Tag: community



25 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

Christopher and Randy posing proudly in their Mission Possible T-shirts after recording an episode of Christopher's popular podcast showOne of the many joys of the path I attempt to follow involves the incredible people and stories I find along the way. In this case Christopher and his Mom Christine found our 2020 Vision Quest charity back in 2012. We were hiking  Mt. Uncanoonuc with some students from Trinity High School as part of their community service efforts.

Like me, Christopher is completely blind. I was gifted with his determination to experience the trail as we hiked together on that day so many years ago. At the summit, he shared with all of us his incredible singing talents. Along the trail, as is so often the case, we shared the start of a friendship.

Six years later and he’s still an an incredible inspiration. I was appreciative of his request to join him on his “Mission Possible Podcast.”

You can find my sessions with him here and here.

I hope you’ll visit his archives not just to hear the shows we shared but to hear all of the fun pieces he’s put together. At just 15 years old, Christopher faces many challenges and we are like minded in many ways for putting the focus on what we can do: possibility not impossibility.

Christopher working at his microphoneListening to him manage the recording studio with the technological ease and confidence of an adult professional was remarkable. My only reminder he was doing it totally blind was listening to the high speed chatter of Jaws in the headsets as he managed it all seamlessly throughout the recording.

His shows are 10 minutes in length and he had to manage the overall timing, develop his questions and work my often lengthy answers into the time frame of his show. He worked the edit process into our time shared while pausing as necessary to reset our efforts. We had our separate conversation off the microphones as well as on the recording while he managed the technology, his guest, and the over-arching plan. I was impressed and enjoyed myself in part for the process and in part to see how far I feel this remarkable young man has come on his journey. I encourage everyone, myself included, to reach for and achieve our peak potential. I don’t have to encourage Christopher as he already has that spirit in himself, in his family and in his community.

Seeing all this already ensured my day with Christopher was a success for me and I can only hope he found some value in our time as well.

Randy and Christopher recordingI know Christopher is renowned for performing the National Anthem for many major venues including the Boston Red Sox. I know he’s produced a couple of music CDs and that his faith is very important to him as part of his mission. I was not surprised when talking with him to learn that he’s starting to frame his future in ways that combines his talents and his beliefs with an eye/ear towards the radio world. My own future plans changed so many times from 15 years onward and still changes today.

I think once again Christopher and I have a similar mindset which will allow him to pursue his goals and dreams with a passion and a purpose determined to say to the world my “Mission is Possible” and you are welcome to be a part of it because sharing belief is at the heart of bringing people together for a better world.

Once again I encourage you to visit his show and listen to us or his many other shows to appreciate what’s ahead for us in this young man.

Listen to the Mission Possible Archives

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11 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

The quintessential 2020 Vision Quest image with Quinn guiding Randy up the steep, snowy, craggy summit of Mt. Monroe. Quinn’s golden muzzle basks majestically against the blue sky background illuminated by the sunshine while he patiently pauses for Randy, one hand on the harness, one hand on the snow as he struggles up the final slope to the summit!

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Monroe.

“Success comes to those who have an entire mountain of gold that they continually mine, not those who find one nugget and try to live on it for fifty years.”
– John C. Maxwell

The White Mountains of NH are aptly named in winter, but for me they are the gold which has inspired me beyond my expectations when I founded 2020 Vision Quest with the help of some incredible friends.

Throughout this winter of 2016-2017, I especially chose to relive some of the many marvels which comprised the epic single season winter summit of the 48 peaks rising over 4,000 feet. It was only five years ago this was accomplished and yet it seems a lifetime as it was one of many dramatic turning points in my life and worthy of this deeper examination.

When Quinn guided me onto the trail at Mt. Tecumseh on December 22, 2011, I had already learned many skills and techniques for hiking totally blind on our rather rugged trails. I had only a taste of what winter brings to the trails and mountains but I had a supportive collection of friends and a determination to give my best to learning, planning, and persevering through all reasonable challenges.

The large team of hikers supporting Randy on his final hike of that epic single winter quest. The stark and beautiful Lafayette ridge is in the background as the group poses on the summit of East Cannon, just one quarter mile from the final summit!

