by Randy Pierce
We set our sights high for 2020 Vision Quest, and yet are still amazed and humbled when a guy like Tedy Bruschi joins the team for a hike! Three-time World Champion, Pro Bowl-er, and for many, the very heart of the Patriots Dynasty –- these are just the most obvious honors earned by this fantastic man. In addition to his great athletic talents and work ethic, Tedy also exemplifies heart and determination. The world was inspired when, just days after winning the Super Bowl, Tedy was afflicted by a stroke and -– true to his Full Tilt/Full Time, “Never Give Up” mantra –- fought his way back to the Patriots line-up.
I have been fortunate, as my fandom has crossed over into friendship with him through the years, and this led me to invite Tedy to help us raise awareness for our project. In typical Tedy fashion he took this slight inspiration, and created so much more for himself and others with his response! As he told us, we planted the seed that led him to not only join with 2020 Vision Quest, but also with the NFL’s own Wounded Warriors hike of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, in support of wounded veterans.
I’ve learned a lot about hiking as we’ve progressed on this journey, and yet there is still so much more for me to learn. So when Tedy inquired about joining me for a training hike I turned to someone who was cut from the same cloth as Tedy -– “Sherpa John” Lacroix, who is both an outstanding mountaineer as well as an inspiration in his own right. And he did not disappoint: Sherpa John and his Human Potential provided the ideal guidance from start to finish. With “The NH 48” still in the treacherous spring season of ice-glazed summits and hazardous, collapsing frozen snow trails (called “monorails”), we settled on the Belknap range as challenging, rewarding and southerly enough to have finally emerged from winter’s long grasp.
As we set out on the morning of May 2nd, introductions were quick and informal despite the celebrity overtones; Tedy’s jovial nature quickly put everyone at ease. The immensity of the experience of hiking with Tedy Bruschi was further put into perspective by the stunning news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, which many of us –- Tedy and myself included -– only learned while on the trail. The power of such enormous news can elicit a range of reactions.
One of the aspects of hiking and in fact of any team experience is the camaraderie that binds everyone together. The original news of the 9/11 attack had brought unity to our country, and also to the Patriots team which Tedy helped take to its first Superbowl championship that season. Today this news similarly brought unity to our group as we each reacted to the meanings behind it, and shared those reflections. This profound feeling of closeness permeated the entire hiking experience.
One of 2020 Vision Quest’s primary points of emphasis is what I call Ability Awareness, which Quinn’s incredible work in particular always showcases. For me, there is some marvel in simply walking. Hiking, at some level, is simply walking -– though on more challenging terrain and with nature providing an astounding sensory tour. Tedy likewise seemed to be struck by a new awareness of this rich sensory experience; his infectious appreciation was a pleasure to experience, and will no doubt bring a positive presence to the Wounded Warrior program.
By the first ledges of Mt. Piper our guest had fully grasped the call of a hike and already was talking about returning with us for one of the 48 in the future. By the summit we lounged on a stone sofa overlooking the views of the Lakes Region and the splendid White Mountains beyond. Tedy didn’t hesitate in answering the call to add a fourth summit, Whiteface, into our planned route even though it added two miles and a return up Piper before we could continue our tour of the Belknap range. Clearly, endurance and conditioning won’t be a challenge for Tedy even upon Africa’s top peak!
But before we could continue on our trek, I had to give Quinn his reward for the amazing guidance he gives me: a mountain-top round of tug-o-war. This break for fun is non-negotiable, and he goes at it with full vigor, no matter how many miles we’ve covered on the trail. Intrigued by Quinn and his many remarkable skills, Tedy asked if he could “do the honors” on a later peak. Quinn of course is a lifelong Bruschi fan, and has apparently long dreamed of going head to head with a pro football superstar. He brought his best mental game to the Pats captain, who even in “defeat” gave us one of the most delightful memories of the trip!
As usual we used Spot technology to track our hike in real-time and keep the record of it. Yet throughout the nearly 9 hours of effort – 8 hours and 54 minutes ironically, matching Tedy’s football jersey number! — the actual terrain covered tells only part of the tale. The real journey is the human experience to share, inspire, challenge, support, and — best of all -– to celebrate. These values are at the root of 2020 Vision Quest and the nature of those who undertook this hike. We achieved five summits, four of them unique, on the physical terrain, and yet achieved many more peaks in our experience, which will be remembered forever. Meeting the legendary Hal Graham of Trail Rights; hearing the weather reports from atop the fire tower; impromptu snow baseball on the summit of Gunstock; relaying tales which made a difference in each of our lives… We all grew together as friends.
Tedy shared one such tale with me, as he took a turn guiding me down the rocky steps of Gunstock’s trail. While Quinn and I have years to practice these approaches, Tedy and I took only moments and set out to see how it worked. He was stable and sure of foot, which supported me on steps. His strides matched my own allowing him to relax and relay the tale:
It was a turbulent, rocky team flight for the Pats, and Tedy was called on to select some music to ease the tension. He chose Blaze of Glory by Bon Jovi, which some might have found dubious given the terrifying flight conditions, thousands of feet in the air! Yet the relief and jubilation he reported upon the landing was not unlike our own landing on this day together.
For me however, the “landing” was literal, as I became so engaged in his story that I missed an angled half-step and lost my balance. Falling, I flipped my legs into the air, striving to land on my pack for the cushion it would provide. This was a small blaze — more of ignominy, than glory — but it’s part of the journey in hiking blind. Undaunted we finished the rougher section, and then Quinn resumed his duties once and for all, for the rest of the hike.
At the base though I asked Tedy to make us part of the team and break it down for us as he did for so many years with the Patriots. The real Blaze of Glory is not just succeeding on the climb, but in the summit high five of achieving together. But don’t forget that the path to the summit is only half the journey, and so at the base Tedy called out to all of us as a team, then singled out two of the more outstanding contributors in our victory: “How do we feel about Sherpa John and the Mighty Quinn!!?!!”
I feel pretty fantastic about both. But how I feel about Tracy, Kyle, Sarah, John, Randy and Tedy all being part of Team 2020 on that fantastic day is something even more amazing! So how about it: why don’t you join Team 2020 for a hike as well, and become part of something you’ll never forget!
Other links about this hike: