After the Apocalypse
Chapter 63: A little fishing
by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue
Dave, Lou, and Mark stopped in at BC briefly to explain that they were going fishing and would be back in a few hours, then headed out towards Beaver Lake. Luckily, no one had asked to join them and no one else was on the lake. The blizzard had made people less eager than ever to leave the relative comfort of the cabins and there weren't enough fishing poles for everyone anyhow.
"So where do you think he went," asked Dave.
"Well, if he wanted to so some thinking, I think he went to a spot I know, up behind the Beaver Creek firebowl."
"Well, he once told me it was one of his favorite places for thinking in camp. Besides, he'll have needed somewhere with some firewood and that he could be sure of finding. This place will fill the bill on both counts."
"Hmm. Well, if we're going to go on that trail, I think we'd better make sure our keys are stowed securely," said Lou.
"Very funny," said Dave, recognizing the joke immediately. More than ten years earlier he'd lost the keys to Steve's truck on the trail they were about to take. Despite hours of searching, they hadn't been able to find the keys and Steve and John had been forced to drive back to Detroit to pick up a spare set. In the time since, they'd made it abundantly clear that they'd never let him forget his error.
They hiked up the hill behind the firebowl in silence, then turned abruptly to the right after their second ascent, walking eastward along a trail which followed a narrow ridge back towards Ranch Road.
"Couldn't we have just taken this trail from behind Midway?" asked Lou.
"Sure, if we'd wanted everyone there to know what we were up to," replied Dave.
A few more minutes of silence brought them to a wide spot in the trail. Wordlessly, all three spread out and began searching the surrounding woods for some sign that Steve had been in the area. The thick snow blanketing the area made the search difficult and the silence was eerie as they searched for a lost glove or a wayward bootprint.
"I've got something," called Dave from about a quarter of the way down the slope. As the others rushed to join him, he continued, "It looks like someone had a fire here just recently. See, these branches are burned, and they're mostly on top of the snow. It looks like whoever was here scattered them on purpose."
"That makes sense," said Lou. "If he didn't want to find us, he'd have to try and hide the fire. But how long ago was it and where did he go from here?"
"I'm not sure," said Dave, "but I'd guess it was the night he left, while the storm was still on."
"What makes you say that," asked his companions in unison.
"Well," explained Dave, "there are a couple of things. First, the burnt end of the stick has some ice on it, but no snow. I'm thinking that means the stick was hot, got hit with some snow and it melted. If it had been there during the actual snowfall, I think it would be a lot more covered; since he probably put the fire out in the morning, that points to day before yesterday. Second, if Steve had been here any other night, someone would have seen his fire and investigated. We're not very far from Midway and I bet you could see the light of this fire out the cabin window on a clear night."
Satisfied that Dave's reasoning was sound, the three continued their search but they didn't find any more conclusive evidence of Steve's passage. They discussed their next course of action briefly and decided to continue on the trail towards Baldy. From where they were, there were really only three choices. He could have gone down to Midway, but no one had seen him. The other group had, they knew, checked the CHR Memorial and Last Ceremony sites with no luck, so it seemed likely he must have gone the other way. They walked slowly at first, looking for some sign of Steve's passage, but they didn't find anything until they actually reached the slopes below Baldy, there, in the shelter afforded by a grove of pine trees and the hill itself, they spotted what looked like old tracks heading up the slope. A little further up, they found a spot where someone had stopped to rest under a tree and then urinated. It seemed clear they were on Steve's trail now.
It wasn't easy, but having spotted the first tell-tale signs of tracks, they followed them carefully. Lou and Mark were forced to admit that Dave had more skill at it than they had expected. The tracks went pretty straight, following the trail down from Baldy to the new camporee area and then turning left, heading south towards Dryden road.
"I think it's safe to say he's headed for Metamora," said Dave.
"Either that or he's taking the long way to the Last Ceremony site".
"I don't think so," said Mark. "Those other guys were up there and didn't see any sign of him. Besides, he's got to find some food and shelter. If he doesn't, well, I don't think I want to find him."
Sobered by that thought, the three decided to continue as far as the trail to the Last Ceremony site, then head back to Beaver Creek to get the truck. They turned left again, heading east as the sun reached it's zenith. They hiked past the CHR Memorial, then the Last Ceremony Site and began the arduous descent from the highest point in D-A. At the bottom of the hill, they checked for signs of passage, but could only find tracks of the earlier search party. They stopped and picked up their fishing gear, then headed back to the cabin.
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