The day before we left for Yellowstone my arthritic toe began to act up. I quickly developed a limp and it hurt a lot. As we left the house I imagined myself at the trailhead with a fake smile and a gut full of jealousy as the others left without me. There was no way I could walk 33 miles. Then things began to change. Laurie wanted an egg McSomething at McDonalds, so while she did that I got a bag of ice. I iced my toe from Baker City to Ontario. At Boise we realized that we had forgotten a few things so we stopped at REI. While looking for sunscreen, Laurie found a topical Ibuprofen cream for arthritis. The bottle said to expect results in 48 hours. That was perfect. So we bought that too. I iced more along the way when I wasn't driving and I iced at the motel room. The next day I only had the slightest limp. By the day of the trip I had almost no symptoms. I put some extra Advil and the IB cream in my backpack.
Laurie and I arrived in Yellowstone the day before we were to leave for Fairyland. We spent the day watching the beginning of the elk rut in the Madison Valley and watching wolves in Hayden. We caught up with Mark and Lori in Hayden and ended up haphazardly following them over Dunraven Pass to Tower Junction. At the Calcite Hot Springs Overlook Rosie the black bear entertained us and we took a few (bad) photos. On the way back, however, something bad happened to the van. At first we thought it was a transmission problem since there was a knock whenever it down-shifted. But after a while I began to suspect a bad shock or spring since the noise occurred whenever we hit a bump. Since it was lunchtime, there was no one at the Canyon gas station to take a look at it.
We had agreed to meet everyone at the Canyon Backcountry Office at 2:00pm. Laurie and I arrived first, followed shortly by Mark and Lori. We had not met Dianne before. As we chat, look at maps and begin the paperwork, in walks an unknown yet known character.
"I'd know those glasses anywhere," I say. And suddenly there are smiles and hugs all around. It is Dianne and everyone is talking all at once. Even though the rangers escort us into the video watching room it takes us a while to quiet down. The video is new and much improved over the old one. We all like it a lot better.
After we have the permit, Laurie and I head back over to the Canyon gas station to have them look at the van. The guys poke around a bit and cannot find a thing. Then one of them suggests that maybe if they lubed the fittings that it would solve the problem. It's hard to believe, but that did it. So for less than $30 and 15 minutes the problem was solved. Amazing.
Then we check into our rooms and get ready for the evening. Since we are having dinner with Veronica, Kevin and Dianne, Laurie and I want to get our packing done early. When Loons get talking over food there is no reason to expect the evening to end.
It is so good to see Veronica again. We met in February and I have to confess that she "felt like home". Of course, she is from home. We talk and talk and the electricity doesn't even go out during dinner. After dinner, Veronica and Kevin have to drive back to Roosevelt where they are staying. Laurie and I and Dianne head out to Hayden to see if we can find the Hayden wolves. Laurie and I had spotted three of them earlier in the day and we are delighted to find them again from the Grizzly Overlook. This time we are able to find all eight of the wolves. There is an elk and a calf in the Yellowstone River and the word at the pullout is that the calf is injured. We watch with fascination as the young wolves test the elk cow. Time and again she successfully defends her calf.
I learn a lot about Dianne during this time. She is very generous with her spotting scope and adjusts it up and down so that entire families can see the wolves and the elk way across the river. Often it is the first time they have seen a wolf. Each time she tells the kids, "When you get home you can tell people that you saw the alphas of the Hayden Valley Pack." It is Dianne's way of providing a little education about wolves and she cheerfully answers any questions asked of her.
Then it happens. Dianne finally spots the last of the Hayden Pack. We have now seen all of them. She tugs on my arm and says, "I'm so happy I could do a Hayden Dance." And she does. She explains that it is a mere shadow of the Druid Dance but I cannot describe my pleasure at finally seeing the famous wolf dance.
I find myself in the odd position of being the expert on the Hayden wolves for the simple reason I have spent more time out here than Dianne. When Dianne defers to me on a couple of wolf questions someone asks if I spend a lot of time wolfing. Dianne and I laugh. She says, "He'd rather be in the geyser basins." Not tonight. There is nowhere else I would rather be tonight.
It is finally getting dark and Dianne insists that we leave right then. "If it gets dark and the action gets good I know I won't be able to pull myself away." And so we leave. Sleep means feeling good tomorrow and feeling good means easy hiking. We reluctantly leave.