With Liz having closed the two of them in the cabin for what she hoped might be a few good hours of much needed sleep for Einar, Bud and Susan explored the area around the cabin, something they had very much wished to do upon first reaching it, but had avoided. The last thing they needed, Kilgore had explained, was to walk into the situation with little knowledge of what had happened and why no one was at the cabin and leave a mess of tracks all around the place to get folks’ suspicion up and put them on alert prematurely. He had insisted that they leave only one set of noticeable tracks, and those some distance from the cabin in the timber where they had found great quantities of something hanging from trees in baskets. Part of their food supply, Bud had surmised at the time, and he had been right. If either Einar or Liz were to return in an expedient manner, to show up while they were still in the area, he had to think surely they would head straight for that food, would then see the tracks and then discover their visitors in what would be a far more controlled and safe manner, for everyone.
Because of the need to limit sign, a thorough exploration of the area had been out, and Susan now marveled at how well they appeared to have organized their new home, the cabin, tidy and strong if quite primitive in construction, the half-completed woodshed with its already-appreciable stash of firewood and what appeared to be a well-thought out drainage system intended to divert rainwater around the cabin so that its floor wouldn’t end up damp and soupy when the heavier rains came. Quite an accomplishment for two people, each with their limitations, and she could not help but feel a sense of pride in knowing that Liz had been a part of such a thing, had possessed the courage to go out into her little and tremendously remote corner of the world, and turn it into a home. Wished, though, that she might be able to remain there and lend her assistance to the couple, at least through the birth of the child and the time immediately after. That would be a lot to face on one’s own, would be quite a challenge even for the two of them together, but it had been done before, and if any two people were capable of successfully pulling it off, she figured it would be these two. And there was no way she could remain that long with them, anyway, without having people seriously wonder where she had gone and perhaps thus jeopardizing the very couple she was trying so hard to help.
Even the--so far--four day trip up to the cabin had been a risk, remained dependant on her son and daughter-in-law not questioning her assertion that she was heading out for a week at an herb and garden show in a town some seventy miles from her home. Not questioning, and not making an attempt to reach her. Well, good thing I never did let myself get sucked into the cell phone thing, or this wouldn’t have worked at all. After the first day of not being able to reach me, they would have been driving into the city to look for me… As it is, I ought to be fine for three more days, just as long as nothing goes catastrophically wrong at the house or greenhouses, and they decide they need to try and track me down to ask about something. Alright, Susan. Better stop poking around the cabin here and get busy with the job Liz gave you when you asked her…apparently their water barrel ended up evaporating itself mostly dry while they were away, and she asked if I’d be willing to take a trip to the spring for more water. This seems like a good time to do it, give the two of them some space, make sure Mr. Kilgore doesn’t decide to go breaking in there with something absolutely fascinating to tell them, and interrupt the sleep that Einar is hopefully getting.
“Mr. Kilgore! Would you like to come with me and help carry water?”
“Water? Where’re we supposed to carry it from? Do remember seeing a tiny little lake--tarns, they call ‘em when they’re that small--when we were flying over, but I don’t think that can be too close to here, can it?”
“Well, I don’t know, but Liz said they’ve been getting their most of their water from a spring. She said they had a little trail leading straight to it, that we’d find it not a quarter mile from here.”
“Little trail? Which little trail? These woods are full of little trails, and I’m sure not interested in following each and every little one of ‘em until we either do or don’t find a spring at the end, are you?”
Susan turned on him with laughter in her eyes. “No, not especially! But you see…I thought with you being a tracker and all, it shouldn’t be any trouble at all for you just to look at all the little trails that lead out of the clearing here, and see which one looks the most heavily traveled, because it seems to me that would surely be the one that leads to the water. Don’t you think?”
“Huh. Tracker. Yeah, guess I ought to be able to pull that off.” And he got started, prowling around in the timber just across the clearing from the cabin, searching for what he might decide appeared to be the most used path. Not finding anything that appeared particularly promising, he shifted his attention to the area of steep rock above and just behind the house, moving carefully so as not to dislodge a rock--or a shower of them--that would go bouncing down to hit the wall and send Einar charging out at him. Not as easy to pick up on trails in the rocks like that but he knew he could do it, looking out for areas where the talus appeared flattened from repeated passages, the same thing he’d done when tracing elk or bighorn sheep in the hills above his house back home in Arizona. Wasn’t finding much though, aside from the occasional random trail of a deer or bear or man, rocks turned over, dislodged, but nowhere packed into place as they would have been by repeated and frequent passages. Susan was following him--a fact he found slightly irritating, for he greatly preferred to work alone when on a trail--climbing with the practiced ease of a woman who is accustomed to spending a good bit of her time working in the outdoors, and when she drew near enough to be heard without shouting, she spoke.
“If it helps at all, she said the spring is between here and the main basin, so you’ll really only have to look over on that side of the cabin, I would think.”
Kilgore turned on her with an outraged glance that soon deteriorated into a fit of silent laughter, shaking his head and starting down out of the rocks. “Well now you tell me! Just how long were you gonna let me scour around in the rocks up here? We probably could have been there and back by now, but hey, guess a little tracking practice is never a bad thing…”
“I’m sorry. It was interesting watching how you do it. But yes. This way. The trail should be over there,” and she gestured towards the dark timber just on the other side of the woodshed.
It did not take Kilgore long to find the spring trail after that, as it was clearly the most used of the several that cut up into the trees, and together they covered its distance, finding themselves soon within hearing range of the spring as its waters trickled and sang down over the rocks. Reaching it, they inspected the rock dam Einar had created to allow a pool to form for easier filling of water vessels, the cairn of heavy granite slabs that had protected some of their precious supply of bear fat during the time they’d spent living up under the nearby cluster of spruces, processing the great beast. Kilgore, Susan could see, was particularly interested in Einar’s careful use of the stacked stones, one fitted atop another as if they had been made for it, a great deal of careful and exacting work. Susan finally interrupted him, cutting short his musings.
“They need the water we’re supposed to be bringing them, so maybe we’d better get on with it. This isn’t an anthropological curiosity of some sort, Mr. Kilgore--it’s their home!”
“Well I’d have to say it’s both…”