Here you go, old man… your daily sip of water…

This trek/climb is emblematic of what we as the audience must (choose to?) endure in order to follow these “story” arcs.  Climb to the top, for what?  Jump out a window when there is a perfectly serviceable door?

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Couldn’t we all!!

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Mark your “canteen” looks to be about the size of a pint flask…  Which I thought you lost when you went face-down a while back…  Nice of you to share though…  And doc, this is nothing more than a heaping dose of confirmation bias– you want this to be “the way” so you are declaring all things “familiar…”

Mark’s Secret Mission…

…is to kill his father-in-law.  If I am not mistaken, it was Mark who put the thought of this trip into Doc’s head

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With Accident-Prone Mark leading now, what could possibly go wrong… right??  A little slip and fall, it would all look so innocent-like…  and BOOM!  Lost Forest is his!!!  Mu-ah-ha-ha-ha!  Just that a little surprise would await him- the fact that Doc doesn’t own it either- it’s in some kind of Land Trust that has it set aside in perpetuity…  No Trail-wood!  No casinos!  No development of any kind… Well, there goes Mark’s dreams of laundering money for the Mexican Cartel…

What are we doing here again?

Mark has had… Just. About. Enough.

With Ol’ Doc Davis prattling on… and JJ lost to the raging waters,

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Mark continues to play travel guide.  We have also seen more flora and fauna than one might expect to see in such rugged terrain.  Name that bird with the red spot on its crown?  Why, it’s none other than the Gila Woodpecker!

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OK, Doc, settle down…

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Doc, I mean it!  Shut your pie hole! Mark seems to be thinking as he snaps his head around and scowls… But wait!  Does the Trailian Sensory System  (TSS) detect that which mere mortals cannot?  Is there a threat?  Is the Primitive Panicky Primate Brain taking over the executive functions?  We’ll have to wait and see!

But it’s still a vanishing mine, right?

Doc is quite literally beaming in panel one.  Giving off his own light as compared to reflecting the sun’s rays, as it were…

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Mark is maintaining his poker face…  The rear 3/4 view that we are all familiar with from the Trailverse clip art catalogue… Leola completes the picture.

Regarding comments about what the other Trails are doing back at the ranch…  Remember Mark and crew (despite the months it feels like) have been gone only a few days now.  Not that hijinx couldn’t already be ensuing or carnal desires sated, but if so, the family would be moving on that fairly quickly…

Da da da daaaaaaa…….

Can’t you just hear the music?

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Mark knew this to be true all the time… the crooked nose, the facial hair… JJ wasn’t to be trusted!!  And well, campers, here we are.

And who is missing from the first panel?  Is Mark separating himself from Ms. Travelogue?  As she spouts non-sequitur factoids about death and flash floods?  Sort of reminds me of the scene in Rain Man where Raymond is reeling off statistics about plane crashes and resulting fatalities…

Olly Olly Oxen Free

JJ is showing his true colors now… “Yea, see… “I’m separated from the party… yea… I have the map… yea, that’s the ticket…  I’ll get ALL the gold…”

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So as the Bobcat stalks the Woodpecker, our silhouetted friends, now magically dried and coiffed,  stumble and stammer their way along, assuming that JJ actually wants to be found…

What odd gesturing…

…and what a strange conversation…

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Barney Google?  With the Goo- Goo- Googly Eyes?  Turns out he was the feature character in what is now Snuffy Smith, but was written out, rarely to be seen again…  Listen closely Mark, is Doc threatening a coup here?

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Of course, we don’t give a fig for JJ himself… as the big cat breaks the fourth wall, looking pleadingly at the camera as if to say, “Please, write me out of this damn story…”

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Got the shakes, there, Doc?  Again, who cares about JJ?  He was only good as the map holder, apparently.  That’s what happens when gold fever strikes…  it’s every man and woman for him/herself!