Randy and the team on Cannon

When I stepped off the trail after our March 10, 2012 summit of Cannon Mountain, I was bursting with pride for the team of friends, for the magnificent and Mighty Quinn and for the the treasures found along the trails and at the summits of these majestic mountains. I was a different person and while still completely without any sight, I had expanded my vision to see even more possibility ahead for myself, this Charity and the friends with whom I had connected so well.

Sharing stories around camps and campfires I doubt I would ever run short of worthy moments just from this winter and certainly I’ve shared some along the journey of this year. It is the expanded horizon of possibility which is the gold from which I draw strength then, now and doubtless onward into my future challenges. Whether pushing over the finish line of a National Marathon Championship, stepping through the Uguru gate at the rooftop of Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, or even the Tough Mudder Leap of Faith out to the trapeze and on to ring the bell, these mountains helped clear my vision and connect me to a foundation of trust in my team and myself.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Garfield in the snow with a Patriots Santa hat.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Garfield.

Before this winter I was, I like to think, a man who found comfort in the transition from a sighted world to one of total blindness. I found ways to appreciate my world, challenge myself and live meaningfully. I did not fully appreciate how much kind attention the accomplishment would receive and some of that is no doubt due to the incredible film created by Dina Sylvester, Four More Feet. Despite celebrating each five-year hiking anniversary this winter culminating in the quest completion, I do not and hope never to rest on the nugget of gold in that accomplishment.

I certainly do recall the challenges, the problem solving, the laughter, struggles and, oh yes, some moments of pain, but mostly the jubilant feeling of accomplishment. Those remind me some methodology but moreso inspire the passion to experience them all again, not in memory but in new accomplishments.

Mountains are synonymous with challenge and it is the lack of challenge which leads to the stagnation I hope to always avoid. The White Mountains of NH are my “forever mountains” and will motivate me to many more things. The Single Winter success of March 10 2012 finalized those feelings within me but it was the miles and miles of the journey in which my transformation forged the passion which will power me in the days ahead.

Randy and Quinn on the Summit of Mt. Garfield in the snow.

Taking shelter at the snowy summit of Mt. Garfield.

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4 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

As Chairman of the Board of Directors for the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, I have been actively and passionately dedicated to ensuring their best ability to effectively meet the ever growing needs of the sight-challenged. I help to direct the vision of the organization in positive ways and one of those paths brought President and CEO David Morgan to his position just over one year ago. He has helped inspire and guide the branding change which  I personally believe is vital to the organization’s success and, more importantly, the success of thousands of people who have been artificially limited to some extent by a naming convention.

I’ll allow David’s excellent announcement to stand below as a guest blog as well as on the redesigned website for Future In Sight which I encourage you to visit. I do want to address the word blind candidly and comfortably in advance. The organization will continue to provide excellent support, education, and advocacy for the blind and  visually impaired as before. There is no apprehension in use of the word “blind.” We have learned that the wrong timing of that word’s introduction to someone who is experiencing sight loss often inhibits their acceptance of needed services and even can impact a caring medical eye professional from choosing to refer to an organization with that name due to the strong emotional results commonly experienced.

We want to ensure we can welcome these thousands of people to receiving their needed services, education, and support while also providing the same high quality blindness services and advocacy proven over 100 years of valued Charity Service here in Concord NH. That said, I leave you with David’s excellent words below.

CHANGE IS IN THE AIR: WELCOME TO FUTURE IN SIGHT

FEBRUARY 28, 2017

WRITTEN BY DAVID MORGAN

After 105 years of working to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people in our state, today is a new day.

The New Hampshire Association for the Blind will now be known as Future In Sight. We are so proud to announce our name change, and we believe that Future In Sight more accurately represents our clientele since 93 percent of our clients are visually impaired – not blind – and our geographic scope extends to states bordering New Hampshire. Our name aims to capture the optimism and hopefulness of new technologies, therapies, and programs that are always on the horizon to enhance the quality of life for our clients.

YA Gunstock kidrunning Article

Providing education, rehabilitation, and support services is about helping individuals build core skills in school or in their home, and helping them engage their world socially. We accomplish this through a multitude of programs that include recreation, peer support, and technology. We help individuals live and thrive with sight loss! Our new brand must be unique and memorable and reflect this new hope we bring to thousands who need our help, and we believe Future In Sight does just that.

