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Cottonwood Trail #247 - 31 members in 124 triplogs have rated this an average 3.4 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Oct 29 2022
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 Guides 26
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 Photos 8,434
 Triplogs 634

53 male
 Joined Jul 05 2006
 Mesa, AZ
Cottonwood Spring Loop - Cave CreekPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 29 2022
DarthStillerTriplogs 634
Hiking10.08 Miles 1,861 AEG
Hiking10.08 Miles   5 Hrs      2.02 mph
1,861 ft AEG      1 Min Break
 
Partners none no partners
got started from Spur Cross after 6am. did the lasso counter clockwise. 247A is rougher than I remember it. Definitely moved slower along that trail mainly due to how rocky it is. It's faint in some spots, but still fairly easy to find.

the huge crested saguaro below 247 in the wash looks like it might be sick or dying. Looks like it's seen better days. the westernmost section of 247 I hadn't hiked in over 12 years, so it was like a new hike again to do that section.

saw a trail maintenance crew on 247 a mile or so east of the junction with the Cave Creek Trail. After that I began to see other hikers. Took Metate back instead of Spur Cross. The closer I got to the TH, the more hikers there were.

ended up doing 10 miles. Weather was cool and windy early on. got warmer once the sun hit, but not hot. Kept my sweatshirt on the whole time and didn't feel overheated.
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Oct 22 2022
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 Guides 26
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53 male
 Joined Jul 05 2006
 Mesa, AZ
Cottonwood Trail #247Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 22 2022
DarthStillerTriplogs 634
Hiking11.84 Miles 2,096 AEG
Hiking11.84 Miles   5 Hrs   27 Mns   2.17 mph
2,096 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Started from the Bronco TH and headed west to the Cottonwood Trail and took that to the Skull Mesa Trail and headed back. I hadn't hiked that section of the Cottonwood Trail in almost 20 years.

The hike in was mostly shaded due to the low sun and being in the valleys. On the east out the sun was constant. Temps were chilly at the start and warmed up quickly. Didn't see any other hikers the entire time.

Early clouds made for nice pics with shadows and sunny skies later also helped. Finished before noon.
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May 07 2022
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 Routes 2
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55 male
 Joined Mar 29 2015
 Chandler, AZ
skull mesa hike May '22, AZ 
skull mesa hike May '22, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 07 2022
AndrewrdcTriplogs 13
Hiking12.83 Miles 2,970 AEG
Hiking12.83 Miles   6 Hrs   7 Mns   2.27 mph
2,970 ft AEG      28 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Great solo hike up to Skull Mesa! This was my first time hiking in this area just north of Cave Creek. First thing to know is that in order to access this area from the south, the trailhead begins at the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation. This gives you an additional 2-mile hike along an old jeep trail before reaching the Cottonwood trail or the Cave Creek #4 trailheads. At this entrance, there is a $3 fee (cash only!) paid via envelopes and an honor system but the fee is well worth it as the rangers do an amazing job managing the trails and park area! OK... lets get to the hike: I started hike at about 7:15am on a Saturday... as mentioned the first 2-miles or so is along Spur Cross trail... about half way along, you will leave the conservancy land and enter National Forest. This is an old Jeep trail that quickly becomes a nice, easy and well maintained trail. Once you get to the Cottonwood trail, the fun begins. Over the next 3 miles, total AEG is only about 700', and the trail is easy to follow, though its definitely rocky and undulating. This was, for me, a very enjoyable trail... great hiking with total solitude. At about the 5 mile mark, you get to a fence (see pic) and your opportunity to head north (and UP) along Skull Mesa Trail (#248) to ascend to the top of Skull Mesa. I must admit, I stood there for a few minutes contemplating my options. The mesa is high and intimidating... 1,000' up over a single mile This is where your training and cardio will kick in. During my contemplation, along came the first other hiker I had seen all morning... Mark and I chatted for a few minutes and (maybe out of shame) I made my decision and started up Skull Mesa trail. This trail is not quite as clear but easy enough to follow if you pay attention. Yes, it is a tough assent, but elevation was gained quickly so it was actually not as difficult as it looked. Reaching the top of Skull Mesa is well worth it... amazing views in almost any direction and I even found a little shade to sit and have lunch (pic). After about :30 min of R&R and realizing that it was going to be approaching 100 degrees by the time I got back to my car... I started my descent.

Unfortunately, all the creeks and marked water sources were bone dry except for one area (ironically, unmarked) along cave creek just before Cottowood trailhead where there was still a large shallow accumulation of water in the wash (pic)... unfortunately, I dont expect anything will be left in a week or two.

All in all, this is a hike well worth doing but, at 12 miles, definitely requires a level of physical fitness. Plus, during the entire hike, I only ran into two other hikers. While this gave me the solitude I was looking for, I do not recommend for anything but a seasoned hiker that knows their limitations and (if solo) brings some sort of emergency beacon... just in case.

Andrew
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Apr 12 2022
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 Guides 8
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 Photos 2,656
 Triplogs 220

57 male
 Joined Oct 07 2017
 Chandler, AZ
Bronco Trail #245Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 12 2022
YoderTriplogs 220
Hiking10.10 Miles 2,000 AEG
Hiking10.10 Miles   4 Hrs   21 Mns   2.57 mph
2,000 ft AEG      25 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
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Partners none no partners
There are a number of trails in the Seven Springs area that we have not yet hiked, One of the reasons for this is because it is difficult to piece together a loop that is within the 10 mile range. We decided we would just go on Bronco Trail #245 and up Trail #247 until we were ready to turn back. We decided to turn back at just about 5 miles in the hike to make 10 mile hike by the time we got back to the trailhead.

