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Skull Mesa Ruins - 19 members in 53 triplogs have rated this an average 3.8 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Jan 30 2022
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 Guides 9
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64 female
 Joined Nov 17 2008
 phoenix, az
Skull Mesa from Cave Creek TH, AZ 
Skull Mesa from Cave Creek TH, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jan 30 2022
trekkin_gecko
Hiking20.04 Miles 4,132 AEG
Hiking20.04 Miles   10 Hrs   42 Mns   2.04 mph
4,132 ft AEG      53 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
got an invite from linda to hike to skull mesa ruins
i was up on skull mesa in 2015 from spur cross so this route and destination would be new territory
we got started around 0700
a little cool for me, but no wind, a dry creek crossing and some elevation gain took care of that
revisited much of the route to quien sabe peak; i remember very little about that hike :?
past the turnoff to the peak, the rest of quien sabe trail was new to me, as was the skull mesa trail on the east side
we did actually find the trail for the switchbacks up to the mesa - followed it better on the way down
hit the high point once up top, then set out for the little peninsula to the northwest
there are traces of skull mesa trail, but we couldn't stay on it for long
a drop and a couple of hills to get to the peninsula
we explored some of the lower ruins and found plenty of pot sherds
made our way to the upper set of ruins
great views from up there
pretty amazing location
we had lunch and took photos then headed back
found a use trail that skipped the first hill
tried to stay on skull mesa trail again, but ended up going way north on our return
probably a half mile out of our way, but on such a nice day it didn't really matter
dropped off skull mesa, and got to regain the 700 feet up quien sabe trail :)
i may have mentioned to linda a few times that i needed the elevation gain for the month
the rest was mostly downhill on the old roadbeds
another successful creek crossing and we finished before sunset
thanks for including me in this one, linda
i loved the ruins, and that little point is a spectacular place
enjoyed the cave creek approach and seeing how the more obscure trails tie together
even got a high point
nice long day in perfect weather
all that and a bag of chips :lol:
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hazhole
Jan 30 2022
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 Guides 80
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42 female
 Joined Dec 24 2007
 Ahwatukee, AZ
Skull Mesa from Cave Creek TH, AZ 
Skull Mesa from Cave Creek TH, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jan 30 2022
LindaAnn
Hiking20.04 Miles 4,132 AEG
Hiking20.04 Miles   10 Hrs   42 Mns   2.04 mph
4,132 ft AEG      53 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
I’ve had this hike on my radar since December, but kept getting distracted from actually getting it done, so I invited Kelly along so I couldn’t back out of it on yet another weekend.

Got to the Cave Creek TH just after 0700 and got started. Some cloud cover to start, but unfortunately it didn’t last too long. Got to the creek pretty quickly, and the water was low enough to cross easily.

Once on the other side, we headed up to Skunk Tank trail and headed west. Generally easy walking on the old road, although it is rocky in places.

At the junction with Quien Sabe trail, we headed south on Quien Sabe, again on a good trail/old road. After a steady uphill, we started dropping down and the road turned to just an old trail and faded somewhat after a while. It got easy to spot again as we continued heading downhill, but was once again rocky. After crossing a dry wash, the trail immediately headed back uphill, still vague in places.

We reached the junction with Skull Mesa Trail and took the south, then west. Again, a vague trail, but we had an idea of where we wanted to be and headed that direction, eventually finding the trail again and it steeply climbed the east slope up to Skull Mesa. Having at least an old trail bed to follow was a big help. Once atop the mesa, we headed over to the highpoint, then meandered off in the direction of the ruins. We weren’t too concerned with finding a trail, avoiding prickly pear was the main objective and as long as we were heading in generally the right direction, we were good.

As we got onto the peninsula leading to the ruins, we followed the obvious track. One scramble through the rocks, and a steep climb over the last little hill before the ruins. Some catclaw, but most easily avoided. We looked around the lower ruins, then headed up to the ruins at the top, where we had lunch. There were three other hikers up top, the only people we saw all day.

After we looked around and took plenty of pics, we headed back the way we came. At the little steep hill, Kelly spotted a trail leading around the southwest side of the hill. It completely avoided the steep climb up and over, so that is my new favorite detour.

Again a meander across Skull Mesa as we headed back east. We tried to follow cairns at times, but it turned into more of a scenic walk, which was fun to look around as we made our way over to where we drop off the mesa. After that, we retraced our steps all the way back to the trailhead, finishing up around sunset.

