ft). We descend to Quesiuno Village and are transported back to Cusco which will mark the end of the expedition for some of our number.

Eight of our crew have secured an evening at the Sky Lodge which entails climbing a cliff overlooking the Sacred Valley to stay in a transparent pod for the night. Our evening dinner, sunset, and brilliant night sky over the valley will be part of the reward for that climb. Sunrise over the valley with breakfast enhances the experience further and the zipline out of the cliffside dwelling will be an adrenaline burst to the adventure. Words can hardly explain this and fortunately there is a marvelous video to help you understand the experience which awaits us all:

You might think that all of this would be enough adventure and experience and thanks to the great coordination efforts of Greg Neault it is certainly tremendous. But in addition, Greg has also arranged for a likely opportunity for a visit and presentation to a school while we are there.

Tracy and I will be joining Jose and Kristen in taking an extra few days after all of this to relax in the Sacred Valley and reflect upon the experiences before we return home, our lives undoubtedly changed once again.

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15 Oct 16

Randy and Tracy at Niagara FallsBy Randy Pierce

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

There are so many moments in our lives which I believe are worthy of being appreciated more fully than we often allow. For me, these moments provide strength for the challenging times and suggest such future opportunities if we are willing to persevere. They also help me provide a better understanding into myself and my dreams, and help me shape some of those future experiences. While each of us should find our own rewards, I think a mindfulness of these opportunities helps reveal them more often than we might otherwise discover.

On my recent anniversary excursion to Niagara Falls there were many obvious moments of delight. Listening to Tracy’s exclamation when we stepped into our falls view room on the 22nd floor of the Sheraton was certainly powerful, as was my own experience when I opened the balcony and heard the immediate thunder which gave the Falls their name “Thundering Waters.” Again, there was the first unveiling of the colored lights which illuminate the rainbow falls in a chromatic splendor each evening. For the adventurous part of me, there was the newly created zip line over the gorge, in front of the falls towards the Horseshoe Falls which I can attest was invigorating to many! Certainly riding the Hornblower, sister ship to Maid of the Mist, into the Horseshoe Falls and feeling the spray of the thundering falls was also a highlight. Yet despite these and many more opportunities it was a simpler aspect that captured me powerfully enough to warrant my shared introspection.

Randy and Tracy take a selfie at Niagara Falls!I was standing on the upper deck of the Hornblower with my right hand clenched firmly onto the rail while my left hand held Autumn’s leash. She nudged her head against that hand as she thrust her nose upward to draw in the scents which seemed to be calling deep into her instinctual being. Tracy had just stepped away as the dramatics of Horshoe Falls were past us and I believe she wanted a different camera shot. I could still feel the mist upon my face and feel the cool October winds of that crisp fall morning.

I thought of how many travelers, adventuring-minded people had shared some of the feelings I was experiencing at that moment. I was exploring a bit of the marvels of our world, feeling, smelling and tasting the natural world so deeply. I was energized by the feeling as all my senses searched to absorb as much as possible and to retain the feelings while a calmness overtook my mind. It was the same calmness I feel when I make the time to step away from the more frantic pace of the world and remind myself of the foundation from which I want to base my world. It was so easy to find in that moment and so unrelated to the experience around me, it’s a calm I may achieve, albeit with more determined effort, at any point I’m willing to set aside five minutes for myself.

Whether I call it meditation, relaxation, or mindful calm; the point is that it’s a moment of incredible value in my life which I can have often if I so choose and yet can so readily lose as well. I didn’t have to travel all the way to Niagara Falls and undertake all those adventures to remind myself, but that is what it took this time and it’s a trip I hope to continue a little more regularly with the work and goals ahead!

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1 Oct 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Tracy kiss with an elephant in the backgroundThe year we founded 2020 Vision Quest was also the year Tracy and I  chose to wed. With a perfect date of 10/10/10 for our backdrop, the adventures of 2020 Vision Quest have been fundamentally intertwined in our lives.

