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, July 05, 2009

We Thought He Was Bigger

There was some sun yesterday but not much of it. Rain, or the threat of it, was always close by. That’s two and a half weeks of dreariness. So you can imagine the excitement when Atticus and I awoke this morning to blue skies and the puffiest white clouds I’ve ever seen!

We were out the door by 6:00 a.m. and on our hilly 6.6 mile loop. We walked by the Wentworth Golf Club before it woke up, crossed over the Wildcat River on the Stone Bridge, turned left at the post office and walked uphill on Black Mountain Road for a bit more than a mile and a half. Gosh, this uphill sends knives in my low back ever since my falls on Madison, it so steep!

Once we crested the hill at the Christmas Farm Inn my lungs and heart relaxed and the knives came out of my back. The road leveled for a bit and the cool air, so reminiscent of autumn in New England, refreshed us. There are some beautiful homes and stunning views on this road, then a large farm and open fields with North and South Doublehead Mountain ever watchful. We kept walking until we reached the base of Black Mountain. There we turned left onto an Moody Farm Road and blessedly the uphill part our journey was mostly done.

The great thing about walking these country lanes so early in the morning is that we can walk in the middle of the road and if traffic is coming we can hear it approaching in the distance. After a mile or so that road ended and we turned left on Carter Notch Road, following the Wildcat River and the pastoral beauty of back road beauty. When we came to the stately spread of the Eagle Mountain House, one of the biggest inns here, we started to encounter a few people.

The Eagle Mountain House has its own golf course, just across the street. The scenery is beautiful, but it’s clear the course is nowhere near as nice as the Wentworth’s. Just down the street on the right that is the smaller but quaint Carter Notch Inn. Once beyond this we were home free. We walked downhill next to the cascading Jackson Falls while looking up at the prominence of North Moat off in the distance. After the falls we walked by a few folks out on the
porch of the Wentworth Inn (the town’s second biggest inn), the antique library and the old white church.

We stopped, as we do most every morning, at the J-Town Deli. I got the paper and I also got an iced coffee and we ordered a sesame bagel to share. (I do miss Abraham’s Bagels in Newburyport. There’s nothing quite like it up here. Perhaps there’s nothing quite like Abraham’s anywhere other than on Liberty Street in Newburyport.) John and Genn have owned the J-Town Deli for the last four years and they are a friendly couple who makes everyone feel welcome. That includes Atticus, who more often than not is offered a dog biscuit.

We sat at one of the outside tables and a caravan of hikers who stayed in one of the local inns soon arrived. When they were coming out, one of the women stopped and asked if she could pet Atticus.

Atticus, go say hello,” I told him. While he was bouncing over to say hello, she got an excited look on her face.

“Oh my God, is that THE Atticus? The mountain climber?”

“We were talking about him at dinner last night.” She paused. A surprised look came on her face. “We thought he’d be much bigger.”

“Nope. What you see is what you get.”

She told the other members of her party who it was she was petting and before too long a digital camera appeared and photos were snapped. At the end the woman asked if she could pose with Atticus. But when she got to close to him he pulled away from her. When she promised to keep her hands to herself he returned as sat next to her and more photos were taken.

Then it was back home to write – first a couple of letters, then a new chapter. This is a good life. All we’re missing the one we both love. When she’s home again, we’ll be a family.

(Photo of Wentworth Golf Club and the small covered bridge is taken from Jackson Chamber website.)

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