Great day, and a fun hike. While heading to the ruins from Spur Cross is certainly easier, this was a nice way to do something a little different. As always, good to hike with Kelly again.
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Dec 27 2021
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37 male
 Joined Mar 01 2018
 Chandler, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 27 2021
John10s
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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Meteorology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Sunset
2 archives
Nov 12 2020
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 Photos 1,226
 Triplogs 236

28 male
 Joined Jun 02 2019
 Phoenix, AZ
Quien Sabe PeakPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 12 2020
LJW
Hiking21.18 Miles 3,920 AEG
Hiking21.18 Miles   8 Hrs   44 Mns   2.57 mph
3,920 ft AEG      30 Mns Break
 
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Last year I did a loop with Skull Mesa and Quien Sabe from Spur Cross, and this year I tried to come up with a truer loop. Ended up with this route from Seven Springs to the Skull Mesa Ruins and Quien Sabe Peak that is shorter and has less elevation gain.

Started at sunrise, which was probably too early. Freezing cold and the sun wasn't high enough to light the yellow trees of Cave Creek or the canyon below Cramm Mountain. Water running the whole way down CC4. Too many cows have made waste of the middle stretch of the trail north of Skull Mesa.

Climbed up the side of the mesa to the higher ruins first then down to the lower. Mostly enjoy the ruins area for the views. Spent the next leg of the trip walking the entire length of the Mesa. Didn't bother to look for the trail. Tall cairns are around, but there's more or less no trail from the top of the Mesa to Quien Sabe Trail. There's a short switchback portion descending into the Matty's Fork drainage, but it's in rough shape and doesn't last long.

Quien Sabe Trail to east of Skunk Ridge. Up to Quien Sabe Peak where I saw the only people on the day. They had binoculars looking south, but we just exchanged waves, and I never got to ask what they were looking for. Descended south from Quien Sabe toward Skull Mesa Trail. Again didn't trouble with the trail that isn't there and climbed down to where it reappears on the ridge toward Cottonwood.

Took Cottonwood east from Skull Mesa. That half of the trail is much less scenic than the western half. Lots of cows. If I were to do this again I would skip this corner of Cottonwood and come down the ridge that leads away from Sabe to the northeast. Makes for an easier, shorter, more scenic hike.
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
Cave and Bronco Creeks within a mile of Seven Springs
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
5 archives
Feb 08 2020
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 Guides 70
 Routes 651
 Photos 10,801
 Triplogs 703

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 08 2020
DixieFlyer
Hiking15.90 Miles 3,812 AEG
Hiking15.90 Miles   7 Hrs   49 Mns   2.50 mph
3,812 ft AEG   1 Hour   28 Mns Break
 
I decided to make my annual trek to the Skull Mesa Ruins today. We went up to the Mesa via the "conventional" route -- Spur Cross Trail to Cave Creek Trail #4 to Cottonwood Trail #247 to Skull Mesa Trail #248. Then we went off-trail across the mesa to the ruins. We returned the same way except this time we took Trail 247A (or is it 247B?) off of the Cottonwood Trail and connected to the Mariposa Hill Trail in the Spur Cross Park. This shortcut saved almost 1.5 miles on the way back.

This is a fun hike that is a good workout. Up on the mesa we found some petroglyphs that I have been trying to find for a couple of years -- some say that the glyphs are X-rated, but I am not so sure about that.

Walking up on the mesa did not seem as bad as it has in the past, maybe because I managed to avoid the prickly pear this time. Going down Trail #248 reminded me why it is one of my least favorite trails.
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[ checklist ] Inversion Layer
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Edward Abbey
1 archive
Dec 21 2019
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 Guides 80
 Routes 426
 Photos 5,442
 Triplogs 1,570

42 female
 Joined Dec 24 2007
 Ahwatukee, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 21 2019
LindaAnn
Hiking14.21 Miles 3,022 AEG
Hiking14.21 Miles   8 Hrs   21 Mns   1.87 mph
3,022 ft AEG      44 Mns Break
 
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Met Laurie at Spur Cross at 0700, and we got started a few minutes later. At Mariposa Hill, we went past the Area Closed sign and took 247A up to Cottonwood, then east on Cottonwood. Saw one deer bounding north not far from the gate.

On the way up to Skull Mesa, I commented to Laurie that I always see campers up top, but that I couldn’t figure out how anyone could camp comfortably in all the rocks and cactus on the mesa. Sure enough, we topped out and saw two tents.

We headed north northwest across the mesa towards the ruins. After a short distance we ran across two guys who weren’t sure of the exact route to take to the ruins, so they ended up joining us on the hike across the mesa. Turns out, they were the campers whose tents we had seen. Lots of tall grass along the top, which obscured a lot of the prickly pear, so it was slow going in a few places.

Once at the ruins, we looked around and took a break, then headed back. Plenty of good conversation to fill the time during our tedious cactus avoidance endeavor. Saw another group of four hikers on our way back across the top. Once back across, we exchanged contact info with the guys before parting ways, then Laurie and I headed back downhill.

