Tuesday, August 26, 2003
I wake up at 5:55am; five minutes before the alarm is set to go off. I open the flap of my tent and peak out under the rain fly. Yep, it's getting light. I hit the clock's snooze button to get the light to turn on. It's 41 degrees in the tent. I turn off the alarm and half toy with the idea of getting cozy and warm again. Better sense prevails and I start getting dressed.
I don't get Jake and Leslie up right away. I head over to the bear bags, let them down and get a few things out. I drink some water and start making the preparations for my day. The water bottles we left out by the fire ring have ice in them. The water is not frozen all the way through, but there is some ice.
After a couple of minutes I call over to Jake and Leslie and tell them it's time to get up. Leslie is the first out of their tent and she ambles over to the fire ring. She starts getting things ready for breakfast, grabs a water bottle and sees the ice too.
"Hey Jake," she calls, "there's ice in the water bottles." There's more stirring from their tent, but no reply.
So we go about our morning chores. When Jake joins us we get interested in the cold. I run over to my tent and bring my little clock out and set it on one of the stumps. We'll see just how low it can go.
Breakfast for everyone is oatmeal. Jake and Leslie have two different kinds each. I make two packages of my vanilla oatmeal. I have forgotten sugar, but it doesn't really need it. It's great without sugar.
The lowest temperature reading we get is 31. So it wouldn't surprise me if the temperature got as low as 28 or 29 during the night. As the sunlight descends upon the thermal area on the hills above us, Leslie heads up to sit in the sun. In a moment I join her and then Jake arrives. We wanted to leave at 7:00am, but we are lollygagging around, waiting for the sun and a little warmth. What are we thinking!? We're waiting for the sun? Fairyland awaits. Finally, through some act of sheer will, Leslie brings us to our senses. "As Jim S. would say," she says, "Fairyland beckons."
We put the last stuff away and collect the things we will take with us and put them in our fanny packs. It's time to go. Rats. It's pretty close to 7:50. That's a mistake right there.
Leslie crosses Broad Creek on a log, just below 4B1. From the other side she tells us that she didn't like it. Jake and I nose around a bit. I'm sure Jake would go right across (he did last night after looking for the fire ring). Jake asks how I feel about log crossings. After looking at the height of the log across the creek and hearing Leslie's complaints, I have no desire to cross the creek that way. A fall would end my trip. Jake and I decide to go down creek some and try to find another way across. Leslie will shadow us on the other side.
"The problem is," says Jake, "that there aren't a lot of ways to cross Broad Creek."
So Jake and I head up the hill and towards the crumbly, colorful sinter of Joseph's Coat. As we get towards the top, Jake stops. "I'm going to get some rope," he says. "I'll meet you over by The Shoulder." So I continue on. I can see Leslie on the other side. Just as I am about to pop out of the trees and onto The Shoulder, I hear Jake call to Leslie. "I can't see him," Leslie calls back. I stop and wave my arms. "Over here," I call. In another minute Jake has caught up.
Jake and I continue down Broad Creek looking for a log or rocks or some way to get across. We pass the creek we followed yesterday and continue following faint game trails. When we pass big Scorodite Fumarole, Jake is sure to point that out to me. The fumarole is located in the side of hill on the west side of Broad Creek. It makes a lot of noise and has the familiar sulfur, rotten egg smell.
Not too far past Scorodite, Jake knows we are running out of good spots to cross. He finds a log that he thinks will do the job and he and I move it to toss it over Broad Creek. Jake gives it a final push and it splashes down on the other side. Jake bounds across and I follow. On the other side we meet Leslie. We are a reunited group once again.
But we have lost the high ground we could have gained by crossing at 4B1. So now we start heading up the side of the canyon, following Broad Creek below us. The deadfall here is worse than any other I have experienced. Some of it makes for mind-numbing, frustratingly slow going. "This is the kind of deadfall that Wendy faced all the way in," says Leslie. In that case, I feel sorry for Wendy. We pass a drainage here and more deadfall there. After a while we find ourselves in the burned area of the 2002 Broad Fire. This helps some with the deadfall problem, but there is so much ash on the ground that we kick up quite a mess as we go along.