Weather turned out to be just about right, and there were various wild flowers here and there throughout the hike. It was a good day, didn't run into anyone else the whole time.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
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J. Yoder
Jan 23 2022
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 Triplogs 148

38 male
 Joined Mar 01 2018
 Chandler, AZ
Quien Sabe PeakPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 23 2022
John10sTriplogs 148
Hiking11.86 Miles 2,331 AEG
Hiking11.86 Miles   7 Hrs   49 Mns   1.99 mph
2,331 ft AEG   1 Hour   51 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
It had been almost five years since I'd hiked from Cave Creek Trailhead, and today the plan was to hike up to Quien Sabe Peak, a new one for both of us. It was a chilly morning, in the mid-30s when we arrived. There were three or four other cars in the parking lot, and two other hikers started out on the trail ahead of us.

We brought water shoes in case we needed to wade through Cave Creek at the first crossing, but the water was low enough that it was easy to walk across on the rocks, which was good news with the frigid temperature. As we made our way toward the Cottonwood/Skunk Tank intersection, the two hikers who'd started before us ended up behind us...they must have gotten turned around and had to backtrack.

It was a steady incline going up Skunk Tank #247, and we noticed the tailings from Quien Sabe Mine on the south side of the trail. There was a large, upside-down steel basin in the drainage below Quien Sabe Spring...looks like that's been there for at least a few years [ photo ] , but it's now in the drainage and not on the trail anymore.

We turned onto Quien Sabe #250 and left the trail ~ four miles in. It was relatively tame off-trail hiking...a little rocky, but the brush is mostly of the non-sharp variety. The first half mile of off-trail was steeper as we made our way along the west side of the ridge before getting up on top, where it flattened out. The final stretch approaching the peak was very similar to hiking across Skull Mesa--flat ground, dry grass, and prickly pear mixed in with the rocks.

The views from the peak were very nice...the Superstition ridgeline and Weaver's Needle, Four Peaks, Skull Mesa, and downtown Phoenix visible to the SW through the haze. The summit register jar had two notebooks inside...looking back at comments on old trip logs, the now rodent-chewed notebook that @KingSnake placed a few years ago was one of them [ photoset ] [ image ] :). There was a second, newer notebook, and both had quite a few familiar HAZ names, with the most recent signature from almost a year ago, in February 2021. It sounds like the register and a summit cairn used to be located on the slightly lower peak just east of Quien Sabe, but the register is now on the actual peak, and there's no cairn on the other one.

[ youtube video ]

We ate lunch at the top and started back down. Instead of following the same route, we ended up descending straight down the steep hillside off the ridge to intercept Quien Sabe Trail a little earlier and avoid some of the off-trail. By late morning/early afternoon, the weather had warmed up and become very pleasant, and aside from those two hikers earlier in the day, we didn't see anyone again until we were within a quarter mile of the trailhead. After finishing up the hike, we stopped at Sears-Kay Ruins on the drive back--a nice bonus to finish the day.
 Culture
 Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Summit Register Log
 Meteorology
 Meteorology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Moon

dry Bronco Creek Dry Dry
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Seven Springs Wash Light flow Light flow
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout
Jan 04 2022
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 Guides 9
 Routes 818
 Photos 11,137
 Triplogs 1,974

66 male
 Joined Jan 20 2009
 Far NE Phoenix,
Skull Mesa from Spur Cross THPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 04 2022
The_EagleTriplogs 1,974
Hiking12.29 Miles 2,974 AEG
Hiking12.29 Miles   5 Hrs   6 Mns   2.74 mph
2,974 ft AEG      37 Mns Break12 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Rob had never been to the top of Skull Mesa and we were looking for a bit of a workout, nearby.

Perfect weather for the climb up. We sook the short cut trail on the way up and Cottonwood #247 to Cave Creek Trail #4 on the way back. I like this selection, because the shortcut trail gives you a steady climb, where the Cottonwood Trail does more roller coasting. The views on the Cottonwood trail are better IMHO. So going down, you get to enjoy them more.

We passed a few hikers on the way up, including Beatrice from Switzerland. She was looking for some help finding her way to the #248 trail to the top. Up top, we had some lunch and chatted with her for awhile. She and her husband have been traveling the USA to determine where they want to retire. They've settled on the valley. She's an avid hiker.

All trails were in great shape and easy to follow. With a little work, we were able to keep our feet dry on all Cave Creek crossings on the return trip.
 Culture
 Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Point
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Dec 27 2021
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 Guides 1
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 Photos 2,478
 Triplogs 148

38 male
 Joined Mar 01 2018
 Chandler, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 27 2021
John10sTriplogs 148
Hiking14.64 Miles 2,983 AEG
Hiking14.64 Miles   10 Hrs   21 Mns   1.77 mph
2,983 ft AEG   2 Hrs   5 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
We hiked to Skull Mesa earlier this month, and our goal today was to reach the ruins on the north end. We started at Spur Cross Ranch again, but this time took the 247A/247B shortcut (thank you to @LosDosSloFolks for the tip :)), which takes a more direct approach to the south end of Skull Mesa and cuts ~1.5 miles off the route each way. We ignored the "Area Closed" sign this time, and the trail quickly leaves the county park and is easy to follow until it connects with Cottonwood Trail.