Saw group of five hikers on the way back down. Slow through the steep part, plus it was getting warm. Once back down, it was an easy hike retracing our steps back to the trailhead, finishing up a little before 1530. Nice to see Laurie again and good weather for this hike today. Definitely a cooler weather hike; the lack of shade and risk of snakes hidden in the grass up top makes this a hike I would never attempt in warmer weather.
Named place
Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Skull Mesa
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Dec 21 2019
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 Guides 31
 Routes 96
 Photos 2,643
 Triplogs 606

49 female
 Joined Apr 02 2007
 Scottsdale, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 21 2019
Crzy4AZ
Hiking14.21 Miles 3,022 AEG
Hiking14.21 Miles   8 Hrs   21 Mns   1.87 mph
3,022 ft AEG      44 Mns Break
 no routes
My work and kid life schedule is always overbooked and rarely open - - but Linda is a planner - and we set this Saturday to hike somewhere together way back several months ago. I thought I needed to be back home by mid-afternoon to get ready for a holiday party - so we started early at 7 with good bit of wind and we both had ear coverage and light layers on. Linda is a curator of cool gear/outerwear, and I always leave a hike with a shopping list after a hike with her. Loving her wool (bien sur) arm sleeves that allowed her to wear short sleeve shirt and not have to shed a heavy layer couple hours later. Side note: I would make Linda "Wool-kopelli" if I was in charge of such things.

The time-saver route (barely breaking any rules to go 200 ft past sign into Tonto Forest) avoided some AEG - which was fine by me especially on the way back when my toes and knees were ready to be done. We had cloud cover for first hours - then beautiful blue sky. Temperature mid-day was lovely - although I don't have pants that serve as catclaw/cactus protectors AND are lightweight. Drank more water than I expected from being over-layered and used some of Linda's extra stash in the last mile.

Was quite the surprise to pick up the two stray hikers who did not find the ruins. Of course I have sympathy for the disappointment they were feeling before we invited them to follow us. I tried to find the ruins 11 years ago :next: triplog. I see why people would camp and then spend a separate day at the ruins - so much to pour over up there - although camping on the edge of Skull Mesa seems like a windy rough spot.

I saw way more petroglyphs in 2008 than I did yesterday (can I add pics to a photoset from 2008? :lol: :lol: ) but that's probably b/c I was so focused on my own feet and not twisting something or making toes hurt worse. WTH with my toes hurting? Same boots - good socks - same body weight - as usual hiking. Maybe just so much twisty/torque of scrambling or downhill for so long? I wanted a toe-transplant by the last mile. No blisters - and this morning they are fine. Maybe I'm just old and the toes are the canary in the coal mine.

It was a great day outside - super fun as always with Linda - 11 yr closure on ruin finding - and then I ended the day in my jetted tub with AZW beer I picked up (3 yr anniversary cans). Merry Christmas to all! (I swear there was a Christmas tree emjoi smile we used to be able to add???? Reindeer one - what happened to it?)
Culture
Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Intrepid Back Shot
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[ checklist ] Cave Creek - SPRCA Skull Mesa
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Dec 21 2019
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56 male
 Joined Oct 07 2017
 Chandler, AZ
Spur Cross Cottonwood Loop, AZ 
Spur Cross Cottonwood Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Dec 21 2019
Yoder
Hiking0.10 Miles 1 AEG
Hiking0.10 Miles   4 Hrs   9 Mns   0.03 mph
1 ft AEG      30 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
 no routesno photosets
Partners none no partners
We decided to link sections of the Spur Cross, Skull Mesa and Cottonwood trails to make a 8.3 mile loop. This gave us a chance to check out the beginning of Skull Mesa Ruins hike for possibly checking this out later, it's a long one, but looks like it has great views.

Didn't realize it at the time, but crossed paths with Crzy4AZ going on the Skull Mesa Ruins hike the same morning. Bummed out I didn't say hello to them that morning, but generally we avoid other folks... we tend not to be very sociable.... need to work on that more. :?

Anyhow, the part of the ruin hike we did was very reasonable. The trail actually is easier to walk on than most of the trails in the Conservation area. Most of there trails has alot of the fist size rocks in the trail that ware on the feet after a while.

All-in-all a pretty pleasant hike.
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3 archives
Jan 12 2019
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 Guides 70
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male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon, AZ 
Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jan 12 2019
DixieFlyer
Hiking15.10 Miles 3,075 AEG
Hiking15.10 Miles   8 Hrs   40 Mns   2.56 mph
3,075 ft AEG   2 Hrs   46 Mns Break
 
I took a few people on this hike that I had done a few weeks ago.

We made a loop out of the hike, starting and ending at the Spur Cross TH. We started out on the Spur Cross Trail, and about the time we got to the Tonto National Forest we made a short off-trail jaunt to hit Trail 247A, and then made our way up to Skull Mesa. After traversing the mesa to get to the fort ruins on the NW side of the mesa, we descended from the ruins down the east side of the mesa, and angled our way north and then west until we got to Cave Creek Trail #4. On the way back we stopped off at the Rim of Chalk Canyon to see some pueblo ruins, and then dropped down into the Canyon to check out some petroglyphs and metates.

