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, February 26, 2009

Mount Washington In National Geographic

For those of you who didn't see last month's National Geographic, they focused on Mount Washington and her horrendous weather. To read the article click here. To see the photos that appeared in N.G. click here. Perhaps my favorite line from the article is this: "It is a regular star in television forecasts, a coffee shop conversation starter, a murderer." The photo above is from last winter when Atticus and I stood atop Washington on a spring-like day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Filming Follow-Up

In the next couple of days I'll be sharing our experiences throughout the Animal Planet shoot. For now, suffice it to say the crew from Powderhouse Productions made this a very pleasant experience as did the people at Angell. On Thursday we filmed a lengthy interview at the Nereledge Inn in North Conway; they took footage of us hiking through the snow to the top of Elephant's Head at the bottom of the Webster-Jackson Trail; took footage of us walking through downtown North Conway; then finished up with some more filming in the Met coffeehouse. Yesterday, Atticus and I drove to Jamaica Plain where some more footage was shot at Angell Animal Medical Center. Besides the folks at Powderhouse, I am thankful to the staff at Angell for making themselves available for filming yesterday. Particular thanks goes out to Atticus' doctor, Maureen Carroll, for taking the time to drive to North Conway for her own somewhat lengthy interview and then making herself available while she was working yesterday. I have no idea what the footage looks like but I'm told it looks great. We shall see. I was told the show should debut in April. And finally, not enough can be said to Diane Mello and the rest of the staff at the Met for their continued warmth and welcoming ways! An update will be following soon.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photos From Yesterday's Animal Planet Visit With Atticus

Some photos from yesterday's Animal Planet shoot with the crew from Powderhouse Productions. Top photo is of the producer, Joe Sousa, warming Atticus on top of Elephant Head. Then the cameraman and sound engineer filming Atticus on the trail while they walk backwards. Final shot is of the crew together surrounded by winter at the foot of Mt. Jackson.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Four Photos From Yesterday

Today is not a hiking day and this is not a hiking winter. Yes, we have done five hikes since winter started, but this is our first winter to hike leisurely after three winters of cramming peaks in to the point of getting burned out on it. Instead I'm concentrating on my book proposal this winter. Nevertheless we hiked Passaconaway yesterday and tomorrow we're going right back out there (if the weather holds) to hike the Willey Range (Mt. Willey; Mt. Field; and Mt. Tom). Then on Thursday we'll be meeting with the people from Powderhouse Productions while they film Atticus for Dogs 101 on Animal Planet.
Here are some shots from yesterday's hike. All shots were taken from the one viewpoint just before the summit (which has no view).
  1. Atticus in front of a view into the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
  2. A panoramic shot into the Pemi with white-capped Franconia Ridge to the left; the Hancocks right in the foreground in the middle; and Carrigain off to the right.
  3. A better shot of the Hancocks and Carrigain.
  4. North Tripyramid with the Osceolas in the background.

A Pleasant Surprise

Wonderful of Beth Maddaus to honor us with a post on her blog today with news of Atticus being on Animal Planet.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Atticus M. Finch To Be On Animal Planet

I've always said that Atticus is the brains, brawn and beauty of this operation and just to show you I'm not the only one who thinks so, Powderhouse Productions, the people who run Animal Planet's Dogs 101, are coming to the White Mountains to film my diminutive friend. It will run as part of their segment on miniature schnauzers. At this time the plan is for them to climb a mountain with us...or at least go on a hike to get some footage of Atti in his element.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Gray Jays on Jackson

When we hiked Mount Jackson the other day we had the pleasure of having the summit to ourselves...well, actually, we shared it with a trio of Gray Jays. The wonderfully bold birds make it a habit to visit for food on several of the peaks in the Crawford Notch area.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wandering in Tamworth

Our time in Tamworth is winding down. While I have no set departure date it is only a matter of time before we move to a more permanent location in North Conway in the near future. Atticus and I will depart Tamworth a bit better off for having spent time here. It is a charming place with more natural understated nooks and crannies than any other place I’ve lived.

While we will only be up the road some thirty minutes we’ll never have the same convenience of the treasures Nature has given us to unwrap these past five months. Here, in the shadow of the eastern edge of the Sandwich Mountain Range, there are streams and fields and rustic mountain views exclusive to the area. And as we wander these rural roads or hiking trails I embrace them, knowing we may never be on them again – for such is the wealth of wonders throughout the White Mountains. There will always be more to discover and celebrate.

