“I’ve seen some tracks up here, fresh in the mud. Cougar tracks. It crossed the trail and is somewhere between my location and the camp. Are you there Gonzalez? Can you hear me?”
Taking the sat phone away from his ear Dodd knew what had happened before he looked at the screen. The ‘bird’ as Gonzalez and James had already gone over the horizon and the signal was lost. In another 20 minutes or so a new window would open up for the two sat phones to talk with each other.
Before that though he needed to be able to get ahold of the fire tower two ridges over. It had rained much of the night, the monsoon season having finally begun, and with the rain had come lightning. Chances were that there were perhaps as many as a dozen small fires smoldering in the forests surrounding them, and when the rain dried out any one of those might become a raging inferno that could cut them off from the road.
Fire was always a serious threat in the mountains, and this region hadn’t burned for close to fifteen years. He’d been out here at the time, and had been sent in to help. Not so much with fighting the fire, but to help search for lost hikers. The hikers and their guide had done the smartest thing they could under the circumstances. They’d gone high, gotten up above the tree line and then burned a portion of the grass around them to starve the wildfire of fuel. Dodd had ended up having to bring them down over the summit into the next valley, one that hadn’t burned yet.
He’d finally gotten high enough that his radio was going to be able to reach the fire tower.
“8034 Calling Rice Mountain on FS1.”
“This is Rice Mountain, who am I speaking with please? 8034 is currently unassigned.”
“It’s Dodd. I’m in the area on a special project.”
“Oh, ok, go ahead 8034.”
“Any visible fire activity yet after last night?”