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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Our Big Trip, Six Weeks In


I have lost track of time. However, studying the calendar and adding up the days tells me we are now on Day 42. The original plan was 60 days, and I think we’ll come close to meeting that mark. We’re not quite at the three-quarter mark and yet time is running out on us. We need to be in La Grange, Illinois for a book event on July 13 and Andyville, Kentucky on July 15. I’m looking forward to both those events, but I also realize they’ll serve as a reality check that the daydreaming part of this odyssey will be over.


This has me doing something I haven’t done much of. I need to plan our days out carefully between now and Chicago to maximize what I want to see and do in the west. 

This evening, Samwise and I took a leisurely walk, then drove through the temperate air over to Whitefish, a few towns away, to visit their remarkable dog park. He is a social animal, more so than I am, and I see to his needs. I find plenty to talk about with those I meet, but I can also last days without conversation, especially when I am at home.

We met a genial fellow there who is originally from New Hampshire but has lived out here for more than a decade. Turns out he’s on the dog park committee and was justifiably proud that the New York Times listed their park as one of the ten best in the country recently. As Samwise played with his dogs we talked about New Hampshire and, before we left, I gave him copies of Following Atticus and Will’s Red Coat.

I don’t do that often, but it seemed the right fit and, he was quite pleased.

As we drove back to our hotel, the top down on Bill, Jackson Browne playing, and the golden light bathing us, I thought of something a friend recently asked.

“How are you going to handle returning home after seeing what you’ve seen while on the road?”

I replay that question in my head often because I like the answer.

“We live in New Hampshire, which has its own charms.”

Home is home.

I can imagine there will be a transition, to being still again, but we’ll be returning home just before August, the beginning of my favorite four months of the year in Jackson. There will be photographs and memories to think catalog. I have writing to catch up on. I like the routine of our simple life, as you can tell by reading about it in “Will’s Red Coat.”

Before we go home, however, there is still much to see, not to mention figuring out the way back to Jackson from Andyville when we do finally leave Kentucky. It will be a sweet route and one that is tempered in a gentler kind of beauty to the land. Already I’m considering a couple of days in a cottage or cabin if we can find one near the Finger Lakes in New York. A night in Cooperstown is also a possibility, and that always is a thrill for me.

Yesterday, we saw a deer, some long horn sheep, and several bison. The wonder of it all is still with me. We’ll be seeing more in the upcoming week, and hopefully some grizzly and moose, too.

I swear, watching that buffalo approach us yesterday was a thrill. I was ready to put Bill in gear in a hurry if need be, but the gigantic fellow’s tail was swishing back and forth casually. He appeared to be more curious that anything else as he approached, and then passed right behind us. 


Samwise has matured throughout the trip, even from that moment when he saw his that elk at the Grand Canyon and was excited by the idea of playing with it. With all the animals he’s seen since, he’s taken them in stride and remained a still and studious observer. I’m proud of him.

Even at the dog park, while he was racing and romping with others, whenever I called him to me he was attentive as he pulled himself away from the pack.

I look forward to seeing how this translates to the trails back home. Before, not only was his body too immature to hike, his mind was as well. He’s ready now, though. It appears I may be, too. 

Teaching Samwise to approach quietly so we can watch the ducks and heron. 
Over the next several days we’ll be back to rising before the sun to have the parks to ourselves, not to mention the best lighting for photographs. It feels weird to have the alarm go off at four in the morning while we are away from home, but when we get to linger in the solitude of places that will be crowded a few hours later, it’s well worth it.

As I sit here writing tonight, I realize that the full scope of this adventure will not hit me until long after we are home. However, I still make it a point to give thanks and take quiet moments to reflect on our good fortune, especially compared to where we each were just over a year ago.  

21 comments:

Lynn Loiselle said...

Sometimes when I'm reading something I can actually feel it. When I read this I could feel the early light and the stillness...

Margaret said...

There are some lovely little cabins overlooking Seneca lake in Hector New York. I have enclosed the link for you.
http://www.rusticlogcabins.biz/

kathy Cary said...

When I read your blogs it's always heard in your spoken voice within my mind and a calm descends. Thank you

Candy said...

My brother used to live in Whitefish, no dog park then; I'll have to check it out when I get over there. The Flathead Valley is on of my favorites. Here's to more adventures.

Reader said...

Thank you for sharing your photos and your words. Being suddenly awake at 3 am gives me an opportunity to read your words with the stars out and Lexie curled up next to me. She doesn't feel well and tomorrow may be a visit to the vet to see why or she will be back to her romping. She's getting older now. Your stories make the world easier for me to enjoy.

Linda Regan said...

Thank you for sharing this journey with us. It is always a welcome respite for me from a sometimes humdrum life. Onward by all means as you are!

Joan T. said...

So happy for you, Tom and Samwise. Your postings and photos have enriched us all and I thank you. Will be writing a review of Wills Red Coat very soon. I loved reading it. Onward by all means and have a safe trip back home.

Mrs. Deterding said...

As I read your thoughts, I am reminded of just how glorious our country is! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Mrs. Deterding said...

