Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship
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After a close friend died of cancer, middle-aged, overweight, acrophobic newspaperman Tom Ryan decided to pay tribute to her in a most unorthodox manner. Ryan and his friend, miniature schnauzer Atticus M. Finch, would attempt to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s four-thousand-foot peaks twice in one winter while raising money for charity. It was an adventure of a lifetime, leading them across hundreds of miles and deep into an enchanting but dangerous winter wonderland. At the heart of the amazing journey was the extraordinary relationship they shared, one that blurred the line between man and dog.
Following Atticus is an unforgettable true saga of adventure, friendship, and the unlikeliest of family, as one remarkable animal opens the eyes and heart of a tough-as-nails newspaperman to the world’s beauty and its possibilities.
least three siblings had spent a night in one place together. Such things just weren’t done in the Ryan family. We weren’t a close group. We were but survivors of the same shipwreck, and there was little interaction among us. We got together for a few hours each Thanksgiving and Christmas, but other than that we rarely talked or sent e-mails, and this often drove me crazy. I could stand on a street corner in Newburyport, meet a stranger, and know more about him in ten minutes than I’d found out
the downtown and replace them with strip malls and parking lots. A group of citizens came together, hired an architect to show what the downtown could look like if it were saved, and went to court to stop the demolition. They won, and Newburyport became the first city in the country to use HUD money to restore instead of demolish a blighted downtown. This brought about a great restoration, but to many of the locals it brought about an even greater bitterness. For once newcomers saw how beautiful
daylight, and they warned me to carry more than one headlamp just in case one of them went out. “You don’t want to be stuck on a mountain at night with temperatures below zero and no way to see!” I may have been ambitious, but I was also nervous, so I made sure to buy three headlamps, extra bulbs, and extra batteries. They also warned me how trails could look different in the winter, how the paint blazes that marked them could be masked by snow and ice, and how if the snow was deep enough, it
again. “Atticus! I’d recognize him anywhere!” he said. And he chattered just like that: fast and loud, with every sentence ending in an exclamation point. “I think you’re mistaken,” I said. “This is Sparky.” Panic came to his face, and he dropped his camera to his side. “But aren’t you Tom of Tom and Atticus?” “Nope. I’m Mike.” “Are you sure? He looks just like Atticus,” he insisted, cocking his eyebrow with a bit of suspicion. “Aren’t you guys hiking them all twice this winter or something
stuck with the smaller, easier peaks. We were already behind in the game. A year to the date since we’d survived the Bonds’ blizzard, I wanted to add three peaks to our total, and I decided we’d do Tom, Field, and Willey, the three four-thousand-footers of the Willey Range. The Willey Range had some history to it. It stood on the western side of Crawford Notch, and it was named for an ill-fated family that had been killed in 1826. When a landslide sent a thundering roar from the mountain above,