While not always as grandiose as a voyeur elephant (see accompanying picture) to our romantic moments, the adventures have taken us around the world. This year they will take us just a little bit north as we each make our first visit to Niagara Falls to experience all aspects of this natural wonder. Whether it’s the rainbow bridge, the Maid of the Mists, or even the thrill of the new zip line, we’ll work them all appropriately into our celebrations of our love story. I love that I have a supportive partner eager to create and share adventures with me and certainly part of this post is a chance to wish Tracy: Happy Anniversary!

I also hoped to emphasize how fundamental Tracy has been to the 2020 Vision Quest Charity effort. Without her many sacrifices, the great work we’ve accomplished simply would not be possible. There are so many people who put in a lot of effort and care to ensure this organization may continue to perform the quality work and yet I’m confident few appreciate just how much Tracy has given to this project. Certainly she provides me a great deal of freedom to manage the many responsibilities and that’s a sacrifice we both accept and yet the greater part of her contribution is the vast amount of personal time, energy, skills and funds given to this effort. She does all of this with her own world of commitments in her full-time job, her training goals, her personal developments and the often too short amount of needed down time. It is our wedding anniversary this week ahead but it is also another year of appreciation and celebration for how much this incredible woman has given of herself to this mission.

Thank you, Tracy, and once again, Happy Anniversary.

The happy family!

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7 May 16

By Randy Pierce

Tracy and Randy kissing with an elephant in the background.

Happy birthday, Tracy!

On Monday, May 9, Tracy will be celebrating her birthday. We will have celebrated over the weekend and well into the week. Certainly I’m a believer in celebrating as best possible every day in our lives. Each day can be bogged down in challenge, routine, and the distraction from our choice to find or make something special in each day. I aspire to ensure my beloved wife has my appreciation, devotion, and the best of my love each day. I aspire to ensure she knows that as well.

Our weekly blog enables us to share many important messages, exciting adventures, surprising revelations and yet few are as important as the notion of kindness and appreciation for those in our world who are important to us. Tracy enriches my life in many ways, she supports me personally, she supports the 2020 Vision Quest vision, and she finds many ways to give of herself to others. She has her frustrations, triumphs, and challenges as do we all. This week I want to share the gift she is in my life and to wish her as many moments of success and celebration as possible. Thank you for being so vital to my life and this charity! Happy Birthday!

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12 Mar 16

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn sitting on a mountain

Some mountaintop silliness from the family!

By Randy Pierce

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

- Yoko Ono

I’m so enthused to share this anniversary with Autumn! Our second year together arrives with still more of the transformative power of time working with us to strengthen the bond and teamwork we share. Each of the seasons bring so many nostalgic reflections and the numbers of them behind me can weigh upon me like the Golden Anniversary of my own life rapidly approaching.

Randy and Autumn framed in silhouette against the Boston skyline.

Randy and Autumn framed in silhouette against the Boston skyline.

My time with Autumn is two years old and only two years old. She heralds an arrival of spring youthful innocence still and I want and appreciate that much in my life. She has enough Autumn seasoning that our years have brought us to the new heights for which I’ve scratched out some mark in this world in the mountain ranges far, wide and particularly tall this year. Everything which Autumn brought to my life in our first year is still so powerfully true as March 16 heralds our second year. She is the bounding, joyful presence who delivers love and affection as her primary focus each day.

I celebrate all of that first year as powerfully today as I did then and as such I urge you to share that reminder by looking back at my First Anniversary well wish to her: together. 

What this second year has brought is a maturing of our work. There’s still some of the petulant, independent and distractable girl who makes me shake my  head and smile. There is, however, far more of the attentive, mature and Guiding dedicated partner who works so well with me to give me freedom to travel anywhere with comfort and confidence.

Autumn takes a moment from her luau to say hello! She is wearing a lei and and a grass skirt.

Autumn takes a moment from her luau to say hello!

We are in our golden years together caught between the spring of her arrival and the autumn of her name, enjoying a summer of living, loving, experiencing, and celebrating our season of time to share with each other.

She is no old soul lost to maturity but the playful pup who takes her work seriously and understands my strengths and shortfalls well enough to help me work even as I’ve come to understand how to encourage her through her own. When the harness falls she is simply the dog guide I want and need first and the joyous distraction uplifting my life with but a moment’s allowance.

