“Joy is a loyal companion, love is a faithful friend, fear is a terrible adversary, and hatred is a merciless enemy.”
On December 11, 2004, a golden bundle of Labrador retriever came into this world as the ninth puppy in his litter. It was an inauspicious start perhaps for a pup who reached such lofty peaks of success well beyond climbing and guiding. The Mighty Quinn demonstrated love, loyalty, and friendship to me on an unrivaled level which those who witnessed typically found astounding. He had dedication and devotion for certain, and his competitive intensity showed an intelligence and focus beyond all my expectations. In his barely 9 years of life he lived more than most ever dream and he touched the lives of thousands. Much has been, deservedly, shared about Quinn’s life and death.
On the anniversary of his birth, I take a special few moments to reflect in joy upon how very fortunate I feel to have had this amazing boy in my life. I think about our mountain adventures and often play a video we call “Winter Celebrations with the Mighty Quinn.” Dina Sylvester created this video at the request of Michelle Brier and I am so thankful for both as it is a fight for me each time I listen to it. For me it captures the joy he felt in his life, or specifically in our winter hiking adventures. I listen for the subtle background sounds of interactions, the clear love and fun in our communications, as well as the playfulness which is interwoven in our work together. Playfulness was a centerpiece of his life for certain. There is no description to this video at this time though I have had it shared with me at times. I know there are countless moments of Quinn joy throughout, so I encourage you to enjoy the short three minutes of heart lifting opportunity to choose, like I will, joy.
While I cannot say there will be no hint of sadness in my reflections, I can tell you with certainty that I would gladly choose all of the moments of sadness I’ve ever experienced before, now, and ahead because of the loss of Quinn–I would consider all those moments of pain a bargain price for the incredible joy, love, courage, and freedom Quinn brought into my life during the time we were blessed to share company together. It is why in recollection each day, and especially on his birthday, I choose joy!
“Dogs, lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and the mistakes we make because of those illusions.”
I am tremendously proud of the work we undertake with 2020 Vision Quest as well as the manner in which we approach highly efficient, earnest, honest and transparent financial practices. We do this because it is right and to ensure your support is honored and treasured to provide the best results your hard earned donations deserve. We have recently earned Guide Star’s highest level of charitable accolade: Guide Star Platinum Seal of Transparency!
Guide Star is the premier informational reporting agency for non-profit companies in the United States. It is a means for you to be confident that in conjunction with the great work we do in our educational outreach to thousands of school students and along with our fiscal support of Future In Sight and Guiding Eyes for the Blind; we are excellent caretakers of the responsibility of managing our charity and the financials of 2020 Vision Quest.
So as we enter the holiday season when many people, including Autumn and I, will be shopping a little more than usual, it’s an excellent time to announce that we have been registered with Amazon Smiles. This means your purchases on Amazon can help support our charity if you simply choose to select us as the charity you want to support with the Amazon Smiles Program.
Click the image to the right or use this link to automatically choose 2020 Vision Quest.
So if you want to be on Autumn’s nice list, why not put a smile on all of our faces and make this simple choice to help us make even more of a difference. You know we’ll treat your choice better than gold!
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
— Likely anonymous though often mistakenly attributed to William Yeats
Why am I so passionate about the 2020 Vision Quest educational presentations to students in schools throughout New England? In my own life, the transition to blindness was a catalyst which I believe did much to enhance my ultimate drive and accomplishments as well as personal happiness. I often share my belief that the lack of adversity is more likely to bring about stagnation for any of us — and conversely, challenges bring about the best opportunity for growth and achievement.
One significant epiphany was realizing that it did not have to be something negative or detrimental that brought about the spark of growth as powerfully as I experienced. While I acknowledge the potent value of experience, I found my presentation style interwoven with the depth of my experiences could result in captivating, motivating, and life-changing results for the students with whom I interacted. As more and more reports from teachers, parents, and administrators suggested the positive impact was significant, I became inspired to better understand and enhance this approach.
I think most of us strive for positive meaning in our lives and I find this in many different ways. Students of all ages represent the future of this world and a possible positive legacy to which I feel a tremendous allure. I delight in hearing each moment when someone expands their belief in their own future of possibility. I take tremendous hope when I feel I’ve enhanced acceptance for the message of working together and understanding the value of kindness in all of our interactions. I am buoyed by the many sharings from others that my efforts have lifted their spirits, enhanced their perspective on adversity, or inspired them to work towards a better life for themselves and a better world for us all. Best of all, most of these things are common responses which serve to reinforce my dedication to a core mission of 2020 Vision Quest.