Up on top of the mesa, we took a slightly different route this time as we headed toward the north side, an we ended up coming across a small ruin with quite a few pot sherds, which was a nice surprise [ youtube video ] . We also passed a few random areas with pot sherds scattered around further north on the mesa. After getting within a mile of the main ruins site, I realized I no longer had the DSLR camera that I'd been carrying earlier...I'd stopped briefly somewhere along the mesa to put a sweatshirt on and must have forgotten to pick the camera up again.

As soon as I realized it was missing, I left all my stuff with @TBoneKathy and started running back to the south, retracing our route with the GPS. I ran back about a half mile and didn't find it, then gave up and turned around again, thinking we'd end up wasting the afternoon searching for it. Fortunately, I did end up finding it on my way back, though I ended up running around for an extra mile thanks to that mistake (not included in the mileage here). The GPS really saved us...without that, finding the camera would have been an impossible needle-in-a-haystack search with the lack of distinctive landmarks on the mesa.

That cost us some time, but we got moving again and made our way along the narrow ridge toward the main ruins site. Last time we were in the area, I hadn't noticed that there were also some low walls on the hill just south of saddle below the lookout ruin [ youtube video ] . We made our way around the left side of that hill and over to the main ruins complex. There was an impressive number of rooms along the edge and in the middle of that narrow section of the mesa [ youtube video ] , and a lot of pottery scattered around.

I made the short scramble up to the lookout and was pleasantly surprised by how much was up there--from below, we could only see one main wall, but there were quite a few rooms, and a large portion of the top of the ridge was enclosed by walls, similar to some of the other Hokokam sites in the area.

[ youtube video ]
[ youtube video ]

When I climbed back down to the saddle, we spent a little more time exploring the lower pueblos and found a lot of pottery, including some large, palm-sized pieces. In some areas there were so many pot sherds on the ground that it was almost impossible not to step on them...I hadn't seen concentrations of pottery like that outside of Agua Fria.

It was cool and windy as we returned across the mesa, and we came across a fairly fresh javelina carcass, with quite a bit of fur and most of the teeth still intact. We stopped for lunch at the small ruin we'd found on the way in and explored that site a little more, this time finding even more pottery than we'd first seen, including some larger pieces. I stopped at the overlook on the south end of the mesa before heading down the switchbacks [ youtube video ] , and the clouds really started to gather and get darker as we made our way down. A lot of the peaks off in the distance had been shrouded in low clouds all day, and eventually the clouds ended up enveloping Skull Mesa as well.

Over the last half mile, we had a spectacular show as the sun dropped below the clouds in the west, which not only made for a nice sunset but also lit up the base of Skull Mesa while the top was still in the clouds. It was a great way to finish off the hike, and with this being our final hike of 2021, also a fantastic finish to the year. The ruins exceeded expectations, we saw a few other interesting things we'd hadn't expected, and the clouds and sunset created a unique atmosphere...and finding the camera without wasting the whole afternoon was a nice bonus :).
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2 archives
Dec 10 2021
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 Guides 1
 Routes 5
 Photos 163
 Triplogs 7

62 male
 Joined Sep 02 2003
 Phoenix, AZ
Cave Creek / Skunk Tank LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Backpack avatar Dec 10 2021
johnmc22Triplogs 7
Backpack13.00 Miles 2,334 AEG
Backpack13.00 Miles1 Day   3 Hrs   31 Mns   
2,334 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
We headed out to the Cave Creek trailhead in Seven Springs early on Friday morning for a 1-night backpack. Four of us backpacked the Cave Creek / Skunk Tank Loop in the clockwise direction, with an added 1 mile spur (2 mi. RT) to find a good campsite along Cave Creek.

The road to Seven Springs was fine even though we had 1/2 inch of rain the night before. Just a few sections of light muddiness. We hiked in from the Cave Creek trailhead, skirted the Seven Springs Campground, and soon got to the signed junction with the Cottonwood Trail. The signed junction is a few hundred yards after you cross the cattle fence on one of those ladder thingys. There is another false trail before the signed junction, so be sure not to take that.

Heading up Cottonwood Trail, you cross the creek and, if you're not careful, you can quickly lose the trail. Note that, after crossing the creek, the trail (counterintuitively) turns to the left and proceeds upstream for a bit before turning uphill. There are some cairns there for you to follow if you look for them. Once you start heading uphill, it turns into an old 2-track jeep road, so it's fairly easy to follow the trail all the way to Skunk Tank. After a short distance, you encounter another trail junction where Cottonwood Trail cuts off to the left and Skunk Tank Trail continues straight (which is the way you should go).

Skunk Tank Trail does some climbing over the next 3 miles or so with 3 distinct trail peaks and 1 mini-peak. You'll definitely feel it, especially if you're carrying a 30 lb pack but, on this cool winter day it didn't seem so bad. The trail's definitely rocky but the footing was decent throughout the whole loop. While the climb is steep at times, you are rewarded with some fantastic views of the surrounding mountains along the ridges (along with some of the healthiest looking saguaros I've seen anywhere). Once you've topped out at the 3rd peak (4100'), you'll see the signed junction for the Quien Sabe trail. Stay on Skunk Tank Trail and start your decent down to the Skunk Tank itself.

