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.

Monday, December 31, 2007

A Traveler Finds A Smile...

Two days after Christmas I received the following email from a woman in Washington, DC who was turned onto our site after a visit to Licorice & Sloe. Here's her email: "A Traveler Finds A Smile...

Holiday Greetings!

My husband and I spent Christmas in picturesque Newburyport with family, and we stopped in to Licorice and Sloe on Sunday where I saw the sign about your Winter Quest. I was missing our dogs so very much that day, as we had to leave them here in Washington for the trip up the east coast. I find that it can be easy to feel a little lonely, even in a town full of people, without Clarabelle and Buddy nearby. I visited your website while we sat in the cozy shop, and it just brought a smile to my face. (My husband would also tell you that it brought some tears to my eyes, but we do not need to dwell...)

After what can only be described as a grueling drive home, we were happily reunited with our dogs this morning, and I have spent the past hour exploring your site as they sit with me. I had never heard of MSPCA-Angell or you but I just find you and Atticus to be tremendously inspiring, as so many people do, I am sure. Angell also seems to be a wonderful organization doing so much good for both animals and humans alike.

I have no idea which mountain we want to dedicate (perhaps one with trees as they love the National Arboretum), but you can expect an e-mail with photo and a note with check to arrive soon!

Sarah Carey
(Sarah and her husband later dedicated two peaks. To find out which ones, check out the mountain dedication page.)

Round Two Dedications Are Looking Good!

It's a snow day up here and we are off, waiting to see just how bad the final damage will be in inches (and hopefully not feet). We don't want to be off the trails for too long since we've just started the winter. But while we may be off it is clear that folks have been busy making dedications to the animals in their lives. In Round Two, of the 48 peaks, nine are already taken! Three more came in the last 24 hours.

The top photo is of Dazy, who leads a good life with Samantha Stephen and Dan Perkins. The three of them climbed Garfield together in September of 2005 and now they are dedicating this peak to her. In the bottom photo (it makes me smile) are Clarabelle & Buddy. Clarabelle is the one that is moving. Sarah Carey and her husband has dedicated Galehead to these two well-loved family members. They also dedicated Liberty to the dearly departed Riley.

Mt. Willey Was Hiked In Memory Of Clifford, Annie, Oliver & Lizzie

Atticus is pictured on the summit of Mt. Willey. The little rock poking up in the snow is the top of the summit cairn. Willey was hiked in "loving memory of Clifford, Annie, Oliver & Lizzie, four of the sweetest cats who ever lived!" It was dedicated by Dorothy Fairweather. (Unfortunately we have no photo of Clifford, Annie, Oliver, or Lizzie.)

Mt. Field Was Hiked In Memory Of Maggie & Taffy

Atticus, on the top photo, is on the summit of Mt. Field. In the second photo are Maggie & Taffy. The dedication for Mt. Field reads like this:

Field (4340 ft): In memory of Maggie and Taffy, our family's wonderful dynamic duo. They became part of our family within days of each other. An unlikely pair, Maggie was the runt of her litter of miniature poodles and Taffy was our first ever golden retriever. Maggie never quite realized that she was a little dog and preferred to play with big dog bones, full-size soccer balls, and anything else that Taffy had in her possession. Taffy was always a lady, elegant and regal, she was the calming influence in a chaotic house of dogs, cats, teenagers, adults, and a constant flow of friends. The two dogs were never without each other. When boarding, they had to share a run and eat together. When being groomed, they had to be done simultaneously. And when the snow would fall Taffy would cut a path through the backyard for Maggie to follow. Mom still has their tags in her bedside table. They were her "good children" as she still reminds us!" Given by Susan, Ted, Laura, and Charlton Hoag.

Mt Tom Was Hiked For Bucky

Top photo is of Atticus on the Mt. Tom summit. In the lower photo is Bucky. This peak was hiked in memory of Bucky, a Wire Hair Rat Terrier remembered by Ron & Ann Follo.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Three Peaks Today: Tom, Field & Willey

Good thing we got three peaks today because the coming storms look as though they may put us on hold for a few days and I don't want to get too far behind. Luckily it's early in the season. I'll post more about this hike later but here is the slide show covering this 10-mile hike over three 4,000-footers along the Willey Range.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Numbers Game & The Difference Between Injury & Hurt

I don't mind if Atticus gets cold, as long as he doesn't get too cold. I don't mind if Atticus gets wet, so long as he doesn't get too wet. But I don't want a marriage of both together under any circum-stances. So we didn't hike this morning, through rain/mist/ fog. We'll hike tomorrow instead...the Willey Range. That will give us three peaks for the day.

For those of you following along who are not used to peak-bagging, there are some hikes where you get only one peak. And then there are others where you can string a couple or a few together. Up to this point we've been on four hikes but only have hit five peaks. You don't have to be a mathematician to realize that we need to average a fraction over a peak a day to get done two rounds of the 48 in 90 days.

The bad news is that we're behind schedule. The good news is that we're just fine and it's not serious. Hiking only every other day has given me time to rest my knee/calf problem and get stronger. It also puts us in good shape for the coming week which looks to be good weather. Resting the problem leg has given me the opportunity to see to it that it will not nag me throughout the winter (knock on wood). It's also allowed me to hike four out of the first eight days. If the Willey Range goes well tomorrow we'll have eight peaks in nine days. Then if we can string together a few days in a row we'll be back on top of the game again. So much of winter hiking is strategy.

This afternoon, after the precipitation stopped, we were left with a bit of a sloppy mashed potato snow that is not much fun to snowshoe on. It's doable but the rain stopped late enough in the day that I just figured we'd wait until tomorrow to hike.

I will now admit to being very concerned about my knee a week ago. When we finished the Hancocks that first day I could barely walk that night. I really needed a day off afterwards. Then Tecumseh on Christmas Eve was equally troubling. But lots of stretching and using the balance ball and a sturdy foam roller on my tense muscles and joints has been good medicine for me. The hike up Moosilauke was the first hike where I felt very little pain. Then yesterday on Waumbek it was the same way. Just sitting her I feel tenderness in my knee, but it is more soft tissue than bone or ligament, which is a good thing. I now feel confident all will be well.

