Gill stopped midway up the incline. He leaned on his walking stick and glanced back down the almost obscure trail. Louie and Ranger weren't far behind him. Each carried their personal camping gear well. Backpacks stuffed to the gills with dried food and water pouches sat on top of neatly package space survival blankets, tarps, and subzero sleeping bags. Further down the trail, Hadley brought up the rear carrying their tent and portable stove. Gill adjusted the straps of his own pack. His held their changes of clothes and toiletries. Another hour and they would reach Phil's forest home.
Each of the hikers agreed when they set out on the expedition that snow and extreme cold might make the trip edgy and nippy. Gill smiled remembering Vernon's advice about packing wool into their shoes to keep their feet warm and dry. Miss Elly came through with the lint from her dryer. After the laughter died down she showed them how to line their hiking shoes and hats. Ever resourceful, she handed each of them two pairs of knitted mittens and gloves. The old gal could blush and stammer as each the males kissed her cheek and hugged her. Two containers of her vegetable stew waited down Gill's pack. Each of the hikers had a special treat from Miss Elly awaiting them when they reached Phil's domicile. Two to three more hours at their current pace and they would reach the rumored clearing.
"Gill," Louie called out as he got closer. "Any sign of where we're supposed to turn?"
Ranger moved up past Louie and Gill. He leaned down scratching at the dirt close to him. He sniffed and smiled. "I found the marker. I know that scat and piss order for sure."
Hadley's barking laughter echoed off the close-by trees and rocks. "You'd make a great hunting dog."
Ranger flipped Hadley his middle finger. "I shared my teeth with Phil on our fishing expedition. The night you snuck up and scared the piss and shit out of us marked my sleeping bag and tent horribly."
Louie and Gill snorted. Turning away they both glanced at each other. Rolled their eyes and grinned.
Louie mouthed, 'Both of them stunk for the rest of the trip. Thank our deities we found a car wash to run them through."
Gill swallowed hard hoping he could keep his mirth restrained. Images of Ranger and Phil covered from head to tail in soap suds as they cussed and shook their fists at the rest of the group flashed through his mind.
Gill moved up ahead of Ranger, calling out as he did. "Two more hours and Phil will be in sight."
More laughter rang out. With Ground Hog's Day quickly approaching, Gill could understand why Phil chose to hide out. After last year's debacle who could blame him.
Crickets began chirping. More birds disappeared as the group trekked higher up the hill and then pushing their through a thicket, they paused. Fifty yards in front of them sat a two story log cabin. It nestled up against the large boulder overhang. A door swung open and two men stepped out.
The one closest to them smiled and nodded. The other looked similar to the first. He scowled and squinted practically to the point of snarling. Gill blinked, shook his head, and stared again.
"Glad you made it fellas," the smiling man said stepping off the porch. "Come on inside. Lillian's got dinner cooking. She made room for you to cook your meat downwind on the back porch."
"Phil?" Louie asked, point to each of the identical looking men.
"Yes, it's me." Phil held out his hand, ready to shake anyone's who wanted to. "That's my cousin Charlie. He's practicing standing in for me."
"Standing in for you?" Ranger asked, moving up on to the porch. He sniffed Charlie before moving past him into the house.
Phil laughed. "Yes, he's scowling and frowning like I would when they pulled me out of my bed shining bright lights at me."
Hadley nodded as he followed the rest of the group into Phil's place. Maybe, just maybe a substitute might make the right call this year. They'd have to wait and see.
Happy Weekend Gang!
I've got a new story underway based on my flash Cassandra and the Sheriff. Its going to be fun telling Cassandra and Marc's story. As I skecthced out their story, another based in the same area came to mind. A new series is in the making. When I've got more to share I will let you know.
Tina's Treasures is with my publisher awaiting to hear from them. Mean while I hope you all are keeping warm, healthy, and enjoying a good book or two with your loves and spice. I know I am!
Until next week,