You have heard all the vehicle stories prior to arrival at Lafayette Trailhead except for one – Sun God and Viking had prepared the hardy group for this adventure in the dark with a tape of a Jack London story about a man who freezes to death in the Alaskan twilight and also with lots of chat about The Blair Witch Project. This obviously had an affect on some members of the crew because during the first rain shower, while the crew was still in the vehicle, there was talk of a hotel Coincidentally, the rain let up as we arrived at the parking lot, enough for all souls to resolve, "we are going up". However, the rain resumed before we left the parking lot, and some members of the party began to show a modicum of restraint
I was always of the belief that every group needs a sweep, and since I always planned to travel light in the trip, I agreed to be the sweep for the following morning Two of the party sought the predictable shelter of the van that night as opposed to the vagaries of the mountain
At 5:30 a.m. I was aroused by an apparent lessening of the rain on the roof of the van. I checked on Fireball’s intentions, and as he made it clear that he had no intentions of accompanying me on my sweep, I headed up the mountain with my water and power bars in my bumbag.
I caught the first of the stragglers as the breakfast gong was sounding at Greenleaf Hut at 7:00 a.m. The need for a sweep was ever more apparent A lead group of three was long gone from the night before, and had no idea of the whereabouts of the tailing group of six. Besides; the tail group, now including Dunker had heard the breakfast bell from Greenleaf, and had no intention of departing the hut before they had availed themselves of the opportunity for a hot breakfast. As the sweep, I could only content myself with the odor of bacon and eggs.
At 7:00 a.m. I headed off into the mountain mist that looked and smelled just Atlantic fog, and with the sound deadening qualities of a fog. The Greenleaf breakfast bell would not be heard on Lafayette Trail where Viking, Dipper and the soon to be named "Low Maintenance" had hunkered down for the night.
Anyone who knows Viking’s reputation, knows he wouldn’t be waiting about in the fog. Charged with the responsibility of now communicating the intentions of the tail of the group to the head of the group, the sweep pressed on. In difference to Viking’s pacing, this is not a task to be undertaken with a full pack. I did replenish my water bottle at the hut, and then set out over the still rain slicked trail to Lafayette Summit.
On the way, I did acquire intelligence from another solitary hiker that the head party of three was observed at the Lafayette Summit, but, in the words of my in-laws, when I got to the Summit "their they were gone".
So onward I travel across the ridge, through the mountain mists to Haystack. On the way I acquire more intelligence that they are five minutes ahead of me. At Haystack, no one is waiting, and I can appreciate why, as the wind has picked up, but I am now faced with the dilemma – did they go Falling Waters Trail or Liberty Spring Trail. I know the intention was to go to Liberty for the view from the Summit, but the view from Haystack is still obscured by fog so their plans could have changed. Just then, two hikers immerge out of the mist on Falling Waters Trail, and they tell me they have seen not a soul, so it is Liberty Springs Trail for me. Ten minutes more, and I caught the lead group taking a break after they had been out for about an hour.
Remember friends, that I had been out on the trail for three hours at this point. Certainly I took the offered sustenance after delivering the message that the head group should not wait for the tail group. Now it was profoundly obvious that they weren’t fretting over what had become of the others in any case. Nevertheless, the sweep had done his job, and delivered the message – at the cost of my own water supply. Low Maintenance generously offered, without asking, to replenish my water. I will endure these slings and arrows because I was rewarded on Liberty Summit, when the mist cleared, and Liberty and Flume Mountains gave us a panoramic view of the valleys spread out on either side.
Low Maintenance even took a photo for those in the tail group, who on the day would not be so fortunate to find the sun on a Summit because they were still on cloud shrouded Lafeyette.
In naming me the scrounger, Sun God seems to have forgotten who brought the hot mustard for all to share at Fishing Cove. I guess I should be grateful I wasn’t renamed after that trip to "Hot Mustard". But, if that had happened, Fireball would never had spent the night in a van with another male whose trail name was Hot Mustard, and that may have avoided the need for a sweep in the first place.
"There but for a fortune go you or I".