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, May 19, 2011

While People are Weighing in on 'Following Atticus', Atticus is Enjoying the Mountains

Our latest review comes from Bob Connolly of Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport, Massachusetts. It can be found on our author's page here, or you can read it below.

Following Atticus is the real life tale of middle-aged news- paper editor Tom Ryan and an extraordinary and lovable miniature schnauzer named Atticus M. Finch. Facing questions about his life and following the death of a beloved friend, Ryan and Atticus set out to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot peaks, twice, in the winter, to raise money for cancer. Can an overweight, tough-as-nails reporter and his twenty-five pound companion accomplish what most think to be an impossible quest? What follows is a series of remarkable adventures, covering the cannibalistic, mean streets of small-town politics to the treacherous, icy conditions of wintry mountain top terrain, which will test not only Tom and Atticus’s endurance but the bonds that tie them together.

The adventures that Ryan and Atticus share together will delight, entertain, and inspire. Ryan writes with such passion and enthusiasm about his love for the mountains, the relationships between fathers and sons, the inner workings of small-town politics, the loyalty of friendships, and one man’s unique relationship with a dog known as "the Little Giant". Rising above the plethora of dog books on the market, the story told is ultimately about one man’s transformation as he seeks to understand his place in the world and the little dog who guides him on that journey. After getting to know Atticus, the reader will want to follow him as well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hello, Neighbor

This afternoon, Atticus and I ran into one of our neighbors. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me so I used my iPhone to take shots of him. We spent a good twenty minutes with him before parting company and leaving him to his dinner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Black Cap

Yesterday's clear views from the summit of Crawford were but a memory today as the warmest temperatures of the season brought haze to the Mount Washington Valley. We climbed Black Cap, now that Hurricane Mountain Road is open, and had an easy enough go of the 2.5 mile hike to the summit and back. We also had the summit to ourselves; I don't think many people realize the road is open. However, we didn't stay too long.

As I said, it was hot and hazy and we were both a bit tuckered from yesterday's adventure. I took a few photos of Agiocochook through the midday haze and we headed down and then back home for lunch.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Praise for Following Atticus

From Steve Smith and Mike Dickerman, authors of The 4,000-Footers of the White Mountains:

“Tom Ryan's lyrical narrative recounts the epic White Mountain adventures he's shared with Atticus M. Finch, his stalwart miniature schnauzer. During one amazing winter Ryan and Finch attempted to hike ninety-six snow-draped peaks in just ninety days. This unlikely duo traversed hundreds of miles through the rugged terrain of the Whites, home of ‘the world's worst weather,’ battling snow, cold, and wind and looking upon scenes of unspeakable beauty. This tale alone ensures that Following Atticus will delight dog lovers and mountain enthusiasts alike. But the book also takes the reader on a spiritual journey, as man and dog face unforeseen challenges with grace, courage, and love.”

Monday, May 09, 2011

What a Sky!

I kicked myself for getting such a late start to our hike on Hedgehog. I always seem to get my best shots there early in the morning or later in the day. The overhead sun tends to wash things out a bit. However, my favorite shot of the day came at about two in the afternoon when Atticus and I were hanging out on the Eastern Ledge. Check out this sky above the eastern portion of the Sandwich Range, from Mount Chocorua to the left over to the shoulder of Passaconaway on the far right.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Slowly, Spring Comes To Us

Slowly, spring comes to us.

Today, I watched bright colored finches; blue jays, and red wing blackbirds take turns at our feeders. Earlier this week a bear walked drowsily through the backyard as if looking for his morning coffee. And this afternoon Atticus and I and watched a cantankerous crow fly back and forth across Echo Lake. In silent contrast to him was the quiet, graceful gliding of a heron. In the woods, the forest floor has awakened. Seeing the small sprouts of life push up through dead leaves and fallen fir needles reminds me of something Rilke wrote: “Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems.”

There’s no stopping her now. Spring, irrepressible spring, is here – even if the forecast calls for an inch of snow tonight.

The other day we brought our lunch with us when we took a six-mile loop over Peaked and Middle mountains. It’s not a taxing loop and it didn’t matter that we started after noon. We had plenty of time. It was warm and when we gained the ledges on the north side of Peaked the sun beat down on us. Neither of us is used to the heat yet, not after so many cold months, so we struggled. I sweat and Atticus’s tongue hung from his mouth. We stopped for water more often than we’re used to as of late and when we took our breaks we turned back and looked down the ledges and over at Mount Washington. So much brown rock where just recently there was plenty of snow.

