Cave Creek Trail to Skunk Tank Trail to Quien Sabe Trail to Skull Mesa Trail to Cottonwood Trail and back to Cave Creek.
Gorgeous day out today and plenty of water was running along the Cave Creek Trail. The day was going beautifully and I was enjoying the easy meander being able to space out for a day. Then I got onto the Quien Sabe and Skull Mesa trails -- if you can call them trails. They pretty much disappear and reappear at whim. They both looked rarely used and totally overgrown and cairned only when you don't need them. The Quien Sabe starts out great but when you cross the grassy field everything goes bad and you have to think about route finding constantly until you finally hit the Cottonwood Trail.
The Cottonwood Trail is easy to follow but it was somewhat muddy so I decided to hike the rest of the way in Bronco Creek since that was dry and sandy and would take me back all the way. After a while, of course once the Cottonwood Trail ascends away from the creek, I came to a cattleguard across the creek and noticed a trail off to the side leading to a gate. I walked up to the gate which was padlocked and covered with "private property / no trespassing signs". I looked down and noticed the ground was littered with shotgun shells. I was obviously being told to go no further so I bushwacked 50 yards back up to the trail and all was smooth sailing again.
At times I thought this hike was never going to end but I only saw other people very close to the TH and like I said-- the day was gorgeous. Also, this is another hike on my "GPS Joe track saves the day" list
edit: my parents are coming to visit this weekend but unfortunately, that means I can't make this my first 100 mile month
"there is no love where there is no bramble." --bill callahan