Since 1912, we have continuously improved our offerings to the community so this is just one more step in that direction. Last year alone, we began working with infants and toddlers for the first time since we were founded; we doubled our education staff; and we started offering recreational activities to help clients lead their best lives.

There are more than 30,000 people with visual impairments in the state of New Hampshire, so we know we can be reaching many more clients who need, and would thrive with, our services in rural corners, inside our cities, and along the borders. Our name needs to be more inclusive and reflect the full range of services we provide to babies, children, adults, and seniors around our state and beyond. Our name also needs to resonate with a range of our partners and referral networks, which includes schools, eye doctors, primary care physicians, donors, the Veterans Administration, the state of New Hampshire, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

So, after many months of hard work and collaboration with Proportion Design, members of our staff, our Board, and our community, exhaustive research into our history, our mission, and our hopes and aspirations for the future, we developed this new name and a logo that better reflect the amazing organization we are becoming. We look forward to this fresh chapter as Future In Sight and continue to help clients live fulfilling, independent lives!

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19 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

With snowstorms hammering New England in the last week, our readers may have been a little distracted and missed last week’s important message. We wanted to re-share it this week with a plea to help us spread the news far and wide.

Randy and Autumn amidst the heavy snow banks pose with the traditional "we want your help" pointing gesture.

“We want YOU to help us with our goal!”

I am attempting to give you all a little notice as I ask you to consider helping me reach for a daunting goal.

On Monday, April 10, I’ll release a blog with some exciting news about the  event sponsor for our signature event, Peak Potential Dinner & Auction held every November. In celebration of that announcement and my week of preparation leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 17 (Patriots Day of course!), we will be kicking off the ticket sales for our November 18 event on that day as well.

It is the earliest we’ve begun sales for our event and the timing is key to my stretch goal. While we sell tickets individually, in pairs, and by tables of 8, the most common purchase and best value is the table sale.

What is my goal? To sell 1 table for each mile of the historic 26.2-mile course of the Boston Marathon which I’ll be running during that week… Read more.

 

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11 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn amidst the heavy snow banks pose with the traditional "we want your help" pointing gesture.

“We want YOU to help us with our goal!”

I am attempting to give you all a little notice as I ask you to consider helping me reach for a daunting goal.

On Monday, April 10, I’ll release a blog with some exciting news about the  event sponsor for our signature event, Peak Potential Dinner & Auction held every November. In celebration of that announcement and my week of preparation leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 17 (Patriots Day of course!), we will be kicking off the ticket sales for our November 18 event on that day as well.

It is the earliest we’ve begun sales for our event and the timing is key to my stretch goal. While we sell tickets individually, in pairs, and by tables of 8, the most common purchase and best value is the table sale.

What is my goal? To sell 1 table for each mile of the historic 26.2-mile course of the Boston Marathon which I’ll be running during that week. Tracy and I always immediately purchase a table of our own so I’ve got the first mile covered and several family and friends have suggested a few more miles along the route are likely secured as well. Whether I know in advance of the race or catch the mile by update tributes and acknowledgements we’ll send out in appreciation, I will get some significant motivation from all the support which arrives from the various table and ticket purchases.

People having fun at tables at the Peak Potential 2016For that one week (April 10-17), we will offer the lowest table price, $500 for the table of 8 guests. As of April 18, the price will increase to $600/table until June 18. After June 18, the price will increase to $700/table.

Your choice to attend our event would benefit our worthy mission a great deal. Our venue holds 30 tables very comfortably and thus 26 tables at this point will effectively assure us a sell-out at the very start of our outreach. It would allow us to work on obtaining sponsorships and donations to help make the event the most successful yet.

Already in our 8th annual event our success has continued to strengthen and grow fantastically thanks to all of your support. This is why I feel so certain it is worth asking you all to consider joining into the stretch goal now and be preparing for that April 10 opportunity.

