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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Atticus (& Tom) On New Hampshire Public Television's "Windows to the Wild"

Atticus watching Willem, Phil, and Steve film the introduction of
the "Windows to the Wild" episode we were on with them.
The ninety-minute long "Adventures with Willem" from New Hampshire Public Television is now on-line and you can watch it here.  It's a compilation of segments from many of Willem Lange's adventures from his show "Windows to the Wild".  The entire ninety minutes is a joy but for those who like watching Atticus where he is happiest, there are two segments in the program with Atticus (and me) in it.  The first starts at 44:26 and runs through minute 52:00. 

While Atticus cannot speak, I will speak for both of us by saying how much we appreciate Willem's kind words in the last two minutes of that first stretch. 

A little later in the show one of the producers of "Windows to the Wild", Phil Vaughn, is interviewed and we are included in this segment as well.  It's only a three minute piece and it runs from 55:00 through 58:00. 

You can see it on-line by  clicking here

If you are interested in watching the entire original episode we were on, which first aired on March 29, 2013, you can watch it by clicking here.  It's about 26:00 long.

We so enjoyed our time with Willem and Phil and Steve, the other producer, that we're planning to head out with them again, most likely in late August.  And this time around we'll do our best to take Will up a mountain with us and it will air on a future "Windows to the Wild".

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"The World Loves You, Will!" (Even A Grouchy, Old Bear, It Seems)

Will’s leading a blessed last chapter.  Better yet, make that: he’s leading several blessed chapters since coming to live with us.

I’ve told Will’s story many times here but I’ll offer up a quick refresher for new readers.  At fifteen he was dropped off at a kill shelter in New Jersey by the only family he ever knew and was saved from certain death by the good people at New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue.  He then came to us arthritic, deaf, mostly-blind, neglected, and aggressive.  Atticus and I simply opened up our place to give him a place to die, but nearly fourteen months later he’s thriving.

Yes, thriving – even though he can’t walk very far because of his hips, nor can he see much more than shapes and shadows, and he’s still deaf.  He has, however, stopped snarling and biting, and he actually smiles.  He likes to play, be held, and he now often falls asleep cradled like a baby in my arms.  He participates with us, follows me from room to room, and is thrilled to be part of our little family.  

Atticus, who will never completely embrace anyone other than me, remains distant but protective of Will.  On a few occasions when Will has been coughing or choking on something Atticus approaches quite casually and nudged him with his nose and the coughing or choking stopped.  When a young bear appeared on the edge of our yard recently, Atticus just as calmly walked toward Will, who was unaware of the bear, and sat between them facing the bear.  When we are out and about and Will is walking in an unfamiliar field or on a beach, Atticus sits and serves as an anchor to the perpetually circling Will, who knows to return to Atti from time to time.  That’s about it: no cuddling, nuzzling, kissing, or playing takes place between the two of them – no matter how much others want to believe that’s the case.  But that’s enough for me.  It’s simply Atticus being Atticus.

Will with flowers sent to him from Pennsylvania.
Atticus simply doesn’t chum up with other dogs or animals. He’s patient with them, respectful of them, he even seems to be calming to them, but he doesn’t play with them.  

There is something special about the serenity emanating from Atticus that fascinates me.  Children who have always been afraid of other dogs – even to the point where therapy was needed – have approached Atticus, sat next to him, and run their hands over his soft hair.  He’s been approached by chipmunks, squirrels, voles, birds, fox, moose, and bear.  And when Will had daily temper tantrums during those first few months he always went after me and never Atticus.  He’d whirl around in seemingly uncontrolled rage, see Atticus sitting looking at him, and he’d immediately turn back to me with his aggression. 

I’m not smart enough to explain what affect Atticus has on other animals but it appears this charm may have extended to Will.  This morning we were outside, Will circling in the center of the yard while I carried Atticus and his injured paw down the stairs to the edge of the property under the trees where he likes to be – far enough away so that Will won’t bother him.

I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye that was not Will’s light body, but a big, bulky, dark mass right beside Will.  It was Butkus, the old grouch of a bear who visited our yard quite often a few years ago but we’d since lost track of.  He’s returned this summer and we’ve seen him three times over the past two weeks.  I looked up and Butkus was within ten feet of Will and side-by-side, and he seemed to have paused in his lumbering gait to watch Will.  Then, just as I readied to charge at Butkus with arms waving and my voice raised something made me stop and watch.  I’m not sure what it was.  Perhaps it was the way Butkus was looking at Will.  Within a few seconds the old bear simply walked on by and entered the trees and disappeared.  So curious.  So wonderful. 