Thank you my beautiful girl for all the aspects you bring into my world. I hope I continue to foster your love of life and work with that perfect blend which has made us such a fine team. Now let us show the world just what a wonderful series of adventures lies ahead for us! At the risk of alienating all my Beatles fan friends, you have earned the reverence of Autumn and given me the exuberance of our summer together! Happy Second Anniversary!

Randy and Autumn hug at the top of a summit.

A summit hug!

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20 Dec 15

By Randy Pierce

Christmas photo with Randy, Tracy, and Autumn

Happy holidays from Randy, Tracy, and Autumn!

I still well recall the excitement I felt as a boy when the Christmas season approached. It wasn’t just Christmas morning when presents were opened, though I certainly loved that time too. It was the cheery greetings that flowed from a larger community of people willing to reach out. It was the festive lights, music, and even the crisp air which invigorated me.

Today there is still magic for all of those things, and the spirit of joy and kindness which is encouraged so much more. I believe very strongly that we have the opportunity to fill our entire year with the kind of positivity and enthusiasm which I felt and still feel during the holidays.

I believe the greatest gift to our own spirit, the best uplifting of our own emotional health, is achieved when we find ways to help others. Our efforts with 2020 Vision Quest are a means by which the incredible team provides such help to a much larger community. I am, however, most blessed with the chance to regularly and directly hear the many positive interactions which follow our presentations. Each time someone shares appreciation in all the myriad ways, I am receiving the best Christmas gift ever. In this way, 2020 Vision Quest fills my life with positivity — and while Christmas with Tracy and Autumn will be very special, I get a most precious gift all year long.

I wish for all of you the peace, love, and joy for the season and the rest of the year!

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4 Oct 15

By Randy and Tracy Pierce

Our African Expedition to Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater was an absolutely amazing experience. While it is not reasonable to chronicle it entirely in a single blog, Tracy and I thought we’d share a couple of insider questions to each other to help you understand just a little of the experience.

Randy and Tracy share a kiss on the Serengeti.

Randy and Tracy share a kiss on the Serengeti.

Randy: While the elephant looming behind our kiss is eye-catching, there’s another elephant in the room in that we did not summit together. Would you be willing to share a bit about that?

Tracy: Oh, dive right into the tough questions! So I did not reach the summit, which was a very tough choice for me. I  spent much of the trip plagued by headaches and shortness of breath. These symptoms caused me to progress far slower than the rest group so I requested a head start on summit night. About three hours into the hike (2am) the rest of the group caught up and easily passed us. By 4am (5 hours in) I was feeling extremely dizzy and was starting to stumble, after about 45 minutes of this I began to question whether I should continue. My teammate Maureen and guide Goodlove encouraged me to keep trying. I pushed on, hoping that sunrise would reinvigorate me. Sunrise came (amazing, gorgeous) but I had no rejuvenation. Finally at 7 am, after 8 hours of climbing I decided that if I kept pushing I would not be able to make it back down. I felt that I made a smart decision that was right for me and was proud that I persevered for hours and came within 10 minutes of Stella Point  (5685 meters). In hindsight I wrestle with feelings of being left out of the experience that the rest of the team shared, yet, I also learned that I reached high enough in my climb to have technically reached Stella Point and I am mighty proud to have climbed so high.

Tracy: Day two was some of the toughest footing we experienced can you share some thoughts on how you felt at the end of the day?

Randy: Day one had particularly easy footing with water bars being the main challenge so in contrast day 2 was a little bit of a wake-up call. It still wasn’t any different than most of the trails in the White Mountains upon which we train. As we were climbing over 10,000 feet there was a constant barrage of incredible views and that gave us pause for photographs and side explorations commonly. As we neared the end of the uphill climb which was handled in the entirety by a strong and motivated Jose, we hit a few interesting side scrambles with a drop off. This required us to be slow to manage the risks of the falls which might have otherwise been a problem. Ultimately it was not the most tricky footing for me on the trip but in comparison to day 1 it was a slow down reality check on our pace even before altitude really reduced our speed.

