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We arose at about 4:10am, after (for me) a fairly good eight hours of sleep. Jenn and Caroline were not so lucky - apparently the slope they were sleeping on was steep enough to cause sliding issues throughout the night.

Given our relatively proximity to the summer soltice, even at this very early hour there was already a bit of morning twilight visible off to the east. It wasn't long before we no longer needed our headlamps, and by the time we had finished eating breakfast and were packed and ready to go, we could safely stow the lamps away entirely.
Early Descent
By 5:20 am we were off, continuing the steep descent down towards the valley of the East Branch of the Ausable River. Given the unrelentingly steep grade (the last part of which is called 'The Elevator'), we soon were at the valley floor. After a quick delayering break, we crossed over the wide East Branch Ausable River on a long and sturdy bridge.

We were in the heart of 'AMR' land down here. The AMR, or Adirondack Mountain Reserve, is privately-held chunk of land within the Adirondack High Peaks wilderness. There are agreements in place for hikers to use some of the trails, but with strict conditions - no dogs, no camping, swimming etc.
The Elevator Shaft
Big, Sturdy Bridge
East Branch
Slightly confusing situation
AMR roadway
Streamside trail
Once across the footbridge, we turned left and followed not particularly clear signage, attempting to follow the section of trail known as 'The Carry'. This turned out to be a very beautiful section of footpath that mostly parallels the banks of the East Branch of the Ausable River.

We followed The Carry trail northwest, heading towards Upper Ausable Lake.
View up to Colvin-Blake col
Beautiful streamside path
Beautiful streamside path
East Branch and Colvin
Deluxe spring station
Oversize trailside seating
Shanty Brook
Pretty meadow path
Perfect forest path
Perfect forest path
Perfect forest path
AMR Warden's Camp
As we walked along the flat and easy path, we talked a bit more about Ewart. We decided that the safest and most prudent course of action was to verify as soon as possible that he was safe and in good health, and that therefore, a more direct line towards the Elk Lake-Marcy trail was in order. Therefore, once well past the main structures around the east end of Upper Ausable Lake, we decided to take a bit of a short cut. In the event that we may have ventured a bit too much onto AMR land, we decided to err on the side of prudence: we took no pictures, treaded lightly, and did not post any GPS data of this section.
It was around 8am by the time we reached the crossing of Stillwater Inlet in the Marcy Swamp area, along the Elk Lake-Marcy trail. We were now only a few minutes' walk away from the junction where Ewart and I had agreed he would construct a cairn. However, the bridge across the twenty-foot wide stream had been destroyed in last year's Hurricane Irene storm. So, a bit of fording was in order. Fortunately, the water was quite calm and the stream bottom nice and sandy. The biggest challenge was getting the mud cleaned from between our toes after the crossing.
Planks of Marcy Swamp
Bridge Out!
Fording Stillwater Inlet
After crossing the stream, it was a few more minutes before we had returned to the Pinnacle Ridge/Elk Lake-Marcy trail junction. And, there did seem to be something on the large boulder in the center of the junction. I guess you could call it a wood cairn: a set of sticks topped with a twisty-turny chunk of tree root. I thought back to yesterday and didn't recall seeing it there then. The others didn't either - but I wasn't 100% sure.

We spent some time looking at this cairn, trying to divine whether or not this was Ewart's work. We were fairly sure, but fairly is not positively. I looked towards the Pinnacle Ridge trail. Could he still be in there? Was he feeling too ill to move? Should one of us hike in the 2 or so kilometres, do a quick sweep to ensure that he wasn't there (or if he was, then was he ok)?

With all of these thoughts, I began to regret not formulating a more rigorous protocol with the cairn. We should have agreed on a specific token of Ewart's passage, one that was personal to him and un-mistakable.
Is this Ewart's Cairn?
After much humming and hawing, we decided that this was very likely his handiwork. The branches underneath the chunk of stump seemed to be arranged in an arrow formation, and the arrow pointed in the direction of the Elk Lake trailhead. We figured that this was probably Ewart's way of telling us that he had headed out in that direction. So, we decided to skip any exploration down the Pinnacle ridge trail, and instead make best haste along the way back to Elk Lake - hopefully catching up to Ewart somewhere along the way.
Another view on cairn
As you can see, there aren't a lot of pictures along our hike back from the junction to the Elk Lake trailhead. We went quickly up and down over the rough section of trail over the Colvin-Boreas Range, then made excellent time on the easy flat roads in the vicinity of Elk Lake.

We met three other [incoming] hikers on the trail on the way back, and none of them had reported seeing a Ewart-type hiker. That meant that it was very unlikely that he was ahead of us on the trail. We began to grow a little more concerned; had we made a mistake regarding the cairn? Was it possibly not of Ewart's doing? if it was his cairn, had he perhaps gone somewhere else? back along the Pinnacle ridge trail? up towards Panther Gorge? neither of these seemed particularly likely to us, based on his comments and condition from the day before. I started to mentally kick myself for not going in and doing a sweep of the lower part of the Pinnacle Ridge trail. That would have cleared up a good chunk of this mystery. But, we were now most of the way back to Elk Lake. The next best thing now was to go and verify that he was not somehow waiting at the trailhead. This whole affair was starting to take a turn for the worse!
An early arrival
With a bit of a mixture of anticipation and worry, we arrived back at the Elk Lake trailhead shortly after noon - quite early by any account. A quick look around the trailhead revealed that Ewart was nowhere in sight. And the trail register contained no indication of a signout, either.

There was one last place to check - the overflow parking lot, two miles down the road. This was where Ewart's car was parked, and if he had come out hours before, he may have decided to walk down to his car. We had to check to be sure.

We quickly piled everything into the car and headed down the dusty road to the overflow parking lot. Sure enough, Ewart's car was there. But no sign of Ewart. We got out, and looked around at the nearby grassy field and lake shoreline beyond. Perhaps he'd gone swimming. Poking around inside the car, there was no sign of any sort of note or message to us.

He simply wasn't here.
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