A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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Guest blog: Fond memories along the trail with Randy
10 Feb
2022
By 2020Visionquest
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On the event of Randy’s recent transition to lead Future in Sight as its new President and CEO, I offer some reminiscing on what it was like to work and interact with him at 2020 Vision Quest.

First conversation — In January of 2013, I noticed on Facebook that Randy was seeking a new volunteer for his 2020 Vision Quest staff to do some website writing. I called him and, in our first-ever conversation, told him I’d attended the September 2012 “Four More Feet” film debut event at the Highland Center and had asked him during the Q&A about Quinn and boot spikes on the narrow winter trails. Randy answered immediately, “I remember the voice and I remember loving that question.” I was floored by this—what felt like his making an immediate special connection with me—and that turned out to be a great indication of how the next nine years would go. (The question had been, “Had he ever accidentally stepped on any of Quinn’s paws while the two were hiking close side-by-side, when he had traction spikes on his boots? (Answer: Yes, once, and he of course felt awful about it. Way more so than Quinn.))

“Eureka” moment — One winter day a couple of years ago I was Randy’s driver for a (pre-COVID) Concord NH school presentation, and on the way home we stopped at a car dealership where he was dropping off some Vision Quest posters they’d requested. We’re walking into the building from the clear, dry parking lot and Randy asks me about a minor hip ailment I’d been feeling recently. I said it was going better and he replied “good, and yeah because I wasn’t noticing any limp on you today.” My reply—“Errr, you’re blind. How would you?” Randy: “Easy. Listening for it. I can pick up a limp (or lack of one) easily by just listening.” A fairly basic concept in hindsight, (sorry!), but this to me became yet another example of my learning and then marveling at how he adapts to “observe” things—not only about his own world but just as importantly—about that of friends or virtually anyone he’s interacting with.

Hike to Mt. Isolation, July 2013 — This was a big, exciting, and grueling day where I was joining Randy, Tracy, The Mighty Quinn, trip leader “Sherpa John” Lacroix, Jim Roy, and Mike Cherim. A 14.5-mile round trip on a humid, cloudy summer day with loads of soul-sucking mud but decent visibility and no rain. 5am start to a 7pm finish, with a steady pace and a very relaxing time on the summit for lunch. My major fond memories of the day were two:

  1. A group of hikers rest on a gray rocky summit.

    Most of the group rests on the summit of Mt. Isolation in July 2013.

    This was my first in-person chance to see just how rugged and mentally focused Randy has to be to successfully complete any substantial hike. His ankles just have to be bionic, after I saw all the rolling and contortions they go through on a very uneven, muddy, rocky trail like that to Isolation—and that’s if you have good eyesight. Then multiply that level of challenge times at least ten if by any chance you happen to be blind. And the mental concentrating he has to do just to avoid destroying himself—it’s again exponentially a far greater task than what any sighted hiker needs to employ when hiking trails like most of those in the Whites. And you need to maintain that focus for the entire hike; no “zoning out.” That said, I think I do recall one Randy faceplant on one of the muddiest stretches toward the summit, and as I recall it was enough to cut up his face a little bit.

     

  2. A group of hikers traverse a rocky stream in the warmth of summer.

    Randy and his group of intrepid hikers traverse a rocky stream in the warmth of summer.

    On one of the 8 or 10 significant stream crossings we needed to manage on this long out-and-back hike, even the fully-sighted Yours Truly managed to slightly misjudge one longish boulder-to-boulder hop and dunked one leg in almost-waist-deep stream water–if you can imagine. What made this spill most memorable to me, though, was the hearty laughs (and kidding) it elicited from Randy—first as soon as he learned that I was unhurt; second, for the remaining 8 or so hours of the hike; and third, several more times over the ensuing years—to as recently as last summer!

To sum up, we’ve all heard about how people “missing” one of the five main senses learn to adjust and compensate with heightened capabilities in the other four. Certainly, but I’d suggest the heightened capabilities are often not just the other physiological ones (hearing, touch, smell, taste) but also traits like extra-strong insight, empathy, compassion. With Randy, at least. I was lucky enough to experience those in spades during my time working and hiking with him. But there were also—always—his positive mental attitude, his confidence that projects so well onto others, the way he connects with schoolkids, his problem-solving talent, and his amazing energy level. Randy and I will remain friends, for sure, but… congratulations, Future in Sight, you’ve landed an exceptional leader!

— Rick Stevenson, 2020 Vision Quest staff volunteer

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