Jose and Randy Day Two

Randy: Do you have a particularly powerful moment from the Kilimanjaro hike which you might also like to share?

Tracy: I think there were two experiences that I’d share. The first was on day two which is arguably the hardest 2.8 mile route I have ever hiked. I was hiking ahead of you and Jose which provided frequent occasions where I would be worried about how the two of you would navigate extremely tough footing. I occasionally stopped long enough for the two of your to catch up so I would know that you were well. The combination of fear and pride at what the two of you accomplished together will be with me until I die. Such powerful emotions do not fade easily.

The second powerful moment was on the Barranco wall. We camped at the base of the 800′  Barranco wall on day three where it loomed imposing and scary. I woke feeling more than a touch apprehensive. Once we started on the wall I realized that the rock scrambling that we experienced in the Whites really set me up to tackle the wall strongly, although I was still scared of the notorious Kissing wall. We navigated a particularly tough spot and I mentioned out loud that if that one was so tough how hard would the Kissing wall be? That was when my guide told me that we had just done the Kissing wall. I felt so triumphant to have handily tackled something that I’d been so worried about.

Tracy: As we know, summit day was extremely hard. You had some unexpected difficulties while trying to make the lower camp, will you share that story?

Randy: Absolutely I’ll share what all those on the hike already understand all too well. Summit day was incredibly difficult in many ways. We’d had little, or in many cases no, sleep; we had too little nutrition as feelings of nausea hamper the ability to eat. We hiked in the dark which restricted my guides abilities and as the oxygen thinned it was harder on all of us to find ways to keep working. Seven hours of hiking brought us to the summit with nobody feeling well or strong. Still things were good enough to savor the sunrise and the summit before we began the long descent. Down is almost always harder on me though the skree of the upper levels wasn’t too bad. Few guides had much strength to guide long and Jose and Rob had spent much of their efforts in getting me to the summit. Greg Neault really stepped in at a critical time. Unfortunately the last half mile before Barafu (high camp) was truly the most difficult for my feet and we worked incredibly hard to get through it. With my headache pounding at impressive levels, food reserves non-existant it would have been great to get a refreshing break at Barafu. Unfortunately plans called for us to rest briefly, get lunch and then hike six difficult trail miles back to a more reasonable elevation at Mweka camp. I was unable to sleep or eat and while Greg put in two of the miles guiding, we switched to Jose with me feeling more and more nauseated, light headed and struggling to give the focus I need to walk even a moderate trail. Two full days of no sleep along with the mental and physical exertion caught up with me and I lost consciousness for a moment, collapsing behind Jose.

Once again a strength of the entire experience was the incredible dedication and capability of the Climb Killi guides and porters. Our main guide, Emmanuel, and one of the assistants, Vader, walked beside me with our arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders for steady support. The trail became a washed out stream bed which is amongst the worst for my making time. We plodded on slowly and with little progress towards my recovery until we neared 12,000 feet. Finally the nausea lifted enough for me to hold down a couple of Jenn’s sports drinks and keep me conscious through to the final camp. I collapsed into the tent and slept through until morning with again no dinner. While this concerned the guides, Tracy and the team understood I could eat a hearty breakfast but sleep was my essential need. This allowed full rejuvenation and a strong hike out on our final day which was blessedly back on trail which is more easily managed. I’m certainly not proud of how rough it was for me but I’m thankful for how much the team supported the efforts necessary to let me struggle through ultimately enough. A very special thanks to Michelle for the constant medical care along the way and to you, Tracy, for having our tent so well ready for my essential collapse.

Randy: My next question involves our team.  As I was so commonly connected to a primary guide and each of us formed our own interactions, I wonder what you took away from the development of our team?

Tracy: That is an great question. I knew every member of the team to varying degrees prior to our trip, with the exception of Maureen. A wonderful development was that Maureen was by far my biggest, most pleasant surprise.  We found that we hike at similar paces and have similar hiking styles and really got along famously. As to the rest of the team, I loved how quickly the entire team settled into a fun camaraderie coupled with kindness and helpfulness. It is true that sharing epic adventures with a group of people creates a bond that is both amazing and unrivaled. I will cherish this group of people for their sense of fun, adventure and their willingness to help their fellow teammates!

Tracy: One of my favorite, most celebratory moments was the singing that we were greeted with at the Mweka gate on our completion of the trip. Can you share a time that was most celebratory to you?

Randy: You know I’m never shy so I’ll share two very different experiences which took place on the same day, I believe. On Wednesday night we camped at the Barranco Camp with the massive and intimidating 800 foot wall directly ahead of us. This was a hands to the trail slightly technical scramble for much of the morning. Our entire team has enough familiarity with scrambles in the white Mountains that we treated the entire journey like the East Osceola chimney. We were quick and capable such that at the top of the wall we stopped to celebrate together. It was a great bonding moment of achievement and pride for how well everyone had worked. I relished that feeling then and still.

Later that evening we were in the mess tent sharing a dinner when Greg asked Rob to read his guest blog that had been released back home. It was powerful and moving on so many fronts and led to more team emotional sharing which brought us together on an even deeper level. We had plenty of trials ahead but the team was cemented into a strong and caring enough core to undertake that challenge together.

Randy: The Serengeti was so vastly different from what I expected and definitely an incredible experience. What surprised you most about the Safari adventure?

Tracy: The Serengeti was amazing and the one thing that surprised me the most was just how close most of the animals were. Whether it was hyenas or lions sleeping right off the road, or elephants passing behind our Landrover almost close enough to touch.

While this is just the barest insight into the experiences of only two of our eleven team members, it hopefully provides you with a little flavor as well as the incentive to reach out to any and all of our team for the rest of the many stories. Life has the potential to be an amazing series of adventures whether by hearing or living the stories. As in many things, however, they are always the sweeter when shared together. Thank you Tracy for sharing life’s adventures with me!

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22 Aug 15

By Randy Pierce

Rob Webber

Rob Webber

“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.”
–Tibetan Proverb

While the above proverb is quite likely true in many ways for our group, the basic message suggests that in our teamwork and support of each other, we can all achieve heights beyond our expectations. Once I determined Kilimanjaro was a goal, the most important next step was finding the right people to be part of the experience and team. That in itself was a longer and more interesting journey than I would have anticipated and I’m very pleased to report that I will be part of an excellent group of people.

Jose Acevedo

Jose Acevedo

The selection of those ten began with my intent to use the human guiding approach we developed during my quest to summit the 48. With that in mind, Rob Webber and Jose Acevedo were the first to officially join the team with me. There are many fantastic friends with whom I have hiked through the years and I’d have liked all of them to be able to join this expedition, but unfortunately that was not reasonable. We did feel that we needed at least two friends who have guided me and were comfortable not only with the task but with the impact my medical condition might cause for all of our chances at a successful summit. Rob is one of my longest and strongest friendships going back to our days at the University of New Hampshire together. He was my Best Man and brings  an intelligent, thoughtful patience to his excellent athleticism. He’s also taller than I am which is particularly beneficial when guiding me down from elevation as my hand on the pack appreciates that height to keep me from bending.

Jose meanwhile is “less tall” for the upward sections when I can more readily keep my hand on his pack as we ascend. I’ve known Jose for well over two decades. An excellent and charismatic leader with energy and endurance as we showed in winning the National Marathon Championship together. Both serve on the Board of Directors for 2020 Vision Quest and we were prepared to be the core of a team.

Greg Neault

Greg Neault

When Greg Neault and I discussed the trip. it quickly became clear to me our ever growing friendship and frequent hikes of the White Mountains provided a reason for me to inquire and he was immediately interested and eager to be part of the experience. Greg has a tremendous sense of adventure and matches my drive to believe things are possible with problem solving and determination. An excellent artistic eye and generous with his photography gifts, he has become the Social Media Manager for 2020 Vision Quest.

