I allow myself the luxury of sleeping in this morning, all the way till 7:15.
What a lovely spot to wake up in! The day is pleasantly cool and once again there is a steady breeze coming off the Lake. I walk carefully over to the stand of trees by the fire-ring and onto the beach. I look at the Lake and just breath in the wonderful air.
I take a walk along the shore and see various hoof-prints, mostly deer. I see all kinds of driftwood and feathers and even some old bones. I watch the waves beating the shore, crystal clear water washing over bright smooth pebbles.
Back at the fire-ring I sit on a log and write, catching up on many lost days. The horse-people are just beginning to stir; I would have thought they'd be up at the crack of dawn. I gather wood and get the fire started. Folks seem to like it when they find the fire already lit.
One by one my comrades stir and wander over. Soon we are gathered on the log benches again, eating the last of our food for breakfast. We take our time breaking down the tents, getting our packs ready. A mule deer crosses the meadow behind us and disappears into the woods.
Pick-up time is 10:30 and we are ready. We line up our packs on the beach and wait. At this point in the trip we are all looking forward to showers, restaurant meals and sleeping in a bed. No-one really expects the boat to be precisely on time, so when 10:30 becomes 11 we don't much mind. There are water birds to watch and the breeze is nice and the sun is warm. Tim, Laurie and I nap. Lonnie keeps a lookout in the shade of a tree. The boys start a game of Frisbee.
After a while I lift my head and see a loon on the water, the first and only time I have ever seen one in Yellowstone. Tim sees it, too. Just then a golden eagle flies over head. We hear a call, which at first I think is the eagle but no, it was the loon! The eagle flies on to Elk Point and the loon is safe. Lonnie calls out that he sees a boat heading our way, but then it turns and ignores us, heading far to the south. The waves keep getting bigger.
After an hour I am having mixed feelings. I start to wonder if the boat people got confused about the day. Or if they think they can't come because the waves are too big. Yet here we are in such a gorgeous place. Being "stranded" here is not really a bad thing. In addition we all know we have the option to walk out (about 8 more miles) but of course, at this stage we would rather not.
Tim makes a valiant effort to distract us by tossing a log into the water and starting a game of "Sink the Bismark". The guys love it and they rain down many rocks upon it. I watch the game a while and then close my eyes again. I wouldn't mind waiting four of five more hours if I knew they were coming. But it's hard not knowing.
I think about whether we should start walking out now, before it gets much later or if we should instead plan to leave early tomorrow. Then I remember my cell phone. I rummage in my pack for it. I find it. I check the batteries. Still good. I find the list of numbers I made for emergencies. I dial but nothing happens. I can't get a signal.
I confess my concern to Tim and find he's been trying with his phone. He says, yeah, we may be too low to get a signal. As I look back on this moment I wish I had had a little more faith in the boat people and perhaps in fate itself. We start to discuss where we might get a signal from and the most logical place seems to be Elk Point, a high spot about a mile or so away. No one wants to ask but we all know who we'd pick. Jake, lord bless him, steps up to the plate.
Jake HATES cell phones. He takes mine from me like it's a coiled snake.
I give him the paper with the number on it. Jake forces aside his personal scruples for the sake of the group and accepts his distasteful task.
Jake, as Tim said, YOU DA MAN!
Off he goes and we sit back down, hoping the boat will appear in time to call him back. But no. Then I think, what if he hikes all that way and the phone still doesn't work? About 10 minutes later Lonnie announces there is a boat in view. We've been fooled before so I don't believe it. But, yes! This time it is! Boat is coming! Woo hoo! Now what about poor Jake? Will he know? Will he see it? Silly Wendy. There's Jake already trotting back to us.
The boat is rapidly approaching and the waves are higher than ever. We scramble about stuffing everything back in our packs. Jake says even before he got to the top of the hill he saw the boat. He called the number anyway and they confirmed it was on its way. So he ran back, beating the boat by about 5 minutes!
I say again, Jake, YOU DA MAN!
We load up. It's no easy task with waves this high. As I am getting on, Jake gives me a hand but I lose my footing and nearly yank him off. Then, once we are all on board, the boat grounds. This is exactly why they don't guarantee afternoon pick-ups. But now Tim comes to our rescue. He jumps back on shore and wades in up to his chest, pushing the boat into deeper water. Our skipper is young but knows what he's doing. He waits till we're clear and then starts the motor. He backs up slowly and somehow Tim scrambles back on board.
Tim, YOU DA MAN, TOO!