As I read your words this morning, I am reminded of just how glorious our country is. Thank you for sharing your journey!

Pam Noble said...

Thanks for bringing us along on your journey
As usual your writings bring it all to life

Anonymous said...

After a 2 week hitch hiking trip in Maine and Nova Scotia, the day after I returned home to the city, I took my mother's dog and walked about 5 miles. I had to be outside and I wished that I had had the dog on my trip. After that long walk, I was ready to get back to my other life.

Cheryl Buzzell said...

Hey Tom and Samwise!
As I sit here in western Maine, 20 minutes from Jackson, NH, I have relished the accounts of your adventure so far! I too hope to take a road trip across the US someday, but reading your posts and seeing your pictures gives me lots of ideas. Enjoy the rest of your trip, soaking it all in! I look forward to all of your posts all of the time, but have avidly followed this trip especially. Thank you!

Cheryl

Julie Bromley said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your adventures on this trip. Samwise sounds like the perfect traveling companion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you again for a fine read.
I visited Cooperstown last year-takin gym 89 year old Father to Upper Lisle NY, to visit one of his childhood homes. His Father was an engineer on the dam there, his wishes to see it again. We found his house, the owners were kind enough to welcome us in.
We spent a few days in Cooperstown, enjoying a small town parade. Stopped at every farmstead on the way.
I am a West Coaster-but there is nothing like the East. So lucky to have the gift of adventure and travel.

Cheers and onward
SandyF

mlaiuppa said...

I'm so glad you both are enjoying your adventure. Wow. Six weeks. I'm not sure I could be away from home that long.

I did spend 10 days in Yosemite. Hit it just right. The waterfalls were full with the runoff and I took some beautiful photos of the falls and Half Dome reflected in the flooded meadows. Also got shots of the rainbow in the mist of Bridalveil falls. The long drive wasn't that bad.

But I'm not sure I could take on the extensive drive you and Samwise are doing.

I would love to read about your adventures and see some of the photos you've taken on your trip when you are ready to share them with us. Always a pleasure to read what you have written.

etmcallister said...

We lost our Blue 4 days ago. he was 16 and our best beloved friend, to us he was more than a dog, more than everything. I know he is much better off, resting,..he had been unable to move on his own for the last 6 months, my husband carried him everywhere and he was weakening and when he told us he was ready to leave we listened and answered,,his passing was gentle and we know the right time..we had wanted him to pass on his own but it wasn't to be....your words and writing are so calming...we have spent time walking and in nature healing..it is beautiful and bittersweet but inevitable the feeling of sadness washes in then ebbs while we try to remember with love and joy our luck in having known him, loved him and had him love us back. thank you for your words and although i have been through this before your writings help us to be more gentle with ourselves and your growing friendship with samwise reminds us there will be another never the same but another who will love and be loved, have adventures with, grow with that will fill our hearts> Blue will also always reside their forever staying until we are together again. Happy travels!

Anonymous said...

Your adventure sounds so wonderful and FULL! After many trips across and around this beautiful country, I can see that you have hit the most wonderful places of the country and being born in Cooperstown and growing up only miles from there, I also know that might be a treat for you. We are hoping to move to Gorham, NH in the next year from a bit south of there. Our love of the mountains beckons us to be IN THEM. Safe travels and much more JOYFUL PEACE as you continue your marvelous adventure with Samwise, the dog with wings for ears!!

Mollie said...

Hi Tom and Samwise,
I need to catch up on your trip blog posts! And wow, time flies. You've been on the road six weeks already. Sounds as if you're having a blast--you and your beautiful sidekick. And yes, he really has filled out and become all muscle. The video of him running on that Oregon beach really showed his strength.

I hope you are well! Any chance you'll be dipping down into Southern California? I was up in the Laguna Mountains a few days ago and thought of you two, hoping (against hope?) that by some miracle I'd run into you.

Safe & happy travels to you!

Warmest regards,

Mollie

Anonymous said...

So glad to read your blog again ! Guess I missed a thread - I thought the May 20th in Cambridge was your last book tour, re the list on the blog. Surprised and pleased to learn of a longer road trip and it's wonderful to know you're both healthy and enjoying it so much ! Looking forward to reading more about all of it and the adventures along the way. Love your books, love those dogs ! I'm dog-sitting a small 14-yr. old terrier right now and have reason to think of you often..... Bea

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing with we non-Facebook readers, Tom. Have missed your writing
and am glad to know you are enjoying your dreamt about trip. It sounds heavenly, including
the anticipation of the before and the memory-filled after to follow.
God bless,
jd

Dawn Middlestead said...

This is another fantastic blog. Thanks so much for it Tom. Your grand adventure has been spectacular and I greatly appreciate all the photographs you have posted, taking us along with you. From all the posts and photographs, I have a feeling the trip exceeded your expectations which is so awesome. I am glad you and Samwise could make this wonderful journey together. I know it was supposed to be you and Atticus, but you know he is forever in your heart. I am grateful your life was spared last year. I look forward to reading more books, Blogs and posts. Thanks again for always sharing all you do. You are someone very special in this world. Don't ever forget it.