Upon arriving at Skunk Tank, the 2-track road comes to an end and you have to pick up a single track trail. This is tricky, so if you have GPS, use it. In a nutshell, right before you get to the tank, there is a faint trail to the right and a cattle fence with a sign that says "close gate after you." Cut through the cattle fence at that gate and follow the faint trail. The first 100 yards are the trickiest. A previous triplog said "stay to the left of the cut" which made no sense to me at the time, but when you see "the cut" (or gorge, or mini-canyon) you will know it. After that point, there's some mild uphill to get to a point where you can cross "Blue Rock Canyon" (at least that's what we called it). The trail is pretty easy to follow from that point all the way down to Cave Creek. At one point, we encountered a huge bull and 3 calves which alarmed us a bit, but they weren't happy to see us either so they started heading down the mountain in front of us. Turns out they were pretty surefooted so they went all the way down to Cave Creek (about 800' vertical down) in front of us. This was just a taste of things to come.

As you head down the last mile to Cave Creek, the views of "Blue Rock Canyon" and the surrounding terrain are absolutely gorgeous. And there's a spectacular array of saguaros that, as I said above, are the healthiest I've seen anywhere. I can't believe more people don't hike this trail. The scenery is fantastic. And we didn't see a single other person all day.

Now, here's what's not so fantastic. Once you get to the Cave Creek Trail, we headed left to find a campsite along the water. The cattle have overtaken this gorgeous, riparian area. We stopped about every 200 yards at potential campsites along the creek and there was so much cow poop there literally wasn't a spot to pitch a tent. Plus, the cattle have trampled everything in sight along the creek. It's a real shame. We backpacked this route in Feb 2020 (a shuttle hike from Seven Springs to Spur Cross) and I don't remember a single visible sign of cattle grazing. Now, it's a mess and, c'mon man, something needs to be done to save this wilderness.

Back to the hike... After heading ~1 mile south of the Skunk Tank trail junction, we found a suitable campsite along the creek that had a fire ring and less cow poop (not zero, mind you... just less). With some creative poop relocation, we were able to create a pretty nice campsite. That night, the low was 29 degrees, so it was a bit cool in the morning.

Our hike out on Cave Creek Trail #4 the next day was lovely but uneventful. Following the trail along the creek gave us completely different scenery vs. the day before. It took us about 3 hours to cover the 5 miles (with full packs and with occasional breaks).

Overall, this was an absolutely beautiful loop hike and I highly recommended it. There's very few people on the trail and we didn't see any other people camping on a Friday night. Even though I vented about the cattle grazing, don't let that stop you from going. We really need some more people to hike this loop to keep the trails from fading away.

Overall: 4.5 stars with the only deduction being due to the cattle situation.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Big Maggie May Medium flow Medium flow
The creek is flowing nicely

dry Quien Sabe Spring Dry Dry
No flow near the trail. I did not explore up to the spring itself

dry Skunk Tank Dry Dry
No water in the tank.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Skunk Tank Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
I could see pools down in the canyon but Cave Creek is so close (and flowing), so it's much easier to access.
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Dec 04 2021
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 Guides 1
 Routes 23
 Photos 2,478
 Triplogs 148

38 male
 Joined Mar 01 2018
 Chandler, AZ
Skull Mesa from Spur Cross THPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 04 2021
John10sTriplogs 148
Hiking16.59 Miles 3,162 AEG
Hiking16.59 Miles   10 Hrs   3 Mns   1.97 mph
3,162 ft AEG   1 Hour   38 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
This was my first time hiking from Spur Cross Ranch, and we started on Spur Cross Trail just after sunrise. We planned on hiking up to Skull Mesa and tried to take the shortcut from DixieFlyer's 2/8/20 triplog, turning right on Mariposa Hill Trail about a mile into the hike. But we quickly reached an "Area Closed" sign, so we backtracked to Spur Cross Trail, the shortcut having turned into a slight longcut. In hindsight, we should have just ignored the sign...when I took a closer look at the triplog later, I saw that DixieFlyer had a photo of the same sign and continued through that area anyway :).

We followed Cottonwood Trail to Skull Mesa Trail and headed up the switchbacks to the top. It's a very scenic hike, with a lot of large saguaros, nice canyons, and great views to the south on the way up. There was a lot of haze/smog over Phoenix today, but that created a nice effect with the more distant peaks visible above the low layer of clouds.

I'd marked a few points of interest on top of Skull Mesa that we wanted to check out, including some petroglyphs, grinding holes, and a metate. We didn't have time to do too much exploring and didn't find any of those sites right away, but there were a few areas with higher concentrations of pottery, and we found one faint petroglyph panel with a few scattered drawings. We hiked pretty far north along the mesa, and I was close to the ruins and could see some of the walls on top, but we didn't quite make it over there before we needed to head back, so that'll be a destination for another day.

Before hiking down off the mesa, we stopped at the overlook at the south end and enjoyed the spectacular views, including Weaver's Needle and the Superstitions to the southeast. On our way down Skull Mesa Trail, I noticed a large rock with a symmetrical spiral carved into it...the shadows were just right such that it caught my eye, and that was a nice find.

We only saw two groups of hikers all day--and only one other group up on the mesa--until we were back within a mile or two of Spur Cross Ranch and started to see more runners/hikers/horseback riders. The weather was perfect today, and it was a nice intro to Spur Cross Ranch...the ruins will be the focus on my next visit.
 Flora
 Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Saguaro
 Fauna
 Fauna [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Tarantula
 Named place
 Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Skull Mesa  Weavers Needle


dry Metate Pond Dry Dry
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout
Nov 07 2021
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 Guides 1
 Routes 24
 Photos 94
 Triplogs 19

53 male
 Joined Aug 12 2004
 Phoenix, AZ
Skunk Creek-Quien Sabe-Skull Mesa-Cottonwood, AZ 
Skunk Creek-Quien Sabe-Skull Mesa-Cottonwood, AZ
 
Mtn Biking avatar Nov 07 2021
ZortTriplogs 19
Mtn Biking23.01 Miles 4,536 AEG
Mtn Biking23.01 Miles   11 Hrs   32 Mns   2.11 mph
4,536 ft AEG      39 Mns Break5 LBS Pack
 
no photosets
1st trip
Oh man, I just saw that this triplog was Hidden. There - now it's not. I'm sure the dry conditions haven't changed over the past week or so since I put myself through this, so be careful out there. And do a little rain dance while you're at it. :)

I wanted to throw out a quick trip report about this fairly mental mountain bike ride mostly to point out to folks that the creeks, seeps and springs in the Cottonwood area are VERY DRY right now. I made the really stupid mistake of thinking I'd find water in at least some of them, but found it in nearly none of them. It made for a very long, hard day.