Compared to the "standard" out-and-back route to the ruins, I'd estimate that this route was 2.5 miles shorter and had 800'-900' less elevation gain.

I found 3 geocache containers on the mesa.
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Edward Abbey
Dec 05 2018
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 Guides 70
 Routes 651
 Photos 10,801
 Triplogs 703

male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon, AZ 
Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Dec 05 2018
DixieFlyer
Hiking18.10 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking18.10 Miles   10 Hrs   15 Mns   2.41 mph
3,500 ft AEG   2 Hrs   44 Mns Break
 
I had been to Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon 3 times each but I had never done both on the same hike. So I talked Tracie into going on this hike with me in order to rectify that situation.

We started at the Spur Cross TH, and took the Spur Cross Trail into the Tonto National Forest. Once there, we went off trail for a bit to get on a use trail that connects with Cottonwood Trail #247 about a mile west from where the Cottonwood Trail meets Skull Mesa Trail #248. I had noticed that lindaagm came back this way from Skull Mesa, and I used her route to get over to this trail. I like this way much better than continuing on the Spur Cross Trail until it hits Cave Creek Trail #4, and from there taking the Cottonwood Trail all the way over to Skull Mesa Trail #248. The use trail was easy to follow, and I thought that it was a better trail than Cave Creek Trail #4, which I took on the way back.

Once we got to Skull Mesa Tail #248 we took it up to the mesa. It was a bit steep, but there are lots of switchbacks on the steeper sections, so the ascent wasn't bad at all. Once we got to the overlook, I looked to the east and could see some places that were obviously at a higher elevation than where we were at the overlook on the SW side of the mesa. My GPS measured the overlook at 4,260'. So we went about 1.25 miles to what I think is the high point of the mesa on the SE side of the mesa. My GPS measured 4,570', whereas the high point is supposed to be 4,595'. The altimeter in my GPS isn't 100% precise, and since I did not see any other points higher than where we were, I am going to declare victory on being at the high point of Skull Mesa.

We then went from the SE part of the mesa over to the NW corner of the mesa to the Indian Ruins. The traverse wasn't bad, although I did manage to get some prickly pear spines in the side of my shoes a couple of times. Along the way we came across some metates on the mesa (N33.93712° W111.92183°).

The fort ruins are impressive imho and are well worth the trip to see them.

On the way back, rather than going all the way back across the mesa, we dropped down to the east of the fort ruins. The slope there looked forgiving, and it turned out do be decent descent. We angled down first to the north and then to the west -- we hit Cave Creek Trail #4 in about 0.6 miles. The only problem is that after angling down the hill, my left leg is now shorter than my right one!

We took Cave Creek Trail #4 until we turned off to go the rim of Chalk Canyon and check out the petroglyphs and pueblo ruins there. Then we descended down into Chalk Canyon and saw a few more petroglyphs and metates. Then we continued south on the trail that took us to the Skull Mesa TH, and then went back to the Spur Cross TH. Once we got back into the Spur Cross Preserve, we took the Metate Trail back to the TH -- I much prefer the Metate Trail to the Spur Cross Trail.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
There were a few wildflowers blooming: brittle bush; turpentine bush; and globemallow, among others
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Edward Abbey
Mar 17 2018
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 Routes 2
 Photos 1
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40 female
 Joined Jun 23 2015
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 17 2018
emilystardust
Hiking20.00 Miles 1,970 AEG
Hiking20.00 Miles
1,970 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I've only been out to Spur Cross once, so the trails and boundaries were a little confusing but not too bad. I think everyone got stuck with cactus spines multiple times each on this hike :? So needless to say, lots of cactus very close to the trail and of course, throughout the off-trail slog over to the ruins. The ruins were pretty incredible, though not everyone wanted to go to the top of the hill to see the wall at that point. We took a little detour/wrong turn on the way back, so it ended up being a few more miles than we anticipated. Just a silly mistake that easily could have been avoided after we turned back on to Spur Cross Trail.
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Mar 17 2018
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 Routes 98
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54 male
 Joined Apr 25 2011
 Goodyear, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 17 2018
Nightstalker
Hiking18.10 Miles 4,088 AEG
Hiking18.10 Miles   11 Hrs   21 Mns   2.04 mph
4,088 ft AEG   2 Hrs   29 Mns Break17 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Prepping for a Grand Canyon hike at the end of the month, I finally crossed this one off my list. I was joined today by harem regulars Carey and Pammy. We followed the Cottonwood Spring Loop counter-clockwise out to Skull Mesa. We encountered some campers near the Skull Mesa / Cottonwood intersection who were also destined for the ruins at the far end of the mesa. Once we got to the top of Skull Mesa, we mistakenly continued to follow trail #248 east until we realized we were going in the wrong direction. No big deal, we worked our way back to our desired route. Not much of any trail to follow across the top of Skull Mesa to get out to the ruins. We had a great time exploring the ruins and enjoying the views before making our way back to Cottonwood Trail. We followed Cottonwood Trail all the way back to Spur Cross and then returned to much desired parking lot. This was my longest duration, longest distance, and greatest AEG hike! Can't wait to beat it.
Culture
Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Balloon