Why do I share all of this with you today? It isn’t intended as any boast of my abilities. I’m aware of my many shortcomings even as I appreciate the aspects of this work which are so commonly well received. I share it because it has been the efforts of many in the past and present which have enabled this work to take place and it will take the continued efforts of many to ensure we continue to undertake this great work. I am certain I will put forth my best efforts because I so well believe in what I’m doing and the results which I hear back from students, teachers, administrators and parents. My fire has been lit and I hope enough inspiration has reached our community to continue the great support we’ve received. Much as the often misattributed quote above suggests, the root of it may be in the classics and I hope for all of us to experience a little kindling but especially our young minds just setting out on the journey of their lives!
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
One of the recent benefits I found through the work of Future In Sight came with an outstanding technology seminar. I have the training and skills to live a meaningful and successful life for certain and still believe that we put an ever brighter Future In Sight when we keep our mind open to the many developments which can help us along the path. When I was invited along with more than 40 other sight impaired clients to attend an AIRA technology demonstration, I had only heard rudimentarily about this new product and service. The more I learned, the more impressed I became and so I was eager to join many in taking the plunge to sign up and experience the possibilities.
What is AIRA?
You can certainly visit their website for detailed information including their own excellent video demonstration of all aspects of the project. As I’ve just recently begun working with my own unit, I’ll share my early understanding and experience as well as commit to checking back with you in a few months to report on the progress.
It begins with a pair of smart glasses containing a 4k video camera with high resolution photo ability as well as a wifi hotspot generator to provide data transmission for the unit. These are paired with my smart phone through the AIRA application so that at a time of need I connect to the service as what they call an “explorer” (if they only knew!) to one of their O&M (orientation and mobility) trained agents at a remote location. Their agent has a computer dashboard with access to the camera view, GPS information, profile information I’ve shared on best practices and information for me.
Typically I’m wearing an “ears-free” bone conductive bluetooth headphone which allows me to hear all the ambient sound around me and communicate with my phone and the agent smoothly. They introduce themselves and inquire how they can help. It may be that I’ve encountered a handout I simply need scanned and emailed to me, or I may have been stopped on the sidewalk by a construction pit where my travel route normally would have been. Whatever the challenge I’m facing, their ability to act as my eyes allows us to interact enough to resolve many interesting challenges seamlessly.
Want to pick out raised hands for the Q&A at a school presentation? No problem! Want to find that lost ball I tossed in the bush to Autumn’s frustration? Want to read the information on the treadmill after my run? How about navigate my hotel room while traveling on my own and learning the layout? There’s so much it can do for me and I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.
A few key points I want to highlight about this excellent service. First, it is a business and so there is a cost for it monthly and while they and I hope to have that become more and more efficiently managed, the initial explorations are promising. I especially want to applaud the price they have arranged for veterans. They act as our eyes and not as our brains so we are responsible for judgments and safety — they merely provide us with additional information. They won’t be replacing Autumn or my cane, but finding ways to act in conjunction to make us more efficient.
So if you see me wearing some new sun glasses and perhaps talking to myself, I’ve probably not added new challenges to my world but rather new solutions, and I encourage you to come talk to me about it. I’m excited to learn just how much more of the world I can explore with this new technology, which is why it joins me for the expedition to Peru!
221 Daniel Webster Hwy
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054
We will be attending and hope you will consider joining us!
We already brush Autumn’s teeth regularly to promote her best health and happiness. We also support our friends at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua who have invited Autumn to be Bib#1 in the charge for the world record attempt at their incredible festival this year. While there are many great reasons to attend the festival and we hope you will do so vor all of those reasons, we especially want you to bring your dogs along as we need your team to add up our number tally of most dogs simultaneously having their teeth brushed.
“Whoa, Randy!? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?” I absolutely do and not just for this festival, though that’s the first focus to help us reach the goal. I think it would be great for you and your dog for a long time to come and I’m willing to show you how easy this can be for both of you.
First, understand that toothpaste for a dog can be found at your pet store. They have such delicious flavors as liver or chicken, though you may be tempted by the ever refreshing mint! The toothpaste is enzyme-laden so that even just licking the toothpaste, which most dogs will love, is a benefit to their dental hygiene. Still there are multiple types of brushes for the plaque which can otherwise build-up. My favorite is the finger brush. While admittedly Autumn does not love that I’m trying to brush where plaque builds up at the gum line, she loves the flavor enough that it’s a special treat.
When we finish I let her lick a little extra toothpaste and if she’s been patient a Greenies toothbrush treat helps to work into those hard to reach places as well. All this sounds simple and I’ve even made a quick video to show you.
