Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our Winter Quest Ends

The calendar reminds me today is the last day of winter. It ends just past 8:00 tonight. To be quite honest, I’ve had this date circled on my calendar since the end of last winter for I had hoped to be hiking straight through this last day. I figured we’d need every last hour of the season to finish our quest. However, our winter ended on Sunday morning.

The snowstorm wasn’t quite what was expected and that gave us hope that we’d be able to finish our last four hikes: Isolation; Moriah; a traverse of the Carters and Cats (5 peaks); and a Presidential traverse (8 peaks). After gearing up and getting ready to go I checked the forecast and it looked okay for the Carters and Cats but as I looked at the higher summits forecast for above tree line conditions and the extended forecast I came to realize a Pressie traverse before Tuesday was out of the question. There is just too much exposure, too many miles above tree line that could take their toll on me, and more importantly, Atticus.

The goal this winter was to hike each of the 48 twice. In falling short it didn’t matter to me whether we had 81 peaks or 88 and so that Sunday morning I pulled the plug on our winter quest, packed up the cabin and returned home to a Newburyport where I’ve become a stranger.

Before heading home on Sunday we stopped by Steve Smith’s Mountain Wanderer and we talked for quite a while. In reflecting on falling short in my winter goals for the second straight winter and on our successes these past three months I came to realize that since May of 2005 when we started hiking these mountains Atticus and I have stood on top of 239 4,000-footers. (There may be a few more; that number was just off the top of my head.)

And so we’re back in Newburyport licking my wounds, thinking about what we could have done differently. But there was not too much. There were precious few above tree line days and we took advantage of nearly every one of them.

We’ll go back and take a shot at a Pressie Traverse and this summer. I think we’ll also go for a one-day Pemi loop and there will be many hikes when we just go for the scenery, not necessarily 4,000-foot peaks. And there will also be plenty of traverses. I’ve come to love the longer get-lost-in-the-adventure hikes.

I feel compelled to report that the most important goal this winter was to keep Atticus as safe as possible and I’m happy I didn’t take chances with him in bad weather days. Yesterday he was sprinting down the beach like a demon, happy as can be with the whiff of spring in the air.

1 comment:

Dawn Middlestead said...

I hope you and Atticus were proud of your accomplishment. 81 peaks...wow...what an incredible, wonderful journey. The last sentence of the Blog...the icing on the cake for all that had just taken place over the last few months.