In my work as a student athletic trainer years ago we used to tell the wrestlers at the University of Iowa, "There's a difference between hurt and injury." During those first two hikes I felt like I was injured. During the last my body didn't feel injured, only hurt; and that's a good thing.

I will also admit to being very excited about the rest of the winter. A week ago I couldn't say the same thing, not completely. Oh, I had glimpses of it, but nothing like this. Now I feel like we are in the game and whatever happens from this point on, now that I know my knee won't be holding me back, is sure to leave me with a lifetime of memories.
PS: I've already heard from a few folks that they couldn't figure out the song of the music in the second slide show. That's good; some of them are supposed to be difficult. I don't expect anyone to get the first seven correct and win the contest that way. I imagine it could take 8, 10, maybe 12 for someone to come up with seven correct answers. Some will be easy, some difficult, some will have some correlation to the hike that is evident, some not so evident, and some will only be paired with the slide show because it matched a mood for the hike or the day. The first one was not random. The second one was chosen because it has something to do with this winter. That's the only clues you are getting from me at this point.

Hypothermia anyone?

Ugh. Woke up to the expected snow that fell overnight. Not too much, just a few inches. But it has since turned to rain. Not too much, just enough to make it dangerous to head up into the Willey Range as we had planned to do. Not sure how long it will last for but if it stops we may still get out there. The hike over Tom, Field and Willey is 10-miles. If we were to start at noon or 1:00 pm we'd probably make it back in time for the Patriots game tonight. But if it continues to rain or drizzle, I have no desire to invite hypothermia into our lives.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Column In The North Country News

Don't look now, but the fellow who sold his political newspaper and moved north to the mountains with his little dog is back at it again. Writing in a newspaper, that is. But this time I'm not writing about political favors doled out by mayors, police detectives hooked on cockfighting or women's lingerie, or controversial and mysogonistic boards of directors of various Newburyport institutions. Instead I'm now writing about the White Mountains, specifically our Winter Quest to raise money for Angell Animal Medical Center. No stress there. No death threats either. It's an entirely different style of writing...thank goodness!

My column will be appearing every two weeks in the North Country News and run the length of the winter. The first column was an introductory piece and can be found on-line here.

Remember To Play Our Music Contest

For those of you who are into music, don't forget to participate in our music contest. It's explained here. It started with the Moosilauke hike two days ago and today was the second slide song you can try to recognize.


This is the same spot, the only difference is the top photo was taken today with so much snow on the ground, while the other was taken in early October. This gives you an idea just how much snow is on the summit of Waumbek right now. You cannot even see the summit cairn, it's buried! Pretty impressive when you consider during the last two Decembers there was very little snow.

Waumbek: December 28, 2007

Here's to Max, my brother David's faithful pug for years and years. He was laid to rest two weeks ago. Today, Atticus and I were joined by our friend Jeff Veino and we hiked to the summit of Waumbek in memory of Max.

As always there's Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D when it comes to our winter hiking. So much depends upon the weather, especially since I hike with Atticus. The original plan is always to get above treeline but that rarely comes through. We did not get above treeline but we did climb through the lush tangle of live and dead trees that make up the trail over Mt. Starr King on the way to Mt. Waumbek's summit. It was a cloudy day, one made for a hike to a wooded summit with no view other than the glorious trees along the way.

The first time I hiked Waumbek two and a half years ago I did so with my brothers David, Eddie and Jeff. It was a sultry day with poor air quality, the kind of day where you feel like you are trying to breathe under water. That first hike up Waumbek was tortuous. This is one of the reasons my brother picked Waumbek for his Max, because as he said it kicked "his a**" and as much as he loved Max, like Max (in my brother's eyes), Waumbek wasn't much to look at.

But as you will see, Waumbek is a joy to behold. It's views, however, are not from some open summit such as Moosilauke from a couple of days ago, but of ancient forests; trees draped with Spanish Moss; trees coated with ice and snow; and trees both living and dead intermingled on this wondrous ridge where moose are often seen.

The slide show for our lovely and protected trip to the top of Waumbek can be found right here.

For those of you who have decided to enter our contest (see previous post) and try to figure out the songs that appears in our slide shows (starting with the last one...Moosilauke) you will find this song a bit more challenging, I would guess. If you get this one, you are good. Remember, the first person to know seven correct song titles and the person or group performing them, wins a box set of our greeting cards. However, on this one you don't need to know who performed it, but who composed it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Company That's been our first week thus far. Today was "off". I am happy to report that my leg has benefited from the day off after every hike and in the coming days will be ready for back-to-back hikes. I felt if I pushed it too hard it had an opportunity to turn into something much worse than it should be. Another factor for the "off" today was the weather. It was not horrible but the forecast was for some mixed precipitation midway through the day and that's exactly what we got. It started off as freezing rain, then more ice, small flecks of hard snow and then finally larger flakes. We ended up with five inches down below. Not sure what the mountain tops received but we'll find out tomorrow.

I am very selective about our hiking companions. The best ones are those who understand that each hike has to center around Atticus. We change routes, even change mountains, at the last minute to protect him. Tom Jones was a good companion last winter but he's yet to come up from Newburyport this winter. He'll be here soon enough, he tells me, which is a good thing since I miss our good friend.

Another good partner from last winter is Jeff Veino, a rather strong hiker, he was part of the support team for the Tim Seaver/Cath Goodwin winter record ramble a couple of years ago. I can count on him being there for Atticus on any of the hikes we do. As a matter of fact, Jeff not only came through for Atticus on the trail, he also opened his wallet and made a donation to The Friends of Atticus at the same time he was buying a new home. He's generous and loyal. Atticus also likes him because Jeff shares his pumpkin seeds with him on the trail. Jeff's in town tonight and is spending the night so we'll hike together tomorrow. Not sure what. I guess tomorrow morning's weather will tell us what we are going to hike. (That's Jeff in the photo above with Atticus on Mt. Madison from last winter.)


