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, February 05, 2008

Snow Today

“The afternoon passed more slowly than a walnut-sized kidney stone.” ~ Tom Robbins

There is a dog sleeping on my foot. He’s been there much of the day. On my foot…against my side…on my desk next to the computer. It’s been a sleepy day for Atticus. It’s a snow day.

In the wee hours of the morning and into daybreak the snow fell heavily. Then it stopped. Then the rain came. Then it stopped. Then the freezing rain came. Then it stopped.

Through it all, Atticus slept. No hiking today.

Tonight a fog lingers in Franconia Notch. It’s a bit warm, so much so that I have a window open and I can hear the wind singing to us. Later it will rain or snow or do something of the sort. Not sure if the wind will continue its song through the snow or rain or freezing rain.

Just down the road and a thousand feet higher in elevation at Lonesome Lake Hut they reported nine inches of snow. I’m interested to see what tomorrow’s predicted rain will do to this snow. Already a crispy crust has formed over the heavy wet and sticky powder. The good news is that when this all stops, whenever that will be, and it is broken out by huffing and puffing but happy snowshoers the conditions should be good, so long as it doesn’t rain or snow too much more on top of what is broken out.

Today’s the first day of the second half of winter and we have peaks to get. But a day like today gives you permission not to sweat it. It’s not like I’d bring Atti out in this stuff and chance getting stuck in freezing rain. It's not like I'd bring myself out in it either. So today there was no hiking and it appears there will be none tomorrow either. This has made for a slow-passing afternoon. I have no idea when we will hike again but when we do, I’ll let you know.

Actually, that’s not completely true. I know we’ll be hiking on Friday, just not sure about Thursday yet. On Friday we’ll have company. Two Newburyport friends are coming up to hike for the day. Current city councilor Tom Jones and former city councilor Gary Roberts will be here with snowshoes on and they’ll help me break through the crust and the sticky wet stuff beneath it as we cut a path to a summit for Atticus.

I’ve hiked with Gary once before, a year and a half ago in summer. He joined Tom, myself, Atticus and another friend on a hike over Lafayette and Lincoln.

Tom Jones has joined Atticus and me before during a couple of hikes in the last couple of winters. Two years ago his first ever hike was with snowshoes up to Middle Tripyramid. Then later in the winter we did Carrigain together. Last winter Tom joined me for our epic trip over Zealand and the Bonds where we got slammed by wind and snow in the middle of our hike. Then later he joined me for two hikes up Whiteface and Passaconaway.

As you can tell by now, I’m picky about who we hike with. I’m rather selfish but I figure I have to be. It has to be all about Atticus. I only hike with those who understand this. They have to know that I could change a hike to a different place on that very day if conditions dictate it, or even cancel. They also have to understand that we go at his pace when the snow is deep or if the trail is icy. Typically those I hike with in winter understand that this is the only time Atticus will allow someone other than me to pick him up. And typically those I hike with in winter are more than happy to pick him up because it’s fun to do and he enjoys the warmth of a quick pick me up.

Try picking Atticus up at any other time and he’ll hop away and give you a guttural growl that amounts to nothing but can be scary if you are not ready for it. He just doesn't allow it. Unless you're hiking with us in winter. Somehow he knows it's best if he allows it in the winter.

This winter you won’t see us hiking with too many people but Tom and Gary may be along for more than one. Other than Tom and Gary the other return character will be Jeff Veino, who hiked several peaks with us last winter and hiked Waumbek with us earlier this winter. That’s Jeff above holding Atticus on the summit of Starr King on the way to Waumbek. (Admit it, you're jealous, you'd love to pick him up too. Who can blame you? He's cute. By the way, I was speaking of Atticus, not Jeff.)