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, December 28, 2006

Lyme Disease takes a break

Those wicked spirochetes took the day off (perhaps they tuckered themselves out yesterday) and we were able to hike the Willey Range today. We started in Crawford North and hiked up the Avalon Trail to Field, then over to Willey, back to Field and then over to Mount Tom.

This was the hike on November 1st that sent me in search of a diagnosis and subsequent treatment for Lyme Disease. On that day I couldn't hike more than 1.8 miles before having to turn around. Today we completed the 10-mile loop with0ut much trouble and were charmed by the return of winter.

Tomorrow, we have a trip to Garfield planned on what is supposed to be a beautifully sunny but windy days.

As of today, our total stands at nine peaks.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Atticus finds new friends

It's the day after Christmas and we decided to sleep in. Yesterday the Lyme Disease was bad and I really struggled up the Mt. Kinsman Trail in climbing North and South Kinsman. It was a good day weather wise, changing from sunny to cloudy and back again two or three times. The winds were strong just before we crested out on top of the Kinsman Ridge Trail but weren't a problem for the rest of the day. As you can see from the above photo, we had a great view of Franconia Ridge throughout the day.

We'll rest today, do some minor errands and get organized up here at the Pemi Cabins and then be ready to hike tomorrow. Most likely Tom, Field and Willey of the Willey Range. We're watching the weather, as always, but it is unclear just what we will have come this weekend. Extended forecasts call for showers. Rain showers. It's almost January and there is very little snow on the ground, although some fell overnight. We want snow, as both of us would rather hike over snow than ice.

Last evening, just after getting in from our hike, we were surprised by a knock on the cabin door. Standing there holding a Christmas dinner for me and Snausages for Atticus was Steve Martin. He came in for a short visit and enlivened our otherwise quiet Christmas night. Steve was one of the three-person team to become the first people to ever hike all 48 in one winter (1994-1995). Both he and Cath Goodwin (another member of that 94-95 team) have taken a liking to Atticus and I'm glad they are around. We hiked with them (and many others) on the night of the Winter Solstice and then again on Sunday morning on Tecumseh.

Monday, December 25, 2006

It is Christmas morning and we are headed out the door to climb the Kinsmans. Will update more thoroughly later but for now here are some photos from yesterday's two hikes: Tecumseh in the morning and Waumbek in the afternoon. The number currently stands at four peaks. Here are the rest of the photos from the day:

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Winter Strategy

In winter it's all about strategy, all about what the mountains and the weather allows you to do. Atticus and I face restrictions other hikers don't. Since he is not what one would consider a "winter" dog, I will not take him above treeline in nasty weather. Other dogs, more suitable for the elements and weighing far more than his 20 lbs, can feel more comfortable in conditions he doesn't so we have to be picky about when we hike above treeline.

Right now there's not a whole heck of a lot of snow up here in New Hampshire, but that doesn't mean conditions are easy. Lots of rain here today will bring us lots of ice and high stream crossings tomorrow. If that weren't bad enough, there's also the high winds that will come rolling in tomorrow.

When the week started the original plan was to hit today with a Bonds traverse. Rain in the forecast altered our plans.

Tomorrow we will hike again, but the question is where to go where the stream crossings and the ice are not as big an issue. Perhaps the only choices for tomorrow are either Tecumseh or Waumbek, neither is sexy but they look to be the best alternatives.

Rain Day/Rest Day

Today we are holed up in the cabin. The fire is going, Matt's chicken soup from Bottega Toscana is simmering in the pot, Atticus is curled up by my side while I pump vitamins into my system trying to combat the Lyme Disease and take advantage of a day off to rest up for the next few days.

On Thursday night we were invited on a Winter Solstice hike to celebrate the beginning of winter. A great group (in quality and number) which included three dogs waited for winter to start and then made our way up the Peabody Slopes on Cannon. Plenty of manmade snow. It was windy and cold. About a 1/3 of the way up the summit hikers started sliding back down the mountain so I stopped and put my crampons on.

I have no idea what time we topped out but the summit was extremely cold with a wild wind whipping around us as we climbed the summit tower. We didn't stay long.

The trip down was easy going and quick. Heavenly stars above and the stars of Littleton stretched out below us. Breathtaking clarity.

We returned to the base of the mountain 2 1/2 hours after we started out. A quick hike.

The next morning we met with another group to take advantage of the open gate on Sawyer Hill Road. Typically it is locked in winter but the lack of snow allowed us to shave a 4 mile round trip road walk off of our hike. Instead the hike was 10 miles.
For some reason Carrigain is not one of my favorite peaks. It has a remarkable view from the tower on its summit but the climb always gets to me, as do the ankle twisting rocks. I suffered going up, just like the night before, and thought that this is what Lyme will do to me this winter. On the descent we moved easily, although I wore crampons for the upper half of the hike to deal with the ice.

Two mountains down and now a forced rainy rest day.

Photos from the Carrigain hike can be found here:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Winter's Call

In just over 24 hours at 7:22 pm winter will officially begin. So will we. The rules to winter peakbagging in the White Mountains were founded by the first person to do them all in winter, Miriam Underhill. She, along with her husband, the second finisher, set the guidelines to say that the winter season was determined by the calendar and not the elements.

Tomorrow night Atticus and I will be joining a small group of winter enthusiasts in the parking lot of Cannon Mountain and some time around 7:30 we will head up towards the summit and our journey will be underway.

It's my hope that you will be able to follow along through all the literal and not-so-literal ups and downs of our journey by following along with our blog which will be updated on a daily basis, except for the rare occasion.

Over the next three months, until March 20, 2007 comes 'round, feel free to check in on our progress as we attempt to hike as many of the 48 4,000-footers as possible in one winter.

