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, June 30, 2008

Another Death in the Mountains

Another death on the hiking trails in Franconia Notch. This one took place this weekend, making it the third in half a year.

First there were the two hikers who climbed up on the Falling Waters Trail while the weather forecast was screaming for snow and high winds. One is still alive; the other was frozen as solid as a board and dead when the search and rescue people got to their bodies on Little Haystack, not too far from the relative safety of the trees.

Then came the woman who was hiking up Falling Waters with three members of her family when a large rock broke loose, came crashing down, and she died after being hit by it.

This weekend a body was retrieved, after a three-day search and rescue effort, after a Massachusetts man decided to come north to take his own life. His car was parked at the Liberty Spring trail head parking lot. It is the trail preceding the Falling Waters Trail from the south. I’m not sure how far up the trail he was when the dog sniffed out his body. All the deaths have occurred within minutes from where Atticus and I live.

These mountains are beautiful but harsh. At least this time they didn’t take a life, they just gave the man a place to end his own.

My thoughts are with his family and with those rescue workers who found his corpse.

An article about this man’s death can be
found here in the Union Leader.

"They've been here for three whole days," said Ted Merri- man. "Fish and Game was here leading these volunteers all night to find my brother. How do you say thanks for that?" A search for Dan Merriman began late Friday, after the despondent man sent an e-mail to his family, telling them that he was heading to the White Mountains, where he had often hiked, and that he would end his life.

Another article, about people killing themselves in national parks can be found here. It ran in the New York Times this weekend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom...
Re: 6/29 & 6/30 blogs about death in the mountains.

Some (10 ?) years ago a young man from a southern state was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and given just a few months to live. With the loving support of his family, he determined to hike the AT alone from south to north in the time he had left. Imagine his family's pain...and their love... in accepting his wish and watching him disappear down the trail. He hiked all the way to Liberty Spring campsite, 1500+ miles, where he fell ill. Still, he gathered inner strength and made it up to and along the ridge. There, a hiker found him lying on the trail...alive but near death. Help was sent for at Greenleaf, but his request was to be allowed to die where he lay, in peace, surrounded by the natural world. He died quietly in the deep of the night, on the ridge.
I read in AT hiker diaries that he did not confide his condition to those he met while hiking the Trail. He concentrated on living rather than dying. To celebrate his life, his family & friends made a memorial hike to the place where he died. Perhaps they do this annually, but I do not know.

My memory fades and details skew...but I believe he was just age 21, and last name of Cramm.
His death touched me deeply...because he was PURPOSELY living. I still wonder about him and his family, and think of the compassionate hiker or hut croo waiting there with him in the mountain night.

just thought you might appreciate this story...