Sooner or later we have to find Coffee Pot Creek but for now we trudge along through the endless array of deadfall and side hills. As the clock nears 10:00 Jake announces that the drainage before us is Coffee Pot Creek. In the distance we can see the familiar whitish-grey of a thermal basin. We follow the creek for only a short distance before we emerge at Coffee Pot Hot Springs. Jake finds a shady place for us to sit down. It is time to eat and drink a little bit. Jake points out Upper Coffee Pot. I pull out the cell phone to call Laurie and let her know our progress. She is thrilled to hear we are at Coffee Pot.
Then it hits me. I forgot to bring a rock for Wendy. I had promised Wendy that I would find a small river rock at 4B1 and take it down to Fairyland for her. I groan. Jake looks at me quizzically. I try to explain it to him. I briefly entertain a notion of finding a rock from Coffee Pot and taking down, but I realize that would be neither honest nor right. I will just have to be honest with Wendy.
Coffee Pot Hot Springs is situated on a series of sinter hills through which runs Coffee Pot Creek. The spring itself is a large boiling hot spring nestled in the side of one of the hills. It does rather sound like the boiling and popping of a coffee pot. Too bad it doesn't smell like coffee. That would be genuinely interesting. There are are some small steam vents around as well. You could profitably spend a couple of hours exploring Coffee Pot.
It is clear that there is more to Coffee Pot than the area we are in now. It extends to the north, east and south of us. Jake points to the steamers to the east of us and says that it is called Upper Coffee Pot. It is past the meadows and up the hill from us. I would love to visit, but there is no time. Leslie insists that Fairyland is our priority. "If there is time on the way back," she says, "we can explore Coffee Pot some more."
Jake wants to find a cave that he and Tonya found last year. When we are done with the phone and our resting and eating, we head through a rock field that almost looks like an exploded thermal feature and around the thermal area and cross Coffee Pot Creek in a grassy meadow. Then it's up the hill and through the thermal area. Jake speeds ahead of Leslie and me to look for his cave. Of course he has found it in no time. Leslie and I head to where Jake is. He is standing over a hole in the ground that is about three feet in diameter. Now we find out what the rope is for. Jake finds a softball sized rock and securely ties the rope around it. Then, with Leslie holding the rope, Jake lowers it into the cave. When he thinks they have hit bottom he raises the rope. Now he knows how deep the hole is.
Jake takes another map and compass reading. He says that we need to cross a number of drainages before we get to the big descents that lead into Fairyland. As we leave the sinter areas to the north of Coffee Pot, we enter areas of the Broad Fire burn in earnest. From now on we will nearly always be in the burned forest. Again we find areas where the fire crews worked. There are trees sawed down here and there. While there is some deadfall to climb over, it is not nearly as bad as the healthy, unburned forest. There is surprisingly little growth in the forest burn. We find only a few instances of fire weed and other nice wildflowers. There simply are no small saplings around.
Then we come to a little rock scramble. I let Jake and Leslie go down first. They wait for me at the bottom. As I descend, I dislodge a softball sized rock. It bounces downhill. And first it seems random, but then it is apparent that it wants to find Leslie. Les stands and watches the rock tumble down. "Move, Les, move!" I think. But the rock hits the toe of her boot. No damage done. Leslie looks bemused. Sorry about that, Les. I finish the rock scramble and we get going again.
For the most part this is easy travelling and we make good progress. We were heading downhill after Coffee Pot, but now we begin travelling downhill in earnest. It is extremely steep and we head down on the diagonal and switch back frequently. As some point I slip and fall. It looks like I slid into home. When Jake and Leslie turn around to see what the racket is I call, "safe," and swing my arms out like a baseball umpire. I am not hurt, but I did scrape my leg a bit. No big deal.
We can now begin to see the canyon that contains Fairyland in front of us. Jake takes another map reading and decides that we are too far to the left. This time it is no Jakespeak. He really means left. So we make a small course correction to the east and we begin the big down again. Our footing continues to be bad because of all the ash. But whenever we get a view of the canyon floor we can see we are getting closer.
Finally Jake and Leslie stop. "This is The Promontory," says Jake. Leslie adds, "This is where Wendy stopped." I move closer to the edge of the cliff to take a look. Oh my goodness.
Below me I can see the famous shield and the confluence of Broad Creek and Shallow Creek. It looks just like Tonya's and Jim S's photos (Brian's photo is not quite from this spot). I pull out the camera for a photo too. We begin to talk about leave times. We agree that we have to leave between 2:00 and 2:30. I believe that a little earlier is better. Then Jake says, "It's time for the final descent." I have to go down there? That's a long way down. I put the thought out of my head and follow Leslie down. I've come too far, dreamed too long and wanted it too badly not to go the whole way. I will not think of stopping.