Yes, I’m well aware that bears are wild, unpredictable, and can be troublesome and that Butkus doesn't want to be friends.  I’m also aware that more often than not our local bears are more afraid of us than we are of them and they’ll avoid dogs at all costs.  I also know they seem to be drawn to Atticus and on more than one occasion a bear has sat looking at Atticus as Atticus sat looking back.  I also know that a mother bear and her two cubs have now been in our yard four times over the last several weeks.  The first time at a distance and in the trees leading down to the Ellis River behind the house.  On two other occasions the mother and her curious cubs have walked to the edge of the yard as I laughed while playing with Will while Atticus observed.  They watched for a bit and then returned the way they came. 

Their last visit wasn’t much different than what we experienced with Butkus this morning.  Atticus and I were sitting in the Adirondack chairs in the back corner of the yard while I played with Will who was laying on his back on my thighs.  From that back corner right behind us the mother and her cubs emerged within a few feet, the mother keeping herself between us and the cubs, they all looked at us, and then made their way across the yard.  Beforeleaving the yard the mother bear stopped and looked back at us for a few seconds, and then she was gone.

These wondrous things are happening at a time when folks from twelve different states and two foreign countries have sent flowers to Will, a dog they’ve never met, because they’ve been captured by his story and have given their hearts to him.  Why send him flowers?  Because I noticed last summer that Will enjoys smelling flowers and I’ve bought them for him every week since.  However, it wasn’t until recently that I shared this on our Facebook page.  Since that post our local florist Carrie Scribner, owner of Dutch Bloemen Winkel, and 1-800-Flowers have been dropping off flowers at our place for Will from friends he’s never met. 

Atticus has always been special, but it’s been a pleasure to watch Will develop over the past year and start to shine in his own way.  He’s recaptured his flagging spirit, polished up that dented soul, and he’s enjoying his life – no matter how much is left of it.  It’s all more than I ever expected or could have hoped for.
"The world loves you, Will!" ~ Donna Haas

What do I attribute his resurrection to?  There are lots of things the logical mind can grasp: better food, medication, daily care, an improved overall quality of life.  But then there’s the intangibles, those little mysterious miracles that give us reason to sit back and wonder. There’s the presence of soulful Atticus and all those prayers and good wishes coming to Will from thousands of people who follow his happy story on our Facebook page.  

Will’s story stands in stark contrast to the dark, hopeless, and heartbreaking stories the media feeds us each day.  There’s so much darkness out there we’ve become numb to most tragedy.  Every now and again though, we are fortunate to get a glimpse of something sweet and special, even if it is something as small as the magical journey of one little broken dog from tragedy to redemption. 

I believe in happy endings.  I also believe in the power of love (when one is brave enough to leave the past where it belongs and let love in) and I believe in the osmotic power of prayer and friendship, even when it comes from afar.

When flowers come for Will they often come with notes.  The other day Donna Haas sent flowers from Pennsylvania by way of Carrie Scribner’s flower shop.  Her note seems to sum up much of Will’s happy resurrection: “The world loves you, Will! Enjoy the flowers.  Sending you lots of love.”

One of my favorite quotes from Einstein is: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed.”

Does the compassion and patience of Atticus, the overwhelming support of strangers from around the world . . . and even what appeared to be a bit of kindness from a grumpy old bear contribute to the now-special life of Will?  I can’t say for sure, but I’d like to believe that’s the case.  I chalk it up to Einstein’s description of the mysterious for that gives me hope for this world we live in.

Butkus, after passing by Will this morning and passing into the trees.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Following Atticus Has Meant Learning Compassion

I changed something in my life this week.  It wasn’t an earthshattering alteration, but I feel good about it nonetheless.  Writing about it here and now is the only reason anyone (other than my close friends) will know there’s something different. 

Last year I decided to switch to a plant-based diet because I didn’t want to eat animals or animal products anymore.  I did well and was quite happy with my new way of eating and I only deviated on a handful of occasions while out with a friend eating cheese on my pizza or when I faulted and didn’t realize there was butter or milk or eggs in something I ate.  But that didn’t matter too much to me since I’m not about beating myself up about any of this. 

