It was as far as they could drive the Jeep. Pulling it over as close as he could to the edge of the trail both Geoff and Sylvia got out. Geoff opened the rear tailgate and pulled his pack out. The pack was an old, ratty and at one time tan with a green stripe. But now it was a decidedly brownish goopy color. Oil stains from the tractor added the sense of “reclaimed” to it. Within it, however, Geoff kept his emergency kit. The pack was ratty because it went everywhere with Geoff whether on the tractor or in his truck going to town and back. If nothing else, Geoff was prepared. More than once it had paid off both when he cut himself “a lulu” once repairing a fence or when he saved a man’s life after a rather hideous traffic accident.
Throwing it over his shoulder he asked Sylvia if she was ready. With a nod from her they started up the trail.
The snow was almost six inches deep now and the temperature was dropping making the footing more difficult by the minute. Especially as both Geoff and Sylvia were a full nine years older than Buck but still spry and no strangers to work. They trudged on intent to find Buck; hurt or not. Both were worried because Buck knew the trail like the back of his hand and the fact that he was maniacally on time. When he said he would be somewhere at a certain time it was a given. That alone was reason enough for their concern.
Forty minutes later they had covered only a mile. Both were hiking with heads down against the blowing snow when they heard an engine coming from an old logging road which intersected the trail from the ridge above. They saw the lights of a small golf cart- looking vehicle before they recognized it as a Ranger driving a UTV. Instantly, they flagged him down. “Whoa, hey there!” Sylvia yelled flailing both arms over her head.
As the Ranger drove up to them he guessed there was something unusual afoot. “What can I do for you folks on this fine summers afternoon?” He said, with an ironic grin; stepping out of the UTV.
“Our friend is overdue by a couple of hours and that isn’t a bit like him!”
Sylvia continued without interruption, “he’s punctual so something happened to him on the trail and don’t tell me everything is fine because it isn’t!” With that she crossed her arms across her chest with a look that was just daring the Ranger to contradict her.
“My name is Jeff,” the Ranger calmly told them, trying his best to calm the nearly hysterical woman “when were you expecting him?”