Jake just disappears below me. It's that steep. I see where Leslie is going and I follow her. At first it is not much worse than what we have done. But then we have to climb over burned deadfall that is positioned in such a way that it is at that awkward height where you don't know whether to go over or under. Like the others I elect to go over. Then Leslie says, "This is where Mary got stuck." I can understand that. I try not to look down into the canyon. I don't want to get dizzy. I just grab what I can and place each step carefully. Still I cannot help but sneak a peak every now and then. Each time I do I remind myself not to do that.
It sounds insane, but I am actually grateful when we are able to travel right next to the face of the cliff. I use one hiking pole and put my other hand against the cliff. It is the the most secure I have felt since starting the descent. When I see the meadowy area before me and catch my first glimpse of Golden Fleece Falls I am feeling good. I am thinking that the hard part is done. And truly it is. But it's not over yet.
Golden Fleece Falls is a destination in itself. If it were only a mile or two from a road and had a trail to it you would never fail to visit it on each visit to Yellowstone. It is truly spectacular. It is huge and wild and beautiful. It falls through a series of terraces and twists and turns as it descends. The photo in the Yellowstone waterfall book scarcely does it justice. Unfortunately, the contrasts between the dark of the cliffs and the sun on the falls blew out my photos.
Jake is below Leslie and Leslie is below me. Jake shouts some instructions to Leslie and I use the opportunity to snap a photo. Because of the falls it is hard to hear. When we all get together Leslie tells Jake to get going and do the things he came to do. Leslie and I can get down to Fairyland from here. Jake leaves at his amazing Jake-like pace and disappears below us.
Now we come to another rock scramble. Leslie seems happy. She says she likes the rocks better than the soft ash. She has a point, but having a rock slip out from under me is still worrisome. Fortunately the rock scramble is not long. We find ourselves standing on a hill below Golden Fleece Falls and above Shallow Creek. The noise from the falls is amazing. We are almost there. We stay up on the hill as much as possible.
And then suddenly cones begin to appear. First one, then others. I have arrived. We have arrived.
I blink. Is it real?
Fairyland is a formation of large, mostly dormant cones on a shield-like build-up of sinter at the confluence of Broad Creek and Shallow Creek. [Click here for a 10 second video of Fairyland.. The sound cut off as I was saying, "This is Buck's famous photo."] They are reminiscent of Liberty Cap at Mammoth--only smaller--or of some of the formations at Monument Geyser Basin. These cones tend to be large, in the seven to ten feet range. It is enough to tease one out of thought to begin to imagine what Fairyland might have looked like when all the features were active. Perhaps there would have been beautiful, multicolored bacteria mats and runoff channels. Some features may have had periodic eruptions. Across Broad Creek the Magic Mushroom still oozes stuff from its top, almost like the Chocolate Pots on the Gibbon River. There is other thermal activity on Broad Creek and Shallow Creek. Most of it is constant. There doesn't seem to be much periodic play. If Fairyland were of easy access it might easily be ignored. Part of its charm and mystique is the remoteness of the area and the difficulty of access. What you get in return for your efforts is a thermal basin that is largely untouched by human hands.
I pull out my camera and start taking photos. I am barely aware of where Leslie has dropped her fanny pack. I walk past the shield and very nearly step into a small spring. Note to self: pay attention to where you walk. By this time Leslie has come back. She wants the water filter. Chores first. We dump all of the remaining water into my water bottle and Leslie takes the rest of the bottles and the filter. She tells me to eat.
I find what little shade there is and sit down. I am tired. I am very tired. I have no appetite and now I must eat lunch. I eat half of my peanut butter on a bagel sandwich and a few chips, but I can eat no more. I just can't shove it down. But I drink all of the water. There's no sense in saving it now. I scurry down to where Leslie is pumping water. I feel very guilty. Leslie wanted to go to Fairyland too and now she is just pumping water. I offer to pump, but Leslie tells me to go up and take pictures. I watch for a moment and wonder how I can help. Then I suddenly snap out of it. Time, the great enemy of all visitors to Fairyland, is a-wasting.