You see, I wasn’t out to change the world, simply to change myself. I stopped eating animals because I didn’t want them to have to suffer for my desires. 

Interestingly enough, when some friends learned of my vegan diet they were immediately threatened by my choice.  Perhaps they thought that I would then become an angry apostle of veganism and they actually became angry with me.  But that wasn’t my intent.  I don’t really care what anyone else eats.  That’s their business, just as what I eat is my business.  Besides, who was I to criticize them after spending half a century devouring McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut as if my life depended on it?

Recently, however, I feel as though I’d not gone as far as I could.  The more I look into how animals needlessly suffer for
, the more I realized there were further steps I could be taking.  My clothes for instance.  I bought a new pair of Keen sandals this past year but there are animal products in them.  I could have just has easily have gone with some vegan sandals but I’ve always bought Keens. It was a matter of habit and convenience.  And my bathroom cabinets – they were filled with the usual toothpastes, shaving creams, soaps, shampoos, antiperspirants, etc.  So this past week I decided that I would go the next step and from now on I would only buy cruelty-free clothing and my toiletries and household cleaning products are now all cruelty-free. 

What is cruelty-free? 
Wikipedia (talk about convenience) defines cruelty-free as: “
is a term often used by animal rights activists to describe a product or activity which does not require death or harm to animals. This includes products which have been tested on animals, since these tests are often extremely painful and lead to the suffering and untimely death of hundreds of thousands of animals every year.”

So why am I telling you about this if I’m not asking you to change?  I’m simply writing this as a public contract to myself, just as I have made much of my life public on our Facebook page, on our blog, or in our memoir. 

And what’s created this change in me from a fellow who loved his McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, and Ben & Jerry’s?  I can give you three reasons: Maxwell Garrison Gillis; Atticus Maxwell Finch; and William Lloyd Garrison.  Over the past thirteen years I have loved these three friends dearly and they’ve helped me to see things differently, just as I’ve helped them to live their lives differently had they not been with me.  Each has been a mutually beneficial partnership.

I’m no longer one of those people who says “My dog saved me”.  I just don’t believe that to be the case.  Not my case, anyway.  I’m now a person who believes that friendship transforms all of us and I prefer to think of the animals I’ve shared my life with as my friends.  I’ve changed because of them; just as they’ve changed because of me. 

Lord knows I wouldn’t want any of my friends, two-legged or four-legged, to have to suffer so that someone can wash their hair, brush their teeth, wear a leather belt, or have a meal.  And since I don’t think of dogs as that much different than us, and I don’t think of dogs all that different than pigs, cats, rats, monkeys, cows, bears, foxes, moose, eagles, hawks, and many other living creatures, I also see my own reflection in all of them as well.  I don’t believe in human slavery, therefore I don’t believe in animal slavery either.  I guess this is all part of my soul’s progression.  I’m becoming who I want to become.

Before you go thinking I’m too strident about all of this. I have to tell you that I’m not a fan of the vegan police – those holier than thou activists who seem to be angry about everything.  (They are all or nothing activists who even get angry at other vegans for not being “vegan enough”!)  Who I am a fan of is of compassionate people like Kathy Freston, Gene Baur, Lindsay Nixon, Rip Essyltyn, Dreena Burton and others in the vegan movement who use compassion and lead by example.

Recently I read somewhere that deciding to live cruelty-free is an easy thing to do.  It may be, but deciding to live that way and living that way are two different things.  The switch is not easy, not for most of us anyway.  I’ve had to break bad habits, give up things that have always been convenient, and I’ve had to start thinking in an entirely different way.  In her book, The Lean, Kathy Freston goes about helping people make the switch to healthier, vegan eating with a commonsense approach of doing something simple each day to make the step by step switch.  She teaches us to lean into the change.  That’s what I’ve done. 

Here’s what I like about my own progression to this new lifestyle.  I now feel more in tune with myself and with animals.  I don’t feel so hypocritical anymore – saying I love animals and ignoring what they had to go through to get to my plate and into my belly.  And more than anything I’m becoming more thoughtful.  I think about my place in the world and the choices I make and who they are impacting. 
Life is a journey and this is where mine has taken me.  It’s not the way I planned or expected it, but it feels right. 

