Back to Coffee Pot

Dianne left a little bit ahead of the rest of us. I think it is probably her way of getting to spend a little time alone with Golden Fleece Falls or to get a little solitude or to just hurry us along. We used the extra time for fixing our feet and last minute photography. After I have taken my last photo and put my camera away I say a short goodbye to Fairyland. At that very moment I have no intention of ever returning. I am the last one out.

We find Dianne waiting for us on a fallen, burned log part way up the hill near Golden Fleece Falls. It is very clever of her to get some of the hill under her belt before we all return. This time I skip the boulders and it is a much superior route out of Fairyland. While others take a steeper route through the ferns, I elect to take a direct route through the ferns to get to the canyon wall and then follow that wall up.

Mark has left the rope at the last tie off point and it now needs to be carried back up the hill. Before I can say anything Dianne has volunteered and Mark is clipping her pack into the rope. Dianne scurries up the hill and under the hard-to-cross fallen Spruce. Since Mark left the webbing attached to the tree at the top Dianne doesn't have to worry about knots. She simply clips the carabineer onto the webbing. I cringe at the thought of getting under the Spruce. Although Laurie does bump her head and get a nasty scratch, the girls have no problem negotiating crawling under the tree, I unclip and go over the tree and then re-clip myself. At the very end of this section I take advantage of the rope and use it to pull myself along.

Finally Mark puts himself on belay and heads up towards us. When he passes the spruce I call out to him that Laurie and I are going to start heading up. I no sooner finish saying it than I stick the palm of my left hand into a very dry stinging nettle on the canyon wall. I now have a hundred small needles in the fleshy part of my hand. I head off and start pulling them out. There just isn't enough room for all of us in this spot.

It was bad going down and it is worse going up. I do not remember the way down from the Promontory being this steep. We struggle around fallen trees and through areas where the going is almost easier using both hands and feet to drag ourselves up. Finally we are at the Promontory. We take a quick water break and head on. We need to make good time getting out of here. I stop ever so briefly at a promontory above the Promontory to search for a watch that I lost here in 2005-my beloved Winnie-The-Pooh watch that my staff gave to me 12 or more years ago. It's gone. Somewhere there is a grizzly who will know exactly what time he has entered his den.

We continue up the steep grade, through the areas where the footing is tricky. Sometimes we slide back. Sometimes I look up and despair. Each time some kind of a plateau is reached there is another hill to be climbed. Finally all the steep hills have been ascended and we have a more regular terrain. Now we can begin to make some good time. The clouds are a bit frightening and we worry that we will be rained on once again. In 2005 we were rained on for hours, soaked to the skin and hypothermic by the time we returned to camp. As a result Mark and Lori have new rain gear. So do I. Laurie wasn't with us in 2005 but I insisted that she bring her very best waterproof gear.

When we get near the meadow area again we stop long enough to pull our rain gear on and find head lamps. Away we go again. In the forests of the Mirror Plateau darks falls upon us quickly. In the twilight all stumps become grizzlies. Mark makes a course adjustment to swing up back onto the very line from which we left Coffee Pot.

"Gary," he calls, "we need to take a hard left-nearly 90 degrees."

And within 50 yards or so we are finally back to the thermal areas of Coffee Pot. It is like being home again. I am pushed out front to take the full blame for any mistakes that might be made in walking into a thermal. If Laurie and I find a hole, we call it out and point to it with our hiking poles. Finally we can hear the roaring of the big hot springs at Coffee Pot. The worst is over.