I head over to the shield and start taking photos. I hardly know what to do. Jake challenged me to take 100 photos in Fairyland. That's a lot of pictures. I start to work. I am interested in Phallic Cone and the Magic Mushroom. There is also the old cone with the plumbing revealed. I also purposefully take about five photos with the idea of stitching them together on the computer to make a Fairyland panorama. Then there are the rapids and cascades from Broad Creek and a few active thermal features. I head over to the shield and begin taking a movie of Fairyland. As I am narrating the video (that had shut itself off by this time) I somehow sense Leslie behind me. She's done with the water.
"Take a picture of me and my Loon pin," says Leslie. She springs up to a spot on the shield between Phallic Cone and the old cone. Leslie proudly displays the pin. Fearing that the pin won't show up in the photo, I move Les over a bit and then move in closer. The pin still blows out, but Leslie has the first Loon pin to go to Fairyland and she is the first photo of a Loon to wear a Loon pin in Fairyland. Leslie and I agree that the Loon pin is in honor of Wendy and in leu of the honorary Wendy rock.
I try to get a signal on my cell phone, but it will not stick. I wanted to call Laurie and then Wendy from Fairyland. I'll try again when we get to the top of the big hill and we have a better shot at the Mt. Washburn cellular tower.
I start looking around for different photography angles. I try getting the Magic Mushroom from all kinds of different places. Then I notice Jake making his way back up Broad Creek. I get a few photos of Jake among the cones. It's nice to have a model in there. It adds perspective to the cones. When Jake gets back he show us his photos of Impasse Falls. He says that the guys that jumped off the top of the falls were nuts. Now that is something coming from Jake. Not only did they have to jump into an unknown plunge pool, but they had to jump over an outcrop in the rocks. They were extremely lucky not to be seriously injured or even killed.
We learn from Jake that he dislodged a rock while travelling in the canyon over the creek and had to jump quickly to keep from tumbling down the canyon and into the creek. "That was a little scary," he say. This begins the first of the new additions to the Jakespeak Dictionary that we learn in Fairyland. "A little scary: life-threatening."
As I am taking pictures I suddenly become aware that I am experiencing Fairyland entirely through my camera. I have had this feeling before when photographing birthday parties. Something about viewing the world through a lens finder makes the world less real. I turn towards the south and photograph the cliffs where we entered Fairyland. I'm not sure I have seen a photo of the cliffs before. The sun is not my friend for this photo, but one can get an idea of what must be done to get to Fairyland.
I never entertain thoughts of hopping across one of the creeks to take other photos. I now wish I had. Time is a problem as well as being just plain tired. At about 2:00 we start to think of leaving, but we find other things to do for a few more minutes. But all too soon it is 2:15 and we simply must leave. It is a hard thing to leave after such a short time. So much more time could be profitably spent in Fairyland.
Jake speeds on ahead of Leslie and me to take some photos of Golden Fleece Falls while Leslie and I begin the ascent to the rock scramble. Leslie goes up first, then I follow. Leslie offers to take my hiking poles and I gladly give them to her. They are just in the way on the rocks. Then I finish the scramble. While waiting for me Leslie marches around for a moment with my hiking poles, trying them out. When I get to the top of the rocks I tell her to hang onto one of them. Only one will be necessary until we get to the top of the cliff.
The way back up is slow enough that we do not require breaks. Somehow I find it comforting to get along the face of the cliff again. Leslie was right. Going back up is not nearly as hard as coming down. It's just easier to securely place your feet when going up. So we get back up through the narrow chute where Mary got stuck and finally back up the final ascent to The Promontory. We take a water break and a rest at The Promontory.
I take one last look down into Fairyland and it is time to start going up the big hill. This is very discouraging because I know that there is more hill after the "top" of the hill we can see. The way back up seems endless and very hard. My legs ache and my ribs hurt from the hard breathing. We take break after break so that I can catch my breath. Jake and Leslie don't seem to have it as bad. They've been in Yellowstone pretty much all summer. I am a lowlander.
Finally, after a long time and a great deal of effort we get near the top of the big hill. Jake says, "Give me your camera. We need a picture for Laurie." So I hand Jake my camera and he heads up the hill a bit in front of me. So I strike a pose. "Make it look like you are working." So I make a change. "No, like it's hard." I grit my teeth. "Like you are out of breath." At that I start laughing. There are more stage directions and more laughter. The photo shows that somewhat, I think. And it doesn't properly show the steepness of the hill.
