Prepping for my Most Challenging Hike to Date…

Sorry to disappoint the Quinn fans out there but I’ve taken control of the keyboard for this particular post. What a
Marvelous May I’ve experienced through this 2010 journey. This is the final post before we head out with the UNH KIN
551 Backpacking course to make our Journey through the Pemigewasset Wilderness. This really is an incredible
opportunity and I’ve already experienced so much yet know full well the majority of the experience is ahead in the next
week or so.. As such I already want to give the highly appreciative thanks to Professor Brent Bell, T.A. Sherpa John
and my entire class: Amy, Courtney, Jenny, Justin, Kyle, Sarah, and T.J. Also a quick thanks to the Leadership
contributions of partial T.A. Becky who has now left us for the greener fields of Graduation. What is this course
about? Brent is an old college friend of mine and when he heard about my renewed interest in hiking now with the
blindness as an aspect of that hiking plan, he became inspired that we might have a chance to benefit each other
significantly. He and Sherpa talked about their KIN 551 class which trains students to not only fully appreciate the
Backpacking world of the NH White Mountain Wilderness but also to become leaders in the Wilderness Awareness and Hiking
world. Including for the class the challenges and problem resolution necessary to manage my joining them on the
Pemigewasset Wilderness Traverse would expand their horizons considerably. Similarly I would get a great educational
boost to my own understanding of the Back Packing and Hiking world with the addition of all this problem solving and
exploration. I’ve already received far more than anticipated and we haven’t hit the hike while I’m hopeful and
optimistic given Brent’s review that we have in fact placed a positive experience into the class as well.

I’m a big believer in Community and I admit entering this that in consideration of the age differences I might not
feel entirely at home within the class of generally considerably younger UNH students. As an excellent testament to
the quality of folks in this class, I never felt that generational distance and I completely felt a part of the
community we are building. The Shakedown weekend certainly strengthened this tremendously and I would suspect the Hike
itself will be a tremendous impact upon our community development. Unsurprisingly we are all learning and growing from
our experiences and exposure with each other. I’m pleased my learning is no less from any of my preconceived
expectations as an older ‘student.’

So the plan has undergone some review and particularly about the involvement of Quinn. As readers here know, we did
evacuate him from the “Shakedown” weekend which was a rainy and cold experience you can read about in a previous post.
This had some concern for how we would manage him in the worst of possible weather experiences which might arrive in
the Pemi trip. That remains a possibility even late in May with the weather in the 80s here in Nashua the last few
days. In fact our trail reports absolutely and clearly talk about the snow in some places and monorail of snow in a
few places as well. The weather report long range looks promising but we understand that has enough variability,
especially within the White Mountains, to not presume anything. Brent donated an old and no longer used sleeping bag
to the cause and Tracy cut it down and sewed it up to make a Quinn sized bag which I’ll be carrying with me. This will
ensure when necessary and certainly at night he has a source of getting warm and dry. We know hiking he’ll be warm
it’s for the times when weather or evening brings us to quiet resting times int he cold for which we must ensure he’s
got his warmth. We also added his Ruffwear dog hiking ‘boots’ to the mix for any times the ground cover is potentially
rough for his paws. These are sized perfectly to him and while likely used infrequently the Vibra soles should give
him protection and traction when necessary.

Another significant concern is the hike frequently puts into the Lincoln Woods Trail with a stream crossing involving
waist deep wading. Quinn doesn’t much like water but as a dog he is an avid swimmer (“I only Dog Paddle” for the
Princess Bride fans out there) and could certainly cross on his own. Still fast streams in the spring can lead to some
dangers and rather than overly involve the class in tricks for crossing him we’ve decided to ensure he crosses on the
bridge regardless of weather the group of us as a whole will wade the icy waters of the Pemigewasset River. We’ll have
some minor stream crossings later into the hike and he’ll have his chance in a safer environ to show off those skills
while we can remain sure of his well being. It is my hope that if the class crosses so will I but all of that can be
addressed when we encounter them.

Quinn can lead me very well in the woods as many have learned and there’s even a video up here:

Now six long days means I will carry a lot of additional weight and responsibility for Quinn food and care. I’m
feeling physically ready for this and similarly confident in his skills. The fact is as we learned on the Welch
Dickie, Osceola and even Pack Monadnock trips, there are occasionally some terrains where I better manage the short
stretch using both hands and feet and thus no Guide Dog. As we handle these situations we will improve our skill at
discerning when this occurs. This consideration gave us pause to evaluate whether Quinn was right for this trip and
honestly it was a serious consideration, even an expectation for a bit, not to bring him. Personally I’m confident in
his safety and his skills even as I acknowledge there is added impact for this approach of which not all is positive.
The net is sufficiently positive to me that I believe in this choice and I think we’ll have a very clear understanding
of the reality by the end of the trip. I will say that when the class discussion led to the solid perspective of the
overall group to bring him, I was very pleased. This isn’t an issue of accessibility rights, this was an issue of
making the right choice for Quinn, me and the entire class. I hope to have very good news on the return about that
very decision. One thing clearly understood is that each person who might have led me or still might in parts will
have a significant challenge with me as we learn communication systems and put our mutual focus to the many challenges
a Wilderness like this can provide without sight.

I also want to give an added thanks to Brent and Sherpa because we put in some extra work for developing systems to
help me manage the worst imagined challenges of downhill drop offs. We have a rappel system which will hopefully give us
just enough extra confidence and safety to alleviate Carrie, the 2020 Hiking Leader, and others realistic concerns
about the hardest parts. I really believe we do not plan to fail, we fail to plan and this will be one assurance of us
choosing to plan fully and test it. Thanks for the extra time!

