After breakfast at Mark's trailer, we meet at the Wapiti trailhead just past the Chittenden Bridge. We start much later than I wanted to, leaving at 9:30am. We take some trailhead photos and finally get serious about leaving when some bison appear to be heading our way. Before they cut us off from the trail we head up the first hill and get out into the upper Hayden Valley. It is a beautiful area full of rolling hills and broad meadows. To the north, Mt. Washburn dominates the landscape and to the south we can see the thermals of the Mud Volcano area. The bison are now a good ways away to our south and west. After the second hill Dianne asks me to slow the pace some. She doesn't want to spend all her energy on the first day. So we push her out in front to lead for a while. After a little bit I mention that I can't tell much difference in the pace. I think she just needed a little break after the initial rush to get away from the bison.
As usual we make the wrong turn towards Clear Lake, but Mark notices the mistake right away and we do a quick overland course correction to the Wapiti Lake trail. They really need to mark the trails a bit better out there. This is the second or third time I have made that mistake. The amazing thing is that I didn't make the mistake on my very first trip through this area.
Trails get shorter with familiarity and we seem to come upon things faster than usual. Dianne has remarkably clear memories of her 2001 trip and she seems to enjoy contrasting that trip with this one. When we get to the Hayden thermal area she talks about the grizzly tracks they found near a bison wallow. We take a little break in this area. It is a good place for equipment adjustments and a quick blister check.
In little more than an hour we are at the trail junction that marks the three mile point. When we get there Dianne remarks that she cannot believe how much better she feels than the last time she came through here. That news heartens me quite a bit. I show her the warning sign on the trail that the rangers put out because Tim Adkison told them about the lost girl when they were here in 2001. The sign warns that the trail does not lead back to Canyon.
Most of the trail at this point follows small Surface Creek and the way is easy and pleasant. The trail is mildly uphill and there are two places at which a small creek must be crossed.
At one rest stop Mark realizes that he has lost one of the specialized maps that he printed off for this trip. It is a detailed map that has the contours to Joseph's Coat on one side and the contours to Coffee Pot on the other. We take a break while he goes to find it. It is time for the girls to bond, as if they haven't been doing that enough already. Stories are told and food is shared. When Mark seems to have been gone for a long time I would love to go back to look for him, but I promised that I would not leave. So I head down the trail as far as I can go-maybe thirty yards or so-without getting out of sight. I cannot see Mark and that concerns me too. So we sit and wait. Finally I see Mark coming up the hill and we can all get ready to leave.
When we get to the meadow areas we run into another group of hikers coming back down the trail. I think there were three guys and a girl. They have been to 4B1 but we didn't ask if they had been to Fairyland. They are as dirty and grungy as we will be in three more days. They look relieved to be back on the trail.
The trail skirts two large meadows. On our first trip Laurie and I named them Disappointment Meadows One and Disappointment Meadows Two. The reason is that we knew that Moss Creek ran through a meadow and we were hoping that the meadows meant we were close. But the meadows are at least two and perhaps even three miles from Moss Creek. They are a good place to get your boots wet and muddy, even in a dry time of year.
Soon enough we are back in the forest and I am delighted to find a squirrel cache near a bend in the trail that I know to be a landmark. Moss Creek is, I think, just over a mile from this point. It adds a little spring to the step.
We arrive at Moss Creek and 4M2 some four hours or more after our departure. Mark and I set about filtering water. It is time to eat lunch, tend to moleskin and make sure that we take advantage of the last best water before Broad Creek. Dianne comes down to the creek to find out how my water filter works and to share in the filtering chores. We learn here that her lexan water bottles-Eddie Bauer bottles, I think-will not screw onto my MSR Miniworks filter. So from here on we have to transfer water from one of our bottles and into hers.