I have to grab some ibuprofen in the middle of the night, but all in all I am rested when dawn breaks on our final day.
The rain has let up again but is clearly not finished with us. We have a hasty breakfast - in fact, so hasty I forget to eat most of my oatmeal. I get packed up but there are a few maneuvers I cannot do, like cinching straps. At this point I see that I've somehow mislaid my white visor. I have a sinking feeling I left it hanging on a tree back at 4B1.
I'm not sure what time it is when we are finally ready to go. Maybe 8:30? But I do know that it starts to rain again! Oh well. Lori says it again, and she's right - the cooler weather is good for hiking because it keeps you from overheating. As long as the wet doesn't make us cold, we'll be fine.
My last pair of dry socks don't stay dry for long. My boots are so soaked they don't have a chance! As a result, I start to develop some hot spots after a mile or two but I simply add more moleskin when we take a break. Our spirits are quite high as we walk. We sing a lot and talk of various topics. We are now all good friends, having been tested together and have come out on the good side.
I am very thankful to Mark for carrying the extra weight in my fanny pack, which includes some of my water. I try to lighten it by drinking from those bottles, but none of us consumes as much water on the return hike as we did in the beginning. I ended up carrying nearly 32 ounces in my pack all the way out!
Hiking the trail is such a relief after what we've been through but it's still eight miles and it takes its toll. We find some really cool deer prints in the mud of the trail and follow them for a while. Then we find three great grizzly prints! Looooong claws! But overall not huge, so we figure a young griz. We make it to be about 12 hours old, probably from last night. From here on in, we are very good about yelling hey bear and I ramp up my musical repertoire to an idiotic degree. I sing Broadway, Country, Elvish, Beatles, you name it. I even tried making up Fairyland lyrics to "Bali Hai". But I think I made the strongest impression with my Tammy Wynette medley. 8~)
Mark entertains us at one stop by singing/chanting some cowboy poems. He is very good and the poems are funny. His daughter is interested in the theatre (in fact, thanks to cell phone service at various spots on the hike, Mark and Lori got news that she had landed a leading role in a Steve Martin comedy at her college) and it's easy to see where her performance talent comes from.
As much as I love being in the woods, it's also a fine feeling to know you are about to come out. We finally reach thew edge of Hayden Valley and its meadows and thermal spots. We cheer at the three mile marker and whoop it up when we leave the trees for good. But then we stop, because ahead of us, all over the trail, are bison. A big herd, with males, females and calves all over the hill, and on both sides of the trail. We gather in a group and try to look big and wide, hoping that the bison will see us and choose to move off.
They don't. We move closer, hoping they'll take the hint. They don't. We move forward again, and this time a still-rutting bull takes a dislike to us. He stares and stares and stares, unmoved. Semi-challenging.
We choose the better part of valor and leave the trail, circling around to the left. We move through some trees and now we are even with the edge of the main herd. They are still holding their ground, so we continue up a small hill, keeping in the cover of trees. We see that another trail comes down the same hill and know we can take that trail and eventually hook up with ours. It looks bison- free and there are trees at the top. We had planned to stop for a last break before this hill but the bison are worrisome so we decide it's now or never and we're going.
Up the hill we go. I huff and puff. I have never tackled a hill like this without stopping two, three or four times before the top but every time I think of stopping I see that one ornery bull still staring at us and I think of the time when Frank and Cathy Montana got charged by a bison in Hayden Valley and I DONT want that to happen to me. I am gasping for breath but I HAVE to keep going. I cannot stop! Keep going! One Foot At A Time! Finally, finally, finally I reach the relative shelter of trees and stop for a long time sucking in air. Oh man! Oh man. I did not count on doing that. But, you know, now I know I can do it, when my life is at stake.
And I did it. I did it!
After that scare, the rest of the hike is a total breeze. There is one more hill to go but it's cake. Now the rest is downhill and we can see and hear civilization. Of course the sun comes out!!!! When we reach the trailhead, I am delighted to see Frank Auwingwalker here and his friend LuAnn. What a nice welcome! Perfect timing on his part. We take more pictures and whoop and holler and drop our packs. We chat a bit with two sets of hikers about to go in who have questions for us. It's just before 2PM which means that we hiked faster out than in.
Frank helps me off with my pack and my boots and the others unencu mber themselves and then pile into Gary's van for the drive back to the campsite. Wait! I have to hug you all again! We make plans to meet at 5:30 for dinner at Canyon Lodge and invite Frank and LuAnn to join us. Between now and then we will shower, tend our feet and dry our clothes. I wave so long to my friends and blow them kisses. Frank and LuAnn linger with me in the parking lot a while. I love an audience and can't refrain from telling a few highlights of our adventure. I feel great. I've been to FAIRYLAND!
I finally get into Goldie and drive slowly to Canyon, finding it so odd to use pedals and a steering wheel. Luckily there is a cabin ready for me so I take the key and drive on. As I pull in to the parking space in front of my cabin, I see Gary's green van. They have the cabin right next door! This is the first time I've stayed in one of the new Western cabins - and they are REALLY an improvement over the regular Canyon cabins. They are like modern motel rooms but with log furniture, large, modern bathroom and so much more space than the Pioneers. I place my boots in the sun to dry and head for the shower. I wash my hair twice and still there is dirt under my fingernails! Then I elevate my feet (which feels SO GOOD!) while I place calls to my sisters, to let them know I survived, LOL!
I take a look in the mirror at the damage to my arm and discover that I have a bruise from above my elbow all the way down to my hand. Hmmmm. That looks quite awful, I know I need to get some ice on this sucker but how to keep it from melting? I figure I'll leave early for dinner and see if either of the stores have a cold pack. I do what proves to be a smart thing by removing the two rings on my left hand. They come off easily enough with soap and water.
Then I head back to the car to haul out more of my wet gear. I see Gary and Laurie, coming out of their cabin. We laugh and hug and they help me dr ape my tent over the railing.
Then I head over to the Lodge and after finding no cold packs in either store, I head for the bar. The bartender gives me ice in a plastic bag and I place it inside my sweatshirt while I sit down to wait for the others. Everybody shows up and we look at each other with wide grins. We have a yummy dinner complete with dessert. I suggest we go over to the Canyon Visitor Center to look at where we were but alas, it closes at 6PM. Drat!
So, I propose an alternative. How about we head to Hayden Valley and see if we can find some wolves? Lori and Mark can't come as they need to rev up their generator before quiet hours at 8PM. They promise to meet me tomorrow up in Agateville. Gary and Laurie are up for it, and so are Frank and LuAnn. But before we go, Frank gives me a cold pack from his ice chest. Thanks Frank! We are rewarded for our efforts when we see the alpha male of the Hayden Pack from Grizzly Overlook. We don't stay as long as usual and are driving back as the light goes.
I fall asleep in a soft bed, in clean clothes, with clean hair, clean feet and a full belly. And I dream of Fairyland!
Today I saw: bison, elk, butterflies, 1 wolf (Hayden alpha male), 5 Loons and the spirit of Allison.