As you read through our site and follow our Winter Quest, please remember that this is a fundraiser for Angell Animal Medical Center. If you can afford to give, please do, for this is a great organization. If you can't afford to give or choose not to, you are still more than welcome to follow along throughout the winter. To tell you just how great this organization is, several of their employees have donated to Angell through our Winter Quest. Think about that for a moment. You get your paycheck and then you turn around and give some of it back to your employer. Astounding, really.

Our Music Contest Can Win You The Very First Box Set Of Our Soon-To-Be Unveiled Greeting Cards*

To all of you who have donated to Angell-Animal Medical Center through the efforts of myself and my hirsute little friend, you're invited to play a game. Starting with the slide show presentation of our hike up Mt. Moosilauke, start paying attention to the songs with each slide show that comes with a hike. One person will win a box set of ten of our soon-to-be unveiled greeting cards, a $25 value. The cards are made with photos from our hikes and in limited testing, they are doing very well. Here's how you win our very first box set of cards: be the first person to name seven of the songs and artists in our slide shows. This does not include our tribute slide shows and it doesn't include any slide show before the Moosilauke one on December 26, 2007. Over the coming weeks pay attention to the songs and if you are the first person to email me seven correct titles and performers (performers only have to be named for music with lyrics, not classical or soundtrack music that is solely instrumental). I think the first one, which appeared in yesterday's slide show, is very easy. Others will not be. Good luck and have fun. You don't have to know seven in a row. No one will, I dare say. Perhaps the winner will take 10 slide shows to get seven correct choices. (*To participate, you have to have made a donation to Angell through us.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Please Note: There Are Now Two Dedication Slide Shows

Because of the num- ber of dedications we will have this winter, I have had to add an additional slide show tribute. The first is to those pets that have peaks dedicated to them. The second is for those who are having peaks hiked in their memory and you can find that one here. And this fine fellow to the right (I just love this photo and his dignified presence) is Mickey. In Round Two Atticus and I will be hiking Mt. Bond for Mickey. This is what Joyce Coady had to write about her first dog:
"This is my first dog, Mickey. He was a beagle mix who came into my life when I was six years old. I used to think that I picked him out of the litter, but now I know that he picked me – lucky me! He was the best dog and unfortunately, he set the bar high for those who came later. Growing up can be difficult, but I always had someone to talk to and to love. He was my best friend and faithful confidant. Mickey passed away at age 12 and I still grieve for him. Sometimes when I look into Koa’s eyes, I think I see my Mickey – old souls both of them."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

No Christmas Day HIke For Us

It’s Christmas Day and we’re not hiking. I thought we would, even planned to, got dressed, grabbed my backpack and snowshoes and my dog and went out the door, even drove half way to Waumbek…but then suddenly I decided to turn around.

A few weeks ago I hurt my knee. It’s doing much better than it had been and I’m not really worried about the long range ramifications so long as I take care of it. And that’s what I decided to do today. If it hurts on the way to the trailhead in the ride over then it’s going to hurt on the trail. In a battle between my brain and ego my brain won out. It was a smart decision, just not an easy one to make. It’s the first few days of winter and my tendency is to want to get them all done right now. That’s not going to happen so I may as well be smart about it.

Atticus and I (more me than he) are still finding our hiking legs after being off for the past month so I don’t have a problem with this for the first week of winter. We’ll hike tomorrow. The Tripyramids or Moosilauke (if the above treeline weather allows) are our intended destination and then on Thursday and Friday Jeff Veino will be staying with us to hike. That will give us three straight days of hiking. Adding today would have been four and I’m not sure that’s what the best medicine for this little ding.

As for the knee, it’s soft tissue outside of the knee, not in the joint line itself so I’m not worried about a torn meniscus or the lateral collateral ligament. It’s has more to do with the insertion of the hamstring muscles around the joint line between the tib-fib joint or the I-T band. Either way, it’s just a nick but a nick I felt last night on the descent on Tecumseh.

This afternoon I’ll spend some time giving it a friction rub, use a tool to deep scrape the area, and then take some Advil. I’ll take a lot of time to stretch out my calves and hamstrings. After that I’ll get on the balance ball, and deep work the fascia on the bottom of my feet. I may as well be productive so that I feel better when we hike the rest of the week.

Last night’s great experiment with taking photos at night on the trail didn’t work out that great. My photography skills are not that advanced. I wanted to give some folks back in Newburyport a feel for what it is like to hike at night on the trail. The photos are either too dark or too bright (due to the flash). Nevertheless there is one at the top of this post.

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a joyous one, and if you don't, here’s wishing you the best, too!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mt. Tecumseh: Christmas Eve, With A Little Video (Below)

The plan was to hike Waumbek, but somehow that didn't happen. Instead we left later than expected and drove in the opposite direction, towards Waterville Valley. A wonderful hike to the 4,003 ft summit of Mt. Tecumseh. We hiked most of it in the dark and when we reached the summit I strung portable Christmas lights around the rock cairn and Atticus and I sat down for an enjoyable Christmas Eve meal in the company of the trees, the strong wind overhead, and the moon, who appeared fashionably late, only after shaking the company of clouds. A very special night up on one of my favorite peaks. We hiked Mt. Tecumseh in honor of Buford the stately bulldog you see above. (More on this hike later.)

Twas The Day Before Christmas

It is the day before Christmas and we’re putting off our hike for a little while. Yesterday’s rain and warm temps have melted a lot of snow and the driveway outside where we live is a sheet of ice. The Pemigewasset River is roaring as it does in spring; all the ice bridges that were forming have been ripped apart.