So please take this lesson to heart and consider the better health of your pet as well as the quality bonding time added to your time together. I also strongly urge you to join us for the Wags to Whiskers Festival where we’ll have a chance to finally get over the top and reach the world record with your help. Remember that the RSVP and registration will help us know we have the numbers to reach our goal. I’ll look forward to taking the time to let Autumn meet all of her friends when we are not actively working and we can team up to help the Humane Society of Nashua continue their great work!
Photos in this entry depict the toothbrushing Guinness World Record attempt at the 2016 Wags to Whiskers Festival and are courtesy of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.
“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.” –Tibetan Proverb
I understand more than most the value of some help up the mountain, whether it’s my four-legged guides or the many excellent friends who have chosen to undertake this role in order that we would reach our summits together. Since Autumn cannot reasonably join us due to the elevation range, the team will once again be essential as my primary means for navigating the many trails and adventures along the way. It is, however, far more about the powerful bonding we experience together in these shared experiences that influences the selection of our team.
Much as I did with our Kilimanjaro team, I wanted to introduce you all to the 14-person team who is making the journey to Peru for a series of epic adventures together. We hoped the entire Killy team would be reunited, but part of the reason for treasuring each experience is you can never truly go back. Time changes us all and life often inhibits our ability to reunite. We’ll miss Cathy, Frank, and Maureen from that trip but there are some new friends joining us this time around!
Greg Neault is back and headlines the list in part because he has taken the lead in coordinating with United Mice, our guides, to ensure the Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain hike would be the epic experiences we are seeking together.
All of our team owes Greg considerable gratitude for the work he did in planning the foundation–though still it is the kind adventurous spirit which lies at the heart of our friendship for which I’m most enthused to once again adventure around the world with him.
Jennifer Uhlman didn’t make the top 10 last time as she was a late addition to the Killy team. My, has life changed as she and Greg took that point to heart and added their own addition to this world in their daughter Stella!
Talented and adventurous from the start, the friendships have continued to grow even if she refuses to carry me up mountains as she does so well for Stella.
Ryan Prentiss joins us as a closer friend of Greg’s who I first met during a Tough Mudder together at Mt. Snow, VT. Definitely part of the youth movement, he’s presently the only member of the team to not have guided me, though we’ll have opportunity aplenty ahead. One of the treasures of Machu Picchu will likely be getting to better know this member of the team.
Rob Webber stands in contrast to Ryan, as I’ve known him since Ryan was 2 years old! It was Rob who got me to the key point on the summit journey of Kilimanjaro and our friendship is long and storied but, as this trip continues to prove, so very far from stagnant!
Jose Acevedo follows Rob in being part of a seemingly endless amount of life adventures and experiences. A person would be fortunate to find one such friend in their life. Like so many of my friends, they both challenge me to be better in all ways while encouraging and appreciating the journey so far and none moreso than Jose and Rob.
Kristen Acevedo is our roller derby addition and a force of nature, except perhaps at darts! If it takes a trip to Peru to get more time with this lady, then that’s reason enough to travel. Beyond the first week of epic adventure, she helped motivate the bonus week of relaxation in the sacred valley for which I will be eternally grateful! For putting up with her husband and my penchant for crazy adventures I’ll have to just raise her pedestal a little higher.
Michelle Brier is another gift of friendship brought to me by the Mighty Quinn and Autumn. On the long slog off of Kilimanjaro, she was instrumental in helping me with my health challenges but it is the kindness, compassion, and insight which I value above those medical skills. Too far away in NY, it’s another surprise we have to travel across the equator to appreciate quality time together again!
Cat Orza was already the incredibly fit and capable hiker in our midst and now has become the ludicrously fit veteran of many adventures and experiences of her own. She too was originally a connection made by Guiding Eyes and now our friendship held only distant by geography is eager to surpass geography and strategize our next Flat Bread conquest together.
Robbie Walton is not so stealthily amongst my best friends. I have been appreciative and a little surprised as a series of increasing adventures have become part of our recent repertoire. She guided me for her first ever 5k run and followed by guiding me on the last leg of a relay for her which was my last Boston Marathon qualifier. Stepping up to our recent hikes in preparation for Peru has certainly elevated the achievement in our ongoing quest for Peak Potential.
Brent Walton is the only man to ask me to marry him… to his now-wife Robbie. He’s also the friend who moved into my home to help me when I was put in the wheelchair and struggling to manage everyday tasks. Quiet until the perfect witticism bursts forth to surprise the group, he’s already earned his hiker’s guide patch and ready to take it to the international level.
