The following morning I woke to the sound of cracking tree branches and smiled knowing that Goose was getting a fire going which would make crawling out of my warm, cozy bag into the shimmering, frozen world much easier. We sat by the fire with cups of strong coffee while we began the long tedious process of melting the 18 liters of water that we needed for our next two day waterless stretch. The melting process took the entire morning which allowed us some time to make a few gear repairs, play our flutes (I got Goose a small wooden flute to accompany the flute he had given me) and dry out our tarp and sleeping bags from the moisture of the previous night. After lunch we packed up, ensured the fire was extinguished and hit the trail trying to make up for the morning hiking hours we had lost.
We followed a network of dirt roads that wound through the tall trees of the north canyon plateau. The winds howled and sang as the slender trunks of the pines danced to the songs, bending and creaking an accompanying tune. We startled a herd of wild bison and watched as they thundered through the thick forest. Although we saws signs of humans while following the dirt roads we did not see any people out on this cold day as winter made it's permanent presence known. Our route took us even further from the possibility of seeing people as the following day we cut off the trail and into the thick bushes of a choked side canyon which would be the start of our third decent into the Grand Canyon. This time we would be bush whacking, creek walking, boulder hopping and route finding our way to the Colorado River, along it's banks and then back up a twenty four mile side canyon where we would find the last food and water cache that we had waiting for us.
We began this off trail route with a thick bush whack through sticker covered branches. Once we reached the larger side canyon the terrain opened up a bit allowing for a quicker, painless pace over the river rock and dry sandy creek beds. The towering sheer cliff walls shaded us for most of the day and as the walls began to narrow into a winding labyrinth of slick stone we found ourselves climbing around deep cold pools of water trying to avoid getting wet. Eventually it was unavoidable. We searched all possible alternatives but the only way to continue down the canyon was to sit on the slick rock and slide into the dark pool below. We splashed into the icy water and struggled to keep from sliding on the slick rock under our feet as we waded and through a series of thigh and waist deep puddles. When we finally made our way into a wider part of the canyon I was shivering in my wet clothing and we rushed to get our blood flowing as we searched for a flat spot to put our tarp before the evening sky grew completely dark. We climbed into our warm wool base layers and down sleeping bags just as headlamps became necessary. The terrain had beat us up all day long and we had only covered about twelve miles. We ate dinner while strategizing and psyching ourselves up for an easier day to come with big miles to push and went to bed ready for what the following day had in store.