Today we are hiking Mt. Waumbek. No stream crossings and it is a hike which won’t take all day. I know it has been broken out but it will be interesting to see what kinds of conditions exist after yesterday’s rain. I’m hoping that much of what existed before will simply be packed down. It’s also one of those hikes I don’t mind finishing in the dark. As a matter of fact, it was the hike we did on Christmas Eve afternoon last year, too, climbing up under cloudy skies and finishing under a brilliant moon with stars serenading us from above on our way through the open forest back to our waiting car. (Who knows, perhaps this will be our Christmas Eve tradition…Waumbek.) Another reason to hike Waumbek today is because of the lack of views the hike offers which is perfect for a cloudy day.

Yesterday we spent the day lounging around. Atticus slept much of the day away while I corresponded with friends, baked a sweet potato pie; made sauce with meatballs, sausages, mushrooms and lots of basil and garlic; and then watched the Patriots.

After his day off Atti seems fine and he won’t have to worry about breaking trail today. I’ve given him a little extra breakfast (Dr. Harvey’s with some shredded cheese, ground beef, sweet sausage, and plenty of oil). Both of us consume extra oil in the busy winter months of hiking. It’s good for the joints and the muscles.

As for me, my month off from hiking was what my knee needed. It feels fine, not perfect, but not hurting either. My calves, which have been a problem throughout the autumn, continue to be a problem. I need to continue stretching them. My quads are still a bit tight from our hike on the Hancock’s but today’s hike will serve to lubricate them to the point where stretching will be more effective.

Are Christmas Eve plans are to stay mellow in our little Hobbit hole of an apartment. Atticus and I have been invited to a party down in Campton but I’ve passed. We’ve also been invited for Christmas dinner at Rick & Kim’s place downstairs (they are our landlords). However, we’ll be hiking tomorrow and when we return I’ll bring down the presents I have for Rick, Kim, Cody, Nathaniel and Brianna. I have bought a turkey but I think I’ll put off cooking that for a few days.

In the last two years I’ve grown accustomed to hiking on Christmas Day, having the summits to ourselves is not a bad way to celebrate the day. Have no idea what we are hiking tomorrow as of yet. Perhaps we’ll do the Tripyramid’s. We’ll see.

Licorice & Sloe Gave 10% Of Their Saturday Sales To Angell Animal Medical Center

On Saturday, December 22nd, Licorice & Sloe Tea House in Newburyport decided to do some of their own fundraising help us with ours. They pledged to give 10% of their sales on their historically busiest day of the year (the Saturday before Christmas) to Angell Animal Medical Center. Not only did Bil, Meg and Annie Silliker do that, but their staff for the day (Alex Foley, Nicole D'arco, Heidi Stump) generously donated their tips to Angell also! Here’s the email Bil sent on Sunday. We offer our thanks to all those involved!


I hope your first day of hiking went well. As you are aware our sales in general have been down this Xmas season relative to the last two. The three snow storms have played their part in that, but we've remained hopeful and we're happy to report on today's efforts here at Licorice & Sloe Company.

First I wanted to mention that we created a “Friends of Atticus” dog biscuit jar. The
theory was that a customer could come buy a doggie biscuit for any donation. To that we added all of the tips of our staff today as they volunteered their tips to your cause as well. In that jar we collected $81.00.

I'd like to take a moment to mention that a few customers came in and made purchases today just to make sure that you would benefit from their purchase. I don't know if you know Pat Hickey or Steve & Kelly Parker, but they specifically mentioned your cause as the reason they were making certain purchases today. Kelly says that you might recall her as the gal who raises money for dogs. She says that you met her in the pet store one day. One couple, who we'll refer to as Ray and Carol (because those are their names) told me that they miss your paper. They didn't agree with everything you wrote, but they loved to read it. They made a nice donation to the doggie biscuit jar as well as making their tea and scone purchase. Also Tom Jones and his wife Terry were in and made a contribution, while we all waxed nostalgic about Tom Ryan.

As I started to write this it was 7:30 PM and had a half hour to go until end of day and we had just beaten last year’s numbers for the day by $5.00. All this holiday season our daily numbers have been coming up shy. I'm so happy that we actually have matched and now beat last years number for today as it makes me excited about the fact that we chose today to do this. Ultimately I had hoped that we'd do more than we've done since we lost so much on the three snowy days, but still the numbers are good relative to the season thus far.

It's now 6:50 AM on Sunday morning. I got enough customers after I started to write this that I stayed open until 9:30 and we managed to beat last year’s end of day numbers by $177.55. I know that doesn't sound like much, but two things to keep in mind: We sell tea for a living; and on a typical Saturday night between 6:00 and 8:00 I'm lucky to bring an extra $100.00 to the end of day numbers. So you can see why this was good news for me and of course for you and Angell Animal Medical Center.

Bil Silliker
Licorice & Sloe Company
21 Middle Street
Newburyport, MA

*Editor’s Note: I have deleted the final total because it would show too much financial information about Licorice & Sloe and I think that is their own business. Angell Animal Medical Center will know the amount of their donation, however, and will be happy to receive this money.

Great...I Get Bills, He Gets Fan Mail From Women

Dearest Atticus,

So nice hearing from your dad today. I was afraid he was taking you into uncharted waters; but it sounds like you made it back to your abode without terrible things happen- ing to you.

Actually, I had coffee with my neighbor Linda Smiley this morning and I told her I had e-mailed your dad about bagging peaks with you in tow. She laughed and told me that your dad's pretty attached to you and would never put you in harm's way. I was greatly relieved to hear that. (But I suspected that was the case after seeing you in the basket on his bike coming back from Plum Island one summer...)

Then we had a long talk about you. I'll bet your ears were burning! I told Linda that you were kind of a funny guy; that every time I see you, you have a very determined look on your face. And that never seems to change. No jumping and frolicking and gushing over your dad, and generally making a fool of yourself like many of your counterparts. Not you. Just very focused, very intense; like a man on a mission. No grey areas for you; it's either black or it's white. Take your pick.