Loren O’Neil was first introduced to me at the Tough Mudder in LA when she was part of our five-person team for the Oberto Hero of Summer project. Endlessly cheerful and tenacious, I love the spirit of taking on every challenge which she embodies and I’m so appreciative of our steadily growing friendship.
George Claborn is the musical insertion in our group and despite not being the amusingly, or rather misunderstood, advertised 6’2″ guide candidate, he is intelligent, kind and fun. I followed him to John Hopkins University after just one meeting, serendipity, and celebrated his birthday with a relay team Marathon but this will no doubt be our largest celebration since Don Felder!
Tracy Pierce is my lovely bride and I saved my best for last. All of my current adventures happen because she matches my desire to experience the world fully. In his writings, Thoreau suggested that we “live deeply and suck out the marrow of life.” Tracy as a partner encourages and, even better, joins me in a myriad of adventures. The reality is that my lack of sight adds complications which she helps me navigate to make for the easiest experience for all of us. In loving the concept of “team” anyway, it is hardly a surprise I particularly love the teamwork of my partner in life!
I join the team as our 14th member, of course. Unlike Kilimanjaro, this expedition isn’t so intensely focused upon the single summit experience. We will summit Rainbow Mountain but there are a host of experiences along this journey, which make it far more about the entirety of the journey. Those are words I believe, though they can be lost in something epic like Kilimanjaro. For me it is always about the people on the adventure and I reflect upon the words with which I closed out my Kilimanjaro team post as once again very appropriate. I’ll apply them here with only modest adjustment:
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 14will 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 person more–for we few, we precious few, are enough.
These are difficult words to write and I have some considerable concerns for the possibility of undesired and unintended responses. I manage risks with the adventures we take as well as with my stewardship of the 2020 Vision Quest charity. We encourage people to reach for and achieve their peak potential personally, professionally, and philanthropically and we attempt to lead by example. I am generally proud of the people with whom I surround myself and certainly the team of volunteers with whom I work to make 2020 Vision Quest a successful and positive organization.
I have confronted many instances of disagreement on all levels of my life and experienced many forms of success and failure in approaching these differences. I am rarely short on opinions, and in discussions with my friends candidly and comfortably explore all the volatile topics of dissent with a notion I always want to expand my understanding, maintain my compassion and seek resolutions to the core of issues for the longer term ideally with a healthy approach to any short term crisis.
I believe our country is indeed facing some significant crisis. The aspect of that I hope to address is our approach to disputes. How we resolve our differences seems incredibly broken. All too often we take the most extreme of views, demand a choosing of sides, and narrow our focus to the present urgency and are thus blinded to the reasons which led to those differences. Some of those reasons would likely provide an understanding of where true energy should be placed if we hope to bring about real resolutions. We are so caught up in the “what” we forget to really look for the “why” of things.
I understand the few lines here are a paltry attempt to invoke change. Real change requires people embracing some of the simple ideals involved in better communication. It involves a choice to want real resolution and not simply to be victors in this most dangerous game of spiraling hostility and disagreement.
I share my thoughts in the hope it may resonate for some and my commitment to be open to truly listen as much or more than I share. I commit to seek the “why” behind every “what” that frustrates me. I will remember that kindness and compassion are my compass even as the conviction and strength of my sense of right vs wrong ensures strength of word and action to my approach. I understand there may likely be some who will not accept this intent and I will still strive to give them the chance, even as I will not tolerate their debilitating tactics within my ability to influence. I’d rather understand, educate, and resolve situations–and if I cannot, I will release people from my regular interaction.
I do want to challenge beyond a limited echo chamber of similar beliefs and I think this is reasonable. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step and so I’ll practice these approaches in ever expanding circles and encourage all of you to do the same. Ultimately if we do not learn to resolve our differences in healthy ways, then that leaves us only with the escalating tensions of not resolving or the equally awful unhealthy resolution. I know my choice of those three and I’ll work towards healthy resolutions every time and understand the emphasis will be on “work.”
The power of perspective is probably quite clear in that I’m thinking it’s less than four months until our 8th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction Gala while many of you may think how far away that seems. We have already sold more tickets than our venue could have held for our first six years, which is fantastic! But now we have a bigger venue, and I’m still striving to sell out as we achieved for nearly every year and missed by only one table last year.
I understand many delay into the summer to make their final plans and I hope to have a reservation for everyone. But I rest easier when the goal is achieved and I can proudly share the sell-out status with our sponsors and team!
Will you help me out with a ticket purchase to a great event and a cause I feel we demonstrate is worthy every day?