Jose and Randy with their hands up running the Marathon.Now, we’re calling this a stretch goal because I do absolutely understand how high I’m setting this goal. When I run a marathon, I take the lesson of my friend Greg Hallerman to set three goals for myself each time: the stretch goal which is hard to reach but incredibly rewarding, the secondary goal, and the comfort goal.

You already know my stretch goal; my secondary goal would be to have 26 distinct purchases even if they were not all tables because it’s still an overwhelming support at this early juncture. My comfort goal is that when April 10 arrives and we make the announcement officially launching this year’s Peak Potential website, many of you will help us share it and inform us you are coming even if you are unable to purchase tickets at that time.

So as I run Boston this year, I have a few goals in mind. I hope to run it under 4 hours once again and I hope to learn that our Peak Potential Celebration on November 18 is matching my efforts stride for stride and mile by mile – perhaps one table at a time as we close in on our goals together.

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4 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

Jose leads Randy up the Barranco Wall on a steep and rocky mountainside.“The Holman Prize is not meant to save the world or congratulate someone for leaving the house. This prize will spark unanticipated accomplishments in the blindness community. You will see blind people doing things that surprise and perhaps even confuse you. These new LightHouse prizes will change perceptions about what blind people are capable of doing.”

–Bryan Bashin, CEO at LightHouse 

I chose a life of independence and freedom based upon believing in possibility, problem solving, and perseverance. While my blindness slowed me on occasion and helped me stumble on several occasions, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by friends and a community which rarely even attempted to hold me back and more commonly joined efforts with me to help us all reach for our peak potential. In this, I’m incredibly fortunate as well as in the resolve to not allow those other times to overly impact my confidence or determination.

Along the path, I learned how much work remains to be accomplished in the area of awareness to encourage the vast majority to welcome these reasonable approaches. It is why I’m excited to share the news and to ask all of you to help me share this news as well with the sighted and visually impaired communities as well!

The Holman Prize: $25,000.00
The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is an annual award to finance blind adventurers in pursuing their most ambitious projects. In January, the contest begins with a challenge: blind applicants must submit a first-round pitch, in the form of a 90-second YouTube video.

Deadline for submission: Feb. 28th at 12pm PST 

Click here to learn more.

I love several great aspects of this project. First, it emphasizes my sight-impaired peers to be creative in developing an adventurous goal emphasizing travel, communication, and connection towards the cause of demonstrating ability awareness. Second, it creates a stage for all of the world to see these goals and dreams as well as many of them hopefully coming to fruition. I’m so enthused by it that despite my many adventures I want to develop something beyond my prior scope to suggest in my own 90-second video.

So please, take a look at their message, their contest, and the results already underway! I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I’m just one person with the limitations of my own focus. It is a world full of talented people, some of whom might just need this push to reach for their own peak potential!

Man on a nighttime mountain: The Holman prize for blind ambition

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28 Jan 17

By Randy Pierce

Team of 2020 Vision Quest hikers from the epic accomplishment of the 48th summits in one winter on March 10, 2012. Taken on East Cannon with the Lafayette Ridge in the background on a beautiful winter day!“Players win Games, Teams win Championships” – Bill Bellichick

I attribute many of my successful accomplishments to the positive results of teamwork. At the most basic daily level my teamwork with my dog guide enhances my life tremendously and I’ve learned to find, build, maintain, grow and enhance teams along my journey and it has taken me to incredible heights. I’ve long supported the suggestion of team as an acronym: T.E.A.M. – Together – Everyone – Achieves – More.

Since my childhood, I’ve been a fan of football for the blending of strategy, myriad athletic types, and exceptional reliance on teamwork for success. I have always had an appreciation for the hard-working over-achiever and strive to emulate that personally. The New England Patriots were my home team and for much of my life were not particularly successful, but still I enjoyed the lessons I learned about teamwork.

When the ultimate team player for me joined our squad in 1996 and happened to share my birthday, I quickly became a Tedy Bruschi fan, though it was the 2001 team which reminded a nation in their famous “choosing to be introduced as a team” entrance to the Super Bowl just how much value comes from learning to work together to lift each other up to better than the sum of the individual parts. Sixteen years later, most of the individuals have been replaced multiple times but the team’s first approach and success have sustained.

