Monday, March 12, 2012

Blind Potential

For 5 years now, I've maintained this blog to discuss what is humanly possible. To discuss this idea of Human Potential. To reverse the use of excuses, and promote the ideals of reaching beyond what one truly believes they are capable of. We've thrown terms around such as Flow, Self-efficacy, Motivation, Possible and the ever daunting Impossible. No matter how many times I reiterate these terms, or re-tell tales, or tell tales of new adventures in ways that mimc old adventures, nothing will ever meet the comparison of what has just transpired in the frigid mountains of New Hampshire.

In December 2009, I had the true honor and privilege of meeting a man by the name of Randy "Zip" Pierce. I led Randy on a hike of Maine's Mount Agamenticus on a cold and icy December morning. It was after this hike that my Professor in the UNH Outdoor Education program, Dr. Brent Bell, told me that we were going to take Randy on an 8-Day Backpacking Trip of New Hampshires fabled Pemi-Loop. I told him, he was crazy.

Over the course of the next few months, while working as a Teaching Assistant for the UNH Spring Backpacking Class, I had the extended honor or working closely with the students in the class at UNH to create systems for Randy and his Guide Dog Quinn that would allow them to join us for 8 days in New Hampshire's Wilderness. The many concerns that we were faced to answer in a very real manner, were numerous. Though our class never wavered on the idea of this incredible team joining us for our week long adventure in the mountains. Randy and Quinn instantly taught me new lessons associated with Human Potential. They taught me about tenacity, dedication, friendship, honor, love, devotion, companionship, stubborn-ness, grit... the list is practically never ending. This trip was a trip that would change my life forever in so many many ways. From the well known ways which I've been able to share on my blog previously, to the very private ways that transpired in personal and engaging conversations with my friend Randy. All I knew after many months culminating in 8 days on the trail with Randy; is that I have the privilege of being part of something special. A group of young people who taught a man and his dog how to maneuver the whites. 

After the hike of epic proportions, there was much learning that had transpired that allowed Randy to answer many of his own questions. These answers allowed Randy and Quinn to make adjustments to the many systems we helped them create, and allowed them to hone their craft. I continued to offer Randy advice, trail beta and in return, I was awarded the gift of valued friendship. In 2011, I had the chance to guide Randy again, with one of his friends Tedy Bruschi. Less then a month later, it was one of the higher honors in my life to guide Randy, with friends, to the top of Owls Head Mountain; New Hampshire's most isolated peak. This mountain is revered by many as the biggest pain in the ass in the Whites. The one peak everyone hates. The one peak most people leave off of their peak-bagging list. But with Randy, I was able to share with him my love of the Pemi-Wilderness and the history of a storied, lonely, peak. But above all, you had to see it to believe how well we worked up and down the daunting Owls Head Slide. 

The Owls Head trip was a few months after I had convinced Randy to join me for a Winter Hike up Mount Lafayette. This hike had various reasons. One was to pay personal tribute to the legendary Guy Waterman. The other reason was an idea i had in my head. I was convinced that Randy could hike all 48 peaks in winter, MUCH faster and easier in winter, simply because the snow would cover all of the rocks and roots and in essence, Randy would travel along the packed out super-highway of trails. I had to show him. And he agreed. I put the bug in Randy's head, that he could hike the 48 in Winter, and finish the list of 48 peaks much faster if he had done so. Randy didn't take my advice too excitingly at first. He had no ambition to hike the 48 with any particular speed. As far as I knew, his goal was to finish the 48 in year 2020, a play on words for his loss of vision. But something eventually clicked.. and Randy told me this winter, what his plans had truly become.

Today I am over joyed and humble. I'm also sad. I'm sad because I was not in New Hampshire to join my friend for a hike this past Saturday. I'm humbled because I feel privileged to have been able to play such an incredibly small part of helping Randy begin his journey through New Hampshire's Mountains. Randy often tells me that I've done much for him; and I'm certain that I've done very little at all beyond sharing my love for those White Mountains. The real work, has always been done by Randy and his friend Quinn.

I've talked for years about Human Potential on this blog. And when things like what happened this past Saturday take place... it makes me realize that I know very little about Human Potential at all. And the real people who know all about it.. aren't so much talking about it.. they're simply living it. On Saturday, my friend Randy Pierce (I can't type this without crying).. became the first blind man in the history of over 350 years of exploration in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, to summit all 48 Four-Thousand Foot Peaks. Quinn, became the first guide dog to ever do the same. And together, they became the first in history to hike to 48 in one winter season; a feat completed by less then 50 sighted persons in all of recorded history.

If that isn't Human Potential at it's finest, then I truly will never know what is. Congrats to Randy and Quinn. Simply incredible.

This is why I do what I do. This is why I got a degree in Outdoor Education. Simply knowing that I helped an individual learn something about the outdoors that wasn't previous accessible to them.. and then to see what they've accomplished with the skills I've been able to teach. In less than 2 weeks, I'll be facilitating a workshop on the work the UNH class did with Randy, my continued work with Randy and Randy's inspirational progress.