Einar did reestablish the trapline over the coming days, keeping cautiously to the timber and struggling along step by step through the deep drifts on his snowshoes, progress all the more difficult due to a continuing swelling of his lower legs and feet which, in addition to making such movement a source of constant pain, threatened at times to reduce circulation sufficiently to leave him in serious danger of frostbite. Though he often arrived back at the cabin in the evenings numb with cold and too exhausted to do more than gulp down half a pot of scalding soup in the hopes of bringing his temperature up a bit before tumbling into bed, he somehow--much to Liz’s surprise; she insisted every night on checking his feet and treating them with her cottonwood bud salve, worried each time that she would find signs of frostbite--managed to avoid serious injury.
Liz had gone with him the first two times, slogging through the snow and glad to be back out and about after the storm and the self-imposed confinement in the cabin out of concern over the tracks they would leave, but the strenuous work of moving herself through that deep snow had greatly increased the cramping and feelings of tightness which had begun on their return from the last hunting trip, and out of concern for possibly bringing on the baby’s too-soon arrival, she had kept closer to the cabin after that, reluctantly preparing Einar’s parka and boots every morning, packing him lunches of cold elk meat and chokecherry-honey pudding which he always brought back untouched at the end of the day, and seeing him off.
Game was sparse up there in the deeply drifted timber, Einar often returning with nothing, sometimes with a rabbit or two, now and then a squirrel and on rare occasions, a highly prized marten or fisher whose sleek, warm coat Liz carefully tended and added to their supply. The more open area of mixed timber and meadows down around the tarn would, Einar knew, likely be far more fruitful when it came to obtaining game, but still he feared leaving trails in so open an area, lest they prove to be the single oversight which might in the future lead searchers up into their mountain stronghold. Sparse as supplies of fresh meat were proving at the moment, Einar--though tremendously glad for the bounty they had worked so hard to put away before the snow fell--was not worried. They had enough to live on for the time, for a good long time, if they were reasonably careful, were supplementing and stretching it with the meat he was bringing in from time to time, and more would come when they were able once again to go down and trap the basin, the river valley below.
In addition to running his newly established high timber trapline, Einar worked to bring in more firewood, often returning from his rounds with a small downed spruce or aspen balanced over his shoulders like a yoke, resting on his pack, the day’s catch hanging from its ends. A difficult way to maneuver through the timber, for sure, and quite demanding when one is still living with ribs which are not entirely healed but he managed it, knowing that they really needed to get further ahead on amassing firewood, before the arrival of the baby. Things would change then, additional demands placed on his time, especially should Liz experience any difficulty with the delivery and need extra assistance in the days to follow, and he did not want to have to worry about searching for wood. Wanted the woodshed good and full so they’d have plenty not only for cooking, but perhaps for keeping the cabin a bit warmer than they were accustomed to doing, as he knew infants did not come into the world with the physical capacity to regulate their own temperature, needed a bit of help for a few weeks in that regard. Which would mostly be achieved, he hoped, by the child remaining in near-constant contact with either Liz or himself, but it couldn’t hurt to have the extra firewood.
While Einar was away during the days, Liz worked to further prepare the cabin for the baby’s arrival, chinking the few cracks that still remained to admit cold air and adding insulation here and there to problem areas where the cold still seemed to seep in to a greater extent than she liked, and when she’d finished with that project, she took out her supply of mountain goat wool--some gathered from the high ridge that past summer and the rest salvaged from the leg and stomach areas of the hide from the animal they’d taken--and began hand-spinning it, becoming faster and more proficient with the process as she went on, and continuing until she had quite a large skein of finished yarn. This--thick, white and incredibly warm--she took and in her spare moments between working on the cabin and preparing meals and began crocheting into a tiny warm hat to cover the little one’s head against the chill of winter, a carved and polished spruce stick acting as crochet hook as the hat took shape. Liz’s days were full and the baby, with the lessening of the strenuous physical activity which had been bringing on the cramps, seemed content once more to stay put and continue growing as he so badly needed to do before emerging to greet the high, oxygen-rare world that would be his home, but she missed Einar, worried for him while he was away and always looked forward with great anticipation to the time when she would hear the series of soft scrapes and thumps that meant he was entering the tunnel, headed home. Muninn, though at times seeming almost reluctant to leave the cabin, went without exception on Einar’s trapline runs, and Liz was glad, at least, that he had some company, someone to perhaps come and alert her should something go terribly wrong.
After nearly a week of daily trapline runs Einar was, though so weary he found himself having a difficult time staying awake unless actually in motion, feeling a good bit stronger and more sure of himself, certain that he could not only stay on his feet--major progress, after the disastrous trapline attempt of the prior week, when he’d ended up face down in the snow and without the strength to rise--and maintain the trapline as needed but forge their path through the snowy timber should they need to make a hasty retreat from the cabin. Greatly reassuring, all of it, a great deal of improvement, and hauling himself in through the tunnel just after sunset on the fifth day of making these rounds--and only minutes ahead of the arrival of what was promising to be yet another major snowstorm; no trapline tomorrow, it’s looking like--Einar was content. Liz, though, saw the situation a bit differently, saw the things that Einar wouldn’t allow himself to see--the growing gauntness and strain in his face, the way sleep was always stalking him, creeping up and trying to take him the moment he stopped moving; sometimes, struggling to wake him as he sat nodding over his soup pot, she wasn’t entirely sure whether it was sleep or unconsciousness, and the blurring of that line scared her--and she knew he couldn’t keep it up indefinitely, this pace that he’d set for himself. Hoped he wouldn’t try, and was glad of the rising wind outside, rainbow ring around the hazy half moon portending snow, and soon. The storm, she hoped, would give him a bit of a break, a reason to stay home for a day or two after so many of hard work and constant activity.