Sunday I head to Sherpa’s home for a night of final preparation. We arrive at UNH early on Monday and head out as a
group to the Lincoln Woods. We hit the trails and do the Counter-clockwise loop which takes us up a series of trails.
Each day is planned by a different pair (usually two) of students who manage all the details of the day. We know all
our stopping points and have carefully planned out all the challenges from water sources and evacuation routes to trail
hazards, nature nuggets and some activities to help us appreciate the group and the experience more fully. Some time
on the following Saturday we’ll emerge in the Franconia region having likely traversed roughly 40 miles and a host of
peaks which could include as many as 14 of the 4000 footers. It will likely be a few less than that and as evidence
for the challenge recall that last year’s group doing this same trip accomplished zero of the peaks as ferocious
weather had them below tree line constantly and battling to manage warmth and comfort. As a blind guy it’s all about
my footing and this makes me slow so I may impact the overall group speed and thus distances. My hardest challenges
are all the down sides when inability to plan the next steps cause extra cuation. Quinn is a major help in this and
that will be obvious in the video as well as the upcoming reports but it still keeps me slow and we’ll be prepared to
adjust our work as that requires. Fortunately my endurance is decent and we are all eager to experience what we are
fairly certain is the first Guide Dog led traverse of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

So this is a training mission for the 2020 Vision Quest work still ahead as we fully launch our Charity in a very short
time. We are finalizing the details of our Fiscal Sponsorship agreement which will transform us from a NH Non-Profit
(501 organization to a 501-C3 organization which means all donations are an IRS tax Deduction. I”m so very proud of
the team assembled to help make this project real and hopefully valuable to a very significant set of challenges. I
hope you will consider taking a look at our site:
www.2020visionquest.org

So that all said just a moment to recap May. It began with a Teva announcement that we would become the present Teva
Life Agent. This fantastic program will help us manage the fiscal challenges of the 2020 Vision Quest founding as well
as letting us share the attention we can bring to Teva and similarly which they will bring to our project. It’s a step
in letting us reach out to inspire some people and hopefully bring other inspirational messages to the community we
build in the process. It enhances our ability to reach out to the many schools and hopefully educate children not just
with the aspects of my life which come from my Blindness experience, Guide Dog Teamwork and Adversity Inspired
accomplishments but also the most important message of all which is that through believing in the Ability we all have
to establish goals, Identify the challenges for those goals and set about problem resolution, we all likely hold the
keys to accomplishing so much more than we might believe if we view the world as too daunting to sufficiently challenge
ourselves at reaching the dreams we might otherwise create. It’s a “Can Do” message with which I eagerly hope to
challenge many people and especially the students within my reach. I certainly benefit from a constant stream of
inspirations as I’ve learned well how to see the inspiration in so many people and experiences. I know there’s some
hard times ahead and I am also fully aware of the euphoric impact of setting upon the path of a journey I want in my
life.

I do not suggest to anyone that hiking or Martial Arts or any of a number of my pursuits are right for them. I suggest
that people should find interests which are healthy and right for them and pursue the means to reach those interests
and the many goals they can set with an active and determined mind. I do believe there are many folks for whom my
various interests may be of interest and I hope that may rekindle some passion for such. In the meanwhile I continue
to do what I do because I love the rich experiences in my life. I continue to find ways to share it going forward on
the premise that if it helps reach or inspire anyone I’ve done something even more meaningful to me!

So that was just as May began and on the first day itself I climbed Welch Dickie and made one of the largest decisions
of my life in proposing to Tracy. I have no hesitation in this choice and without question it is the best part of the
May experience. Thank you Tracy and I love you!

Engagement news aside, I still remain exceedingly grateful and proud of the Second Degree Black Belt and the community
of Martial Artists who helped me achieve it in a journey of growth and development. There is also certainly the great
news at the results of a victory against the discrimination which had prevented Quinn and I from normal restaurant
interaction even though I’ve been refused two other times in the last three months as well. Still I live in a world
which has far more open doors and enhanced education/awareness to all things. I’ve got a strong showing of friends in
diverse interests all very supportive of my life and love for that life. I’ve got a marvelous Guide Dog who is taking
me on steps not managed by other Guides and all because he loves me and loves our experiences of adventure. We
jokingly call him Adventure Dawg as a result of his approach to our shared lives. I know this that with him I feel
independent and free to take on these challenges and harness the full pride of accomplishment. When I get help from
others I’m always tremendously appreciative for their support though admittedly it never carries the same feeling of
independence, confidence and elation. Whether that is sensible or not, it is my present reality and as this is really
his blog it’s no surprise I end with praise for the Mighty One. As the video from above says: “I have a ridiculous
Guide Dog.”

Thank you Quinn and to all out there reading this, Be well!

Randy
& the Mighty Quinn
www.zipdogblog.com

3 Comments

  1. Paula Ravaioli says:

    Wonderful news of your next ‘venture’ and thank you for making sure it was the right decision to bring Quinn with you. Have a wonderful time and be safe. Can’t wait to hear how everything turned out. And congratulations on your engagement. XOXOXO to the Mighty One.

  2. Tracy says:

    Awww – great post. I love you too honey and I am so proud of you.

    Tracy

  3. Sherpa John says:

    Blah Blah Blah.. LETS HIKE!

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