After the Apocalypse
Chapter 48: Lost Daha Hike II
by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue
While there was no question that a search party had to be mounted that night to look for Steve, there was considerable debate over whom that party should include. There was no one who would contest Ron's right to the place at the helm of the crew, but numerous Arrowmen pressed their claims with him in an effort to be chosen for the new adventure.
Ron soon grew tired of the competing claims after a time and made a series of decisions, which he announced in front of a small group in Clearwater. "First off, I don't see any need for weapons on this mission. I don't want anyone going crazy and shooting. Therefore, we shall go unarmed. Second, I want a crew who knows this camp-granted, that's most of us, but we need people who are clear on things like the back roads and the trails through all of the Ranch, not just BC. Third, let's get some fresh blood moving around-you guys who've been out to Lapeer need a break and some rest tonight. Get some. Finally, we need to keep this operation small-we don't want to alarm anyone or let the word get out that we don't know where Steve is. That being the case, I want Jeff, John, Dan, and Mark Bollman. That's all."
Mark was a little surprised to be chosen-he hadn't been lobbying for a spot, and while he was certainly concerned about Steve, he thought he'd be more useful back with the group. As the five gathered foul-weather survival gear and prepared to venture out into the snow, he asked Ron about that.
"Why me, Ron? Not that I'm not happy to help out, but what are you thinking?"
"This is a matter of the mind, not the muscles. We need sharp people and quick thinkers, not brute force. It's not like we've got any evidence that there's any outsiders on camp land, so defense doesn't need to be a priority. And if Steve's mentally unstable, I'm counting on the four of you to help me talk him down and get him back here where we can get to the bottom of what's going through his head."
"You've really thought this through."
"Put yourself in my shoes, Mark. If Dan or Eric were lost out there, you'd be doing the same thing."
"Touché. Okay, then-one thought comes to mind: My bet is that Steve's holed up in a cabin somewhere-that would give him good shelter and a chance to be alone with his thoughts. If that's the case, we shouldn't have any trouble finding him."
"Good idea-but if he's not, we need to look outside as well. Let's keep the cabin thing on the back burner for now-if he's there, he's safe and we probably shouldn't interfere for awhile. I'm more concerned about making sure he's not in any trouble. Frankly, if he wants to be alone for a few days to collect himself, I can't say as I blame him. He's been through more than we can possibly imagine."
"True enough-we haven't had anything even remotely approaching down time since this whole thing started. We could all use some of that."
"Exactly why I want Lou and Mark and them standing down tonight. If what they say is true, then we may need to crank up our defense up a few notches. It'll be best for everyone if we let them take a break. Particularly Lou-I can't imagine what watching that double murder is doing to him mentally."
The five searchers silently gathered in the main room at Clearwater and filed out the same door that Steve had used the previous night. As they followed the familiar path to the bridge crossing Beaver Creek and into the woods, there was no speaking. Everyone knew the stakes and why they were there. As they emerged from the forest and reached the main fork near Lang cabin, Jeff raised the question of their path.
"Okay, Ron, which way next? Do you think he's headed into BC subcamp or up toward the front?"
Ron spoke decisively. "Into camp. I think we should cut our way through the woods up toward the CHR Memorial site, then follow the path out to the fire road before we head north."
The path Ron described was a rough trail under good circumstances; with the recent blizzard, the trails would approach the impassable. John questioned the decision.
"You really think Steve would've gone that way? That's a pretty difficult hike. I think we'll just put ourselves in danger if we stray off the roads. We should really stick to the camp roads until-"
Ron cut him off. "No. If Steve took the roads, he probably made it to a cabin and took shelter. If he did that, then he's probably safe and alone with his thoughts-and we should leave him that way. We're prepared for whatever we might encounter in the woods, right?" John did not answer right away. "Right!?"
"Uh, I guess so."
"Good. Look, we're not taking votes here. I've thought all of this through, and we're doing things my way. If you've got a problem with that, I suggest you turn back now. But remember that we'll need you to help get through to Steve when we find him. Don't let him down."
John acquiesced and fell into line in front of Mark, who was bringing up the rear of the pack. While the sky was still fiercely overcast, there was nonetheless enough light to make flashlights unnecessary. They worked their way across the camp in total silence and paused briefly at the Scoutcraft building before starting the long tricky climb uphill. All the while, five pairs of eyes detected no signs of any recent passage or human presence.
Jeff broke the silence that hung in the air. "Here we go again on the Lost Daha Hike." The reference was to a 1978 search for Steve, when he had gotten lost returning from a ceremony at the Downriver Chapter Ceremonial Training Weekend, a precursor to Winter Camp. The hike was replicated at Winter Camp III, as everyone tried to retrace the path of Steve's wanderings and locate the bear's pizza place-one of Steve's reported sightings and a landmark of the event. The memory triggered a few grins, but no one laughed-the night's purpose was far too serious.
They walked into the woods and began to climb the hill leading toward the CHR Memorial site. John continued to grumble about how there was no way Steve would have come this way and how they were wasting their time and putting themselves in danger, but only Mark heard him, and he chose not to respond to John's ranting.
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