SJ: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule Randy, to talk to us about your mission and your upcoming hike out to Owls Head. It’s been a little over a year since you and I first met. It’s been an incredible honor of mine to know that you’ve put so much trust in me guiding you on a variety of hikes. I’m very excited about our up-coming weekend in “The Pemi.”
RP: The trust was well earned Sherpa. We’ve come a tremendous distance together in many different ways. Your passion and appreciation of these mountains is infectious and there’s nobody I’d rather have lead me on Owl’s head in particular.
SJ: Randy, Essentially you got serious about hiking in the Spring of 2010. Tell us just a few of the things you’ve learned over the past year and what changes you’ve made based on your lessons.
RP: The hardest thing for me to learn was the type of terrain to let go of Quinn’s help, for the benefit of the entire group, and use a human guide for a short stretch. As a team, Quinn gives me the feeling of full independence and while I very much appreciate the full human teams with which I hike, the loss of independence is difficult. As a good team member it is necessary to make decisions for the good of the team at times and I’ve come a long way there.
Now obviously I’ve learned a lot about the technical details of hiking from pack weight, foot gear to poles and nutrition. Still the most important lessons I’ve learned are in ways to appreciate the experience more fully. As you learn to know the mountains and the trails they become more personal. I’ve started to feel a sort of friendship and comfort on these trails which is unlike anything else.
SJ: If there was anything you could change, or if there is anything you strive to change, for the coming year what would it be?
RP: I don’t tend to invest much time or thought to changing the past but I’m always looking for the right means to adjust the present or future. As a slow hiker by the need of my footing challenges, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the ability to become more frequently a weekday hiker. This would have me impact fewer folk on the trail and simultaneously give me a bit more solitude to appreciate. This is difficult for the various folks with whom I hike but I hope we do find ways to work it into future plans.
SJ: Tell us more about your mission, why are you hiking the 48?
RP: I’m hiking them first and foremost for me and the Mighty Quinn. The time I spent in the wheelchair made the simple act of walking a treasure to me. As I brought myself to new summits real and metaphorically I do not believe I can ever express the elation I feel. That said, I’m sharing our experience as a method of awareness and attention for the 2020 Vision Quest. I love the hiking in all aspects of which the summits are only a part. I do not suggest it is right for everyone by any means but I do suggest everyone should find something which is meaningful to them and pursue achieving despite any obstacles perceived. Believe and Achieve is a message I share with many schools and I live that life daily – especially on these mountain hikes!
SJ: And how many peaks to you plan to summit this year?
RP: Many! Your question is a bit of a trick in that for many they think of the summits as part of the 48 and of those there are 16 on our schedule. I am likely to climb many other mountains as well for the sheer enjoyment of the experience and those aren’t scheduled as I simply take advantage of the opportunities as they arrive – sort of like our Belknap explorations not so very long ago!
SJ: Owls Head being your next mountain on your list and the first official mountain of your year; what are you worried or nervous about heading into this trip? Do you have any concerns?
RP: Truthfully I’m not nervous at all. I’m very confident in our safety approach in advance and the judgment we’ll use on the trails. Concerns on the other hand exist for certain. We’ll dodge the more challenging water crossings where my concern for Quinn would be very high. I’m never certain whether we’ll achieve a summit, there are too many variables for that, but we do have a long trek and some new experiences in both the bushwhack and the slide. As an overnight my gear will be a little heavier and that has an impact on me for certain and this will be our longest mileage to date so we’ll have plenty of challenge to go with the experience. One thing for certain is I’ll have my hiking legs back under me by the end of the trip.
RP: This is easy for me, thanks for the softball! When we have pitched our tents and we are deep into the solitude of the Pemi to just share the company of those on this trip I believe we’ll achieve a community amongst ourselves which is tremendous. I cannot wait to sit out there and share stories about what we’ve experienced past and present as well as our hopes for the future. This is one of your favorite mountains Sherpa and that’s part of why more than anyone I wanted you to lead this particular trip. I want to hear the reasons you love this mountain and the entirety of the Pemi while we are sitting right there. That group in that moment on that mountain will likely never come together again but because of this choice I’ll have that moment to recall forever and there’s just so much power in that for me.
SJ: Now.. many people hate the mountain you’re about to venture to. What is it that you truly hope to learn on your journey out there? What are you most wanting to take away from the trip when it comes to the mountain itself?
RP: Just dealing with the Mountain. I have my longest mileage and that’s plenty of distance to savor. I think the project has put a slight tendency and awareness of ‘peak bagging’ but for me there is so much more in every step. I wrote about my “Sense of the summit” as a blind man and certainly the feeling of vast is pretty incredible even blind. Still the treasure is in the woods and along the trails. The sounds, the smells and certainly the solitude all have power for those who reflect enough upon them to appreciate the individual moments along the way. I’ve actually been told that due to my need to hike slower many discover the hike along the way in ways they’d lost when hiking through more quickly. It’s sort of a twist on the old expression but perhaps most powerful on Owl’s Head. The challenge is not to see the forest through the trees but rather to experience the moments along the way; not just notch another summit off the list. All that said, remind me of this on mile 17 of our more than 18 mile round trip effort, will ya?!
SJ: What message would you give the every-day hiker as they monitor your progress throughout the weekend?
RP: (laughing) Well I hope some folks are following our progress throughout Friday and Saturday because that would mean something we are doing has captured their attention a bit. Ultimately though I hope they in some ways realize the symbolism of my simply following my own dreams here and maybe find the inspiration to set their own goals and set about experiencing them! There’s a notion of “Pursuit *AS* Happiness” which I find very meaningful. It’s not the destination as much as the journey for me.
SJ: Beyond Owls Head.. what’s your next adventure?
RP: I get a ten day break from hiking before I return with UNH to undertake the part of the Pemigewassett Wilderness we left off last year! In the itnerim there’s a host of adventures with a couple of school presentations, my continued pursuit of my third degree black belt and the training to work Quinn and I towards a marathon. We keep pretty busy and life is full of adventures of which these glorious mountains are just a part, a fantastic part for sure.
RP: Thank-you for the kind words Sherpa, I feel very blessed with my awareness and appreciation of the value in striving forward towards the positive options available to those willing to make the choices necessary. I think the challenges I’ve faced and the choices I make give me some credibility to all the people with whom we share our presentations and stories. We all have challenges but it’s ultimately always more about the choices we make in response to those challenges. So while we have a host of messages to share about teamwork, communication, achieving through adversity and more; the most powerful message I always want to provide are two things.
2) We influence much of what happens to us in this world and yet some things just happen to us beyond our control. We always have the complete control to choose how we are going to respond to those and the choice we make will impact our life more than any challenge ever could.
SJ: Really looking forward to this weekend Randy and helping you achieve that vision high atop Owls Head. Before we let you go is there anything you’d like to share?
RP: Absolutely but I’m not sure your readers want the 540K words bursting in my mind. How about I leave it at this thought regarding my experience with Sherpa John. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from you about far more than just the hiking knowledge you have to share. I hope to always find the means to be open for the learning and experiences so that I’m growing and hopefully improving myself steadily. All of us are going to fall short of the ideal at times and you’ve put yourself in the celebrity spotlight such that you’ve given some tremendous lessons about Human Potential (Sherpa tm!) and more. Some however will always want to point to the failings which come from the choice to share so much and those people may close themselves to all the positives as well. I personally want to thank you for the strength, courage and perseverance which not only allows you to accomplish so much personally. That same approach also allows you to work through the naysayers and deliver the messages you have for all of us to appreciate. Thank you John and keep up the great work!