In September, 2006, C and I spent a weekend hiking over the Wildcats and across the southern Carter range. As we climbed Carter Dome on the morning of our second day, we met a man who was hiking with his dog.
It isn't so unusual to see people hiking with dogs, but it is fairly unusual to see someone hiking up the rugged high peaks of New Hampshire's White Mountains with a schnauzer. We unconsciously alternated rest breaks with the man and his dog, stopping to exchange pleasantries each time one of us passed the other.
At a ledge over-looking Carter Notch and the hut, the man took a picture of us. Way down at the bottom of the picture, you can see the green roof of the hut. It obviously had been a steep climb for all of us--but for that little schnauzer?
Carter Dome, at a height of 4832 feet is the 9th highest of the White Mountains. When we made the summit, we had it to ourselves with no sign of the man and dog who had passed us again a little before. Despite its height, the summit of Carter Dome does not provide much of a view. C, who had hiked the trail before, assured me that less than a mile to the north, Mt. Hight would provide a beautiful view across Pinkham Notch and the eastern side of the Presidential Range.
We kept at it--heading north on the Carter-Moriah trail to Mt. Hight. When we got there, it was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. There was an undercast in the Notch and the Northern Presidentials poked up through it like islands in an ocean of clouds. The leaves were just starting to turn and the contrast of the clouds below the majestic peaks and then the blue sky was just incredible.
It's impossible to share such rare beauty with a stranger without feeling that you have slipped into friendship, so we shared the summit with the man and his dog and talked a bit about who we were and what we did and why we were climbing a mountain on a Sunday in September when the Red Sox were playing the Yankees.
The man's name was Tom and his dog was named Atticus. They lived in Massachusetts where he operated a controversial political newspaper. Tom and Atticus climbed 4000 footers every weekend year-round and were planning on hiking all 48 4000 footers two times the coming winter as a fund-raiser for the Jimmy Fund.
He told us about an internet hangout for hikers called Views from the Top and said he would sponsor us as members. C and I became avid readers of the posts on Views from the Top and our favorite poster of trip reports was, of course, Tom and Atticus. His writing was amazing. If the standard advice to writers is to write about your passion, he was clearly passionate about the mountains.
When I was a little girl growing up, my neighbor was an artist named Arnelda Richter. On a summer morning, she would find me knocking at the sliding glass door of her studio. She would let me in to watch her paint--I loved her artistry--especially her paintings of the ocean because she painted the ocean the way I saw it. As a child, I couldn't understand why others couldn't capture the ocean quite right--of course now I know that we all experience things differently. But just like my artist neighbor painted the ocean the way it was to me, Tom writes about the mountains the way I know them.
The man and dog are at it again, this winter attempting to climb all 48 4000 footers two times to raise money for MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center. Tom sold his newspaper last fall and moved up to New Hampshire to write and to hike with his companion, Atticus. I have never read his political writings, but his mountain writings are extraordinary. If you have ever wondered what it is like to climb mountains or to love a dog or to heal from heartbreak, Tom can tell you.