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.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What A Little Moonlight Will Do

The moon is nearly full. I saw it last night, in the cold, cold midnight hour when I took Atticus outside before we went to bed.

We had spent the morning and an hour and a half of the afternoon on the 12.4 mile hike to Garfield’s summit and back through frigid temperatures and fresh powder up high. We spent the afternoon and the evening getting the chill out of our bones.

Last night, when I looked up at that moon, it could have been minus 50 degrees and I wouldn’t have felt it. It was that beautiful, that warming. It was then I knew we wouldn’t be hiking during the day today. It is cold again, in the single digits again. But that’s not why we are not hiking under the uplifting bright sunshine and the blue, blue sky of this winter day. Instead we are hiking tonight…under the full moon.

We’ll take the short but steep hike up the ski slopes of Cannon Mountain after the skiing is done and the slopes are closed. At Wildcat they allow hikers to use the side of a trail or two. At Cannon they don’t. Even in the summer they have the slopes roped off to hikers. But when they close and the only company to be found will be the large grooming machines and the snow making guns, it’s a don’t ask/don’t tell proposition where they don’t seem to mind…so long as you avoid the machines.

It will be a relatively quick but painful hike. Steep is always painful for me. But it just goes up, up, up until we reach the top in less than two miles. It will be frigid again tonight, but it’s frigid right now anyway. But tonight, tonight he and me will have the brilliant company of a nearly full moon and the magic of the night.

There is another reason we’ll take the short but steep hike to the top of Cannon Mountain tonight instead of hiking today. Yesterday it was very cold. Very, very cold. Poor Atticus is so small that I believe by waiting an extra 12 hours to hike it will give him a little extra time to regenerate whatever the cold took out of him.