Couldn't believe I was actually going out again, 13 hours after my Birthday Hike, but I felt pretty good and was looking forward to this trip that Brian and I had planned the week before. Brian met me along the 60, and we hopped in his Jeep and began the drive to the TH. Didn't take long to start hitting the Forest Roads, but when we did, travel slowed down a little. We hadn't gotten very far on the second Forest Road when 3-4 Mule Deer ran across the road in front of us and disappeared over a small knoll. Brian stopped and I convinced him to get out and walk up the knoll to see if the deer were still there. He was skeptical, but I kinda had the feeling that they hadn't gone far once they were out of sight of the Jeep. Brian got to the top, and as I suspected, the deer were now walking further down the hill. I think he got a few pics. I was having trouble with my camera so missed the opportunity.
We continue on and about 3 more miles in, we see another group of Mule Deer running along the hillside to our right. We slowed down, but they disappeared quickly. They were about a mile or so from the Cattle Tank. After quite a long, somewhat bumpy ride, with killer views, we get to the TH. I had just gotten out of the Jeep and still had my camera in my hand, when I heard some serious crashing in the brush about 50 ft in front of the Jeep. I look and three Mule Deer are plowing through the thicket at full speed, heading right for us. I was so surprised that I only got one pic that was halfway decent. Two does and a fairly small 4x4 buck. The Does completely disappeared in a matter of seconds, but the Buck stopped, turned around and starting heading back into the thicket. Something must have startled them or was chasing them briefly for them to come through like that. There was only one other vehicle at the TH, so we thought maybe another hiker was up in there somewhere.
We finally get started and it was a wonderful hike. Mostly downhill going in with numerous creek crossings. The Creek was flowing or trickling in places, and in other places, disappeared underground completely. Trail was well defined in most places and there were a few cairns where it wasn't or where it crossed the creek. Beautiful scenery and the vegetation was tall and closes you in on the trail in spots. This trail would have some good shade with everything leafed out. Tons of pure white Sycamores along the creekbed. Lots of brilliant red Manzanita along the trail. About three miles in, we came upon a large, wonderful campsite area by the creek. Brian labeled it 3 mile Camp and we took a small break there. Big shade trees, running water, leftover firewood and a huge fire ring. It was great. Met a couple of hikers on their way back out and chatted for a few.
We get to the ruins and just enjoyed the whole experience of exploring the caverns, marveling at how great the condition of the structures were. A couple of guys joined us there while we were having lunch. We, of course, practiced good Ruin etiquette, during all of the picture taking and exploring. I was afraid to touch anything and even watched where I stepped. Beautiful example of a Cliff Dwelling and well worth the hike in. After we were done exploring and eating, we hit the trail back.
Most of the picture taking was done, so we hoofed it pretty fast as much as we could. My legs and knee were starting to complain about all the abuse the last two days and the pain was starting to override the Ibuprofen. The last couple of miles were all uphill and I was really pretty gimpy and painful by the time we got back to the Jeep. We drove out, enjoying the last afternoon light in the canyons, and made good time, hitting 60 right at dark.
Great hike with lots of solitude, (only saw 4 other people all day. Had a fun, patient partner, and will definitely do that one again, maybe with the runoff in the Spring. Thanks for all the driving Brian, you were awesome. Look forward to the next adventure....