by Kyle Dancause
In sports, there is much talk and concern over the dreaded letdown game. For those not familiar with the term, a letdown game is one where a team comes off an emotional, meaningful victory and turns in an uninspired, lackluster performance in their following game. Another contributing factor to a letdown performance is when a team looks past their present opponent to a more daunting, challenging foe looming in the near horizon. Whether you believe in this letdown concept or not, acknowledging its possibility allows us to see how Team 2020 may be perfectly positioned for a letdown performance.
As the interim coach, or hike leader, of Team 2020 on our upcoming game against Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passaconaway of the White Mountain Sandwich Range conference, I must warn my team against a letdown performance. Team 2020 is on a roll. With recent success against perennial powerhouses Owl’s Head, Mt. Garfield, and Mt. Lafayette, the Vision Quest squad is off to a roaring start for the 2011 hiking season. Randy and Quinn’s successful return to the Pemi is proof of the vast improvements they have made since this time last year. With new experiences and new hiking companions, the team continues to learn, reflect, and grow stronger. As Vision Quest’s confidence and excitement grows, we inevitably begin to look ahead to what many are calling the game of the year, the clash of the titans, as team 2020 takes on #2 ranked Mt. Adams and #5 ranked Mt. Madison on July 4th weekend. So there you have our current situation, sandwiched between a successful trip to the Pemi and a looming battle with the Northern Presidentials. Do you think Team 2020 may be in danger of that letdown performance?
I don’t. With Randy wearing the captain’s armband and Quinn and Tracy sharing the assistant captain duties, I have full confidence that Team 2020 will be physically and mentally prepared for Whiteface and Passaconaway. I have faith in Randy’s attitude and leadership, Tracy’s unwavering support, and Quinn’s tail wagging, that our leaders will get our team motivated and ready to go. I have been told by one rather knowledgeable and experienced friend that Whiteface and Passaconaway pose some of the most challenging, viewless hiking of all the 48. I’ve read trip reports that claim that the rock scrambling on the Whiteface ledges can be quite intimidating and dangerous. With 12 miles of hiking and significant elevation gain over two days, we have a stiff challenge in front of us, but I look forward to the hard work, learning experiences, and most importantly, time spent in the woods with good friends.
For those who still have doubts of a letdown game, I leave you with a brief tale of Passaconaway – more of which I’ll share to the team in the locker room before the game. Passaconaway is named for the legendary chief of the Pennacook tribe. Passaconaway was revered as a great Indian chief, medicine man, and peacemaker to both the natives and white settlers. There are two unique tales about Passaconaway’s death which I learned from reading a short excerpt from Charles Beals’ Passaconaway in the White Mountains. The first story claims that Passaconaway was buried in a cave on Mount Agamenticus in present day York, ME, a significant mountain in Randy and Quinn’s hiking history.
The second tale is as follows. The native’s feared the mountains and seldom, if ever, visited the summits. The most feared was Mt. Agiocochook (Mt. Washington) where the natives believed The Great Spirit resided. I leave you with the tale.
“The tradition runs that there was to be a Council of the Gods in heaven and it was Passaconaway’s wish that he might be admitted to the divine Council Fire; so he informed the Great Spirit of his desire. A stout sled was constructed, and out of a flaming cloud twenty-four gigantic wolves appeared. These were made fast to the sled. Wrapping himself in a bearskin robe, Passaconaway bade adieu to his people, mounted the sled, and, lashing the wolves to their utmost speed, away he flew. Through the forests from Pennacook and over the wide ice-sheet of Lake Winnepesaukee they sped. Reeling and cutting the wolves with his thirty-foot lash, the old Bashaba, once more in his element, screamed in ecstatic joy. Down dales, valleys, over hills and mountains they flew, until, at last, enveloped in a cloud of fire, this “mightiest of Pennacooks” was seen speeding over the rocky shoulders of Mount Washington itself; gaining the summit, with unabated speed he rode up into the clouds and was lost to view?forever!” – Charles Beals