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Dripping Dripping
Water present

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Dirt Trough Creek Light flow Light flow
Slight running water and small pools
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Mar 04 2018
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 Guides 80
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42 female
 Joined Dec 24 2007
 Ahwatukee, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 04 2018
LindaAnn
Hiking14.63 Miles 3,578 AEG
Hiking14.63 Miles   7 Hrs   44 Mns   2.04 mph
3,578 ft AEG      34 Mns Break
 
Perfect day for this one--cool, cloudy, and breezy. Started around 8:00am, and made my way over to Skull Mesa. Once past the trailhead, I only saw two people a few miles in. Had a quick snack at the top, then headed over to the ruins. It was cool enough for a mile or so to need to wear a light jacket. Had lunch at the ruins, then headed back. Saw a couple of mule deer running across the mesa, but not much else. The clouds had mostly disappeared on my way down, and it warmed up a little, but still very nice. After Cottonwood Spring, I headed west on 247A. It gets vague in a couple of spots, but mostly easy to follow. Scared up another deer on that trail too. Finished up around 3:45. Nice to get this one done before it gets too warm. I'd hate to be walking through that tall grass on the mesa in warmer temps while having to worry about hidden rattlers.
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If it’s above freezing, it’s too hot.
Nov 24 2017
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 Guides 70
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male
 Joined Jan 07 2017
 Fountain Hills,
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 24 2017
DixieFlyer
Hiking17.50 Miles 4,000 AEG
Hiking17.50 Miles   9 Hrs   2 Mns   2.56 mph
4,000 ft AEG   2 Hrs   12 Mns Break
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Six intrepid hikers decided to #OptOutside on Black Friday and hike up to the Skull Mesa ruins. The first 2 miles were very easy, and the next 3 miles were fairly "normal" for an Arizona hike on a trail in a national forest. The next 1.2 miles up to the top of Skull Mesa were a bit more strenuous, but not too bad. The hike from the top of the mesa to the ruins was totally off-trail through knee high grass with lots of prickly pear cactus along the way. Thankfully the gps track that I downloaded from HAZ took us right to the ruins. The fort ruins were very interesting and are worth going to imho. I did not see the pueblo ruins, although I did not really know what to look for. I also did not see any of the petroglyphs that are supposed to be there. There were some pottery shards scattered around though.

I made one deviation from the gps track: as we neared the ruins, rather than going up and over the second peak that you come to, I went around it on the west side. There was a faintly marked trail to follow, and it was much easier than going up and over this peak.

On a future hike, on the way back from the ruins I am going to explore the feasibility of going from the ruins over to Cave Creek Trail #4. There will be a descent involved, but it should shorten the route back by over 2 miles.

I have done this hike twice over the past month and saw wildlife both times: the first time I came across a half dozen or so javelina; the second time I saw a tarantula on Trail #247, and I came across a deer leg on top of the Mesa.

We made good time on this hike, with a moving avg. of 2.6 mph. We spent about 2 hours of 'downtime", mostly on top of the initial summit to Skull Mesa, and at the fort ruins.

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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Edward Abbey
4 archives
Feb 11 2017
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 Guides 80
 Routes 426
 Photos 5,442
 Triplogs 1,570

42 female
 Joined Dec 24 2007
 Ahwatukee, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 11 2017
LindaAnn
Hiking15.09 Miles 3,496 AEG
Hiking15.09 Miles   8 Hrs   10 Mns   1.98 mph
3,496 ft AEG      33 Mns Break
 
Partners partners
danielac
Daniela finally had a free weekend, and she wanted to do a longer hike. I didn't want to drive too far, and have spent plenty of time in the Superstitions lately, so Skull Mesa fit the bill. We were treated to a nice sunrise on the drive in, and pleasantly cool temps at the start of the hike. We turned off at Mariposa Hill, and followed the trail northeast to Cottonwood--saves some distance and time.

Took a quick break at the junction with Skull Mesa trail, then headed up. I still don't think the hike up is very difficult, but the random guy who was about ten minutes behind us would beg to differ. At the top, we took a snack break, then headed over toward the ruins. At times, there was a distinct path to follow, at other times there was nothing, but common sense (with the aid of a gps track) tells you which way to generally go.

Once at the ruins, Daniela and I looked around and took pics. I wanted to go to the hilltop to look at the ruins up there, but Daniela decided it was too steep for her (I did point out that it wasn't any steeper than anything I'd already made her do today, but she laughed at me), so I headed up by myself. I spent a few minutes up there, then headed back down and we made our way back across the mesa.