He also is a positive catalyst for expanding my own adventurous nature. In fact, he and Cathy “Wildcat” Merrifield were fundamental in my eventually entering into the Tough Mudder Nation. Perhaps that explains why Wildcat and her significant other, Frank Parrot, were soon welcomed into the growing team. Each have hiked with me in the past and have become steadily closer friends.

Cathy Merrifield and Frank Parrot

Cathy Merrifield and Frank Parrot

I’d met Cathy on a run with the Mighty Quinn in which a mutual acquaintance had us bounding over tricky roots while training for shorter races. I was proud to keep up with her and have come to value the entire Wildcat clan! Cathy has an infectious spirit of encouragement and courage as well as her own chronicling of adventures. Frank is the quiet technology presence who augments the silence with the deep thought behind the scenes. Perhaps the most difficult to get to know he also provided the most profound answer when our first training weekend had us sharing significant life experiences. Frank is the tallest member of the team and may help Rob with descent guiding as his own hiking prowess has grown as he details in his guest blog to Wildcats page. Frank’s photography skills and hiking determination may exceed the little detail that he might just be able to carry the entire team on his shoulders for short distances!

Tracy!

Tracy!

Cathy’s addition blazed the trail for my favorite addition and yes, I’m not only allowed but expected to have a favorite! My wife Tracy has been a fundamental part of my adventures as well as her own. She ensured Jose would not be the shortest member of the team while allowing me to have the person I’d most wish to share such epic life adventures right there beside me. Along with her taking the core planning of our actual trip into her ever immense list of responsibilities Tracy also best understands my blindness and the rest of my medical challenges. She’s a well grounded presence to aid the entire group but most especially my essential needs to best encourage success. Mostly though I’m just joyful that instead of missing her while away we’ll be sharing the experiences together and that is an essential way to live our lives.

Michelle Brier

Michelle Brier

While we might have halted at a lucky 7 in our group, we have built a few friendships through our strong connection to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Though Quinn and Autumn may top the canine lists of gifts from the wonderful organization,  our friendship with Michelle Brier is unrivaled. Her energy, enthusiasm, and creativity are welcome in all aspects of life, while her caring and giving nature help support a team. Her medical skills will be a tremendous asset for sure as will her subtle attention to the well-being of each individual along the way.

Through Michelle, Catherine “Cat” Orza joined us for what proved to be Quinn’s final hike and took the legendary photograph I’ll always treasure. It’s almost unfair that the youngest member of our team is renown for that photo instead of the hiking knowledge, fun-loving and easygoing kindness she also showcases. Yet another incredible athlete on our team, Cat’s also adding to the photographic prowess I decidedly lack.

Katherine "Kat" Orza

Catherine “Cat” Orza

Our final team member is a trainer at Guiding Eyes and that might be incredibly beneficial on many of our hikes where many dogs and most certainly my Dog Guides might be involved.  All the dogs are remaining home though and Maureen Mellett is  the least known to me of our group. She is a hiker with much familiarity working with the blind and some specifically for guiding. She was the first to positively respond to my request for those who would be willing to guide me on Kilimanjaro which speaks much about her approach. Ultimately though she’ll be some of they mystery we share as our experience goes forward. I know that she joins us with a very high recommendation from Michelle Brier and that’s enough to make our team a perfect 10!

Maureen Mellett

Maureen Mellett

While we all undoubtedly have our own reasons for undertaking the journey, we have a common purpose which unites us: we are all determined to do our utmost to ensure that all of us have every chance to reach the summit successfully. A common purpose will bring us together and undoubtedly a few challenges along the way may require we communicate and adjust approaches to best benefit the expedition. Overall though, we are all very committed to making the most of the experience. Every expectation is that the shared aspects of how each of us grows into the team and from the expedition will be part of our success. My hundreds of hikes have taught me to appreciate how much any individual can enrich the experience and how much the experience will bring any group together. While we will share our stories in words, images, and video, only we 10 will fully experience this expedition together and understand completely how it transforms all of us. I do wish I could have many others along with us but I’m reminded of William Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, and so in the same sentence I would not wish for one man more for we few, we precious few, are enough.

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