I forgot how unbelievably challenging this hike can be. I started from the parking lot around 11:30am. I flew through the Cave Creek wash area in about :45min. Once I started on Cottonwood trail, I suddenly remembered the rolling staircase stairclimber of a ride that this trail takes you on before finally dumping you out at the Skull Mesa trailhead. Well I made this 2.7 miles of ups and downs in a little over an hour. So now for the approx 1000ft ascent onto the mesa that is called Skull. The rocks here are extremely loose... so be very careful when hiking alone... helicopter rescue only territory. Once I tackled the switchbacks, I landed on the flat mesa. Walking through the brush you can easily find the cairns. I did not have the extrordinary details provided by the author of this hike to find the ruins but I did some exploring to the northeast and parts of the west. After a brief break on the southern facing rim, I headed back for the truck.