The joy of Peaked Mountain lies in the stunted pines pushing up among the angled ledges. The higher you climb the more twisted and dramatic they become. They are not large, but they have character as they lean this way and that. Even these ‘evergreen’s’ were a sight to behold as new life ran through them and the needles looked brighter than they have in almost a year.

Once on top, and under that parasol of pine trees, a chill breeze washed away my sweat. It was refreshing and felt almost as though we were sitting in a cool swimming pool.

When we don’t have far to go and the climb is not all that taxing, we linger. That’s what we do whenever we are on Peaked’s prow of a summit that breaks like a wave towards the south. After we eat, and drink our fill of views, Atticus naps and I read, or I bring a paper and pen and write letters to friends.

Monday’s breeze was a delight and I took out my iPhone and made a video of the way the tree branches swayed and recorded the sigh of the wind through the limbs. I captured sleeping Atticus’s floppy ears being teased and tossed gently about. Then I sent it off to my friends who were stuck in cubicles or offices – nine to five prisoners - to give them each a brief recess.

Before long two hikers arrived, then another. They were all from Maine and decided to talk about the governor. I’m not sure whether they like him or not. What I do know is that they talked endlessly about politics and after more than a decade of writing a political journal I have a simple rule: when politics arrive on the summit, it’s time for us to depart. So Atticus and I left the three of them behind to solve the problems of the world, or at least of the State of Maine, and we descended for a bit, sharply at first, then more gently, and curled around to the western slope of the mountain. It wasn’t long before we came to a junction of trails and Atticus sat and looked at the signs. When I arrived he glanced over his shoulder at me and I pointed to the left and he led us up along a stream towards the top of Middle Mountain.

We’ve been up that path a few times these past months and throughout the winter I’ve enjoyed the way the faded yellow, parchment-thin beech leaves have clung to the smaller trees lending the winter woods their only color. Whenever we walk by them they shimmer and dance, all atwitter – like school girls giggling away. They do this even when there’s no noticeable breeze to stir them up. But now they are finally falling, being forced out by new life, and I miss them. But their loss is a small price to pay for what will soon replace them. Soon the forest will be teeming with life. Already the lichen on trees has filled out and feels lush and fresh to the touch. Everything else will be along in the coming weeks. What I look forward to most are the trillium and the lady slippers. This is their time of year to show their delicate beauty.

Once on top of Middle we sat again. Dark clouds drifted in and the temperature slowly dropped. However, it wasn’t significant and after looking at the views Atticus found himself a soft bed in the web between tree roots. Having the summit to ourselves I took out my iPhone once again and plugged it in to small speakers and listened to Brahms while I settled down against the same tree that cradled Atti and wrote another letter.

I wrote to my friend, “I do believe we’ve found a little patch of heaven on earth. I believe we find one each time we go for a hike.”

Later this spring and into the summer we’ll take longer hikes and return to each of the four thousand footers simply because it’s been a while since we’ve done them all. I want to visit with them as we did that first summer five years ago and I hope to see them anew. In the fall we’ll start our book tour and I imagine it will get rather crazy and I find comfort in knowing we’ll take along the memories of these “friends” with us, especially since they play such a big role in our story.

But for now, on these shorter, less taxing hikes, we nap, write letters, enjoy the breeze, and a little classical music. Through it all we welcome the spring.

Tom & Atticus Return to Newburyport (For a Day)

This past weekend we were back in New- buryport to participate in a literary festival. It was a great event where approximately eighty writers and poets were sprinkled throughout the city at various venues.

Atticus and I were right at home at Jabberwocky Bookshop, where I hope we'll be kicking off Following Atticus after it is published in September. Just down the street from us, Paul Harding, author of Tinkers and winner of the most recent Pulitzer Prize, was speaking at the same time. Because of that I wasn't quite sure what kind of turnout we'd have, especially since our book isn't out yet. I was stunned to see a standing room only crowd that overflowed the room and spilled into the bookstore proper and out to the hallway of the Tannery Marketplace.

Instead of writing about it here, I'll let Kathleen Downey tell the story. Kathleen is a Newburyport area writer and animal lover. She shared her thoughts about our visit on the Newburyport Today website in her regular "Citizen Profile" column. You
can find it here.