The walk back seemed to go a little faster, and the hike back down off the mesa was uneventful. We continued along Cottonwood trail to the spring, then headed west from there, connecting back to our original trail. The last few miles were a little warm as the cloud cover had somewhat dissipated.
Flora
Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Cheatgrass
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If it’s above freezing, it’s too hot.
Apr 15 2016
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 Routes 164
 Photos 1,604
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47 male
 Joined Nov 11 2014
 Amherst, NH
Skull Mesa from Spur Cross THPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 15 2016
JasonCleghorn
Hiking12.19 Miles 2,859 AEG
Hiking12.19 Miles   5 Hrs   14 Mns   2.48 mph
2,859 ft AEG      19 Mns Break
 
Partners none no partners
This was probably my most difficult and adventurous solo outing since I've been here in AZ. It was tough! I was never really tired on the ascent, although I had some doubt tiredness. I have a theory that your brain tricks your muscles into feeling more tired than they really are when self doubt kicks in. I was honestly never really sketched out at all, other than just wondering if it would be blazing hot on the return trip. I was also feeling the doubt of a previous Skull abort due to nausea and probably food poisoning.

But I almost turned back at the Skull Mesa Trail junction for the final summit push. I don't know whether it was my Native American Cherokee ancestors urging me to join my Hohokam brethren up top (unlikely) my stubbornness (probably) or summit fever (totally) but I pushed on and up. The last mile is pretty straight up, but its never scrambling or anything too taxing other than you've already came 6 miles and probably 2500 AEG just to get to the final trail up.

I didn't explore much once I got up top, I walked over to the left to the overlook area and snapped some shots, drank about a quart of water and then started back down. I want to go back when its cooler and explore up top more including exploring all the way back to the ruins. I just didn't for whatever reason but as hard as I worked, this hike was on MY terms, LOL.

Along the return, I actually got a bit COLD from the wind having previously worried about getting too HOT. It really was goldilocks, to be honest, just right. Maybe a hair cooler would be optimal.

I do have to say though that after doing Skull, the New River Mesa looks like even more difficult. It is ENORMOUS. It appears to make Skull look like child's play. #goals

All in all a great day. My IT band let out a few exclamatory protests on the scree and pea gravel descent but nothing too bad.

Looking like East End and Tom's Thumb on Sunday. I'm stoked.
Flora
Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Cottonwood
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
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"It's not the mountains that we conquer, but ourselves"
1 archive
Mar 05 2016
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 Routes 12
 Photos 52
 Triplogs 13

31 male
 Joined Feb 08 2016
 Scottsdale, AZ
Skull Mesa from Spur Cross THPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 05 2016
lwbenso
Backpack11.80 Miles 2,500 AEG
Backpack11.80 Miles   27 Hrs   9 Mns   1.54 mph
2,500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
ABBH - Group
Did this backpacking trip with the Arizona&Beyond Hiking and Backpacking group from meetup.com. Decently challenging hike with a heavy pack on, if only using a day pack I don't think it would be so bad. The top of the mesa is beautiful, especially if you bushwhack over to one of the edges overlooking the city/valley. There were streams of water early on in the hike (couple miles or so), after that I think it would be pretty hard to find filterable water. Temps were very manageable, with only a light jacket on in the evening to keep warm. We went to find the ruins, easy if you have the GPS coordinates logged - hard if you are just walking in the general direction. They are a good 4 or 5 miles out once you get to the top of the mesa.
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2 archives
Jan 21 2016
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 Guides 9
 Routes 418
 Photos 7,472
 Triplogs 556

76 male
 Joined Dec 07 2010
 Phoenix, AZ
Spur Cross LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 21 2016
Oregon_Hiker
Hiking6.40 Miles 1,025 AEG
Hiking6.40 Miles   4 Hrs   15 Mns   1.51 mph
1,025 ft AEG10 LBS Pack
 
An exercise hike with some nice scenery along the way. Ran into the Spur Cross ranger, Kevin, and chatted for a while. He gave me several clues on new areas to look for Indian Ruins outside the park boundary but most were at or beyond my range for a day hike. Didn't see anyone else on entire hike accept a young woman who was taking no chances on her security - two large dogs trotting along with her and a pistol strapped to her waist. Water was still running in Cave Creek but it is lower than a couple of weeks ago.
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Dec 25 2014
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 Guides 29
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40 male
 Joined Jan 21 2013
 AZ
Cave Creek Trail #4Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 25 2014
FOTG
Hiking25.15 Miles 4,645 AEG
Hiking25.15 Miles
4,645 ft AEG
 
I squeezed in a quick over-night backpack between my coachiing obligations, a nasty cold and my more ambitious hike this weekend. Cup was still on the mend from the Supes so it was just a father son trip. Oregonhiker/Larry had given me several leads on some ruins and petroglphys in the area. The plan was to hit up as many of Larry's sites as I could, visit the Skull Mesa site, and loop back via Quien Sabe and skunk creek.