We take a sit down rest and I catch my breath. Now that we are at the top it is time to try the cell phone again. The signal is pretty good this time. I call Laurie. "Are you in Fairyland?" she says. "No, we just came out. We're on top of the big hill." Laurie is excited that I made it and happy that we are out. I don't know what sense of relief she feels, but she says not to call until we are out of the backcountry. I think that is a good sign.
Then I take a plastic bag from my pocket. It's there to protect the camera from rain and streams and such, but it also has my extra battery, memory card, the cell phone and a slip of paper. The paper contains Wendy's phone number. I look at my watch. It's 4:00pm. "It's 6:00 Wendy's time," I say. "There's no way she's still at work. Maybe I can leave a message." Jake and Leslie just watch me. Much to my surprise, the phone is answered. "I need to talk to Wendy," I say.
"Who?" says the nice voice on the other end.
"I'm calling for Wendy from Fairyland."
"What? This connection isn't very good."
Now I had pretty explicit instructions on what to say, but it's clearly not working. I decide to change strategies. I ask for Wendy by her real name.
"Who shall I say is calling?"
I can't believe Wendy is actually there. "Tell her it's Geyser Gary calling from Fairyland in Yellowstone." This has to sound incredibly odd, even to jaded New Yorkers.
The phone goes silent for a moment. I flash a quick look over at Jake and Leslie. Then the phone comes to life.
"Gary, is it you? Are you there right now?" It's Wendy! Pay dirt!
"No, we couldn't get a signal down in Fairyland. We're on top of the big hill right now," I say.
Wendy screams. I hold the phone away from my ear and flash another look at Jake and Leslie. They both return the look with something that looks almost like sympathy. "I'm so happy for you. You made it!" Wendy is full of questions. "Did you see any bears? Did you take my rock to Fairyland for me?" I could probably answer if she would only let me. :-)
"No bears, but we have seen bear tracks. I'm so sorry. I forgot your stone, but Leslie took a Loon pin in for you."
"Oh well," says Wendy. "That's good enough."
And with that the connection begins to go bad. I ask Wendy to let Dan M. know that we made it. Not long after that we lose the connection. It's okay. Everything that needed to be said was said.
With the phone conversation ended, it's time to make our way back towards Coffee Pot. This too is uphill, but it is not nearly as bad as before. Jake asks how I am doing. I am honest with him. I tell him that my legs hurt and my ribs hurt and that I am very tired. This is not normal for me. But I add that I have not had the I'm-going-to-sit-down-right-here-and-never-move-again-until-I-die-or-until-someone-rescues-me feeling. Jake says he felt that way once. "Deep Creek?" asks Leslie. "Yep," says Jake. I love how she knew the right answer. Then Leslie adds, "I felt that way on the Sky Rim trail." Before the hike I never once let myself think that I might not make it--that I might stop somewhere short. During the hike if I even started to think such a thought I quickly put it out of my head. I never let myself think of Coffee Pot as anything more than a way point. I never let myself think of stopping at The Promontory. I am 45. There may not be another chance to do this.
Then the conversation turns to the traditional topic of Fairyland Firsts. Leslie has the first Loon pin ever worn in Fairyland. I have the first Winnie-the-Pooh watch ever worn in Fairyland. That's a little lame, but it's all I could think of. Jake brought his Loon pin all the way to Fairyland and then forgot about it. I brought my Loon pin and then forgot to pack it. It would have been a fine picture of the three of us with our Loon pins. Alas, history was not to be made this day.
The closer we get to Coffee Pot the more we find ourselves on the edge between burned and unburned forest. Sometimes I think I see marks that my hiking poles made on the way in, even though that seems unlikely and is probably just my brain playing tricks on me. As we get close to Coffee Pot we see a very odd man-made substance--pink surveyor's tape. It is hanging from and on trees. We begin to speculate. The fire crews are the most likely culprits, but I suggest that the tape was put in by survey crews for the new road to Coffee Pot. Sheesh, that joke didn't even get a smile.
Coffee Pot Hot Springs never looked so good. It feels great to be here again. Now we just need to follow Coffee Pot Creek down its drainage to its confluence with Broad Creek. Then we are as good as home. Jake points out the big spring to me. This is the best angle from which to view it we have had so far.