She then told me a story about you. One day she saw you waiting in the hallway at City Hall; waiting for the City Council meeting to start or some such thing. She said you waited quietly in the hall and when it was time to file in, you walked in with your usual dignified countenance, and had a seat on the bench next to Tom and quietly waited for the meeting to start, looking around to see who was there, and almost like you were thinking to yourself, ok, let's get this thing going already. You're a man of few words, but with an intensity that takes one off-guard.

So, you have a good Christmas. And to your dad. You guys are both doing great work for Angell. I applaud you. Keep me on your radar so I can hear about your adventures. I'll live my life vicariously through the two of you.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Four Mountains Already Taken In Round Two

The winter season just started yesterday and already we are receiving dedications for Round Two of our attempt to hike each of the 48 4,000-footers twice. Remember, all money raised goes directly to Angell Animal Medical Center; not only is it a great cause, you know exactly where every cent of your donation is going. To the right are two of the cats we'll be hiking the Wildcat Mountain for in Round Two. Here's the dedication sent in by Mindy Moore & Jeff Patulak: “We would like to dedicate Wildcat to our beloved kitty-girls, Sophie and Cha-Cha, who bring us boundless joy. And in memory of those we have loved and lost—Moo, Puss and Sebastian.” And for those of you who are stuck on what to give the pet lover on your Christmas list, give them a gift like they've never had before: a mountain dedicated in their pet's honor.

This Forecast Brought To You By

High: 38°F RealFeel®: 22°F
Cloudy, windy and becoming rainy

Winds: ESE at 16mph
Wind Gusts: 34 mph
Amount of Precipitation: 0.31in
Amount of Rain: 0.31in
Amount of Snow: 0.0in
Hours of Precipitation: 7 Hrs
Hours of Rain: 7 Hrs
Hours of Daylight: 8.9 Hrs
The rain is not supposed to start until 11:00 this morning but that's the difference between summer and winter. In summer we might head out to do a hike, hoping the rain arrives a bit later than expected. Here with the trails slow going, this is a day for hypothermia. And to be honest, I'm not unhappy about it at all since the rest of the week looks promising from this point and, more importantly, after all that trail breaking yesterday, Atti is tired. He never made it to the bed last night, preferring not to move off of his blanket on the couch. Even when I got up this morning he decided not to stir too much when I brought his water bowl over to him for a drink. On days when he works hard, it's important to rest him the day after. Yesterday was not the worst conditions, by any means, but he did have to push through some stuff that was very deep for him. So this morning I'll bake a pie, go for a little walk with him, stretch my muscles out, and then get ready to watch the Pats this afternoon. I'll most likely write about yesterday's hike, too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

North & South Hancock, Our First Two Peaks Of The Winter

Somebody is tired. Actually, two somebodies are tired. The only difference is that he's already asleep and I will be joining him shortly. Today was a rough hike. There's a lot of snow in them there hills. I chose the Hancocks in part because we typically fly through this route and secondly because I received a report it was broken out and that is good for Atticus. You will see from the slide show that the trail is indeed broken out, until we reached the steepest part, a climb of a 1,000 feet in elevation gain in 0.7 miles. It was really rough. Then once we topped out on North Hancock we had to break trail across the ridge to South Hancock. From South on out it was broken out again. You will note that Atticus has his boots on, and then off as the hike went on. He simply could not get any grip on the way up the loose and deep snow on the major climb so I took them off and he did much better. This hike typically takes us less than five hours to cover the 9.8 miles. However, today it took us nearly eight because of the deep snow. Now you'll excuse me while I join my friend in deep slumber. Hopefully I will not snore as much as he does. North Hancock was dedicated to the residents of Flying Collie Farm, past present and future. South Hancock was dedicated to Finn (pictured above) and "for Whittles and most especially for Lil, forever the fearless leader of all the collies at Flying Collie Farm." The other photos above are of Atticus at the summit of North Hancock and again on South Hancock. Our photo slide show can be seen here.

Licorice & Sloe Day

Yes, it's the first day of winter and Atticus and I are literally headed out the door to go hike the Hancocks, but first I wanted to remind everybody that today is Licorice & Sloe's busiest day of the year, the Saturday before Christmas, and Bil, Meg & Annie Silliker, the owners of this fine Newburyport tea house, are donating 10% of their profits to Angell Animal Medical Center through our efforts. (How's that for a run-on sentence?) The only thing keeping us from heading out this very instant is that I'm finishing this post and my cup of Licorice & Sloe tea. Check out the earlier entery on Licorice & Sloe and go buy some tea.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Long Road Begins

“The Road goes ever on and on down from the door
where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and
I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until
it joins some larger way where many paths and
errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.”
~ Tolkien

And so it begins. Our journey through the winter in the Whites is upon us and here on the eve before we hit the trail it actually feels different. We have been here waiting for it all to begin and tomorrow it finally does. As for the feel itself, it feels an awful lot like purpose as anyone who undertakes a quest is filled with.

Joseph Campbell spent a lifetime exploring the Hero’s Journey. His definition of hero differs from the more recognizable meaning. He believed “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” To Campbell we all had a bit of the hero within for we all go through heroic journeys. Some are thrust upon us, some we choose. They can be as varied as a woman fighting breast cancer; an man chasing his dreams; a widower striving to raise his children the best way possible; a little dog and a middle aged man seeking to touch the summit of 96 peaks in 90 days.

To Campbell, the quest was everything. As you follow along our on journey you’ll see that I find great comfort in the words of Campbell and others like him. I believe life has to have purpose and that we all must undertake our quests, whatever they may be. For us it’s being up here, right now, in a life very different than the one we used to know, than any of the lives I used to know.

I like the photo above for its sheer simplicity. It was taken last winter. We set out to hike Galehead, South Twin and North Twin with our friend Aaron. The approach road is gated and where you can drive in summer you have to walk in winter. This ads miles to several winter hikes. In this photo Atticus is walking along, the “road goes ever on”.

