2016 – A Look ahead to the Book ahead

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.








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A Season of Summits!

By Randy Pierce

Randy, Quinn, and friends hike along the path on Mt. Jackson on May 19, 2012.

Reflecting upon the incredible highlights of our 2012 hiking season for 2020 Vision Quest, I am overwhelmed with the diversity and intensity of the experiences! This was our third season. It followed a winter of touching the top of all 48 peaks and deepened my understanding of the peaks and the process. So I think a quick tour of the peaks and summation of the entirety of this incredible season is worth a few moments of consideration.

It started on Mt. Jackson. The gnarly footing I experienced without the padding of snow winter added considerable challenge the trails. Basking for an hour on a sunny summit with friendship and laughter helped ease the frustration in the difficulty. With the challenge came other rewards as well, such as a few new hiking partners the winter had drawn into our company.

A view of craggy peaks on Mt. Monroe, over the presidential range hike of July 7-8, 2012.

We then took a month away from the mountains while the deerflies ruled and my legs fully healed from the 100-mile walk we did in early June. Our annual July 4 foray was pushed back just a bit and we gave the summer rematch to Mt. Washington. We could not recreate our original crew for this challenge, but we had a more than worthy collection of friends. That trip was an epic success, yielding Washington, Monroe and Eisenhower. It established a level of camaraderie which would set the stage for many of the hikes in the season and all with a different collection of friends.

Buoyed by that success, we took on our most challenging water crossings (excluding Owl’s Head) and delivered Twins on our longest day hike of the season. North and South were the objectives, but we added in Galehead for Tracy to ensure that the goal of next season would stage closer. I intend to finish the 48 non-winter in 2013 and it will be done with Tracy beside me, finishing hers at exactly the same moment.

Drew leads Randy through one of the teams toughest water crossings on the Twins hike, July 21, 2012.

Just as our group of hikers always come together and enrich the experience by the interactions on a trail, so too will the larger goal be magnified by my sharing so much of it with Tracy including the start and finish of the peak-bagging aspect.

Perhaps the most magical of the trips was our Bonds Traverse. We spent a two-night camping expedition with great friendships and the peaks of Zealand, West Bond, Bond, and Bondcliff all on a 20-plus mile journey through the deepest of the NH wilderness regions. The back-to-back sunset and sunrise atop different 4,000-foot peaks will remain a treasured part of the experience and favorite tale in the retellings ahead. The addition of Thoreau Falls and the foggy cliffs of Bondcliff interspersed the adventure with a little magic and mystery as well.

Swimming at the Thoreau Falls on the Bonds Traverse, over Aug. 4-5, 2012.

Next we hiked the Osceolas, thereby erasing the last of the peaks which had been climbed by me personally but not within the scope of our 2020 Vision Quest. It was our first ever and the experience had been grueling. This time it was exhilarating. We also included the vaunted Chimney in the conquest. We convened and participated in “trailhead tailgating” which promises to be a long-standing tradition.

Finally Willey gave us a Boston globe article and highlighted the premier of our winter documentary at the Highland Center. It also reunited us with our winter team and the slightly overrated challenge of the Willey Ladders.

Our 36th peak of the quest was Cabot for the Flags in the 48 program. It was our 14th non-winter summit in a season during which we had sought to match the previous year’s 17 accomplishments.

Success at the end of the Osceola hike on Aug. 25, 2012.

On our final hike of the season, the Tripyramids, we chose to turn back as a sunny forecast turned into a rainy morning and ensured the North slide would be more treacherous than we needed to undertake.

We’d adjusted a few hikes along the way, moved a few, cancelled a few and added yet others. The flexibility and choices to be healthy and happy along the journey are an essential part of the lessons learned throughout the quest. The peaks will remain for another day if the reasons for not hiking are sufficient to lure us away. I am more proud of the decisions not to summit, particularly the final hike of the season, because it makes clear that the quest isn’t driving us but rather we drive the quest.

12 peaks remain for next season to bring us our official 48 for the Quest. This will likely involve 8 separate hikes we’ll announce at our Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction on November 17. While the summit is in sight, I think it’s worthy to reflect on what was accomplished this season and what it means to me personally.

We completed a single season winter summit of all 48 and produced an incredible documentary on the experience. We added another fourteen summits towards our goal on the 48.