I got a late start Wednesday. I was fighting a cold and spent most of morning mulling over whether I should go, I chose a little more sleep and a later start time. I started hiking just after 10 and actually felt pretty good, although, it was an artificial sense, as I knew it was most likely the Sudafed and cold medicine.

Cave Creek Trail was a beauty, great trail and great views of the creek, which is really pushing some water right now. I noticed a set of ruins marked high on a hill top to my left and even though they were not in my plan I decided to go for them. After a very steep climb I was about a tenth of a mile from the ruins. It was at that point that I realized I had climbed up the backside of Skull Mesa and those were the ruins I intended on visiting the next day ](*,) I could not believe my error! I just glanced at GPS noticed Larry had a spot marked "fortress" and climbed up to it like a mad man. Of course the dangerously high dosage of sudafed I was operating on may have contributed to the poor decision and the subsequent vigor at which I attacked the 700 plus foot off trail scramble. Oh well at least I knew I could go off back end of Skull Mesa if I did not feel like back tracking on the second day. Blanco and I slid back down the steep slope and continued down Cave Creek Trail where I explored some real nice ruins and petroglyph sites. From our last ruins site we scrambled down to the creek and enjoyed a nice campsite along the flowing creek and just off "road 48." We were both too tired to complete our tradition of feats of strength, but I enjoyed a gratuitous amount of holiday themed candy and sweets around the fire.

A chilly night but no frozen water in the morning. I packed up camp to a beautiful Christmas day sunrise and started hiking at 8:15. I took the rather drab Cottonwood to Skull Mesa Trail and Skull Mesa. The climb really kicked my pumpkin and I thought of about the ten other options I could have did other than lugging an over-night pack up the Mesa and across to the ruins. However, the ruins were amazing and certainly worth the extra effort. I was thoroughly impressed with the ruins and spent several minutes looking at them with awe and pondering about the people who built them. After making it to the final fortress, the prospect of backtracking across the mesa to the maintained trail did not sound appealing to Blanco or myself, especially, when Cave Creek Trail #4 sat just about .25 miles down the backside of Skull Mesa. So once more Blanco and I slid, surfed, cursed, slipped, bushwhacked and scrambled to Cave Creek Trail via the backside of Skull Mesa.

After Skull Mesa the hike out was pretty standard. This is just a really scenic area. The flowing creek through the desert landscape coupled with some great views of the narrower sections of Cave Creek from the trail high above and the finish under the trees really make this a trail worth getting out to this time of year.

HAZ appreciation to Larry for some great leads and Richard who also shared one of his gems ;)

Its funny when I decided to do an over-nighter in Cave Creek I worried about not having enough to do, now I find myself wishing I had one more day up there.

Props to Mr. Blanco who never ceases to amaze me. It was only 25 miles, but that is some deceptively rough off-trail terrain out there and he did admirably. He climbed Skull Mesa from the back side only to go right back down again, then dodged the prickly pear and navigated the rocky ridge line to reach the fortress on the second day, only to have to slide back down that same steep slope again, but with a pack on for good measure and not one complaint.
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3 archives
Jan 21 2014
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 Guides 27
 Routes 61
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66 male
 Joined Jan 23 2008
 Phoenix, AZ
Skull Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 21 2014
AZWanderingBear
Hiking22.50 Miles 4,469 AEG
Hiking22.50 Miles   9 Hrs      2.50 mph
4,469 ft AEG29 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
I’ve always said that every adventure is complete only when you are safely home, sipping a cold drink, admiring your photographic attempts, and reveling in the completion of yet another fun outing. It is a rule with me, never to be broken. This trip put my devotion to that concept to the test.

The Knifeback on the north end of Skull Mesa with its Indian ruins has long intrigued me. Different routes and scenarios have crossed my mind at different stages. The hike from either Spur Cross or Seven Springs always seemed at the edge of my ability given the amount of water I’d need to carry. Lately I’ve craved a backpacking trip as well. Slowly a plan formed. I’d hike from Spur Cross to the 6L Ranch, overnight, and then assault the Knifeback and return via 6L and Spur Cross. Cave Creek could supply plenty of water.

Day 1 - 6 Miles

Mary Jo, the wife, decided to hike in to 6L with me and then return home before sunset. She is not a backpacker, but was good company. We had lunch at 6L and she helped gather firewood for the night before returning to Spur Cross and seeing a nice mule deer doe. She thinks any trip without seeing a large animal is a bust, so I was happy for her.

We’d been seeing fresh horse tracks on the hike in and sure enough when we arrived at 6L there were eight horses with cowboys and cowgirls taking a break. One horse was standing exactly where I planned to sleep. Luckily he only stood there. These folks were really decked out in well worn authentic western gear. Figured it was some sort of local club. Made some conversation with one of the older gents who told me they were from Washington. He must have seen my facial muscles tense when he said that. I tend to frown pretty bad when someone says Washington. He quickly and emphatically added “STATE” and we were fine. The group of friends have trailered their mounts here for the winter for the last 15 years. Nice folks. Later I noticed wispy horse mane clouds spanning the northern sky. Seemed appropriate.

