By Randy Pierce
The quest Quinn and I have undertaken this winter is simple in concept. We are attempting to join a very elite group of hikers who summit all 48 of the more than 4,000 foot peaks in a single winter season. Only 46 people ever been recorded as accomplishing this feat–and none have been a blind person or a guide dog team tandem!
As people have begun to learn about our undertaking, they have often asked what inspires me to attempt it. There are many reasons for which I’ve chosen to make the significant sacrifices necessary to have a realistic chance of succeeding.
First and foremost, this opened an entirely new world of experiences as we explore the White Mountains while they are in their full winter majesty. Few hikes can compare to the Southern Presidential Traverse of January 23, for example. It began at a chilly 0 degrees F, but as we hiked through the crisp, open air of the undisturbed and pristine wilderness, I listened to the descriptions of beautiful scenery. Pictures of the full panorama of isolated mountain views painted themselves in my mind, with such beautiful details as the rime ice that made fist-sized diamonds jut out and explode in glittery splendor from the intense sunshine. We spent the afternoon above tree line on a hard pack snow field, which gave gave to Quinn and me the dizzying freedom to take almost any route we wanted along our way across Mts Monroe and Franklin. It was the most liberating experience of my hiking career. It is a day which I expect cannot be readily recreated but fortunately is with me forever onward.
More than the experiences though, we are hoping to achieve other benefits as well. This will certainly be training for the additional challenges of our 2020 Vision Quest to hike these mountains in the non-winter months. It is also hopefully a much needed awareness boost to all the things supported by our 2020 Vision Quest. In particular, I want to promote the notion of “Ability Awareness,” our school presentations, and perhaps even a celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the NH Association for the Blind which very well began my belief that blindness was not an end to my journeys!
Quinn is presently within the prime of his hiking and guiding abilities. The reality is that a guide dog only works for an average of 6-8 years. We are now in our sixth year together; I sadly know that our guide team time will come to an end much sooner than I would ever hope. He is most responsible for starting me on this path in the mountains and I truly hope and believe he’ll get me through the mountains on our 2020 Vision Quest. Yet if anything should change that prematurely, I will at least have this winter mission, facilitated by a very supportive offer from other strong, experienced, and very kindhearted hikers to help us undertake it. In achieving this, I will ensure Quinn’s well deserved legend, and I will have shared with him the full splendor of our partnership on an epic quest which reaches very deeply into my spirit.
We are beyond the halfway point of mountains for the winter and have climbed more of the peaks than I had in my entire life before this winter, and yet, success is still not ensured. I believe in our team and our will to finish. I will give it all of my best efforts and will continue to sacrifice significantly in the pursuit of this particular dream.
So while “Super Sunday” resonates for many in different ways, I’ll have a fair amount of my thought and heart invested in the Super Goal set before Quinn and myself. I hope any of you who read this will consider sharing it with your friends, family and all other sources who might benefit from our story or who might help ensure the overall success of our missions.