Speaking of sponsors, we already have Bank of NH in the Platinum Event Sponsorship and Larp Portal as our first Gold Sponsor, with invitations out to others to become a part of the foundation of our event and our work. The success of our event is most notably in our community and our sponsors help us elevate that to an even higher level. If you or someone you know might consider a sponsorship for our signature event, I’d personally welcome the opportunity to make it work for all of us. Our team creates an incredibly professional event which uses programs, video signage, and heartfelt appreciation to highlight our partnerships with sponsors. We also use our website and social media all year long to express the benefits shared by teamwork with such great partnerships.
A highlight of the evening includes an incredible array of silent auction items as well as a small selection of specialty live auction items. We already have nearly 40 items committed to us, including a few entirely new experiences for our guests. I’m inspired and encouraged by the progress. While we are still asking those who donate items personally or through generous connections to reach out to us, we are going to announce these items on our 2020 Vision Quest Facebook and Twitter accounts each week from now until the event. If you do not already follow us, perhaps you may choose to do so to see some of the great items including one of my favorite new items being announced this first week!
So while I am enticing you to join us by getting your ticket to the event, becoming a sponsor or perhaps making a donation, the real message is that we have a fantastic event which is well on its way to another success. We have been working hard since December to bring about improvements to what reviews already confirm is the ideal venue. If you are traveling from far away, take advantage of our hotel guest rate and stay the night and fully experience all the evening has to offer.
I love our mission and I’m so appreciative and proud of the many volunteers who make all aspects of our event and our charity work possible, yet what constantly amazes me and motivates me is the outpouring of support from a diverse and expansive community of people who find enough value in our effort to continually encourage us to keep going. I’ve climbed a few mountains, literal and figurative, and I know the work is not done–but with your help, I believe we’ll continue to reach for and achieve our “Peak Potential.”
Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. Theodore Roosevelt
My beautiful Autumn is a tremendous companion and we have become a wonderful team through our years of working together. One part of this teamwork involves learning to understand each other. As Autumn is rife with attitude I get many different looks from her incredibly expressive eyes. While my own sightless eyes aren’t able to fully appreciate her looks I’ve learned through the sharing of others, to appreciate her diverse expressions and their meaning. In the interest of advocacy and education I often engage in dialog with Autumn, which is healthy connection for us and also serves to potentially share with strangers around us some insight to the inner workings of the dog guide team. As the summertime fun of July is upon us here are a few of the fun moments.
One of the most common looks I receive from my girl follows her performing her guiding duties well. After a particular bit of good work she will receive the tail wag inducing “Good Girl Autumn!” She is prideful for certain and she is also optimistically reward attentive. In these moments she’ll turn and look towards me with the hopeful expression intent on carrying her canine version of the Jedi mind powers (“that was worth a treat to your hard working and talenged dog guide Autumn”). I feel the turn of her head through the harness handle and will often comment “Oh you think that deserves a treat do you?” With a pouch full of Wellpet treats on my hip she transforms the plea to laser focus as she awaits her reward while onlookers confirm my suspicion and often begin side conversations in appreciation of her work and all the interactions involved in our team approach to independent travel in the world.
Speaking of Laser focus, we work plenty of normal routes where she must be attentive to the curbs, pavement cracks and potholes of normal life as well as pedestrians, sidewalk detritus and so much more. These are things in which she is well versed and does with good attention scaling up the intensity of her focus as the obstacles increase to require more focus from her guiding eyes. In fact, my most likely challenge comes when she is least challenged because it is then when distractions are most likely because she is, quite simply, bored. Yet when I ask her to guide me on the ridiculous footing found on the mountain trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountain Wilderness, an incredible transformation takes place. Suddenly there is no margin for error and every angle of her body, every side step, every bit of the route selection is deliberate and chosen with an intensity which speaks glowingly of her intelligence, her devotion and her passion for her work at the highest level. It is so intense I think a mere photo will not do it justice and so I include a video taken by Catherine Orza which really highlights the work and her eyes watching me and the trail to find the means to help us both navigate it successfully. When it gets too narrow for our smooth traversing together she pauses and watches for me to do my part in the teamwork and almost praises me for my success even as she patiently awaits my finding this role before she can lead forward to her next task.
So this is an excellent time for me to thank Guiding Eyes for the Blind who trained Autumn and Quinn before her. They provide these incredible Dog Guides for so many who can benefit from the freedom and independence they grant to the lives of those managing sight loss at various levels. In my case there is no sight in my eyes but she has beautiful, expressive and oh so talented guiding eyes which she happily shares with me on our journeys together at work and at play. Thank you Autumn girl!!
“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.”
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.
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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