Also, Skull Mesa is a disaster of knee-high grass gone to straw. I ended up throwing my socks away rather than try to clean out all the burrs, etc.

Water sources:
- Cave Creek, but I left that immediately to get onto Skunk Creek Trail
- Matty's Fork - There is a small muddy pool in the creek the cattle use some ways down from the trail crossing. This water settled out clear.
- Cottonwood - I couldn't find anything more than wet soil and maybe a trickle - didn't attempt to collect it.
- East Fork Bronco Creek - I've never wanted to pull water from the earthen cattle tank mud hole at the head of the East Fork of Bronco Creek, but I was sure glad find that rank bog still had some juice in it. Filtered through a beanie and then treated with Aqua Mira this cow pee and silt solution was bright green, but it saved my bacon. Any port in a storm...

On a positive note, Skunk Creek "Trail" was in very good shape. There were tracks from a side-by-side most of the way out to Quien Sabe trail. Quien Sabe is the same as it's been since that area was left to recover after the fire some 20 years ago. I did a bit of work to cut back prickly pear and (my arch-nemesis) cat claw from Quien Sabe, but there's PLENTY of work to be done out there. Plenty! The "trails" up and down Skull Mesa are the perfect trails to avoid, unless you insist on getting up on top of the Mesa. Using GPS to find the Skull Mesa trail would have been smart, but instead I carried my bike randomly across the mesa hopping over prickly pear every other step. Good times up there. No one else in sight! :D

Even Cottonwood is overrun with cat claw. Lots of work to do this winter to return the Maricopa Trail to an enjoyable state in that area. I was out of time, water and energy by the time I got there, so I just pushed my way through getting raked and scratched all the way.

Nearly 12 hours in the wilds, and I finally clawed my way out to the Bronco Trailhead. It was awful. It was awesome. I'd do it again! I'd bring a lot more water.

Apologies for not being able to add the two water sources I used, but I couldn't figure out how to do it - using Firefox 94.0.1 (64-bit).
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
The cottonwoods were yellowing

dry Cottonwood Spring Dry Dry
I found only trickles
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Sep 11 2021
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 Guides 21
 Routes 80
 Photos 537
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66 male
 Joined Dec 26 2018
 Phoenix, AZ
Cave Creek / Skunk Tank LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 11 2021
GrangerGuyTriplogs 59
Hiking10.86 Miles 1,824 AEG
Hiking10.86 Miles   6 Hrs   46 Mns   1.81 mph
1,824 ft AEG      46 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
This is a beautiful hike. Need more people out here to keep the trails from fading away.

Got an 4:30 AM start on this so I could finish before it got really hot. The road in looks like it was recently bladed and is in good shape. Where Trail 247 leaves Trail 4 and crosses the creek, the preferred route is a little uncertain. Once across the creek, however, route finding is not difficult. If you look closely at my GPS track near Skunk Tank, you will see that I got off the trail for a while. Once I found it, I came back to the deep cut so I had a good track. Recommend staying to the left of the deep cut when leaving skunk tank, then cross it to stay on the best trail. Quite a bit of catclaw on the route. Long pants recommended at this time. Good water flowing in Cave Creek all along.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Skunk Tank 1-25% full 1-25% full
There was muddy water in the tank.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Skunk Tank Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
There were pools in the canyon just below Skunk Tank.
Mar 07 2021
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 Photos 2,366
 Triplogs 391

67 male
 Joined Feb 10 2019
 Cave Creek, AZ
Cottonwood Loop from Spur Cross, AZ 
Cottonwood Loop from Spur Cross, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 07 2021
LosDosSloFolksTriplogs 391
Hiking10.10 Miles 1,456 AEG
Hiking10.10 Miles   6 Hrs   11 Mns   1.88 mph
1,456 ft AEG      48 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Tired of hiking solo, I cojoled @rayhuston into joining me on a hike up here in my neck of the woods. I hadn't seen Ray since meeting and hiking with him on the HAZ New Year topper event in 2020.

