09 December, 2011

9 December 2011

Sitting cross-legged on the dry, sun-warmed spruce needles next to Liz as he thawed his feet, Einar stared out across the snowy expanse of the basin--treetops, all they could see were treetops, would have to go up higher into the cliffs if they wanted a look at the open meadows down around the tarn--and taking in a few great breaths of the sweet, evergreen-scented air. Evergreens and snow. He loved the smell of snow, all of its smells, actually, the almost warm, waiting odor in the air when a storm was on the way and everything was alive with preparing for it, the almost metallic sharpness that could sometimes be detected during a storm, world being made anew, everything carpeted and covered and cleansed with a fresh layer of perfect white, and this--storm passed, sky clear, sun on spruces and snow in the background. Often all three were combined with the scent of smoke but he smelled no smoke that day, and was glad. Wouldn’t have liked knowing anyone was that close. Liz was watching him, apparently waiting for an answer, and he realized she had asked him--in a non-rhetorical way; sometimes it was difficult for him to be sure--whether it was alright that she had risked leaving a few tracks to make her way up to that sunny sitting spot.

“It’s a good spot to sit, right here, and no, I don’t think you need to worry about having left the tracks. Won’t be much to see, not with the path you took.”

Liz was relieved “Good! I think I was starting to get cabin fever in there after two days all cooped up in the dark without a fire, and I know you had to be, too! It’ll do us some good to be out in the sun for a while.”

“‘Cabin fever’ is caused by chronic carbon monoxide poisoning, the headaches, dullness, generally feeling awful and antsy after a while, and there’s no way we’re suffering from that, not in the least, as we haven’t had a fire in…what’s it been now, two days? Not too worried about carbon monoxide anyway, leaky as that cabin is. Air coming in here and there through the cracks. I got to fix that, both to keep us warmer and to prevent heat leaking out so readily when we don’t want to be seen.”

“Yes. But I thought cabin fever was just a term people used to describe going stir-crazy from being shut inside too long during storms and such, not getting out enough in the winter.”

“Well, if they’re spending the entire winter sitting in the cabin, that’s their problem, and yeah, I expect that could get pretty tiresome after a while. Folks need to make some snowshoes, get out and run a trapline or two, stick their foot through a cornice, take a swim under the ice, see some country!”

“Maybe they can't. Maybe they’re afraid of their tracks being spotted from the air, and the feds swooping in on them…”

His face darkened, eyes restlessly scanning the sky. “Could be. Been doing a lot of thinking in there while I uh…”

“Rested. It’s alright, you can say it. It’s a good thing.”

“Yeah, while I did that. And it’s gonna be a problem for us this winter, moving around as much as we need to without establishing trails that’ll look real suspicious from the air, if anyone ends up looking. Even if the feds don’t put much focus on this area over the winter, which with Bud Kilgore’s help--ha!-- I doubt they much will, well, we can’t have rumors start to develop among local pilots and all about the weird trails that’re crisscrossing an area just below the red ridge…that sort of thing tends to get noticed, and you can be sure it will get back to the searchers, in time. Even after we’re convinced the danger’s passed from this latest flyover, we got to be real careful.”

“What does that mean for us? No trapline? Just keep close to the cabin all winter, living on what we’ve set aside?” That wouldn’t, Liz could not help but think, be too bad a thing really, seeing how much food we’ve got set aside. Might keep you from wandering too much, give you a chance to get stronger and maybe start to put on some weight, even, by the time spring comes.

“No. I intend to maintain a trapline or two through the winter, hopefully even trap the upper part of the valley for beaver, later in the winter. Ought to be lots of them in there, from all the signs I’ve seen, and the hides would make us real good warm clothes, blankets…ha! Would give us something to trade, too, if there was any safe way to get them down to someone who was interested in trading!”

“What, at the yearly rendezvous? I don’t think there’s too much trade in beaver pelts currently, is there…?”

“Nope. Not so much, in recent years. Not nearly as much money in it as there was twenty or so years ago, but it’d still be worth our while, if there was any way for us to do it. I did that kind of work for years up at my cabin, not a lot of money but let me buy the few things I needed or wanted from town, and kept me real busy. For us though, it’ll just be about the hides, of course. No rendezvous to haul pelts down to and sell, not yet! If things ever go ahead and finish falling apart down there in society, who knows? Could be a booming business once again, and in that case our little tribe will already have its territory carved out, and will have a major head start! For this winter though, we got to be real careful. Stick as well as we can to the timber and use game trails whenever we can, whenever we find them…not too many of those up here, and the searchers’ll know that, but down in the valley, we’ll run across elk trails most likely, and can try and keep to those a lot of the time. Gonna be a lot of work.”

“It’ll be worth it, especially if that caution and care allow us to stay here. I’ll do anything you think is necessary to increase our chances of being able to stay. It’s an amazing place we’ve been able to put together, a good solid warm nest for our little one, and I’d sure like to see him be able to grow up here. Or at the very least spend his first winter here in the basin, in the cabin…”

Oh, me too. You got no idea how badly I want that, Lizzie. I’m well aware of the hardships that would come with trying to keep a baby alive out on the run in the winter high country without adequate food and supplies, the chances of us succeeding at that, hard as we’d try… “Yep, we’re doing it--what’s necessary, that is. Just taking extra care when it comes to anything that could give us away, always making that our first priority. If we keep that in mind…” He paused, rubbing still-numbed feet--sun was going down, warmth dissipating and the cold closing in around them again, gnawing; he was starting to shiver--and staring off across the treetops, “we’ve got a fighting chance. And now I guess is as good a time as any to head back down there and start a fire. Looks like it’s been long enough.”

Liz was up quickly as the baby’s rather unwieldy bulk would allow her, delighted, helping Einar to his feet and taking his hand as she began retracing her steps back into the timber, anxious for their first hot meal in two days and feeling as though with the end of the fire ban, a great shadow had been lifted, light allowed back into their lives and though having not only wished for that moment for the past two days but doubted at times Einar’s ability to survive its extended delay, she could only hope it was not too soon…


  1. Einar sounds like the rest has done him some good. Hopefully a steady supply of hot meals will return him to good health and sanity.

    Thanks FOTH for keeping the chapters coming.

  2. Meplat said:

    "If things ever go ahead and finish falling apart down there in society, who knows?"

    Maybe some hope for an end game?