In July of 2001 I traveled to Yellowstone National Park to join a group of friends on the hike of a lifetime. We will attempt to find a backcountry thermal area not marked on any map at the confluence of Broad and Shallow Creeks in a side-canyon of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. This area is reportedly full of ancient geyser cones and still-active hot springs. It is seven miles from the nearest trail and fifteen miles from the nearest road. It has been visited by less people than have ever stood on the summit of Mt. Everest.
It's called The Fairyland Basin.
Once upon a time there was (and is) a website known as The Total Yellowstone Page. People who love Yellowstone visit its Chat Page and through frequent posting and discussions, got to know each other. Trips to Yellowstone were organized, people started meeting face to face and friendships were solidified. We nicknamed ourselves "The Loons". One hot topic of discussion was the existence of The Fairyland Basin. Links were found to a trip report by one Paul Rubenstein and his intrepid group, in which the wonders of Fairyland were described and the route taken explained.* The idea of a Loon hike to Fairyland was born and planning began.
The original Fairyland Basin Boyz are Tim Adkison, Brian "Buck" Ernst, Dan Martin, Jim Strope, Lonnie Young and Jake Young. Their adventure was planned for August 2000. The Boyz' efforts were aided and abetted by the well-wishes of the rest of us regulars on "the Page" and the countdown began. On the day they made their attempt, one of the most faithful members of the Loon clan (Allison) received a phone call at home. Jim had dialed Allison's number from his cell phone when they reached the basin. An astonished Allison posted the news on the Page and the rest of us began a vicarious celebration. My first thought was "I want to do that, too". I should also note that a furious discussion followed, as many decried the use of such modern technology on a bushwhacking hike. The fact that one member had to turn back and that several others described the final 500 feet as some of the most difficult and dangerous dry terrain they ever climbed served to deter some but not all from contemplating another attempt.
Three of the original Boyz, Tim Adkison, Jim Strope and Jake Young, planned a trip for July 2001 and opened the hike to other Loons and trusted friends. There is no camping in Fairyland. The nearest campsite is five trail-less miles away. To visit the Basin you must hike in and out in the same day or be prepared to hike in grizzly habitat after dark. If you are not adept at reading a compass and a topo map don't even think about it. Not everything worked out the way we hoped.
Thanks to Tim and Betsy Adkison who first invited and encouraged me to go. Thanks to Tim, Jim and Jake, our leaders, who found the way. Thanks to the rest of my hiking buddies without whose generosity and moral support I could not have continued. Thanks to all the Loons who sent their good wishes, thought of us, and hoped for our success. Thanks to John Uhler, Loon leader and webmaster of the Total Yellowstone Page. Thanks to Doug Dance who generously allows me to post my reports here. Thanks and Loon hugs to all!
*Paul's report has since been removed from the Internet in the hopes of discouraging all but the most determined hikers, since overuse could so quickly result in the destruction of Fairyland's fragile features. Before posting my report I checked with the leaders and removed any references that they felt would "make it too easy" for others to find their way, in the spirit of keeping Fairyland a difficult objective. Enjoy.