If you go to the mountains page on our main website ( you see that Cannon is being dedicated to Jon Giacalone who was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago. Given by the Breeden family. The Breeden family are the folks who own and operate Bottega Toscana, the Italian restaurant on State Street. Jon is Paula Breeden's brother. The Breeden's donated $50 to the Jimmy Fund through our website to dedicate this money to Jon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Our logo

The logo you see comes from local artist Liz Lichtenberg. I gave her a very vague idea of what I was looking for, sent her some photos, and then was more than pleased when she returned a few soft sketches and what you see as the logo for our Winter Quest for Cure was among them.

One of the reasons I like it is that she captures the simplicity of this thing we've come to love. We simply go out and walk up a mountain or two. And yes, Atticus is always the first to the top and I struggle somewhere behind. Liz also captured Atticus' summit presence perfectly. He likes to sit and ponder in peaceful contemplation. I've never quite met another dog like him, especially another terrier.

And like all quests, the higher or farther you go, the more difficult it becomes. With her pyramid design she gets that, seems to understand that I have never met an easy mountain and more specifically those we are to raising money for also understand the difficulty in reaching the summit.

My sincere thanks go out to Liz for providing us with a fitting logo.


Funny dog. He does this a lot. At least in the warm weather. We gain a view and he decides to sit for a spell and soak it in. Sometimes I wonder what he's thinking about. He never says.

When we hike alone there's a lot of pondering going on. Not much talking, as you might imagine. Thoughts wander in and out of my head as we wander along paths and up mountains.

Our 4,000-footer was Garfield on September 11, 2004. We fell in love with it. The next year we started on the 4,000 footers in May and 11 weeks later we had hiked each of the 48. Then came winter. New to winter hiking I had little idea what I was doing and no equipment in which to do it in so I spent a lot of money and we set out to emulate our summer feat of doing all 48. We came up short by two hikes. Disappointed, I summed it up as a "better safe than sorry" experience.
Then came this summer. We did the 48 again. Why? Not sure really, other than because I felt called to them, felt at home with them and wanted to learn more about them and this time around take my time and appreciate them more. This time it took us about 4 months to do all 48. Actually, we did more than 48 for there were some we did two and three times.
The past 19 months have been very good to us. Our quality of life is richer, more fertile, not stale like it used to be. The following is a post that I left on a couple of hiking sites explaining our upcoming winter quest to other hikers.
Thanksgiving and our winter quest

Somewhere during the past year and a half I’ve fallen utterly and hopelessly in love with these mountains. In that span of time my life has been transformed. A middle aged fat guy who spent most of his time sitting around turned into a middle aged fat guy who loves to hike. And Atticus turned from a lap dog (although he used to have a rather difficult time finding my lap when I weighed close to 300 lbs) to a mountain dog who loves the journey as well as the views from the top.
The hike from then to now has been inspiring and uplifting and quite frankly, life altering.I have found joy on the path, in the lush woods, on ledges and slides that make my legs shake and from the summits with their glorious views. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right that I am so lucky to have found this much joy in this activity while others struggle with the little things in life, while others are sick, or lack the opportunities we all have to get to some of the most beautiful places in this world of ours.
This past summer I was thinking about that while driving north on I-93. I had spent the day listening to WEEI radio while the on-air personalities put aside sports talk radio for the day in their annual radiothon to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. The stories I heard were remarkable. Cancer and kids---such a horrifying pairing. And yet paying attention to these kids and the battles they fight only served to inspire me. Many of the children on the radio had an unbelievable outlook on life. I was moved by them and wanted to do something to contribute to the fight against childhood cancer.
I’m like all of you; I know people who have had cancer, known people who beat it, and others who didn't. I even know one remarkable woman on this board who lost a sister to it and then beat it herself. I had a childhood friend, my next-door neighbor, die before he even reached middle school as a result of cancer. As an adult I’ve lost friends to this disease. Cancer kills. Battles may be lost but the war rages on. Inroads are being made every day.
On that day while I was listening to WEEI many success stories were shared by parents and their warrior children.I was somewhere around Plymouth, NH on I-93 when WEEI’s reception started to break-up and I was wishing it wouldn’t because I wanted to continue listening to these amazing stories. I found myself wanting to help in some small way and right about that time I looked out as dusk was falling on the mountains. I had my answer. It was then that I decided to enlist in the war against cancer.
After thinking about it for a few days I called the Jimmy Fund and told them I wanted to raise money for them. The woman I spoke with was quite pleasant but a little confused when I told her I wanted to raise money for the Jimmy Fund by hiking with my dog. I don’t think she knew anything about the 4,000-footers or any of the lists we hikeaholics chase after. But I did my best to explain it to her and over the last couple of months we have worked out a plan and Atticus and I are now going to bat for the Jimmy Fund during the winter season. Our goal is simple: to try to do what we couldn’t do last winter and hike each of the 48 in one calendar winter and if by chance we finish we’ll keep hiking and do as many of them as we can a second time, too. In the process we hope to raise money through sponsorship.
I know this might not seem like much to many on this board but to ordinary folks it is far more interesting than a walk-a-thon. When I first spoke with the Jimmy Fund about this and filled out financial forms with them they asked me how much of the money raised we would be keeping to take care of our expenses. I could have sworn I heard her smile over the phone when I told her we didn’t want any of it, didn’t want to touch it if we didn’t have to. All I wanted to do was to hike and they could have the money.
I figured this was a good way for Atticus and I to give back through something we have gotten much from. There are many people on this site who can hike faster and farther than us and can and will accomplish greater things in these mountains than I’ll ever dream of. And doing the 48 in one winter might not seem all that grand to some but I just figured this was a good way for us to give thanks and to possibly help others out. I also figured Thanksgiving time was an appropriate time to launch it.
Happy Thanksgiving,Tom & Atticus