On the map, it had appeared to Einar that some eighteen miles of canyon floor lay between the place where they had taken the moose, and the canyon’s head where he hoped to find them concealment in the dark timber, and that distance had seemed doable, a good long day’s walk, but no more. Reality, burdened as they were with the drop bag and taking into account the many twistings and turnings of the canyon floor which were only hinted at by the map, was proving somewhat different. Despite walking all day at a pace somewhat beyond the physical limits reasonably imposed upon them by terrain, the weight of their burden and Einar’s own semi-frequent bouts with dizziness and fever, dusk found them still well enveloped by the canyon walls, sun setting early because of their closeness and Einar debating silently the wisdom of continuing on through the night.
If Einar was debating such matters, Liz certainly was not, already searching for a sheltered spot where they might spend the night and—having insisted some distance back upon taking the lead for a while—guiding them towards the first likely-looking place she saw in the failing light. Easing her end of the willow pole to the ground and waiting for Einar to do the same, she studied the area, looking for possible dangers and for the features—chief amongst them being access to more than one exit route from the spot—which she knew would increase the likelihood of Einar finding it an acceptable place to pass the night. Not bad, sheer rock wall at their back but a draw—appeared passable, but one could not be sure until it was tried—running along that to one side, dense stand of stunted little evergreens populating a low hummock that stood between the potential camp spot and the more open willow-ground of the canyon floor and creek…not a bad place at all, in her estimation.
“It’s getting dark. How about we stop here for a few hours?”
Einar let his end of the pole drop unceremoniously to the ground, squinting at their surroundings and slowly shaking his head. “Looks like a fine spot, but I’d sure prefer to keep moving. Can’t really rest easy until we’re up out of here, and into the trees.”
“I know, but we’re really starting to stumble as it gets darker, and you know if one of use goes down, the other will too, the way it works with this pole. We’re just going to leave more sign, floundering around like that.”
A good point, but still he was hesitant, thinking. “Yeah. Just for a few hours though, until the moon comes up and we can see again. Can’t have a fire down in here, not the way it would reflect off that rock and act as a beacon for those guys up on the rim if they come back, or for whatever instruments they may have left on the towers.”
“No, I guess we can’t. But it would be good to stop moving for a few hours, get warm if we can and have something to eat. I know it won’t be too long before the moon starts peeking up over the rim, and then we can move again.”
Plan reasonably agreeable to both parties—Will did not yet have a say, but based on the enthusiasm with which he squirmed to get to the ground when Liz slipped him from her hood, he, too, was ready for a break—they set about making the place ready for use as a very temporary bivouac, Einar putting down tarp and sleeping bag while Liz dug out some food and the last of their water. So intent had they been on covering ground that day that they had not even stopped to renew their water supply, and now, fire not an option, were faced with either making a quick trip down to the creek, or melting snow with their body heat as they rested. Liz definitely preferred the first option, figuring they--and especially Einar--were not likely to have much body heat to spare, sleeping as they planned to do without fire.
"Heading over to the creek for some more water before it finishes getting dark," she told Einar, handing Will to him and taking off before he could object or insist that he must be the one to do it. Last thing he needed, she could not help but think, was to start out the night with his clothes soaking wet as so often seemed to be the result when he ventured anywhere near water those days, and at least with Will in his charge, he would be reasonably certain to remain dry and in camp while she was away.
Shaking his head and grinning into his sleeve to keep her from seeing--he knew exactly what she was about, and could not help but find a bit of humor in her efforts--he took Will on his knee, balancing the little guy a bit precariously as he launched into a long-winded--or perhaps just winded, for he was finding that speaking required a major effort, all of a sudden--exposition on the dangers of wise, wily women like his mother, and how they would stop at nothing to see their plans carried out. Will just laughed, Einar laughing with him, a fortunate thing as Liz was then returning and would have otherwise overheard him. Crouching beside the sleeping bag and taking Will, Liz spoke in a voice barely above a whisper, her tone instantly silencing Einar's laughter.
"The lights are back. I could see them way behind us on the rim, just little blinks here and there, but I'm sure they're in the same place as last night..."