On this particular day the morning was cold, crisp and mostly clear. By the time we started hiking up the Gale River Trail clouds had lowered and a faint flurry came down upon us. It didn’t take long for the snowflakes to get heavier and to fall faster. By the time we reached Galehead Hut, which is closed in the winter, we knew we had our work cut out for us. The steep climb up South Twin was very hard through the unbroken snow and the depth only grew in between South and North Twin. After reaching North Twin, however, the snow stopped and we were greeted by occasional rays of sun stabbing their way through the charcoal clouds. The walk down off of North Twin and back to the other waiting car was long and tiresome and we were all chilled to the bone by the time we stopped about 14 miles after we had started.

But what hits me about this is that it was so calm when we started, then we entered the mountain realm we were hit by snow that was heavy and deep and seemed like it would last forever. By the time we got to the car, however, it was clear that it hadn’t snowed at all down below. And while it the world looked like the same world we left behind, there was something different. We were different because of what we had experienced. We were different for being tested, for the hardship, for the fellowship under duress, for having left the safety of a warm and cozy cabin and venturing up into the mountains and whatever it was they held for us only to come back again.

I also like this photo because it shows Atticus in his most elemental form. He knows when I grab my backpack that we’re going hiking. He knows this is different than a half mile walk in the park or the woods. He also acts differently. He walks, as you see here, ahead of me and with a steady purpose. There is no running up and back, no leaving the trail to sniff this and that. It was Aaron who noticed the seriousness of Atticus that day and noted, “I don’t think he does anything without a purpose. He’s that kind of dog.”

And it’s true, he climbs until we reach a summit and then he stops. He knows to go up until there is no more up. Its instinctive I suppose. For me it is just what it is but there are others who remind me how strange it is to see such a little seek the peak with such purpose in weather most would never dream of leaving their homes in, unless it was to get to the nearest Starbucks.

If I were to tell you I knew why he was this way I’d be lying. There’s something within him that is meant to be up here, just as there is something within me that pulls me here, too. However, I have no idea if it is the same thing that pulls us but in our hiking we each seem to find what we are looking for.

At the end of such a long and tiresome hike Atti has a process he goes through when we get back to the car. After I peel off his boots and body suit (provided he’s wearing them), he sits in the front passenger seat and grabs each boot and pulls the ice from it with his teeth and licks each clean, then pushes each cleaned boot down onto the floor. Then comes his body suit. He pulls the ice from it, licks it in places and then pushes that to the floor. He will then clean himself for a good 10 or 20 minutes, come over to me and start licking me clean. After this he rolls up like a cat into a little ball and goes to sleep.

When we get home he is hungry and eats and drinks but then sleeps the heavy sleep of a drunk. When we wake up the next morning he moves slowly, taking inventory of his body parts with his various stretches. He will drink a lot of water and when I eat my omelet I’ll make him one too. When he sees me grab my pack he’s already by the door and ready to go and when we get to the trail he is so excited he hops out the car with eagerness and is ready to go again and I see him ahead of me, walking with a purpose just as you see him above.

Tomorrow morning when we get up we’ll drive a short way across the Kancamagus Highway to the hairpin turn, park in the lot and be on our way. Ten miles later we will return having been to the summit of North and South Hancock (provided all goes well) and we’ll be underway.

You are more than welcome to join us and follow along throughout the winter. Each day we hike I will post photos and a trip report of our journey. But there are two things to keep in mind. The first is that while we are on our own physical quest, we are also doing this for a cause…to raise money for Angell Animal Medical Center. Not everyone can afford to give, but if you can and haven’t yet, it would be appreciated. Either way you are welcome to follow along. The second thing you should realize, and you will come to realize this over time, is that this little dog that I hike with is the story. It’s not the man. If it weren’t for him I don’t think I could do this. He gives me strength, he gives me courage. Funny to think that a dog only the tenth of the size of the man he lives with and travels with can provide that kind of strength, but then again it was Tolkien who also said, “Courage is found in unlikely places.”

It is my hope to reach several goals this winter, some physical in nature, some financial for Angell, but also when all is said and done I’d like you to think you know something more about these magical mountains than you did before and about this little dog who has a spirit much larger than the body that holds it.

Enjoy the ride and thanks for reading along.

Need The Perfect Gift For The Animal Lover On Your Gift List?

What could be better than giving them a gift they've never received before, honors their best friend and contributes to an organization that helps more than 250,000 animals a year? If you are stuck for the right gift to give, dedicate a mountain in their pet's name and all the money goes to the Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamacia Plain, Massachusetts, a place where hope is the best medicine. To learn how to dedicate a peak for that special pet, or simply make a donation in their name check this out. Or you can email us if you have questions. The Dedication Page can be found here.

The Carter Boys Get Some Love; And We Reach A Goal

Yee-Haw! One of our goals has been reached now that an anonymous donor has dedicated both Middle Carter and South Carter. And better yet, both have been dedicated to birds, our first birds so far! This completes the ded- ications for round one of the 48. But not to worry as round two is now open for dedica- tions and all mountains are vacant at this time. Soon a new list of available peaks will be posted. So if you have a hankering to give the perfect gift for that hard to buy for animal lover on your holiday list, give a peak in honor of their pet; they'll love it...the person that is, not the pet. Thanks to all who have helped Atticus and myself reach this one fundraising goal of having each of the first 48 peaks dedicated before winter starts. For the record, Middle Carter and South Carter are being dedicated to two Dusky Conures, Jebss and Eva. Middle Carter goes to Eva, and South goes to Jebss. (By the way, that's Atticus on a hike to the Carters from two winters ago with Washington behind him.)

