Review of Dan Szczesny's The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie

When a child doesn't ask "when will we get there?"



It started small  — a short hike to an old swimming hole in Manchester. But soon Dan Szczesny, an experienced backwoods hiker, and his next-door neighbor, 9-year-old Janelle, expanded their hikes to distant mountain peaks.

The two of them —Buffalo and Tough Cookie, as their trail names would come to be — climbed 52 New Hampshire mountains in a year (well, a year and six days). The mountains are those on a list called “52 Mountains With a View,” or 52MWV for short. It's considered the state's least known mountain list. (There's lots of information about all 52 climbs in the book.)

As they summited one after the other, the two formed a special bond, a bond beautifully described in Szczesny's “The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie” [Bondcliff Books, $15.95].

Szczesny acknowledges that the hiking combination of an adult man and a young, unrelated girl is unusual (someone once called the police) and he deals with it on the first page of the book. He says theirs was a friendship that bridged the age and gender gap, and that the fact that some people find it "a questionable thing ... still shakes me."

There is not much high drama along the trail; the 225 miles they traveled was more about "a child of the city," as Szczesny called Janelle, learning the craft of mountain climbing ("becoming an equal partner in this crazy quest"), and also learning from each other: "We taught each other how to walk farther, need less, be in the moment and stop, literally, to smell the roses, or at least smell the moose scat." 

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