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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

"Argue for your limitations and sure enough they are yours." ~ Richard Bach

We were only climbing these mountains for seven months before we started winter hiking. That was two winters ago. In that first winter we attempted to hike all 48 of the 4,000 foot peaks, nearly all of them by ourselves, leaving friends and family concerned and bewildered. This was new territory for us and no one expected us to finish them all and we didn’t, falling seven peaks shy. I could read it in their faces, seeing this 20 lb dog and this middle aged and overweight fellow, both novices, pitting ourselves against the bitter winter of the White Mountains.
Last winter we set a new goal: hike the 48 in one winter, but this time around we tried to do it twice. Again friends and family shook their heads. I can't really blame them. Who were we dto attempt such an audacious adventure? Some thought us brave, most thought us a couple of fools. We fell short of the goal of 96 peaks in 90 days by four hikes ending up with 81 peaks.
I'm not sure what compelled Atticus and I to get out there and up there. I went into those winters trying to push myself beyond where I'd ever been but also went loaded up with several fears, not the least of which is a fear of heights.

Now here we are again, giving it another shot---two rounds.

Some would say we don’t fit the description of what they expect out of a couple of winter peakbaggers. That's okay. In 46 years of living I have come to realize it’s not my job to fit someone else’s opinion of me and as long as Atticus is healthy and safe I don’t really care all that much what people think he should and shouldn’t be allowed to do up in these mountains. If you ever hike with us you'll see that he loves this and appears to be made for it.

The quote at the top of the page says it all. Like most of you I've struggled my entire life with limitations both self-imposed and those put on me by others. And more often than not I've allowed my path to be directed by those nagging doubts and distractions. But occasionally something comes along and you feel compelled to follow that dream or forever pay the price for not chasing it.

I can't say for sure what compelled us to be up here hiking, to change our lives so much so that we now live up here. I just know it was a passion that called to me and put me on a more genuine and pure path and my life was changed because of it. These mountains, they call to me and it appears they have a song the little guy responds to also. We may not fit the bill for what some would consider winter adventurers, but that's okay. As far as the quote on the top of this post goes, I’ll let others worry about limiting us. I to do my best to ignore those limitations. Being a dog, Atticus was light years ahead of me on this. He has never really worried about what others think. I’m just a bit slower on the uptake but I've come around.

With that said, I’d like to share something with you. It comes from my friend, Manford. In his email it states: This is a story about a guy, a guy like most of us, common, questioning his existences, measuring himself to others, never believing in his abilities or his worth. Then one day, his passion outgrew his fears as he stepped onto a stage, a stage that took him to a place beyond his self imposed prison. Watch the faces of the judges as this guy walks out on the stage. You can almost see what they're thinking as they pre-judge this guy based on his looks and the fact that he's a cell phone salesman. Maybe this guy stopped believing in what people told him for so many years and ultimately started listening to his passion.

This is not hiking related and I’m sure some of you may have seen this, but I cannot get enough of it and thought you might like it too. It's a good lesson in ignoring the constraints we allow others to put on us. Get ready to be inspired by clicking

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