This was the Difficult Trip. It was almost entirely off-trail, over some very rough terrain. On the other hand, we didn't see a single person from about the first hour of hiking until we got back to the parking lot.
Like the previous year, we grossly overestimated how much we could hike in a day. In this case, however, it was due to the difficulty of hiking off-trail.
See our route on Google Earth.
As we pushed our way through thick brush coming down the back side of the hill, the light was beginning to fade. We finally stumbled the last few steps down to Flora Lake just as it was getting dark. We quickly set up camp, had dinner, and passed out in our sleeping bags.
After breakfast and a swim, we headed out up Bartlett Creek. The creek was completely dry, but the hike over the polished granite creek bed was very nice. And easy.
From Little Bear Lake we turned South and went down the hill to Spotted Fawn Lake. Spotted Fawn is an extremely beautiful lake and remains on of the highlights of the trip for me. The campsite is on a bench about 10' above the North shore, which provides lovely views of the lake and surrounding hills. A chain of islands provides for excellent swimming and exploring opportunities.
We spent the rest of the afternoon lolling about, relaxing.
The canyon is a classic glacially-carved one, with immense granite walls rising over a thousand feet on either side. As we began hiking the canyon, all vegetation disappeared, and we were left in a stark, almost lunar landscape. Down the very center of this bizarre canyon ran Cherry Creek -- almost completely dry. We began to worry about our water supply further downstream.
The hike down the first part of the canyon was very easy and pleasant, over slabs of granite with smooth pools dug out by the creek. As the creek turned Southwest, however, it narrowed into some spectacular gorges.
The first of these we attempted to scramble through. This was a lot harder than it looked, and we ended up in some places edging our way along 3" ledges in the sheer walls, 20' above the gorge bottom. It was not fun.
After one of these, we were so drained that we decided to make camp. At one of the many small pools along the creek, we found a very nice campsite with makeshift benchs around a fire pit.
We stopped for lunch at another lovely campsite. At this one, somebody had created and entire dining room with seating for 16. There were chairs, benchs, and tables, all made by balancing granite slabs on top of thin legs of stacked rocks. It was really quite astounding.
At one point during this day, I discovered that I'd loaded the film into my camera improperly. All the pictures I thought I'd taken so far had in fact not hit the film at all. This was very discouraging to me. I reloaded my camera correctly and took this, the only photograph from this year's trip:
Eventually, we found a nice, wide, forested part of the valley and made camp on what is usually an island of the stream. The water level was so low, however, that the island was high and dry and we had to swim in and drink from a small, stagnant, tanin-filled pond on one side.