We started at the Spur Cross Trail Head and headed north into the Tonto National Forest using Trails 247A and 247B to reach Cottonwood Trail #247 at the southern end of "Inspiration Ridge" as @joebartels call it. The original plan was to head west and then follow the creek south back to the trail head. Upon reaching the creek we both still had some gas in the tank and did an improvised addition of going up Cave Creek Trail #4 to FR 1533 and going north and then looping back down to the creek. From there it was just 4 miles and 7 or 8 creek crossings back to the starting point. [ photo ]

While on 247B we saw a group of 3 backpackers heading east on 247 and later a pair of hikers beginning the climb up 247 as we were descending towards the creek. Lots of solitude for a Sunday. :) Of course as we neared the trail head back at Spur Cross we encountered the usual droves of "Instagram Warriors" as Ray called them. :lol: Thanks for the company Ray!
 Culture
 Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Spring Box

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Cave Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Nice flow but with easy crossings at all locations.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Dirt Trough Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Light flow leaving the spring box and going downstream about 100 yards.
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The Institute Of Unfinished Research has concluded that 6 out of 10 people
2 archives
Mar 07 2021
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 Guides 1
 Routes 83
 Photos 3,971
 Triplogs 725

65 male
 Joined Mar 09 2012
 Gilbert, AZ
Cottonwood Loop from Spur Cross, AZ 
Cottonwood Loop from Spur Cross, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 07 2021
rayhustonTriplogs 725
Hiking10.10 Miles 1,456 AEG
Hiking10.10 Miles   6 Hrs   11 Mns   1.88 mph
1,456 ft AEG      48 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Greg and I have been talking about hiking for a few weeks now. After I bailed on him last minute last weekend, we made it happen today.

I've only been in the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area once before. I looked forward to hiking there again. Since Greg spends a fair amount of time out there and knows it well, I asked him to offer up some hikes in the area. He did, and I selfishly picked the hardest one :( . Greg was game, though, even adding a couple of miles along the way :) .

We met at the trailhead parking lot a few minutes before 7am. We were on the trail soon after. Greg was the perfect host, pointing out landmarks, trail options, history and many excellent vistas along the way. I was so enamored by the tour, that I am anxious to get back out there again. We agreed to another hike or two before it gets too hot.

We didn't see much in the way of critters. I spotted an Arizona Jack Rabbit. We heard many Arizona Cardinals but didn't see any. It was warm enough for our slithering reptilian friends to awaken from their slumber, but we didn't see any.

If you like saguaros, and I do, this is a great place to see them. We came across one that was a monster. Greg dubbed it "Bubba." Most that we saw were healthy, similar to the lush countryside that we hiked through. It's been awhile since I hiked in an area that's wasn't burned to a crisp or dry beyond recognition.

There was also water in Cave Creek. Enough that we had to rock hop across the creek a couple of times. I even got my feet wet. There were lots of people out, but most were close to the trailheads. We saw a few farther out on #247. The weather was cool and breezy at the start, but warmed up nicely as the day went on. I saw 91 degrees on my weather app as I was leaving.

We had some snacks and refreshments courtesy of Greg when we finished. A very nice end to a just about perfect day. I haven't been doing much lately, so I was a bit stiff afterwards. I thank Greg for getting me off my duff and back on the trails. Good to see you again, Greg. Keep me posted on your availability. Let's see if we can work in those hikes we talked about.
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1 archive
Feb 13 2021
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 Guides 263
 Routes 842
 Photos 13,333
 Triplogs 5,328

52 male
 Joined Nov 20 1996
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa - Mattys Fork Loop, AZ 
Skull Mesa - Mattys Fork Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Feb 13 2021
joebartelsTriplogs 5,328
Hiking19.06 Miles 3,156 AEG
Hiking19.06 Miles   10 Hrs   1 Min   2.18 mph
3,156 ft AEG   1 Hour   16 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
I picked a loop Bruce had us on six years ago. More so for a step up in recent efforts to miles/aeg with some off-trail. In hindsight, it's crystal clear why Bruce chose the loop weeks after legend HAZ'r Oregon_Hiker toured with FOTG. Semi surprised Bruce was game as it would be pushing the envelope of time with my lackluster options of getting to-fro. I just made damn sure I was ready for a full day, right down to bringing a rare notable size lunch.

Went from sweating, shedding layers getting to the event to layers back on for a borderline cold start. Bruce paid our dues at the hut. I took advantage of the porta-potty station with nicer facilities than Oscar Taylor's at the Biltmore, where I bussed famous folks tables cringing when they asked "where is the restroom", and we were underway.

Off the road(cough trail), we encountered a nice looking welcome(?) sign neither of us could read without specs and continued up Inspiration Ridge to #247. #248 obviously needs a much better Official Route on HAZ for the lower portion alone. Midway up, I had to get rid of a layer before unnecessary sweat took hold. #248 ascends Skull Mesa, crosses, and then descends down to meet up with #247 again. #1 copout from 5-15 yr noncontributing HAZ members trying to weasel by without contributing squat back... all the good stuff is taken. God forbid exploring included the thousands of rarely-used unpublished Guide pages on HAZ that are nice at sunset, blah blah blah. #248 is still available, and it's far from the exception. Off rant. Unlikely... somebody has to fill in for CDK!

The route of #248 across Skull Mesa is highly questionable. I've been here twice at least, and that's the best I can offer. We went off-trail down the origin of Mattys Creek. With nice weather, scattered clouds, relatively easy progress, and a couple of cool areas of rock then trees... this might be the nearest slice of paradise to home.

We had lunch in Mattys Creek, played around with styrofoam light chalk, limestone, or something white.

Bruce was excited about the cabin. It was a gander. Then we opted to try and avoid Mattys Creek taking a trace of a pack trail out. Glad we took a stab, maybe another in the future. That said, the creek is much easier and less painful in shorts.

I was a touch concerned Bruce wanted to skip #4 out for an adventure. This area is not crystal clear to me, and I was in good hands. It was fab, and we even got a stroll in on Metate and Towhee. Super easy, but fond memories make 'em a winner.