Randy presenting a check for $10,000!

We accomplished an incredible 100-mile walk in tribute to the 100-year anniversary of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. We brought our total of students reached by our presentations to more than 16,000! We provided a pair of checks for $10,000 each to the two organizations we are pledged to support!

Our staff welcomed some tremendously beneficial new volunteers even as we sadly bid farewell to a few who needed to tend other parts of their lives.

We did all of these incredible things and yet the greatest accomplishment of all is that we grew our community of friends and support in many ways. I’m admittedly a little tired from the many accomplishments described and more we have accomplished but not mentioned. But I am buoyed up by when I look back on this season of success and count the meaningful friendships that highlight the lives of Quinn, Tracy and me. We have lives outside of the charity work–though that may not always be as clear as I hope–and our lives are touched and enhanced by the impact of the work we undertake. I love this season but I again think back to the words of a man famous in these White Mountains: Reverand Edward Hale. He once said:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Thanks to all who have played a part in this Season of Success!

Randy & the Mighty Quinn


Reaching Beyond our Limits on the Presidential Range: Part 2

By Randy Pierce

…And now, part 2 of our hike on Mt. Washington, Monroe, and Eisenhower!

Read Part 1

AMC Hut Life

The “higher huts” as they are called can be an amazing experience in the White Mountains. The people who have built and cared for these places created an environment like few others. The crew staffing the huts have a love of the region and are part of the atmosphere designed to make the haven a blend of community, naturalism, entertainment, feasting and rest.

This particular hut can host 90 guests and is usually pretty close to this on weekends. The community of hikers shares stories and experiences while generally reveling in the present experience they are sharing. So too did our group. As the incredible turkey dinner was being served family style, we had time to share a toast as a group. A Nalgene flask of homemade chocolate raspberry port had found its way into my pack for the purpose.

“To all the folks who have been part of making this experience possible!” which included the names of all those prior hikers, all the staff of 2020 Vision Quest, and all of the supporting community who keep us inspired to not only choose these experiences but to continue to use them and our other efforts towards our mission. Anything is possible and while success may not come immediately, the determination and perseverance to problem solve, practice, and proceed may lead to moments like this. We were going to officially add Washington to our list and this would be the halfway point, peak 24 of 48, in our 2020 Vision Quest goal!

Close of Day

After dinner we put on warm gear to sit outside and repeat that magical sunset of 2010, at least in part. Each experience is different and though the clouds created an interesting “black ray” phenomenon, our westerly view over the seven ranges extending into New York could not hold the intensity of that crystal clear evening two years prior.

Neither was the same immense gathering of people present, but the few sitting in the cold winds to marvel had a different bit of bonding and communal appreciation for the majesty of these mountains. It passed slowly and satisfying before dusk encouraged us to take our weary bodies to bed. Jenifer shared a tale from one of the many books from the hut library: a tale of how the Mt. Welch ledges alpine zones became officially and unusually preserved. The circle gardens there did what many other attempts failed to accomplish and was precisely the tale to send us to sleep in our private, comfortable albeit impressively tight quarters.

Shakespeare? And Bacon?!

I’ve heard it espoused that bacon goes with everything and apparently it’s true for a staff-inspired performance of Romeo and Juliet. The huts commonly have skits to show guests the best practice “check-out” procedures in a humorous and educational way. Without question, the one we saw the morning after our stay in the huts (a humorous skit inspired by “Romeo and Juliet”) was the best any of our group had experienced. With a hot breakfast of bacon and accompanying goodies in our bellies to match the laughs there as well, we were prepared to say farewell to our hut haven with very warm memories. Whether a hut is right for others isn’t my expertise, but I can tell you the experience has been very rewarding for all of my trips to stay there and the AMC and their incredible crews have my admiration, respect and appreciation!

Back on the Trails

The dense fog of the morning was burned away by a sunny and very windy day. Gusts reached 60 mph pretty quickly as we faced the prominent craggy peak of Mt. Monroe directly ahead of us and the gateway to the Southern Presidential range through which we would hike down to our car spot. As we set upon the short journey to the summit of Mt. Monroe. Cliff took the opportunity to guide along this challenging stretch and within a short time we scrambled up the final section to stand, albeit leaning into the gusts, atop the fifth highest of the 48!