Regardless of the team anyone supports or even an interest in the sport, there’s a worthy lesson in Bill Bellichick’s quote which is valuable in all of our life approaches. Simply put, there is tremendous value in being the best individuals we can become and we will likely gain much success for personal development. Ultimately, however, the greatest accomplishments and the lasting success for the long term are more commonly achieved by learning to build our team, maintain our team and work together towards the important goals. At the behest of several conferences, I’ve developed workshops on these approaches to “team” which are beyond the scope of a single blog. I will say that commitment and communication are essential components. The specific methods adjust for the varied types of people, circumstances, and goals as well, but if we want to reach the pinnacles of accomplishment, it is worth the effort.

All that said, it is Super Bowl week and even in my actual football fandom I think you’ll find this Sports Emmy Award-nominated piece from 2007 showcases how community is involved in my approach even to fandom. Community, after all, is just another type of team! Along the way you might find some emotionally charged moments about my life as well including my description of the very last moment of sight I ever had in this world. Enjoy!

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14 Jan 17

By Randy Pierce

Gate City Marathon course in Nashua, NH

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

My friendships, like my running and my blindness, are a journey of small steps with ever increasing promise when I learn to take those steps with a little guidance. Admittedly the running career involves rather a lot of guidance and fortunately for me there’s been an abundance of kind opportunity.

Recently I sat down with Jennifer Jordan, Race Director for the Gate City Marathon, and Tom Cassetty, President of the Gate City Striders. Each of them has guided me for a run in the past. They each have become personal friends of mine and they were sharing some exciting and well timed news.

I had already decided to run the Gate City Marathon on Sunday morning May 21. I had already assembled a team of friends from the 2020 Vision Quest crew to run the relay for themselves while each guided me during their roughly five-mile loop. I had already determined the relay options created such a fun and festive celebration atmosphere in downtown Nashua that I hoped we’d encourage our community of friends to create other teams or just come join us for the block party atmosphere. This is all still true and I absolutely urge all of you to create any combination of teams for the relay, half or full marathon or simply come down and help us celebrate an epic event and experience. If I can help encourage that, please let me know because I’d love to support this event by having you join us in some capacity!

Gate City Marathon Runners

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

Randy: Jumping first to the big news, why have you decided to open a VI (Visually Impaired) Division?

Jennifer: Our race and our club has a mission of inclusion. We want runners of all abilities to feel included and participate. Randy Pierce is a very important club member and friend so what better way to celebrate that friendship than to add this division to our race!

Note from Randy: One of the things I appreciate about my club is the approach that every member is a valuable and important club member as evidenced by this response.

Randy: This is the third year of the Gate City Marathon. What was the inspiration for its origin?

Jennifer: This started as a replacement for the long-standing AppleFest Half Marathon, formerly the club’s signature event. This race was losing popularity and registrations so the club decided it needed a new signature event. A group of members, led by the club president, Tom Cassetty, discussed some options.  Tom wanted a marathon course in a clover-leaf formation that would cross over Main St in Nashua as its center-point, allowing for the relay option in addition to the marathon distance.

Randy: My own experience downtown for your first event and the reports I’ve heard from others suggest you really captured that goal well. The downtown central location showcases Nashua’s downtown in a festive and fun block party atmosphere which I appreciated as a spectator and look forward to as a runner. My wife Tracy and her relay team certainly appreciated the central gathering point for excitement. Many people celebrate it as the best relay marathon because of the central loops from downtown Nashua.  What do you think are the best features of your event?

Jennifer: We agree that one of the best features is the loop or clover-leaf formation.  This allows a marathon runner to be re-charged after every 5-ish miles, making it a great spectator marathon.  Additionally, it allows for runners who may not be ready for the 26.2 distance to also participate by putting a team of friends together. It’s also a celebration of downtown Nashua! In addition to these items, we have a unique high quality swag bag full of goodies from our sponsors, a great tech race shirt, custom finisher medals and a great after-party! We are also very excited to report that our half marathon has been selected as an event in the NH Grand Prix series and will be a certified half marathon distance. Of note, our Marathon is a USATF certified Boston Marathon Qualifier as well.

Randy: While I’ve a little bit of a bias as a proud member of your run club, I thought you might share with our community a little bit about who are these “Gate City Striders” who are putting on this event?