After seeing nary a soul since the first quarter-mile, we saw quite a few horses, a couple of hikers, and one mtn biker that appeared to be heading out to bike-camp.
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- joe
Feb 13 2021
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 Guides 9
 Routes 818
 Photos 11,137
 Triplogs 1,974

66 male
 Joined Jan 20 2009
 Far NE Phoenix,
Skull Mesa - Mattys Fork Loop, AZ 
Skull Mesa - Mattys Fork Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Feb 13 2021
The_EagleTriplogs 1,974
Hiking19.53 Miles 3,133 AEG
Hiking19.53 Miles   10 Hrs   2 Mns   2.17 mph
3,133 ft AEG   1 Hour   1 Min Break14 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
There was a smattering of vehicles at the Spur Cross TH when we started at 7:40. It was cool and breezy which was good, because the first 7 miles trends upward. 1.5 miles of it, steeply.

I enjoy the non-official #247A and #247B over hiking Spur Cross/FR 48 to #247. It's a bit shorter and more scenic IMO.

Once on Skull Mesa #248, the track becomes steeper. Good views to the south start to open up. Up top, #248 becomes thinner the farther east you go. Just keep an eye out for cairns. Bovine trails make it easy to get off the actual trail. Heading down the east side Joe spotted a bear in the distance. I told him that just because recreational cannabis was legal, he didn't need to be mixing this with the assortment of other toxins he puts in his system. (ie. Diet Sprite). The cow didn't seem to care we were in the area.

Mattys was easier to get into than our previous trip. The "Bears" in the area had beat down some of the heavier brush. Water was trickling in quite a few areas and the geology does not disappoint.

The cabin is on it's last legs and will not be standing much longer. For more info, @Oregon_Hiker did his normal excellent historical sleuthing to determine the background back in 2015. [ photoset ] .

Leaving the area, heading north we followed the obvious old path they used to get here, until it was no longer... obvious.

After some head scratching and more importantly leg scratching, we dumped back into Mattys for the remainder of the trek to Cave Creek #4. This is not my most favorite of trails out here, but it got us to the unmarked/named spur to get us down to the running Cave Creek.

3 miles from the Spur Cross TH, we saw our first people since the start of the hike.
Perfect temps and good times.
 Flora
 Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Saguaro
 Meteorology
 Meteorology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Crepuscular rays
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There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
Dave Barry 🦅
Jan 29 2021
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 Guides 8
 Routes 13
 Photos 1,323
 Triplogs 492

57 male
 Joined Nov 15 2005
 Jackson, CA
Skull Mesa - Cottonwood Creek LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 29 2021
toddakTriplogs 492
Hiking17.10 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking17.10 Miles   7 Hrs   30 Mns   2.28 mph
3,500 ft AEG
 no routes
Partners none no partners
Nice day with good trail conditions, a bit of snow up on the mesa but not too muddy. A few very small pools of clear water along CT247.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Dripping Dripping
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Jan 26 2021
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 Guides 84
 Routes 700
 Photos 17,730
 Triplogs 1,712

49 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Cave Creek Trail #4Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 26 2021
chumleyTriplogs 1,712
Hiking5.58 Miles 735 AEG
Hiking5.58 Miles   2 Hrs   43 Mns   2.12 mph
735 ft AEG      5 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
The forecast was looking positively Norwegian and I'm not one to sit at home and watch TV when nature puts on a rare magic show. I'm also not one to fight dangerous highway conditions, traffic, collisions, and the other things that Arizona provides when the sky isn't blue. With the snow level set to drop below 2kft by Tuesday morning, I decide my best option was to wake up where I wanted to be, in a place that wouldn't also leave me stranded. The Beeline and I-17 were absolutely off-limits--just a bad idea for anybody who really thought about it. I'd never been past the Bartlett Lake turn in a desert snow before, and the last time was probably 20 years ago. The desert up there isn't the prettiest ... not a lot of saguaros and cliffs that make for dramatic photos. But it's amazing how much fun you can have when photos aren't the goal :? :sweat: So off I went....

I headed up toward Seven Springs and a severe line of storms came in during the afternoon and dropped an inch or two of snow across north Scottsdale, Carefree and Cave Creek. It made my drive more dicey than I anticipated. Nonetheless, I set up camp for the night and went out to gather some additional firewood. The Sheriff stopped as I was cutting a dead tree near the road to ask if I was aware of the forecast and to inform me that he had closed the road at Blue Wash. He was satisfied with my preparedness, and I was thrilled to know that nobody else would be driving out that way overnight :y: .

I managed to keep the fire going for a few good hours. It wasn't cold, maybe 30, but the snow was relentless. I slept well but had to get up every hour or so to knock the snow off the tent. Morning's light brought a winter wonderland as the snow continued to fall at a steady clip. Exactly what I had hoped for! :)

After some breakfast I set out for a snowy hike. Would I make the first ever snowshoe ascent of Quien Sabe Peak? :lol: :sweat: Nah. There was only about 8" of snow, so no reason for flotation. As I made my way across Cave Creek, up Cottonwood, and started the ascent on Skunk Tank, the snow and wind was borderline unpleasant. I only made it up about 400 feet before deciding to bail on any more climbing. Back down at the creek, I headed down #4 for a mile or so before heading back to camp.

I saw a truck at the Bronco trailhead on the drive out and the driver told me the road had been opened just about half an hour earlier. I was leaving just in time! :y:
 Culture
 Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Ladder Stile
 Named place
 Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Saint Clair Peak
 Meteorology
 Meteorology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Forecast
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two scoops!
Jan 11 2021
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 Guides 70
 Routes 651
 Photos 11,078
 Triplogs 731

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
Skull Mesa HighpointPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 11 2021
DixieFlyerTriplogs 731
Hiking14.10 Miles 3,396 AEG
Hiking14.10 Miles   8 Hrs   8 Mns   2.24 mph
3,396 ft AEG   1 Hour   50 Mns Break
 
1st trip
After hiking Sugarloaf Mountain on New Years Day, I decided to head back out to Spur Cross and hike up to Skull Mesa this time. U have been up on the Mesa several times before, and I like to do it at least once every winter.

