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.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Travels With Charlie Goes Traveling

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked.” ~ John Steinbeck

Here in Franconia Notch the summer winds on. Halfway through August the mornings and evenings are taking on a hint of autumn cool. Nights are perfect for sleeping with the windows open. Being this late in the summer, it also means that the number of Appalachian Trail through hikers stopping off in Lincoln are becoming fewer and fewer.

I’ve given many rides to those who come off the AT a couple of miles north from here on Route 3 and are looking to re-supply and spend a night in Lincoln. (That means I’ve learned to carry a bottle of Frebreze fabric freshener in my car for when they leave the car but leave their ripe body odors behind.)

A few weeks ago I crammed three hikers and a dog into the car with Atticus and me. The poor dog, an older Australian Cattle Dog, looked very tired. When I found out where they hikers were staying in town I made a return visit and dropped off a steak for the dog.

This morning I gave two more hikers a ride from downtown Lincoln back into the Notch. One of the fellows, a 20-something from Arkansas, saw that I had a copy of Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie” in the car.

“Oh, ‘Travels with Charlie’, I’ve always wanted to read that,” he said.

I thought for a moment and then said, “Why don’t you take it along on the trail with you? It’s small and doesn’t weigh much. I think you’ll enjoy it.”

He was as giddy with me offering him Steinbeck as the Cattle Dog was happy with the steak.

“Travels with Charlie”, the story of his 10,000 mile journey around the United States with his poodle, Charlie, in a camping trailer on the back of his pick-up truck, is one of the few books I want to keep in my library. There will come a day when I get another copy for myself but for now I’m content in knowing that the young man carrying it with him across the White Mountains on his way to Baxter State Park in Maine, will find a kinship with Steinbeck, another restless traveler nearly half a century earlier. There's something fitting about my worn paperback going on this journey.

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