Joseph Campbell, the late mythologist, said,
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Following Atticus and his obvious compassion toward other animals (regardless of the species) has helped me understand compassion, while taking in unwanted and elderly Max and later Will has helped me exercise it as I never have.  And using the Golden Rule of treating them as I wish to be treated has helped me grow and transform in life.  Such is the gift of true friendship.  

(Following Atticus has lead to a more compassionate way of life for me.)
(Bringing in Will, an elderly special needs dog, has helped me exercise compassion.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"The earth laughs in flowers." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Will enjoys flowers from Kathryn Payne, a woman
in Colorado Springs, Colorado he's never met.)
believe in happy endings.  I just never expected one for Will after meeting him for the first time when he was transferred to us in a Connecticut parking lot by a good-hearted trio from the New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue thirteen months ago.

After the five hour drive back to Jackson I was utterly depressed and wondered how long I should keep him alive for.  That’s how hopeless he was, how much pain he was in, how angry this little dog was.  I remember thinking, “What have I gotten us into?”

When we stopped along the Kancamagus Highway and I went to get him out of the car to stretch his legs he whipped his head around and sunk his teeth into my thumb, punctured a tendon, and held on for all he was worth.  At that moment something funny happened to me.  Instead of jerking back or getting angry with him I suddenly put myself in his place as my blood trickled down his throat. 

Here was a fifteen year old dog with cataracts and very limited sight.  He was deaf, in pain, and just a week or so before he’d been deposited in a kill shelter by the only family he’d ever known.  I imagined how I would feel.  Abandoned in a strange setting, cold, alone, without those he’d known for all those years.  It had to be a shock to him.  I imagined he felt betrayed, frightened, angry – and utterly alone.  Then when a good-hearted soul from the shelter knew how desperate his plight was they called NJSR and Will at least got out of the shelter but in his head he didn’t know his life had been saved. I imagine all he knew is that he was being shuttled from person to person on his way to ending up here in Jackson and that had to feel demoralizing.  He had, after all, lost his home, even if it wasn’t much of one.  Imagine how discarded and defeated he had to feel – how utterly empty and alone.

In those first few days I talked to our vet and wondered how long I should keep him alive for because yes, he was alive, but not a life I’d want or any animal should have to endure.  But I also continued to put myself in his place, even when he bit me as often as he did. 

The first morning in Jackson he thrashed as I carried him outside to go to the bathroom, shivered in the cool May morning air, and tried to bite me again as I held up his weakened hips as he went to the bathroom.  When we made it back inside I put him down and he came after me.  Atticus wisely jumped up on the couch as Will snarled and flashed his teeth. 

I ended up sitting on the floor in front of the couch and let Will approach me.  I let him set the pace.  Eventually I was petting him and he lay down in front of me and fell asleep with his paw on my leg.  I remember thinking, “I get it, Will.  You want to be in charge.  You want things on your terms.”

One week turned into two and I still believed we were only giving him a place to die with dignity.  But for some reason I spent the money to get his rotten teeth cleaned and had one painful one removed.  And each day, as much as he was everything Atticus wasn’t (and I don’t mean that in a positive way) I did my best to imagine what it was like to be Will. 

One morning Atticus and I came home from a walk and I noticed that this little deaf dog was sleeping with his ear pressed up against the leg of the coffee table and I knew then was feeling the vibrations coming from the speakers on top of the table as music played.  From that moment on Will always had music to listen to – or to feel. 

Soon after that I noticed him lingering in the backyard, even though he couldn’t stand in one place for very long, sniffing the wild flowers.  He’d do this whenever I took him outside.  So one day I bought him flowers and left them by his bed when he was sleeping and he woke up to them and buried his face in them and went back to sleep.  When he eventually got up to get a drink he returned to his flowers and lay down next to them with his cloudy eyes and rested his head in them.

From that moment on Will not only had music, he also had flowers nearby. 

Will’s come a long way since those first weeks.  The death row dog with little reason to live has embraced life.  He’s become loving and seeks out love.  He’s even become a fine teacher. He has overcome several serious obstacles many I know fail to clear as he shows us it’s never too live, never too late to love, never too late to be loved, and never too late to trust. 