Jennifer: Who are the Gate City Striders?

We are the largest and longest established, non-profit running club in NH, with over 700 members that includes individuals and families. With a strong focus on running, competitively and recreationally, we also focus heavily on community outreach. We provide a free summer youth fitness program: Fitness University; and several events to benefit local charity organizations: NovemberFest race benefits the Nashua Children’s Home, Harvard Pilgrim 5k benefits the Nashua PAL XC program, we partner with and provide financial help to the Nashua YMCA, High Hopes of NH, Nashua Police Athletic League and many others.

 Randy: How did you come to be the Race Director?

Jennifer: In short, I volunteered. A group of us was working on the concept for the race/event and I (with some trepidation) decided I really wanted to do it. I thought my professional experience as a Program Manager would really help me manage this large project. I think I have developed the skills to be able to lead a team and we had and have an exceptional team of folks on the committee. Like most things, a task such as this cannot be done well without a strong, knowledgeable team!

Randy: I might add caring and passionate team to that description and you certainly have all those qualifications. I was already enthusiastic about the race before we sat down to talk and now I’m even more thrilled and hopeful to help bring even more people to join us. The event is on May 21st at 7:00 am. How can people sign up or get information?

Jennifer:

Here are links to our website:  

 Randy: I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground, though not quite a marathon. Is there anything  else you would like to share with our community.

Jennifer: It should be noted that the Gate City Striders and the committee and volunteers who manage and support the Gate City Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay are made up 100% of volunteers. An event this size requires hundreds of volunteers to make is a fun and safe event for all. Each year we are challenged to provide enough volunteer support. This year will be not different so we can always use more volunteers! But it cannot go without saying how much we appreciate the volunteers we do get and how much we appreciate how supportive the City of Nashua, the residents and businesses and houses of worship have been over these years. We hope to continue to build on those relationships!

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7 Jan 17

By Jody Sandler

Jody Sandler

Jody Sandler

Happy New Year to the staff, friends and supporters of 2020 Vision Quest! I have been asked by Randy to be a “guest blogger” in order to introduce my organization to you, and to give Randy a vacation from blogging!

We are BluePath Service Dogs, a new non-profit that trains service dogs for families with children with autism. The demand for our services is enormous, as 1 out of every 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. We raise and train our extraordinary dogs to ultimately match them with a child and his or her family.

Danny Zarro with Shade

Danny Zarro with Shade

Autism service dogs provide a number of services to a family. First and foremost, our dogs are trained to keep a child on the spectrum safe. Children on the spectrum often show “bolting” behaviors, where they suddenly run away from family, placing them in potentially life threatening situations. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism under the age of 10.

BluePath dogs keep children safe via a specially designed vest, which is tethered to a belt around the child’s waist. Should the child attempt to bolt, the dog will lie down and anchor the child in place. BluePath dogs also provide companionship to a child that has difficulty communicating with other children and can even stimulate social interaction with other children and adults.

Many families with a child on the spectrum curtail trips, vacations, and activities outside the home for fear of their kids’ safety. This affects the whole family, particularly siblings, who miss out on the many things families often do together, like going to a movie, attending sports events or going to restaurants. BluePath service dogs allow families to safely “reconnect,” to go out confidently in their community and enjoy the things that most families take for granted. A BluePath service dog can impact the lives of all of the family members, not just the child with autism.

Although we are newly formed, we have a wealth of experience. Some of us were formerly long-term employees of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. I was the Director of Veterinary Services there for 26 years, and was instrumental in the formation of their “Heeling Autism” service dog program, which was recently closed. This was the motivation to form BluePath, as many children were left without this important service.

Our vision is to become the leader in providing autism service dogs. We are excited to begin helping parents rediscover life’s potential for their children AND themselves. We have great admiration for all that Randy and his team has accomplished with 2020 Vision Quest and we are honored to have the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you here.

On behalf of the BluePath team, we extend our wishes for a happy, healthy and successful New Year to the 2020 Vision Quest family!

Jody Sandler DVM
President and CEO
BluePath Service Dogs
www.bluepathservicedogs.org

BluePath Service Dogs

 

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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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