We squeeze together in the cabin and laugh and cheer. We watch the mountains of the Thorofare recede into blue mist and soon even the white shore disappears. The waves make the ride back a little bumpy, but we are in high spirits and the scenery can't be beat. We even get a glimpse of the beautiful Tetons.
We talk about our plans for the next few days. Tim will drive back to Idaho Falls and work, poor thing, and I have one day to try to see the Druids. Pete has decided to drive back to Michigan with Laurie and Lonnie and help with the family move before he goes back to school. Jake plans to stick around the Park a few more days, and intends to hike to Fairyland again. He knows I'm staying at Old Faithful tomorrow night so he offers to give me a tour of the Upper Geyser Basin. Sounds great, I say, assuming I can still walk!
Our plans for the immediate future are identical: showers, cold cokes and buffalo burgers.
We pull into the dock and see Mark R here waiting for us with a cooler-full of soft drinks andů hershey bars! Mark instantly becomes my favorite Loon. We drag our packs off the boat and start to tell him everything that happened.
We are tired and giddy but now that we're here, we're in no hurry to go anywhere. Mark tells us we have reservations at Lake for 5PM, which is great. We gulp our sodas and chomp chocolate and gab away, reluctant to part with each other.
We settle up with the nice boat people, toss our packs in the cars and finally head off to Fishing Bridge for showers. I use up a whole bar of soap. I scrape at least six layers of skin off my face. Washing my hair feels so good I do it twice. The pounding hot water feels heavenly. Once I'm dry again I load up with lotion. Oh, sweet, sweet lotion! I have 89 bug bites but now they are squeaky-clean bug bites. I have cuts and scrapes and bruises and blisters and I feel great.
Now in fresh clothes I come back into the sunshine. I join Mark and Tim A at a picnic table. Mark went hiking yesterday and has a couple painful blisters of his own. Tim is kind enough to treat both his and mine. I get out my moleskin and blister-aids and when we finish I can actually put my sandals on and walk in them.
Tim heads over to relax at Lake while Mark and I drive north to Hayden Valley. Near the Nez Perce Ford we see a sizable herd of bison on the move. We watch them a while and when they get boring we watch the tourists. We drive on to Elk Antler Creek where we see a flock of pelicans, search for a coyote den that we don't find, and then stumble upon a bald eagle, perched on a low snag on a hillside. We watch him until he flies off up river. We search for otters in vain.
Then we go back to Lake. We find Tim in the lovely Sun Room. The three of us sit on a couch and gab. I sample an Old Faithful Ale. Soon the freshly washed Young family arrives and we sit down for dinner. Doug Dance has always said he thinks this is the best restaurant in the Park. It's my first time and it makes a good impression. The only disappointment is the lack of Buffalo Burgers on the menu. Oh well, I settle for the prime rib!
We have a ball together as Tim and I teach Lonnie a thing or two about fancy dining, like how much (or how little) wasabi to have with your sushi and what that other sauce is for. I don't mean to drive our waiter crazy but I think I do anyway. We leave a good tip though.
After dinner we stroll outside (if wincing at every step is strolling) and head down the driveway to a pullout (hah!) above the Lake. We take over the benches here. We are over the top giddy now. We're all so tired and slap-happy, we have all been through a great hike together, our skin is clean and our bellies are full and nothing daunts us. We scare the other poor tourists away. Lonnie and the boys show us the difference between mayflies and caddis flies. I can't imagine how anyone can re-create the look of such a flimsy creature with wire and fuzz well enough to fool anyone. Fish must be dumb. Or fly-makers ingenious.
We watch an osprey soar above the lake. The sun sinks behind us and the sky turns beautiful colors. Not quite as spectacular as the one we saw last night, though.
With many hugs and last good wishes Tim and Mark and I bid the Youngs adieu and head back to the hotel to our cars parked on the other side. I look forward to seeing everybody again and hope we can do another hike very soon.
I nearly drive off with Tim's tent still in my pack and we have a last laugh about that. He takes my bear spray canister to keep until my next visit and I wave goodbye.
I follow Mark through Hayden Valley and as he makes his turn at Canyon I flash my lights farewell. I travel alone through the hairpin turns of Dunraven Pass but manage it with a minimum of fright. I arrive at Roosevelt safe and sound and find the people in this part of the Park not nearly as ready for bed as I am.
My last act of the day is to elevate my feet on a soft pillow, resting them on the gentle curve of the headboard. I'm out like a light.
Today I saw: bison, ducks, gulls, horses, pelicans, 1 bald eagle, 1 golden eagle, 1 loon (the water-bird), 1 mule deer, 1 osprey, and 6 Loons