The wilderness beyond here was breathtaking and the skies were giving us full appreciation of the scenic offerings. Away in the distance our next and final summit, Eisenhower, was visible with the tallest cairn in the whites clearly discernible. Back towards Mt. Washington, the line of cairns was described as a line of soldier sentries to guide and guard the path to the peak. We needed to continue as we had several miles above treeline and exposed to that wind and the descent would be precarious footing until we cleared a sub peak and reached the Crawford Path. Cliff continued to guide me in these winds and our teamwork grew stronger. At one point, a gust nearly blew him into a dangerous fall save for the steadying of my hand on his pack. A small return for the innumerable crevices and challenges through which he guided me.

Highway in the Hills

Crawford path was a fairly smooth pathway on which Quinn was able to guide me at reasonable speeds along the ridge line. Three of our crew took the loop over Franklin to appreciate the look deep into Oaks Gulf while Tracy and I enjoyed some quality time along the easier trail. It’s worth a pause to consider the people who have maintained and still maintain these trails from erosion and work on them so that others can readily appreciate the treasures of these hills. Some of those people are long gone, yet so many modern day trail workers perform their work with insufficient thanks for the incredible service they provide.

Pleasant Mountain

In 1972, Eisenhower became the more appropriately presidential name for Pleasant mountain. As we endured the intense and powerful winds, we found a small sheltered point to have a quality food stop before the final ascent. We had watched the mountain loom closer for miles and didn’t intend to repeat the prior day’s over-zealous drive towards the hut. We also knew there would be no wind shelter up there allowing us to eat. Most packs were dropped to allow for the final steep ascent. Cliff again guided me and with pack weight absent we made tremendous time to the expansive summit of Eisenhower. There is tremendous space atop this bald summit which makes it a distinctive experience. Mt. Pierce lies directly south after a tree-laden saddle that promised a respite from the win soon. We would take Edmund’s Path and skip Mt. Pierce but the trees would soon be there nonetheless. John took over the guide work as he had his pack and that eases the process of guiding me down. Our 0.8 mile out and back to this summit had us changing our gear, donning our packs and preparing for the final leg of the journey.

The Slog

Trail reports are not always as they appear. Edmund’s path was touted as a beautifully crafted and maintained trail. Perhaps this was once true but at the higher points we crossed a slide that created challenge and some danger with a drop off. We found it rocky, eroded, and challenging for much of the descent into the trees. Even beyond the trees there was work to manage the very wet slabs which typically slanted in disadvantageous ways.

Perhaps some of this was the feeling which often comes when the final stretch of the journey is underway. Often, whether due to the efforts expended, the  anticipation of the finish, or perhaps the reflections of the experience overall–this portion can become the slog. Conversation quiets and people feel the weariness grow disproportionate to the challenge they are facing. Certainly the trail had eased to the rather decent trail reported before we began to slip out of the slog and begin the full appreciation of our adventure together. During a break, our “slogging” feelings began to abate as we laughed at the Mighty Quinn’s immediate ability to sleep on a trail and his dubious half awake look when deciding if we were getting up to hike more or if he could catch a few more moments of sleep! It was exactly the cure to get conversation flowing and the final mile stretch on easy ground for Quinn to Guide me out of the Presidential range!

High Five at the Finish Line

Often we tout the celebratory high five on the summit. It is a glorious experience for certain and worthy of that group celebration. The work there is only partially done as we learned all too well on our last climb of Mt. Washington. The true finish is back at the trailhead when you have achieved the full measure of success. The challenge is overcoming exhaustion, the desire to change footwear, and perhaps even clean up a bit of the wilderness grime! We were, however, so very full of our accomplishments–meaning our groups camaraderie and the desire to celebrate–we had one of our best high five moments to date!
High fiveThis occasion was monumentous enough for all of us to continue the celebration as we packed the one car full, reunited everyone to their own vehicles, and then travelled to savor a post-hike feast together. Stories called out favorite moments while satisfied smiles made it clear how much this group had come to appreciate far more than just the mountain trails we had travelled.

We celebrated something more important than the accomplishment of three significant peaks in the White Mountains. We celebrated each other and the chance to bond through the experience. The goal for me at least is to always reach more people than peaks and that is the real mission accomplished this round. Though I think Mt. Washington, Monroe and Eisenhower were worthy deeds as well!

What’s next Quinn?!



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