Each morning, after he eats his breakfast, he comes over to the couch where I’m sitting with Atticus and he nudges my foot with his nose and I reach my fingers out to him and the mouth that used to bite now gently licks my fingertips and I know what he wants.  I pick him up and cradle his body against my chest and turn sideways so he can look outside.  He likes that even though all he seems to see are shapes and shadows and movement.  He puts his head side by side with mine and leans against me as he gazes silently for several minutes.  Eventually his head sags, his breathing gets deeper, and I’ll hear a snore.  Soon his head is resting on my chest over my heart and he’s in a little ball in my arms sleeping soundly and, more importantly, safely. 

And the little dog who didn’t ever seem to know when Atticus and I were coming going – or care, now comes out of the bedroom within a minute of us returning home on those occasions we go out without him. I tell myself he feels the vibration of the door closing.  And when he sees me he tries to jump up to say hello but his hips are too weak from all that time he had been kept in a crate to keep him out of the way.  So he does a succession of happy little bunny hops and he whimpers an equally happy song as he excitedly comes to me to play.  And those eyes that can’t see much, they are still clouded with cataracts, but they now shine with love and belonging. 

Last week I told a story on Facebook about how I get flowers for Will every week and how when we go to Carrie Scribner’s wonderful flower shop here in Jackson, Dutch Bloemen Winkel, the ladies started asking if the flowers are for Will.  If they are they go with even more fragrant flowers.  (I love that they ask!)

That’s how far Will has come in his new life.  People care about him.   Carrie and her staff care what he likes. He’s often mentioned by Roy Prescott on WMWV’s morning radio show here in the Mount Washington Valley, and was even a guest on it.  And whenever we stop at For Your Paws Only to buy food, if he is not with us, Kendra or one of the others will ask, “How’s Will doing?”  And if he is with us they fawn over him as he walks around the store.  And people around town now greet him as they’ve always greeted Atticus when we walk the loop with Will in his wagon.  “Good afternoon, Atticus.  Good afternoon, Will.  Hey, Tom.” 

It is a life reclaimed and one worth living and with it come’s a lot of happiness and laughter in our little home.  But last week there were tears too – however, they were happy ones.

You see, when I wrote about Will’s love of flowers and my ritual of picking them up for him each week, some were left on my car with an unsigned note – “For Will.”  The next day another bunch appeared with another note.  This time they were left on our stairs and the note said, “For Will, we know he loves his flowers.”  Then there was a knock on the door and there was Carrie with a beautiful arrangement sent all the way for Will from a woman in Colorado Springs.  Kathryn Payne and her boyfriend, Bryan Dresser, a member of the Air Force, follow us on Facebook and have become big fans of Will and Bryan saw to it that Will received flowers from Kathryn with a note that read, “We love you Will!” 

When Bryan read of
Carrie’s Dutch Bloemen Winkel he quickly called and placed the order for Will. When I read that card and sat down on the floor with Will as he sniffed those beautiful flowers, my eyes filled with tears that came straight from my heart.    

Even more flowers came in over the next few days, all for Will, all from people who read about his love of them.  I put them in a vase (or a mason jar, since I’ve run out of vases), and Will sits in front of them as best he can (he can’t sit for long with those long-neglected hips) and he smells them and something tells me he thinks he's found heaven!

To this day I continue to put myself in Will’s place (just as I’ve always done with Atticus) as I did that first day he bit me.  The difference is that I no longer think of him being angry, frightened, abandoned, betrayed, and utterly alone in this world.  What I think of is how joyful he is and how he celebrates the little things in life, and how a once unwanted dog has turned into a much loved soul and not just here in our little home, but from people all around the country and even the world.  Somehow I believe he feels it. 

I do believe in happy endings and Will is proof that they do exist.  For once there was a little dog who was left to die – instead he chose to live!   

(If anyone in this world was made to work with flowers it's Carrie Scribner.  She has a gift that's as natural as it is unexplainable and we highly recommend Dutch Bloemen Winkel. Her website is and the number is (603) 383-9696. Check her out if you need flowers in the Mount Washington Valley.  We're thrilled to have her just down the street in our little village!)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dreaming of Evans Notch

My broken foot - getting better by the week - still aches occasionally so I'm giving it a little longer rest before hitting the hiking trails.  Over the past six weeks Atticus has been more than a little patient with me and whenever I get frustrated about missing so much great hiking weather I remind myself (as I swat black flies on the back of my neck in the backyard) that in another two weeks we will be back on a mountaintop, my foot will be healed (or well enough to hike), and the thick of black fly season will be gone.