Now all we have to do is follow the ridge above Coffee Pot Creek. We will stay on the north side of the creek as long as possible. Jake says it's a little frustrating because you can see Broad Creek long before you can get to it. I didn't find this to be true. I never saw Broad Creek until we were practically there. Perhaps there is another way.
So at first we have a little climbing to do. It's not bad and the deadfall does not seem as difficult as it did on the way in. Then we start down. There is plenty of down to do. Sometimes we get a little bit stuck by the deadfall and Jake has to find an alternate route. But for the most part we make steady progress. After what seems like a long time we descend to Coffee Pot Creek. We hop the creek a few times, taking whatever side seems the easiest. The vegetation is pretty thick with lots of ferns and tall grass. It is the first time I hear Jake yell, "Hey bear!" on this trip.
In a few more minutes we emerge at Broad Creek. The confluence of Coffee Pot Creek and Broad Creek is a reasonably large, sandy bar. There is also a small--very small--waterfall here. A snag of deadfall lies adjacent to the waterfall. We start pumping water again, but decide we will only need one bottle each for the last leg of the trip back. The time we save pumping water is more important right now. It is getting late in the day and the light is fading fast. From here on back we will for the most part hike in Broad Creek itself. Everyone puts on sandals and we all roll up our pants. I invent a weirdo, almost hair-brained scheme for keeping my hiking boots attached to my fanny pack. Even though I knew I would be doing this, I never once gave any thought to how I would carry my boots back to 4B1.
Jake wants a picture of the three of us. He breaks out his little hiking tripod and finds a rock that will hold it and his camera. Then I see Jake planning his route back to Leslie and me. He sets the timer and starts counting out loud as he makes his way over the deadfall and Coffee Pot Creek. Jake is just where he wants to be when he reaches "10".
While putting on sandals I assess the damage to my feet. I have a pretty good bruise under one toenail on my left foot and both my feet have blisters forming on the pads and on the big toes. I wish I had taken my boots off at Fairyland and put my sandals on. That would have dried my socks and probably my boots and would have given my feet a much needed break.
Jake is not going to come with Leslie and me. He is going to head down Broad Creek and find a waterfall in which he is interested. He will meet us back at camp. Leslie and I decide that we don't want to try to negotiate the little waterfall in front of us, so we decide to bypass it and climb over a few tree trunks to get over and past it. It's a good strategy. Then we plunge into the water. It feels absolutely delicious. Sweet refreshment.
Leslie says that while we are close to 4B1, taking the creek back seems farther than it should. I think I know what she means. Leslie likes to say that she doesn't like route finding, but she is pretty good at it. She loses her balance but once and manages to save herself. I offer her a hiking pole but she refuses. I save myself from slipping and falling at least twice. Leslie does a good job of keeping us out of the current and in the easy parts of the creek. When we see a game trail on the bank we get out and take it. We always make better time out of the water.
The stream bed is interesting in itself. It is mostly orange colored and has interesting slippery areas. If you think about it for even a minute, you will want to walk carefully because of the danger of submerged thermal features.
After what seems like a long while, we come to a thermal feature on a hill on the west side of Broad Creek that empties into the creek. It is multicolored and very interesting. I remember seeing photos of this and reading Wendy's description. I wish that the light was not failing and that a good picture was possible. But I make no effort at photography. The feature is very much like the Chocolate Pots, but more colorful. Wendy describes it nicely as "three buckets of paint" spilled down the hillside; "magenta, kelly green and cobalt blue." I have since called it Cobalt Spring, a name I rather like. If I ever get back to Joseph's Coat, I will definitely make a trip down Broad Creek to photograph this spring.
So with the failing light, we plunge on. My legs and ribs hurt. But 4B1 has my air mattress and warm sleeping bag--sweet relief from the day's toils. I keep expecting to see Joseph's Coat, but it never seems to appear. The light dims and every curve in the creek holds the promise of opening Joseph's Coat to view. Finally we round a corner. I see the log that Jake and I put across the creek. We are finally back at Joseph's Coat. When we get close enough I yell to Leslie that there is a little trail here and that Jake and I used it. We get out of the creek to follow the trail. In another few moments Leslie points at the hill that guards 4B1. "Just one more hill to go, " she says.
"Jake is probably waiting for us back at camp," adds Leslie.
"That is so not-funny," say I. The problem is, it could be true.