Those Lonely Carter Boys

The Carter boys must be having flashbacks to when they were kids and the last to be chosen for dodge ball. "Somethings never change," they must be thinking. I'm speaking of course of Middle and South Carter, our last two peaks in round one open for donation. Over the night three more dedications came in. Winter starts in one day and Atticus and I are so very close to reaching one of our goals, of having each of the 48 peaks in round one dedicated by the start of winter. This is one of the things we have no control over but you do and you've come through in a big way. Thank you. Now if only we could do something about those poor, lonely Carter boys. Will no one give them some love in the days just before Christmas? So here we go, for the last time in a little while...the remaining peaks are still open for dedication in round one:
Middle Carter
South Carter

To dedicate one of these peaks
click here and you can always email us.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And Then There Were Five

You are helping us to reach one of our goals: to have each of the 48 4,000-footers dedicated for the first round before winter starts this Saturday. Thanks to the Hoag Family, we are now down to only five peaks remaining and we may just make it. Once winter starts and our quest begins, round two will start to fill on it's own, but it is really difficult to get them all filled before it all starts. As I've written before, once we hike a mountain and it hasn't been dedicated, we lose that mountain in our efforts to raise money for Angell Animal Medical Center. I must add that I am even more impressed by Angell than I was before. Some Angell's employees are making dedications for peaks and therefore donating money to the place they work. Think about that, they're taking money they make at work and giving it back to their employers! How many places of employment can you say that about? If they are willing to go to such lengths in their support of a great place, what lengths will you go to?

So here is your assignment: help us to get these last five peaks dedicated to a wonderful animal before Saturday morning. The five remaining peaks are:
South Twin (Taken)
North Twin (Taken)
Cabot (Taken)
South Carter
Middle Carter

To Abby, Who Is Getting Better!

When I ran my own paper I handled everything. When I sat down to interview someone I simply put a tape recorder in front of the person I was having a conversation with and we'd just talk. It wasn't until I transcribed the words from tape to my computer and actually got to read them again that I could see them come to life. There were times I read the conversation I was just involved with only to find out how good (or bad) it really was. I have just received three dedications from Laura Hoag, an MSPCA-Angell employee, and her parents and brother, and each of the three dedications had that same effect on me. It wasn't until I entered them in the dedication page and read them again that I found myself so totally moved by the simple clarity and genuine love that came through in each entry. It was a nice lift to my day. (Thank you, Laura.) That's Abby in the photo above and she's kicking butt and taking names during her journey to get better. Atticus and I will be hiking North Tripyramid for her. As for what Laura had to say about Abby and about Heidi, and then Maggie & Taffy, and to see what mountains are dedicated in their honor you will have to check out the Mountain Dedication page.

Waumbek For Max, Who Was Laid To Rest Last Week

My brother David is another who loves these mountains. He's the one who got me hooked on them again when in September of 2004 he led Atticus and myself on our first hike up a 4,000-footer. We were joined by other brothers Ed and Jeff. It is one of my favorite family memories as an adult. David is also working on the 4,000-footer list but has a much more sane way of doing them than I do. Translate that to mean he actually has a life outside of these mountains and is taking his time. This past week David put his best friend, Max, a very personable pug, down. Atticus and I also hiked Waumbek with David, Eddie, and Jeff, but that was on a hot, steamy day where breathing the air was like trying to breath through hot soup. The next time Atti and I do Waumbek we'll be doing it in much different conditions than the summer day I did it with my brothers three summers ago. We'll be doing it in the snow and we'll be doing it for Max as my brother has just reserved Waumbek for Max. (Max, your father will miss you a great deal.)

No Gu For You (I Bought It All)

How does he know?

Through the years all of my dogs have known when it’s raining or snowing outside without even looking. This has always amazed me.

This morning Atticus's nose is buried in the folds of the comforter. How different this is than other mornings. Typically I wake up and he’s ready to go but this morning he’s in no hurry. The little guy loves the snow but when it’s falling he’s more than happy to hibernate a little longer than normal.

The snow is coming down pretty heavily here today. It’s not supposed to amount to much, relatively speaking, maybe six to eight inches. However, when you add that to what is already here the snow depth is impressive. In our first two winters of hiking there was rarely much snow through December and January; we had more ice to contend with.

Hikers are all ready reporting difficulty in reaching their destination as deep snow calls out for snowshoes and the effort it takes to break through up to two feet of fresh powder in places has made many turn back without reaching the summit. This will make our choice of hikes limited in the first few days of winter. I’m not averse to breaking trail. I find it to be good, hard work that touches something of the animal inside me. However, Atticus is not a fan of having to break through snow too deep or in waiting for me to break it out for him. If the snow is too deep he instinctively drops behind me and lets me do the work, but even with his body suit and boots on there are days where it takes so long his core body temperature drops. Twice last winter we dropped back and quit our hikes because this was the case. As long as he’s moving the little guy is fine. But stop too long and it’s too cold for him.

Prolonged stops are something we do a lot of in the more temperate seasons of the year. Whether it is to summit sit and take in the views, eat a leisurely lunch, or to do as I did this past November on a sunny day atop an empty Cannon Mountain---take a nap, it’s always a pleasure to dawdle in good weather. But the winter months bring about the challenge of the need to keep moving for Atticus's sake and at the same time refuel my body. Because of this my eating habits change in the winter. I supplement my hike with several packs of Gu or Shot Blocks. My meals are Stonyfield Farm Smoothies. On our second Bonds Traverse last winter, the one where we added in Hale to make it more than 26 miles, I drank five of these to keep my strength up. In the winter we both eat a big breakfast and supper and then I let the Stonyfields do the work on the trail.

As for fluids, I drink anywhere between two and three liters of water or Gatorade a hike while doing my best to drink a great amount before and after hikes. I don’t bother taking water on the trail for Atti as I do in spring, summer or fall; for he won’t drink it. Occasionally he’ll drink from an unfrozen stream but as is more typical of him, he eats ice and snow throughout the day.

As for food on the trail, I usually bring healthy treats for him and he does love his summit fix, Snaw Somes! I swear this is his addiction. On longer hikes, those from 15 to 25 miles I’ll also bring along a baggie full of chicken or beef. He also feasts on nuts, peanut butter or cheese crackers and Odwalla Bars. Hey, he needs to keep his engine running, too, so fuel is just as important for him as it is for me.

