A mountain man's best friend

Slingerlands man and canine companion have scaled over 200 summits

The Lone Ranger had Silver. Turner had Hooch. Alan Via has Bookah.

Like in other great pairings, Via can always count on the companionship of his 5-year-old chocolate Labrador when he embarks on his adventures. His many, many, adventures.

Via has hiked and bushwhacked his way to the top of the highest 100 peaks in the Adirondacks and the Catskills, many of them more than once, and Bookah also finished those 200 summits in August of 2008.

Capturing those summits is a remarkable and rare distinction for a human. To Via's knowledge, Bookah is the only canine to do so (and the second female).

That's a source of a lot of fun with the other female finishers behind her, Via joked.

The Slingerlands resident has been an outdoorsman since his youth, but was introduced to hiking only after moving to Albany in his 20s and befriending a member of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). Before long, he was organizing outings for the local chapter.

"I discovered you could go walking in the woods without hunting or carrying a fishing pole," he said. "I was learning at the elbow of people my age, with decades of experience."

Now 62, Via holds many of the trappings of true hiking fanatics, including a spot on the exclusive ADK Winter 46'r and Catskill Winter 3,500 lists and a basement full of topographic maps and equipment. Freshly retired from a career as an insurance marketing rep, he's seizing on his newfound time to lead others to the trail, by print and in person.

Via is set to publish a trail guide entitled "Catskill 100 Highest: A Hiker's Guide to the 67 Peaks Under 3,500 Feet," that will focus primarily on the shorter summits between 3,000 and 3,500 feet, which receive little use.

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