We departed camp at 8:05 AM. The pace was faster than any pace we'd previously made in during trip. Part of that was because it was all downhill. Part of it was sheer excitement to complete this course that had taken a month of our lives. And part was the sugar rush from breakssert (Breakfast Dessert!).
Right before 10 AM, we exited the Washakie Wilderness. A short picture session ensued. The trail turned into a 4 Wheel Drive road. There were 4 big trucks. There were many horses. We even saw people. And a toilet! Civilization was upon us. I'm fairly certain the entire group skipped the mile-long length of the 4WD road to the East Fork Ranger Station, our meeting point with the other ISGE group, before converging with the instructors.
The other ISGE group arrived around about a half hour later, creating a whipped-up fanfare in front of the ranger station. If there were any rangers in there, they would have been puzzled to see this particular group of kids; People were dancing around in underwear, wearing crazy hats, and altogether acting with not a slight modicum of decency. I was taking time, relaxing, to enjoy my last day in this wilderness. In 24 hours we'd be back in Lander. Phones would be back and people would be returning to their normal lives. It was reeeeallly hard to believe.
We met with the instructors around 12:30 PM. Jamie and Annemarie ambushed us with water guns and joy painted each and every person's face. We had reached our final X!! All we had was a 3 mile hike to the bus in the morning, and this whole experience would be complete.
The next 9 hours was a gigantic flurry of activity. There were many things to wrap up and finalize before meeting the bus at 7AM. We did a debrief, in which everyone stated their delight at how the 3 day trip went. I couldn't have agreed more. They were a great group of 7 to lead and to spend 3 days with. We had to do evaluations, both of the course and of each instructor. We prepared for gear de-issue by piling up our group gear, sorting and folding maps, and by giving everything a good ol' H2O clean. We ate dinner, one last time in the wilderness together. It was a grand stew, thick with potato pearls, powdered milk, couscous, and quinoa. Mighty tasty. Annemarie made us all cheesy biscuits with apple cider in them, because, why the heck not? They were delicious as well. We all gathered as a group one final time to finish our spotlights, to talk about tomorrow, and to enjoy one last night together. Then, as if 29 days zoomed by like a Bugatti Veyron, we were in our tents, going to sleep outdoors one final time. Before going to bed, I was able to watch the sun descend one final time over the large meadow to our South. Once again, the majestic and wildly contrasting colors of nature gave me better entertainment than could be found in any television program or movie. It was just...beautiful.
I attempted to begin reflection of the trip in my journal before going to bed. It was futile. So I just laid in my sleeping bag and thought for awhile, mainly about what in the heck this all meant, as I slowly drifted to sleep.
Today was affectionately known as "Christmas Eve" by some in my group. It contained the kind of anticipation only felt by kids one day before they are set to get all the presents for which they'd been waiting with great expectancy (and most likely, without patience :)). Everyone eagerly arose at 6:15 AM, ready to rejoin with the instructors and complete the final course requirements. Eric made Indian Boil Cookies for breakfast. It consisted of a huge, frybake filling mix of cocoa, brown sugar, apple cider, Perky's, and oats. Scrumptious. Dessert was a fitting final breakfast.