I took Trail 247A both inbound and outbound, which shaved some distance and elevation gain off of the hike. Once on the mesa, I took a break at the overlook, and then went off-trail over to the highpoint of the mesa. It was a fairly easy off-trail, and I was careful to dodge the plethora of low-growing prickly pear cactus that is lurking underneath the knee high grass on the mesa.

I took another break at the high point, and then traversed to the middle of the mesa to check out some metates and petroglyphs that I had seen on previous Skull Mesa hikes. At least one of the petroglyphs was x-rated, providing a glimpse into 13th century ****.

I thought about continuing to the fort ruins on the north end of the mesa, but I have been there several times and decided that the hike would be as long as I wanted without going to the fort ruins.

It was a good day to be out on a hike. I did not see anyone all day until I got within a mile or so back to the TH. It was breezy in the morning, and with the wind it was a bit chilly. It was a sunny day, and it was too warm for me on the way back even though the temperature was in the mid 60's.
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Edward Abbey
Dec 25 2020
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 Triplogs 69

49 male
 Joined Nov 14 2014
 Phoenix, AZ
Bronco Trail #245Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 25 2020
RoadrunnerAZTriplogs 69
Hiking13.55 Miles 2,633 AEG
Hiking13.55 Miles   9 Hrs   1 Min   1.69 mph
2,633 ft AEG      59 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Wanted to do a longer hike on Christmas Day and the Bronco Trail that we never hiked before seemed like a great option. There was no one in the parking lot and we didn't see anyone on the trail - quite unusual for a trail in this area. Weather was great, with quite a few birds near the trail and a few jackrabbits. Bronco Trail was in good shape (we could follow it on the way back only using moonlight) but the Cottonwood Trail while still in good condition and easy to follow was starting to get overgrown in places especially while in the wash. Lots of great views especially while following the ridgeline after the initial climb and then of Skull Mesa and Quien Sabe Peak further along the trail.
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Dec 06 2020
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 Guides 1
 Routes 34
 Photos 459
 Triplogs 71

male
 Joined May 28 2019
 Phoenix, AZ
Cave Creek / Cottonwood Loop, AZ 
Cave Creek / Cottonwood Loop, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Dec 06 2020
kyleGChikerTriplogs 71
Backpack24.27 Miles 5,395 AEG
Backpack24.27 Miles2 Days   3 Hrs   3 Mns   
5,395 ft AEG42 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Took the family out for a three day backpacking trip in the seven springs area--our first time there! After church on Sunday, we drove up the road to the Cave Creek Trailhead, where we started the hike. We didn't quite know what to expect with the water situation, so we took some extra and played it by ear. Thankfully, there was sufficient water in Cave Creek itself, actually forming a nice waterfall we camped near. On this trip, we were seeking nice yellow fall leaves, and we were not disappointed! The campground near the trailhead had abundant fall leaves, as did the majority of Cave Creek canyon itself.

Day 2 we continued our hike along Cave Creek Trail #4. It got to being a pretty hot day by afternoon, and were pleased to rest in the shade wherever we could find it. Dad wasn't feeling up for doing the whole trip, and needed to go to work the next day, so he hiked the last couple miles out to Spur Cross (where we had previously staged a vehicle) and the rest of us (mom, sister, and I) continued up the Cottonwood Trail. After hiking several more miles in the heat that afternoon, we were becoming a little concerned about the water situation. We passed one area where a spring was shown on the map, and we could see about 1/4 mile off the trail, a small trickle of water flowing over some slickrock in the canyon below. Unfortunately, there was another group camped there already, so we moved on. Wilderness is best kept that way, and we had enough water for a dry camp, so we pressed onward. Fortunately, we got to Cottonwood Spring itself (if you look at the old USGS topos, there are three Cottonwood Springs labeled) and it was flowing at a rate of 1 quart per 2.5 minutes (yes, I timed it). The water was nice, clear, and cold. We actually camped in the old corral shown on the topo map, which was the only flat place to pitch a tent. :lol:

The last day, we enjoyed a very diverse amount of scenery, and despite the climbing and distance that definitely felt longer than advertised, we did eventually make it back to our car. The highlight the last day was seeing two different herds of javelinas, one with 15 members, and the other approximately 35 members (though we couldn't count them all), including several babies just a week or two old, as well as some "teenagers". In terms of wildlife, we also saw two owls, one larger Great Horned and a smaller owl (yet to be identified). The small owl had caught a dove and was holding it in its talons. What struck me as unusual was that the small owl wasn't much larger than the dove itself. I'd estimate the size at around 8-9" for the biSrd, not including tail. I
t was sad to see the dove in its talons, but I guess that's the way nature works in this world plagued by sin and the curse. We also saw lizards, wrens, ravens, and other small birds in abundance. The seven springs area struck me as having significantly more wildlife than the uperstitions, for example.
I intend to post an official guide for this hike as well, probably for leaving from Spur Cross, since that's the more common trailhead. I noticed that such a hike exists on HikeAZ but is needing a full guide. That's why this triplog is a little sparse on details, because I intend to post all the details about the actual trail over there on the guide.

Have fun enjoying the outdoors, everyone!
average hiking speed 2.1 mph
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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