So we cross the creek that Laurie and I followed and we head up The Shoulder that Jake and I came down in the morning. The sun is now set behind the hills, but we are so close that it doesn't matter. Once we are in the trees, Leslie announces that she sees the tents. We are almost home. It takes me a few more steps to see the tents. Finally, there's the green of my tent and the yellow of Jake's and Leslie's. 4B1. Sweet salvation.
It is just after 8:00pm when Leslie and I drop the bear bags and begin the evening chores. Les breaks out their potatoes. She has been talking about them since we left the creek. "Gary, you really need to eat something," she says as she cooks. But I can't. I have no appetite. I drink some water and rock back and forth. Leslie tries to find Jake's Crazy Creek chair for me but cannot locate it. It's okay. All I really want to do is go to bed. I wash up a bit and sit by Leslie while she eats. It's getting darker. Jake is still not back.
The light is almost gone and Leslie digs into her potatoes. "This is really good," she says.
"I wonder if I am going to sleep well, or if I will toss and turn, " I say.
"You'll sleep well," Leslie says. She is starting to fit into her role as a surrogate Laurie a little better. "I like to think about what I've accomplished during the day. And you've accomplished a lot." Les knows how to make a tired hiker feel better.
Sometime during our conversation Leslie and I are disturbed by a great racket. Two osprey are squawking and chattering. They circle Broad Creek once and then land in a tree south of us. In a few moments they disappear into the dusky evening.
"I wonder if there's going to be any potatoes left for Jake," queries Leslie. "I wouldn't mind seeing him come over that hill right now." We both look up at the hill where we know Jake has to come. "And he had better be using that headlamp."
A moment or two passes and almost as if summoned, a headlamp appears on the hill. It's Jake! Leslie looks in her pot. "There's hot potatoes for you," she yells. I smile. I know she would have eaten them all.
"Did you see those bear tracks?" Jake yells. We did see the bear tracks. They were nice. But they were little black bear foot prints. Jake likes them because they could have been plastered for a cast.
Jake shows us the photos he took from his excursion and tells us about the falls as he eats. I drink water and check my watch. There is no way I can stay up. I tell the others I am going to bed. Oh that mattress feels good. I only toss a little bit before nodding off. Sweet sleep.
Now you might expect this tale to end with me going to bed. But it doesn't. There's more to tell.
My watch ends up in Jake and Leslie's bear bag and I couldn't find my little travel clock. I have no way of knowing what time it is. At some point during the night I wake up. I have terrible heartburn, I am ravenously hungry and I really need to make a midnight run. I decide to tough it out. After a quick look outside I decide that it cannot be too long until dawn.
I toss and turn. I sleep fitfully. I dream I am having a big plate of spaghetti at Pete's Pizza and Pasta (in West Yellowstone). I have this dream more than once. I cannot sleep. I open the tent and peak out. I see that there is a faint light over the hills across Broad Creek. I reason that dawn must be coming soon. I snuggle back in and drift in and out of sleep.
But the dreams don't stop and the heartburn won't let me sleep. I decide I am going to solve all my problems. I grab my headlamp and head out into the dark. I suspect that I first woke up at 9:30 or so and what I saw was the last lingering twighlight of evening. It is now pitch black out. I meander around the food preparation area with my headlamp. I want to be sure that I am not disturbing any nocturnal creatures. There is not a backcountry soul around.
So I drop the bear bags. I retrieve my food and my first aid kit. The first thing I do is find the Mallox. I take two of those. Then I find my lunch. That half a peanut butter sandwich and those Nacho Doritos taste absolutely heavenly. I have never, ever had food that was so very good. I even take time to relish the moment. Then I slink away from camp to take care of my other issues. Since I am up, there is no reason to leave anything undone. I briefly consider cooking, but don't. And I help myself to more water. Tonight is not nearly as cold as last night. Clouds have moved in and partly obscure the view of the stars. I am now fed, heartburn free and a happy camper. I head back to bed. Sleep comes easily now. Essentially I had a nap after the hike. Now I am ready for a real sleep.
I think about Fairyland. I think about what Leslie said about accomplishments. Yes I am hurt. But I did the thing I have most wanted to do since February when Tonya and I first dreamed it up. I made it to Fairyland and back. Tomorrow I must hike ten miles, but today I saw Fairyland with my own eyes. I drift off to sleep with visions of Fairyland dancing in my head.
On to the next day