On Monday, the halfway mark of winter, Atticus and I rolled out of bed, ate a little breakfast, walked down the road a half a mile, and then faded into the woods along a snowmobile path worn to a sidewalk by weekend enthusiasts. This is the same path we walked along the very first day we moved into the area in late August. On that golden afternoon we ambled among mossy rocks and lush ferns beneath a green and gold sun-dappled canopy. On Monday it was a different world – all white and frozen in sleep. No ferns, no moss. And even the trail-side stream was partially frozen; the only canopy was the dark, naked bark of tree branches reaching towards a gray, featureless sky.

Sylvia Plath had perfect lines for such a scene years ago: "Winter dawn is the color of metal, / The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves." You know the look. It may even contribute to your seasonal depression but I have own antidote for such things: I simply avoid the ‘color of metal’ while following the flop-eared saunter of a little dog who repels the cold indifference with his happy-go-lucky wandering along the trail. It’s like finding yourself guided through a black and white movie by a colorful cartoon dog. What a simple joy it is to travel these trails with Atticus!

The snowmobile trail may not be the steepest hike in the Whites but it is still an uphill walk and before long my body warmed enough to sweat and my heavy breathing joined the bite of my snowshoes as the only forest noises. We walked for close to a mile before reaching the summer road (closed for the winter). Then it was to the left a little ways and a bit more of a climb until we reached the tower atop Great Hill.

Atticus has never liked open-backed stairs and while he adores summit sitting he’s no fan of hill or mountaintop towers and so I carried him up the narrow stairs. Sure he could have stayed down below but he would have missed the amazing view of the entire Sandwich Range as it stretches from west to east and this once-blind dog loves his views. Off to the far left stood Sandwich Dome, looking more impressive than many of the 48 peaks taller than she is. There stood the Tripyramids and the Sleepers and Whiteface and the hulking mass of Passaconaway – along with Wonalancet, Paugus and Chocorua: more mountains named for legendary Indians of days gone by. Such glory all in a beautiful panoramic view!

If it weren’t for the chill of the early morning we would have stayed longer. As it was we stayed long enough for our bodies to shiver. Then it was back down the stairs and out to the summer road. Instead of returning the way we came we walked down the closed road with me just a foot or two in front of Atticus. (He’s no idiot. He let me use my snowshoes to break the trail for him.) On we plodded and in our private walk through deep snow my mind wandered here and there until it came to rest on something that was pointed out to me this past week. Atticus and I were mentioned in Mary Baker Eaton’s popular Newburyport Blog ( She wrote:

There was a time, long, long ago, when Tom Ryan ruled the political Newburyport earth, and had a local political journal called “The Undertoad.” Mr. Ryan had an astounding radar for what drove any particular human being nuts. And if a Newburyport human being crossed a particular Tom Ryan code of ethics, that human being got “Toaded,” i.e. slammed in the Undertoad, and all their particular buttons got wildly pressed.

It was not a pleasant experience for those who entered into the very, very long (and actually it was becoming somewhat distinguished) list of the Newburyport Toaded.

I figured, writing the Newburyport Blog, that it was only a matter of time, before, I too would get Toaded. But Mr. Ryan went on to bigger and better things, like being given the Human Hero Award by the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center, receiving it at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and headlining the award ceremony with Emmylou Harris. Not a bad gig.

My big defense against getting Toaded—a bunch of stuffed frogs. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, it seems a little out of touch with reality. Oh well.

But the frogs and I had a grand old time (and for goodness sakes we still may). There was a good deal of eye rolling, especially by male readers of the Newburyport Blog, about my beloved frogs. I was told once that no serious reader would read any post that contained green critters, except this person had read all the posts containing green critters. Go figure. I was also told that because of the frog thing, I was totally whacked. Yes, “No Comment.”

However, it is my experience, that weirdly, the more political power an individual actually had, the more they actually liked my cadre of green things. A sort of interesting frog political Rorschach test. I was listening to a friend talk about a (national) politician, and they were talking about this person not exactly being a
“prince,” but no “frog” either.

And that got me to thinking. Maybe all those readers who didn’t like my frogs, were actually frogs themselves. And no amount of frog kissing would ever turn them into “princes” or bring about some sort of fairy tale ending, like being honored at the Kennedy Center for a humanitarian award and headlining that 21st Annual Animal Hall of Fame dinner with Emmylou Harris.

Ain’t life grand.
This simple little three-mile loop over Great Hill may not be a hike along Franconia Ridge but it’s special in its own way. But that’s the charm of these mountains, isn’t it? Even the simplest adventures – the little comings and going and quaint secret places are enchanting in that they are enough to make a man want to stop writing about what’s wrong with the politicians of the world and instead turn his focus to what’s right with the world. In my case that’s this grand and magnificent place – and a remarkable little dog.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Fine Day on Mt. Jackson Today

Atticus posing on top of Mt. Jackson at the trail junction with
Mt. Willey & Mt. Field in the direct background.