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, March 31, 2008


It’s snowing. It’s snowing ‘cats and dogs’ and Atticus is sleeping on one of my fleece jackets on my desk, with one of my heavy hiking shirts draped over him like a horse blanket. I settled in at my desk to write and he was on the bed behind me but wanted to get closer. He came over, stood up on his hind legs, and put his front paws on the back of my chair, using his nose to nudge the back of my head. This is his way of letting me know he wants to get up on the desk.

For a little while, after I moved him to the desk, he sat looking out the window, hoping, I’m sure, for a glimpse of a squirrel. But then the snow came and I think he’s bored by it because he is now sleeping heavily, little snores emanating from behind my lap top’s screen.

Yesterday was a bluebird day but Atticus and I didn’t hike. I’m just very tired. I’m sure it has everything to do with the passing and funeral of my father and the subsequent visit with my family. Don’t get me wrong, the mingling with siblings went very well and I was sorry to say goodbye to nearly every one of them. But let’s face it, it’s an emotional situation.

Instead of hiking, he and I camped out on the couch. He napped while I took turns reading Eat, Pray, Love (a gift from a friend last week), and napping. It was a good way to spend the day and was just what the doctor ordered. Alas, we still have more peaks to hike but the weather doesn’t look all that great for the rest of the week. We have most likely missed the best day of the week.

Some trails were broken out this weekend but many peaks remain impossible, or nearly impossible and unsafe for a little dog to get to. As for above treeline travel, it’s definitely not conducive to Atticus’ safety since the ice is boilerplate and there is no snow to soften it. I don’t want him slip-sliding off a ridge. Last week, one of the more prolific hikers in the northeast canceled his Presidential Traverse over the eight mountains of that range due to the icy conditions.

The loop over North Twin, South Twin and Galehead remains incomplete. Galehead was broken out, as had been North Twin, but then it snowed again and another veteran hiker couldn’t find her way along the North Twin Trail this weekend and had to turn back. The trail between North Twin, South Twin and Galehead has gone about six weeks without having been broken out.

The Wildcat Ridge Trail remains impossibly impassible. The snow is so deep up there that the trees block the way like some menacing beasts from a sci-fi movie. This weekend, hikers reached Wildcat D by hiking up the ski area and then turning around and heading down. They then drove down to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail where they hiked into Carter Notch and the hut, picked up three other hikers, then made their way up to Wildcat A, which hadn’t been broken out in more than six weeks, I do believe. This was a strong group heading up from the hut and a stretch of 0.7 miles took them two hours!

As for snow depth up here in the last day of March, the “backcountry weather and trail conditions” on the Mt. Washington Observatory website reports the following snow depth for Lonesome Lake Hut, which stands at 2,760 feet of elevation, just a few miles up the road from us: 83 inches. That’s six feet and nine inches of old snow!

What a winter it has been.