The chop is lapping at the gunwales…

Riding low they are, with precious cargo.  One might have expected them to make some show of lightening the load, leave behind the 3 quart Lodge Dutch oven and the cast iron griddle, but those things are expensive… Andy is required for ballast and who knows, he may be the one running off for help at some point, since he understands complex human thought (better than Mark most times.)

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No Doc, you don’t look very good.  And let my dear readers know that I did make a mistake (and a pretty big deal) yesterday about the fact that Mark called Doc “Dad.”  He didn’t that was the smaller of the two silhouettes talking, presumably Cherry…  Oh well I do this every morning before becoming fully caffeinated, and typically without the benefit of my readers…

But seriously, I have been in canoes, heavy with people and gear, with precious little separating the paddler from the prospect of it capsizing and drowning… Canoes are unstable on the best of days and this really is nerve-wracking.  What is also conspicuously absent is any pfd (personal flotation device) around the neck of any of our intrepid cast…  Not even the fancy new kind that stay very small until wet, then balloon, not unlike an airbag, when the need arises.

So “Mark and the Others” head out.  Would it have taken so much more effort and ink and space to actually call them out by name?  I guess.  After all, this strip is called MARK Trail, NOT Cherry, NOT Doc, NOT Rusty.  Sort of reminds me of the early Gilligan’s Island song lyrics that did not call out the “Professor and Mary Ann” until later and referred to them only as “and the rest” (are here on Gilligan’s Island…)  trivia time- sung by whom?  The Wellingtons, of course.

By the way, where is Rusty???

We should get “Dad” to a hospital…

Huh.  Interesting.  Not that I am going to go back into the archives and prove what I am about to allege, but to my knowledge Mark has never referred to “Doc” as “Dad.”  But everyone’s all dried out and dressed (that was fast…) Cherry is showing the requisite concern (note hand to cheek- why do we do THAT???) and Doc is in the background holding onto his messed up ankle.  If Mark was paying attention (and it looks like he was) he would NOT have removed the boot from the ankle lest the swelling prevent them from getting the boot back ON… At least that was what I was taught back in the day… it’s all probably changed by now along with what’s good and what’s bad and when you need to onto a statin to attack rising cholesterol levels…

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Mark seems focused on Doc’s “bad shape” ankle when in fact he should be worried about the microbes multiplying and slowing eating out what’s left of his brain… Panel three is interesting in that there are only two human silhouettes, no dog and yet the two canoes are ready to be launched!  Cherry- you ready to take the stern and drive one of them??

OK, Another Thought…

You have a canoe, right?  Two, actually.  Why the hell didn’t you climb in and float across the river/ stream rather than do the Flying Walendas routine that now has two-thirds of the (human) party sitting, shivering, and risking hypothermia??  Or considering the water looks to be at most ankle deep, take off your shoes and boots and walk across, rather than fall in and get soaked.  Sorry Trail, your Trail-cred is shrinking before my very eyes…  What would Mark do?  Well, not in this case, boys and girls.  Don’t do what Mark does and you will stay dry and alive!

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But of course we need to manufacture some drama with any of these stories, otherwise they would be a boring as paint…  so yes.  Cherry sits bundled (naked?- yikes!) in front of a roaring fire while Doc continues to fall prey to the effects of the Black Fly’s anti-coagulant spit and his own clumsiness…

Of course, Andy looks on in the first panel wondering why he hasn’t been invited to join in on the fun…

Mustering concern…

…but it’s not coming…  I know, let’s drag the old man along the most rickety, moss covered timber “bridge” and see if he makes it.  It’s almost like a bad reality TV show or at least “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”  Reminds me of a pratfall I made on the trail, with cross country skis on my feet and a full load on my back.  Call it having a “high center of gravity.”  I swear in the middle of that my skis went higher than my head.  Everyone on the trail sort of looked at me to see if I was still breathing…

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But back to our story.  It almost looks like Cherry and Doc are in a log-rolling competition in the middle frame… And Cherry is able to roll the old man off the log and into the water!  Such feigned concern!!  Meanwhile, sure-footed Mark, with Canoe on his shoulders, watches as Cherry’s evil plot unfolds… Mark, you are next.

Like Doc has a choice??

I think this is Mark’s way of sending Doc to the Happy Hunting Grounds…  Why don’t you just throw a buffalo robe over him and have him take a hike??  At least they have the whole portage thing down now.  With Water at your back and land in front of you, that creates a portage- not the other way around like before.

But the fly bite may indeed have it in for Doc… a quick google-check on ‘black fly fever’ reveals that it’s a real thing, although the article states that the flies only feed during the daytime…  But a reminder, nonetheless, that the people at “Trail, Inc.” do their homework.  Oh, and the reference Cherry is making regarding vision?  It’s called “River Blindness.”  Makes you want to be with them, huh?

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I am amazed, though, how “extreme” their little canoe/ camping trip is.  Holy cow.  Not content to stay in one place, they apparently are on a mission- covering miles of trail each day, eating what they catch, probably going hungry if they don’t…  Fun, fun.  I am not a stranger to shouldering a heavy load and hitting the trail at altitude, but Mark takes his name-sake pretty seriously!

OK, here’s an idea…

One black fly bite turns Doc into THE FLY!!  “I am not getter worse…  I am getting BETTER!!”  Anything to inject a little drama into this incredibly tedious story…  On the other hand, it DOES appear that Doc’s face is sloughing off his skull in panel three…  The fly in panel two appears to be radioactive at least, considering the light / energy it is emitting, so I may not be that far off the Mark (Trail that is,) …that’s a JOKE, son… (Nice kid, but he’s about as sharp as a bag of wet mice…) – Foghorn Leghorn

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I love how Doc has “<his> tent.”  I wonder if Mark and Cherry share a tent??  Oh perish the thought of unwanted advances made in the still of the night! …by Cherry of course.  No one could possibly sleep more soundly than Mark Trail! His life is so simple and unfettered I can’t image a single thing that might keep him from catching all his winks.  I also love how Doc has to verbalize his thoughts…  such is the way in the Trail-verse.

Doc, You’ve lost it…

In case it’s not obvious to him, let’s point out the fact that neither Mark or Cherry still have their netting on, and it would appear that the fly swarm has abated… but clearly the swarm was upon them earlier in the day, just “as Mark Predicted…” (He’s so smart…)  Poor Mooses!  Today we get a lesson in the fact that they would rather drown themselves than be tormented by black flies…  And it would seem that even with all the gear they have, they don’t have tents?  With Netting?  Huh.

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But Mark is not as smart as he seems!  Their “leave no trace” record is spoiled as Mark builds a roaring camp/cook fire which will leave valuable clues as the abandoned and hungry Rusty inches toward them…