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By now we were quite concerned. Based on my understanding of our previous days' conversation, we should have encountered him either at the trailhead or along the way. We began to contemplate calling the authorities, but knew that they wouldn't be inclined to do anything before Ewart was out beyond his original itinerary. And in any case, we wanted to be sure something was in fact wrong before wasting other peoples' time and money.

Therefore, that left one very unappealing but necessary task: hiking all the way back in to sweep along the 2.5 kilometres of the lower Pinnacle Ridge trail, where he was supposed to have camped the night before. That was a long, long way back in.
On the trail again
We decided that Caroline would wait behind at the car - should by some miracle Ewart show up from some other direction. Jenn and I greatly reduced the weight in our packs, had a quick rest break and fueled up (using some of Ewart's cookies that we swiped from his car), and then headed right back in on the Elk Lake-Marcy trail. Ugh, this was going to be tedious, and very long.
Third time across the Colvin-Boreas Range
With less weight on our backs and a sincere desire to get this all over with, we motored along at a very fast clip, covering the entire distance back to the junction in just about exactly two hours (that's 8km / 5mi of distance). Then, we headed in on the Pinnacle Ridge trail; this was the stretch about which we had no information: Was Ewart in here somewhere, alive but without sufficient strength to move? Or.... worse?

Now moving more slowly, we made our way along the overgrown trail to the first viable campspot, a few minutes in. No Ewart. Jenn decided to take a break and wait for me at this spot; she was far enough in that if I did find Ewart in distress, it wouldn't be too much trouble to come back and get her.
Empty Campsite, no Ewart
On to the second campspot, the one with the pretty little cascade. This was the one that Ewart stated he would be camping at, and as I approached it, the fanciful part of my mind conjured up all sorts of worst case scenarios. Would I be able to handle things if the worst indeed came to pass?

With much relief, I arrived to an empty second campsite. I poked around for a bit, not finding any signs of recent camping activity, either. Did this mean that Ewart did not camp along the Pinnacle Ridge trail at all, in direct contradiction to what he stated the day before? Or did he meet the imagined mishap yet further along the trail, between this second campsite and the turn-around point where we had parted ways? The only way to know for sure was to hike that final bit of trail. Unfortunately, it was another kilometre of distance, and a fair bit of uphill. This was getting tiring!

I dropped my pack for the last bit of walking along the trail. I had forgotten that the turn around point was a significant part of the way up towards Pinnacle, and there was several hundred feet of very steep trail to climb before I finally reached the spot, at around 2,850 feet. Still no Ewart.

Well, that settled it - Ewart wasn't anywhere along this portion of trail. This meant that he had moved out under his own steam, though, which made me feel better. He was obviously well enough to cover long distances. In orther words, he was probably just fine. But where the heck was he?
We think that's an arrow
I turned around and made my way back towards Jenn, who had now made it to the second campsite. She was a bit angry that we had not found Ewart, but mostly she was relieved.

With this new data now available to us, we reviewed the situation: Ewart had clearly moved on at some point; had it been this morning, or did he actually decide to move on yesterday afternoon, after perhaps a short rest break? We knew he had not gone back towards the Elk Lake trailhead, so that meant he either continued on along the Pinnacle Ridge trail, or he decided to continue in on the Elk Lake-Placid Trail, towards Haystack and Panther Gorge. And what was with the cairn-arrow pointing back to the trailhead, when in fact he clearly did not go in that direction?

My best guess was that he had headed up to Panther Gorge, either very early in the morning or even late the day before.
50+ kilometres of sweat
Anyway, all of the speculation would eventually be cleared up when we finally talked to Ewart, which was clearly not going to be today. Now relieved of our search-and-rescue duties, all that was left was a another tedious walk back to the trailhead. Another 10.5 kilometres of hiking. This was going to be an epically-long day!

Back to the cairned junction, back up over the Colvin-Boreas range, down to the other side, along the old road network, and across Nellie Brook and The Branch. We were becoming familiar with every tree, boulder, mud patch, turn, brook crossing and tree fungus along the way. And after more than fifty kilometres (thirty-seven of which were completed today) of fast hiking in warm, still conditions, I had grown a thick pattern of salt crystals into my shirt. Yummy.
50+ kilometres of sweat, back view
Finally, at around 6:30 pm, we arrived - much to Caroline's relief - back at the trailhead, six hours after we had left. That was actually a pretty respectful time, because we had just finished hiking the distance of a half-marathon - 21 km / 12.6 miles - in that time.

Six hours sitting idly at the trailhead was also not a particularly fun activity, and Caroline had amused herself by doing a bit of reading, a bit of sleeping, a bit of strolling about, and a bit of car battery draining.
Ending a very long slog
I was just happy to be done walking for the day. The balls of my feet were feeling a bit raw after 37 kilometres (22 miles) of walking, and I was very much looking forward to a cold bottle of chocolate milk and some peanuts back at the Stewart's gas station in Long Lake.

Before we headed off, Jenn wrote a bit of a tart note to Ewart and placed it under his car's windshield wiper. The jist of it was that we were all quite worried, and that next time we needed to co-ordinate better to avoid this sort of thing. And, to please give us a call immediately upon returning back home.
Leaving a nastygram
The next day, I received a phone call from Ewart at about 3pm, and we finally got the scoop on what our evasive Welshman had actually done:

After parting ways with us on Saturday at noon, Ewart had turned around and made his way back to the second campsite along the Pinnacle Ridge trail. There he crashed and had a good two-hour nap. Upon waking, he decided that he did not want the weekend to become a write-off, and changed his mind regarding camping the night there and hiking to the trailhead the next morning. Instead, he thought, he would hike back to the Elk Lake-Marcy trail, place the cairn, then go deeper into the wilderness to Panther Gorge (a spot below the summit of Haystack where there is a lean-to). There, he thought, he would be well-positioned to hike up Haystack the next morning and meet us as we followed our itinerary over Haystack in the opposite direction.

Of course, he could not know that in our efforts to get to him quickly the next morning, we too had modified our itinerary, and were no longer going over the top of Haystack. By the time we arrived back at the Elk Lake-Marcy trail the next morning, Ewart was already up near the summit of Haystack, headed in the opposite direction. He was long gone.

The moral of the story here was this: firstly, try to avoid splitting up; but, if splitting up is necessary, then the protocol to signal location and progress needs to be completely and utterly bulletproof. Ewart and I should have agreed upon a recognizeable token, or better yet - a full-fledged note - for him to place underneath the cairn at the appointed spot. That would have explained everything and we would have avoided hours of worry and many miles of extra hiking.

I suppose it was good exercise, though.
Interactive Trackmap - Blake Peak Backpack, Day 2 - click to expand
Hike Data - Blake Circuit, Day 2
Start Time: 5:20a.m.
End Time: 11:28a.m.
Duration: 6h8m
Distance: 15.96 km (9.91 mi)
Average Speed: 2.6 km/hr (1.6 mph)
Start Elevation: 2393ft (729m) *
Max Elevation: 2675ft (815m) *
Min Elevation: 1998ft (609m) *
End Elevation: 2101ft (640m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 1079ft (329m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 1377ft (420m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
The Search for Ewart
Start Time: 12:32p.m.
End Time: 6:33p.m.
Duration: 6h0m
Distance: 20.91 km (12.99 mi)
Average Speed: 3.5 km/hr (2.2 mph)
Start Elevation: 2089ft (637m) *
Max Elevation: 2863ft (873m) *
Min Elevation: 1984ft (605m) *
End Elevation: 2085ft (636m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 2237ft (682m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 2245ft (684m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
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