Christmas and my impending birthday had provided some new toys for me to play with on this trip. A fancy new knife (Fallkniven Idun), cookpot (Snowpeak Kettle #1), and a Kelty tarp gave me entertainment for the afternoon as I set up camp. When the light turned good I played with the camera some.

Dinner and then a fire took me into evening. The creek had assembled a nice pile of driftwood from various floods just upstream. This provided most of my firewood. Who would ever think you could have a driftwood fire in the desert? The evening brought a slightly chilled breeze in from up canyon as the slopes shed their cooling air down into my low camp. Just like the hills and mesas drain their water into the springs that feed Cave Creek, so too do they give up their colder air every night. The fire felt good.

Last thought I remember before drifting away came from my favorite Bon Iver song, Calgary, with its haunting sounds and uninterpretable lyrics.

There's a fire going out,
But there's really nothing to the south

Sold, I'm Ever
Open ears and open eyes
Wake up to your starboard bride
Who goes in and then stays inside
Oh the demons come, they can subside


Day 2 - 16.5 Miles

Awoke from a nice night just before sunrise. A quick breakfast preceded a quick shuffling of packs and gear. I’d brought along an REI flashpack, both as a stuff sack and my pack for the assault on the Knifeback. I’d backtrack to pick up my large pack on the way out. Loaded essential gear, some lunch and 4 liters of water, a bit more than I’d need but who knows what might happen along the trail.

Headed up the old horse trail and made the bench between Cave Creek and Skull quick enough. Pretty close to where that trail intersect the #4 trail there is an old airplane crash site. Stopped off to check it out for a few minutes and then hurried to the Skull upslope.

Going up the north end of Skull starts steep and gets worse. By the last few hundred feet there was more exposure than I was comfortable with, but being close urged me on. I’ve been reading Death in the Canyon in preparation for an upcoming rafting/hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. One common thread with deaths inside the Canyon was solo males, off trail, with lots of vertical around them. Looking back down I decided the authors had a point. I wasn’t going to be at all comfortable going down without a rope. Had some paracord in my pack, but ascending or descending on that stuff, while doable, is definitely an emergency procedure in my book.

Made the ridgeline safely and worked over to the fortress first. The top of the ridge north of the fortress makes the hike to Angel’s Landing in Zion look pretty tame. At least they have chains to hold onto there. The fortress is impressive. The builders of this place had to be agile and strong to get that amount of rock up these steep slopes. Took photos and then worked down to the village remains below. Pottery shards everywhere. Explored around some but the route down was on my mind.

Stopped for a quick snack and drink and some serious thought. Had to retrieve my pack, yet be home tonight (work tomorrow). Wasn’t going down the way I came up. Other routes off the north and west sides looked possible and I was sure some were, but which? If I cliffed out, then what? If I broke something in a fall, THEN what? I had calculated the mileage and time to go off the south end of Skull via the trail I was familiar with, then Cottonwood to the Creek and then north to 6L and then back down to Spur Cross. If I moved now and with a purpose I had the time and water. If I attempted a direct descent back to 6L and failed then that option was lost to me. Two risky miles or eight fairly safe familiar miles.

I remembered my prime directive. And what the heck, I was here to hike right? So across the mesa I went, then down to the intersection with the Cottonwood. Managed to get a cell phone call out from the top of Skull. Answering machine at home of course, but at least the new plan was communicated. Kept doing the math. Sunset vs miles to go and how fast I needed to move. Always carry a nice headlamp, but I hate hiking after dark though the last few miles into Spur Cross could be done in the dark, so there was a cushion there. Water and my own energy level were the other factors.

Cottonwood is all rollercoaster west of the intersection with the Skull ascent. Seems forever and the footing never gets good. Did a little work on my feet where some hot spots were forming. Leukotape P is my replacement for moleskin. It’s inexpensive and fantastic. Stands up to both wear and water.

Finally made the Creek, turned north and moved. Suck my camelback dry as I hit the first fence at 6L. Changed socks (never anything but smart wool and always a spare pair), reconfigured the packs, filtered enough water to gulp down a liter and carry two more for the hasty exit to Spur Cross.

A pack of coyotes serenaded my last mile into Spur Cross. Wasn’t sure if they were complaining about me or congratulating me. More likely they had just caught a rabbit dinner and cared not one iota about us hikers. But I liked their tune either way.

Tossed the pack in the Jeep 30 minutes before sunset and pulled into the garage looking at one of those Arizona Highways sunset scenes. Cold drink, download the photos, tell the wife about the fun I had. Tomorrow is back to the grind. Today is one of those you remember. Done the Knifeback. Hmmm, Sugarloaf looked pretty cool in the afternoon sun.
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average hiking speed 2.13 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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