Episode 8 - Don't take life too seriously, you won't get out alive.

It was a nice crisp autumn morning, clear blue skies. The frost was starting to melt fast, creating a fog, making visibility almost zero. We left base camp at 0600 hours on our way to the old MRP Laboratory. The timeworn building sits on a south corner of the Abrams River. Back in the 1960's the Mulberry Ridge National Laboratory was home for the most renowned scientists and engineers in the country. Then after becoming a training camp for Marines, Dr. Kawamoto and his research team moved in to work on the U.S. Department of Energy's Space Reactor Program (Nuclear Thermal Propulsion). Before the program gave any results, the facilities were shut down by former president Ronald W. Reagan and turned into another nuclear dump site. At some point the Mulberry Pond housed 30,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste, while the Laboratory building was brought down by the Marine Corps' Field artillery practices. We took the Camp Muskogee trail heading north for a third of the way, then turning south onto the Wolf Rock trail. From our position the only way to the Laboratory was through the Abrams River. Fortunately the wood bridge was still there but it was covered with cold river water halfway. If there's one thing I hate is to have my feet cold. Ben led the way checking the bridge's structural integrity. On the other side of the river we could see demolished walls, small piles of debris and broken stone littering the landscape. It was like entering a war zone. Only quieter. Professor Evgeny was in shock. He couldn't find his way around. The destruction of the place was so tremendous he could not recognize the place that he once called home. Roy was responsible for Dan through out the whole time. They were the first ones to spot the boat lodge. The now dilapidated structure, was built close to a creek, which feeds the river on the southeast side. We found two undamaged boats: a kayak and an old assault raft. Sgt. Palmer leadership was validated by the success of the mission. Ben was ordered to take the raft up river to the end of the logging road at Camp Kowal. I was in charge of the kayak. The sarge and Professor Evgeny were going to scout for the Spallation Neutron Source facilities, to measure radioactive levels. Roy had to escort Dan back to camp on foot since he wasn't feeling well. He had been complaining of stomach pains since the wild chicken dinner. Since I had the kayak, I arrived back at Camp Kowal first. I felt bad for Ben going up river with a single paddle. But it was great to be alone for the first time in almost two months. The kayak took a little water in, making my uniform wet. So I went looking for my desert uniform. I found a little turtle hiding inside my tent. It must've got in the night before. I used to have a pet turtle called Perseus. My dad got him when I was 9. One afternoon I left him outside in a kiddie pool and he disappeared. I wonder what happened to the poor guy, he could've been eaten by one of the neighborhood cats. Ben arrived an hour later exhausted. We lit a fire and played some cards for a while when Roy stormed in from behind some bushes - Yo, have you seen Dan? Is he here? - said Roy furiously. Apparently Dan deceived Roy by telling he needed to poop. After standing on the trail for 10 minutes Roy went behind the shrubs where Dan knelt down. - He wasn't there! I'm in so much trouble!- said Roy angrily. We radioed Sgt. Palmer who was on his way back with the professor. He wasn't happy at all, infuriated. Roy said Dan disappeared at the merging of Wolf Rock Trail which means he could've taken any direction. It's been about a week since he vanished. Captain Schneider was called and search and rescue missions are ongoing. Sgt. Palmer is as irritable as I've seen. By what've heard I think we are going to have some new faces around here soon.

by Corporal John Harris, October 19, 2005