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Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek Loop
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mini location map2017-04-23
30 by photographer avatarrcorfman
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Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 23 2017
Hiking11.49 Miles 2,740 AEG
Hiking11.49 Miles   5 Hrs   21 Mns   2.50 mph
2,740 ft AEG      45 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
This was spur cross of the moment. I woke up at 5 and thought, I should hike to Skull Mesa today. It was a bit before 7 when I got on trail.

A couple just set up a tent and books and maps and such at the pay site. I was their first customer, paying the $3 fee in quarters (hey when I was getting ready to go I decided to get rid of several of the quarters I've been amassing).

It was mid 60s when I started; really nice hiking. There was plenty of water in Cave Creek, but it was always easy enough to rock hop across and keep my feet dry.

After the first climb on 247, I interrupted a javelina on its morning stroll. It continued walking up the trail for a bit before running off.

About 3.5 miles in, the trail crosses a wash with a good trickle of running water. There's an old cement trough there too, however there was no water in it. It's mostly filled with dirt now. There is no water source specified on HAZ for it (Added to HAZ as Dirt Trough Creek).

About 4.75 miles in, where 247 crosses a wash before the last push to the 248 junction, there's a nice crested saguaro above the left (NW) bank. Be sure to check it out.

I took 248 up to the top of Skull Mesa. One of these days I'll have to continue on 248 and make the loop back to 247 instead of just going up and back down. This trip was spur of the moment and I really wasn't wanting the extra distance with the pending heat later in the day.

It appears that 248 hasn't got much use this year. The grass is tall, especially on top of the mesa. It's nice and green too. I really love the views of Sugarloaf, Elephant Mountain, Black Mesa, New River Mesa from atop Skull Mesa. They never disappoint.

The temps were quite nice on the mesa and there was a nice breeze to keep it fresh. I could definitely feel it warming up as I descended back to the 248/247 junction. Once continuing on 247 a short distance, there's a really spectacular crested saguaro east of the trail and down some. Unfortunately, I started looking for it just after I passed it, so I missed it this trip.

This stretch of 247, from the junction back to Spur Cross doesn't get as much traffic and is somewhat overgrown, but still not difficult to follow. I thought I had my GPS tracks from my Feb 2016 trip but didn't and was able to follow the trail from memory just fine.

There was a good trickle of water where 247 crosses Cottonwood Creek. It's a bit above the spring. I'm glad I remembered to turn up where the trail crossed the creek otherwise I would have ended up back on Skull Mesa.

From the creek, the trail undulates up and down, mostly down, for several miles back to Spur Cross. Somewhere in there, I rounded a corner and was surprised to see a coyote carcass right in the middle of the trail. It seems like a strange place to die, though I have no idea how much of a choice the poor dog had.

I made it back to my truck a bit past noon and the temps were barely bearable at about 93.
Saguaro - Crested
Coyote Javelina
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
Several different cacti were blooming along with several plants. A lot more than I expected.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Dripping Dripping
Didn't actually see the spring, however where 247 crosses the creek just above it had some flow and a small pool.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Dirt Trough Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Nice trickle of water
Go find a LonelyCache
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