by Randy Pierce
An endeavor of this magnitude is potentially life-transforming. The reality did not disappoint at all. I’m home safe and sound from the summit of Mt. Washington. Surprisingly, I have also only begun to scratch the surface in evaluating all the impactful moments. I do intend to give a detailed tour of our Washington experience eventually. Right now, though, I hope to share the highlights and reflections foremost in my mind.
I’m fortunate to have a natural ability to truly savor the experiences of adventure. This is of particular importance when the adventure includes tremendous challenge. Hiking blind is as much a mental as physical challenge. I needed to tap deep reserves of determination and will to push through many points on our journey up Washington. But if I’d spent each and every moment driving myself with unrelenting intensity, I’d have missed many
marvelous moments. That’s my gift I guess: that amidst exhaustion I can pause and summon enough focus to fully invest in a moment’s magic. I often partake in those moments through companions, whether it’s the camaraderie of trail talk, an exclamation of awe or a descriptive tour of the splendor that surrounds us. Even when my companions are silent, a pause can give me an opportunity for introspection, to let my senses soak in the moment. Whether I’m taking a break for rest, to deliver well-deserved praise to Quinn, or just for a sip of water and reflection, a few seconds can be enough to expand my awareness of my own human potential as well as the potency of the world around me.
Friday our journey began with a stay at AMC’s Highland Center in the Bretton Woods region. We gave a small presentation there on Friday evening, which was reasonably well-attended. Tracy managed the audio and video components while I spoke about my approach to the experience of life, and the particular poignancy of one’s “point of view” in both life and the hiking community. There were many questions, one of many signs that the talk was well-received by the broad range of ages represented in the audience.
The next morning, Tracy and I hiked to nearby Ripley Falls to enjoy the amazing weather and the astounding location, and to test out the pack and boots for our impending Washington hike. My feet must bear more work than most due to the nature of hiking blind. I have to hand it to the folks at EMS because the “Super Feet” boot inserts they recommended made for a vastly-improved hiking experience. Despite having heavily loaded the pack, it was a fantastic trip and the falls were glorious. I even tested out the new Teva Itunda water shoes which were so fantastic they took me where even Tracy and Quinn didn’t venture! They are now an integral part of my gear given the many water crossings here on these Mountains. The trip to Ripley was a highlight of Saturday.
The remainder of the day we luxuriated in the mountain paradise that is the Highland Center. Walking through the many tributes to the mountains, hikers and nature scattered throughout the property nicely set a mood of reflection. Our Team 2020 companions began to arrive and the building excitement carried us quickly through to our departure early the next day.
Sunday July 4th we celebrated independence by starting up the Ammonoosuc trail. We were loaded with energy, enthusiasm, hope, determination and excitement. Quickly we found our trail rhythm and the reality of the task at hand began to settle in. Meeting soldiers from the Army and Air Force on their return trip from the summit, American flag in hand, was a nice reminder of the significance of the date. Their words of personal encouragement for our task will remain with me as well.
The balance of the day was a long and hard climb with many boulders and rock challenges through the deep forest. Often, I sing the praises – all deserved – of my doggedly determined and devoted Guide Quinn. Many are the astounding details of his devotion and skill which buoyed my every step during this expedition, but for now suffice it to say that he was elated for the trip and on his game. As always, Quinn’s work, so moving to me, gets my top attention; just barely second is the assistance, love and devotion of Tracy, my fiancée, and the rest of the crew who were so determined to patiently work with us through all the challenges. The arduous hike repeatedly offered both setbacks and conquests. We all learned much, separately and as a group, as we ascended past the Gem Pool, the Overlook and many cascades. Ultimately, we paid 8 hours of work to achieve 2.4 miles of ground, 5,050 feet of elevation, and the celebration of reaching the Lakes of the Clouds hut. You know how much work is involved if 2.4 miles takes 8 hours!
Some of the group needed a rest and Quinn absolutely was in need of some down time, so he stayed at the hut while I took to a human guide for the second time that day. Before the hut, Kara had Guided me through a series of slab sections requiring hands and feet to climb, and now it was our hike leader Carrie’s turn to Guide me as we achieved the summit of nearby Mount Monroe. We felt surprisingly light and free, having left our heavy packs at the hut, and made a power ascent and descent in time for dinner!
The evening at the Lake of the Clouds held much magic. The majesty of a spectacular sunset silenced in awe all onlookers and at its close drew applause of appreciation from all the gathered and appreciative hikers! The Fourth of July topped itself off with weather so clear (an extremely rare thing for the region) that we could view fireworks launched from communities all over New Hampshire from our 5,000 foot vantage point – incredible!
Monday morning we made a summit surge to Washington. The entirety of the route traveled above tree line and over a boulder-strewn mass of Quartz-ridden rock which was truly unlike any other section of hike I’ve ever experienced. Our group came together with a conviction that was touching and inspiring. We were jubilant over that last quarter mile of build-up, knowing our success was imminent. Quinn was a marvel once again and we covered the distance to the summit in two hours and fifty-four minutes of work. I cannot imagine how Quinn can guide me so expertly and efficiently – but he does. We did it.
There’s so much more to say about the accomplishment and the entirety of the experience. I’ll offer the full details in stages and look forward to sharing the greater story ahead. I remain still overwhelmed at our accomplishment. I’m incredibly thankful to have the support which is such an essential component of this adventure, and so very hopeful at the prospect of many more adventures and experiences ahead!
I hope to give you more detailed insights on this particular trip on the morrow! For now, the Mighty Quinn and I are putting our paws up.
& the Mighty Quinn