And in case you were wondering, winter starts in two days and there are still nine peaks left open for dedication for the first round: Middle Carter, South Carter, North Twin, South Twin, Waumbek, Cabot, Middle Tripyramid, Osceola and Field.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Three Beautiful Cats For Zealand Mountain

Only nine peaks left open for dedication thanks to Tim & Valerie Charboneau who tonight dedicated Zealand Mountain. I'll let them take it from here: "We would like to dedicate Mt Zealand to our three cats, our best friends, who have all passed on in the last few years. Their names were Marty (bottom photo), Hannah (middle) and Abigail (top). They all had their own personalities and their own quirks, but they were all much loved, and are sorely missed."

Thanks To The Daily News

Never thought I would write such a heading, at least not back when I ran the competition. But Thanks to Steve Tait, reporter for Newburyport’s Daily News for putting in a plug for our Winter Quest in Monday’s City Hall Notebook. Mr. Tait had the following tidbit:

Licorice & Sloe Co., the tea shop at 21 Middle St., is promising to donate 10 percent of its sales Saturday to a cause championed by former resident Tom Ryan.

Bil Silliker, the owner of the tea shop, said the Saturday before Christmas is typically the busiest of the year. It is also the first day of winter, the day which Ryan, the former owner the Undertoad, a local newspaper, will start his quest of hiking all 48, 4,000-foot tall peaks of New Hampshire's White Mountains - twice.Ryan is climbing the mountain peaks to help raise money for MSPCA-Angell and its Angell Animal Medical Center, which provides veterinary care for animals.

Ryan, who moved to the mountains earlier this year after selling the Undertoad, is making the climbs with his dog, Atticus, who was almost always at Ryan's side during his time in Newburyport. His journey can be followed at

Silliker said he is donating the money as a hiker and dog owner who lost his dog in the last six months."I'm close to the cause," he said. "And I'm a lover of dogs."I'm just glad to help out," he added. "He is a nice guy. I miss his local flare."

A Fine Obsession

“You’ve got to get obsessed, and stay obsessed.” ~ John Irving

I believe that line came from the wonderful Hotel New Hampshire, back when Irving was still writing wonderful books. Others include A Prayer For Owen Meaney; The World According To Garp; Son Of The Circus; and The Cider House Rules. He used to be my favorite writer along with Tom Robbins but I can’t read him anymore. His last couples of books haven’t been his best work. I couldn’t even finish his last one.

Irving was writing about writing, not hiking. However, his words work for us in this coming mad season. In three days time we’ll be on our quest and we’ll have to get obsessed, and stay obsessed. Ninety peaks in 96 days is not easy. It’s especially not easy when you pick and choose your days in favor of making it safe and enjoyable for a small dog. As far as anyone knows, only one person has ever hiked all 48 twice in one winter and that was Cath Goodwin, the patron saint of winter hiking up here in the Whites.

On Saturday our peakbagging quest will begin. That’s what they call it when you work on a list, peakbagging. And that’s exactly what we’ll be doing, collecting peaks as we move through the winter. There are days we’ll collect one, some where we get to as many as five; and days where we won’t have any. On the days we don’t make it to the summit, and there will be plenty of them, it will be for various reasons. Sometimes we’ll have to turn back because the snow is too deep. Other days we won’t even hike for the same reason. There are days we won’t hike because it will be too cold and windy, the combination can be a killer so we try to avoid it. And then there will be days when we are tired and need to rest and recover and get ready for the next hike.

Ask me what our first hike will be and I still can’t tell you for sure. That’s how the winter season is. I make up my mind the night before, sometimes as late as the morning of the hike itself.

Each morning I’ll get up and before I give Atticus his treat or make my breakfast I go on line and check the weather, first the Higher Summits Forecast on Mount Washington, then the regular forecast. If it’s safe (not too cold and not too windy) we head above treeline. These days are few and far between. The next option is to do a hike where we don’t get above treeline but still get peaks. The third option, on a questionable weather days is to do a protected hike where the trees buffer and protect us from the elements. And the third option, well, that’s taking the day off and getting ready for better weather.

Last winter we attempted this same feat and came up four hikes shy with 81 peaks. One of them was a planned Presidential Traverse, an audacious 20+ mile hike, most of it above treeline over the summits of Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce and Jackson. Another hike that was missed was the one over the three Carters and two Wildcats, a hike we’d done earlier in the winter. And then there were hikes to Isolation and Moriah. By the end of the winter we were in great shape and ready to hike but winter arrived late and dumped feet of snow on us, so much so that we weren’t able to hike for a week at a time on a couple of different occasions.

For us it is an obsession, has to be one. But more importantly it’s about staying safe. People are typically concerned for Atticus’s safety. I can assure you no one is more concerned for his safety than I am and by keeping him safe, and out of elements others would hike in, I actually keep myself a lot safer than most hikers too.

And so our peakbagging starts on Saturday and yours finishes in three days. There are 10 summits left seeking dedications for this first round. Once we start the second round of 48 will fill over the length of the winter and usually takes care of itself. This first round of 48 however, people often need to be reminded about.

The 10 peaks still open for dedication are:
South Carter
Middle Carter
East Osceola
North Tripyramid
South Twin
North Twin

Get your peak today as we would like to have these last 10 claimed before winter starts on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Nice Dedication: Now Only 10 Peaks Left In Round One For Dedication

There's something about a warm message on a cold December night that brings a smile with it. The following dedication just came in:
Dear Tom and Atticus,
My wife and I would like to dedicate your hike to the summit of Mount Jackson to our beagle, Sandy. Within a few days of having Sandy as a pup of 6 weeks, she developed Parvo and nearly died. Because of the love and care from the staff at our local veterinary clinic she was able to live through that ordeal and has given us many years of joy. At 13 years of age she's still going strong and always looks forward to a hike in the woods.

Best of luck,
Michael and Donna Serdehely aka. Jimmy Legs and Little "d"