Kathy was bound and determined to help me with my bucket list and as a birthday present. Well the birthday present was supposed to just be a little hike at Gateway but we could never get our schedules together so Skull it was. At first I thot it was just going to be Kathy and me but then I find out Karl is going so that meant I had to be on my very best behavior and hike seriously. Kathy will let me slack off a little. Needless to say I was very nervous about this hike as I just didn't feel like I was in very good hiking shape just like when Wendy got me up the Rincons with a heavy backpack; however that hike was 1000 more AEG and less miles where this is less AEG and more miles and a lighter backpack.
The chariot arrived at 7:30, we stopped on the way to get fuel for the chariot and Karl's favorite fuel, IPA
. And then it was on to drive the newly paved road to the TH. The parking lot has even been re-done. It was a bit nippy with the wind but we geared up and headed on out following OregonHiker's shortcut using the Cottonwood Trail after a mile on the Spur Cross Trail. Kathy and I had done the Cottonwood Spring Loop clockwise three years ago this month. This time we were headed the opposite direction.
We kept up a pretty good pace, well for me that is, ha! We hiked thru this one hillside where the Resurrection trees and yucca were plentiful. Something stabbed the side of my hand and it bruised immediately and a bump swelled up; never have had that happen before. It hurt for just a little bit but not enough to stop and whine. We almost bypassed the short cut turn off from the Cottonwood Trail when Karl, for whatever reason, realized that we needed to hike back just a tad and based on Larry's route, he did the same. There is a cairn marking the turn north.
This short-cut has an extra 100 gain as it takes you up the hill to a bit of a ridgeline walk which was a nice surprise. We enjoyed this new old trail. You eventually meet up with the regular trail that takes you over and up and down to the gate where we took a small break to fuel up for the hike up. And now the real work would begin.
The trail seems to take its time moving you up that mountain. Kathy and Karl kept assuring me the switchbacks would make it less painful and they were right. Every flat section no matter how short was a moment to catch my breath. I asked for one stop to take a couple pictures and catch my breath. Once when Karl was above he said we were over 1/2 done
and so far, so good. Then a little higher he said we only had a couple more switchbacks; it was a happy surprise that we were almost there already. And at the barely there I started singing Happy Birthday to myself cuz now I could start counting the chickens I had been mentally counting for a couple weeks and the previous nite at the office Christmas dinner.
We hiked west to the viewpoint and the reports are correct, it is yucky hiking conditions up here with the grass and rocks. Fortunately we were at the lunch point post haste and SO WORTH IT, once again like I envisioned plus we had ideal conditions. I knew Kathy had brot something up to celebrate but I didn't know it was something even better than beer
but champagne! And yes, proseco goes well with PB&J Crustable sandwich... not so well with the Coconut Pineapple water. It was so nice to be able to hang out and soak it all in for around 45 minutes. Once that first little snore came out of Karl, we knew he was lovin' it as well
Karl had mentioned hiking to the high point but he had chips and salsa on his mind so down the mountain we went. And wow does it take a long time to get down since that trail is so slippery and rocky. It seemed like we were going down forever before we finally got sight of the gate. As we approached the turn for Cottonwood Spring, Karl had stopped and we walked slowly toward him as he had spotted some javelina. They were too far away to photograph but we did get glimpses of two sets of them. (I'm now thinking we saw them in the AM before Skull...?)
As we progressed on the trail we could see some more work had been done. That's just great! Hopefully they can continue with this as it's a nice little loop out here. We could see the fall color at the spring as we were hiking up to the Mesa. We did miss the crested saguaro but enjoyed seeing the other giant saguaros down in the wash. We took a break enjoying the green grass and yellow-leaved trees and one giant Cottonwood above us with some water slowly flowing below our feet.
From there it was a matter of some ups and some downs because you know as hikers: we hike up to hike down, it's what we do. It was a nice day but because of hiking into the sun, the video is not the best plus I apparently got some dust spots on the lens that I didn't know (the dust spots don't show on the pics, only the video). A lot of this part of the trail is slippery and quite a bit more down than up so you had to watch your step.
We had a post hike beverage and enjoyed sitting by the vehicle for a bit before heading to Encanto for chips and salsa and apparently chimichangas that are not called chimichangas anymore. I haven't had a chimi for at least a couple decades but it seemed the appropriate reward along with a very good prickly pear margarita overlooking the pond thru glass you hardly knew was there. Thx Karl and Kathy for driving me, hiking with and encouraging me, and then feeding me. It was well worth the wait!
Video 1 to the Mesa (didn't hardly film much or take that many pics going up) youtu.be/7Nauhfk9mS0
Video 2 at the Mesa and down to Cottonwood Spring youtu.be/0xuLWrTx9pM
Video 3 in production 12-15-2016, finally 12-20-2016 youtu.be/mNf9VnXgkuI
Cottonwood Spring to Spur Cross THFoliage
fall colors on the trees at Cottonwood Spring