So today I'm sitting at my writing desk looking at a map, and daydreaming about some quiet time up high away from the constant roar of Bike Week just outside of my window.  The worn map traced by my fingers and smoothed by my hands has been folded and unfolded more times than I can remember.  And when I’m like this – away from the trails and looking forward to getting back out there – as I'm studying it, looking at the aging lines on the paper, I fantasize I that I am Long John Silver captivated by a map of Treasure Island, or Bilbo Baggins with a crinkled copy of the map to the Lonely Mountain and all the treasure hidden inside of it.

Maps have always had that effect on me.  They take me away from where I am and, at times, who I am.  They fertilize my imagination and open up entirely new worlds.  Anyone who hikes can tell you that a map in the hands of one without imagination is as flat as the world before Christopher Columbus came around.  But for those of us with adventure in our hearts, paper maps are three dimensional.  We look at where we will start from and where we are going to and then we remember every hike we've ever taken and how it's never quite that simple.  You don't simply go from Point A to Point B.  It's not about stopping and ending, it's about the journey that lies between the trailhead and the summit.  Hiking, I learned, is a lot like life.  We have our goals, start out with high hopes, but along the way the world meets us and challenges confront us.  Keep the goal in mind and understand the tests we'll undoubtedly face and we do fine, but step away from that reality and it's all so difficult.

So when I study a map, as I've been doing all morning with this crinkled copy of the Chatham Trails Association, Inc. Map of the Cold River Valley and Evans Notch, I keep space in my mind for the unimaginable.  After all, one never knows what's waiting for us out there.  There are the outward tests, and then those that sit within us.  Respecting those two allows us to understand that it's not just about starting, summiting, returning to the car, and getting something to eat afterward.  What awaits is the mystery of the forest, the sparkling and enchanting streams and rivers that can either charm us or sweep us away if we are not careful; rock slides; wind and rain; heat and snow; and the seeds of fear and thrill of the unknown.  It all adds up to the possibility of adventure whenever we leave home, leave the car, and enter the forest on a shady trail with only a backpack to carry everything we'll need.  What happens between leaving the known behind and returning to it is what makes hiking nearly mythical for us.

As I've elevated, iced, and wrapped my aching foot over the past month and a half my mind has drifted off to the trails and the golden, diffused light that pierces the wooded darkness in early morning, the magnificent blue ocean of sky filled with great billowing ships in the form of cumulous clouds, and that sense of working hard to get to such a heavenly place. 

In these tempting daydreams I’m drawn repeatedly to Evans Notch.  It is the forgotten notch or, for some, the unknown notch.  It exists on the border between New Hampshire and Maine and it's not easy to get to, especially for readers of the Northcountry News since it's far to the east and there is no direct route.  Being "forgotten" or "unknown" also means that nearly every time we've been there it's also been quiet and uncrowded.  On a stormy day it can feel desolate, but on a pitch-perfect June day it is heavenly, thanks to the peace that envelops you on any one of its peaks. 

Since none of the summits come close to four thousand foot high the peakbaggers often leave it alone and that only lends to its allure.  Add in views from the tops of mountains with names like Caribou, Blueberry, Speckled, the Baldfaces, and Eagle Crag and it even sounds like something from a different world.  And if you ever have stood on high on these peaks, walked along the open ledges, and taken in the view with nary another person around you come to understand that this is hiking at its purest.  No crowds.  Serene trails.  A good chance to see a moose or a bear.  And views – glorious, expansive, and stunning views.  Mount Washington and her neighbors in the Presidential Range can be seen in all their glory, but from this different vantage point they feel like a world away. 

To hike in Evans Notch feels like playing hooky.  It’s better than just going on a hike, it’s going on a hike far from the conga line of Franconia Ridge or the Crawford Path.  It’s a step back in time and into your unbridled imagination.  It’s the kind of hiking you first fell in love with when you daydreamed about getting away from it all.

So today, as I send this off to my dear editor, I think I may very well be crazy for sharing this special spot with others.  Then again, I know it will never be overly crowded and that’s part of what makes it so dear to me.  Perhaps we’ll see you there; most likely though, we won’t.