On Friday, the 23rd, Mike, Andrea, Mark, Laurie (and their dogs, Zig and Phil), Doug, Leslie, DeAnn, Sandy, Heather, Marilyn, and I hiked at Spur Cross. It was my intention to hike from west to east on the Limestone Trail; we did part of it, but I made a wrong turn which returned to the park early. Our total distance was still around 7.8 miles with roughly 1500 feet of total ascent. It had rained earlier in the day; the trails were wet and the clay sections, which we had underfoot for much of the hike, grabbed at our footwear making the hike more difficult than normal.
Tag: Spur Cross
Linda, Nancy, Marilyn, Bob, Mike, and I hiked from Spur Cross to the top of Skull Mesa on the Friday after Thanksgiving. (Not all of us went to the summit.) The hike was 12 miles long with over 3200 feet of total elevation gain.
This is a view of Cave Creek (which was dry on the day we hiked) from the Spur Cross Trail.
Another view of Skull Mesa from Cottonwood Trail #247:
A view to the west from the Skull Mesa Trail:
A view to the east from the Skull Mesa Trail:
Looking west again, further up the trail:
Nancy, Linda, and Bob:
We saw a young tarantula on our way up…
Climbing higher on the Skull Mesa Trail – roughly 1000 feet are gained in the mile to the top:
Looking east from the summit of Skull Mesa:
Looking southwest from the top of Skull Mesa…
Looking west from the western-most edge…
Nancy and Linda descending the Skull Mesa Trail. In some respects, the descent was more treacherous than the ascent.
Looking west on the descent:
Another view to the west:
On January 1, Bob, Janet, Allen, Nick, DeAnn, Sandy, Marilyn, and I hiked from Spur Cross to Skull Mesa. (Not all of us went to the top.) My GPS watch tells me that I hiked 12.6 miles with over 3100 feet of total ascent.
The mile to the top of the mesa has approximately 1,000 feet of elevation gain, which is quite a lot for just one mile. It was not as difficult as I expected, however, since the trail was both easy to follow and in good condition with numerous switchbacks.
Marilyn, Bob, Allen, Sandy, Nick, Janet, and DeAnn:
A view of Skull Mesa:
Another view of Skull Mesa:
DeAnn, nearing the summit:
Views from the top of Skull Mesa…
Sandy and DeAnn descending the trail from the top of Skull Mesa:
I saw these saguaros on the way down.
A late afternoon view. (We started our hike at about 8:30am and got back somewhat before 5pm.)
Marilyn at the end of the Cottonwood Trail:
DeAnn, Sandy, and Marilyn by the Skull Mesa Trailhead sign. Note the skull at the top of the sign.
Nancy, Marilyn, and I hiked at the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area on Saturday, the 26th. It was a cold and windy day; we had hoped to hike to the top of Skull Mesa, but we abandoned that plan and did a somewhat easier hike instead. We hiked the following trails for an 8.5 mile hike with 2200 feet of total ascent: Spur Cross, FS 48, unnamed wash / canyon, FS 48, TR 252 (Limestone), Elephant Mountain, Tortuga, Spur Cross.
An early view from the Spur Cross Trail:
I think this is entrance to the wash / canyon. We thought this might be TR 252 at first, but after a short ways in, it became clear that it was not. We were happy to enter this canyon, however, as it was sheltered from the wind and allowed us to warm up.
We even saw flowers growing on one of the walls of the wash.
We retraced our steps and hiked further up FS 48 until we got to the corral. We found TR 252 at the back of the corral. The trail climbed steadily upward, passing the south side of Sugarloaf Mountain. This is a view from early in the hike after the trail turned eastward.
Another view of Sugarloaf Mountain:
A view of Skull Mesa, which was our initial goal for the day. Given the conditions that day, we were happy that we chose this easier hike instead. (It was still fairly challenging.)
Marilyn and Nancy at a gate in the fence. We’re near the high point on TR 252 here. It was especially windy and cold at this point. Both Marilyn and Nancy were eager for me to finish my photography so that we could proceed.
A view of Elephant Mountain. The Fortress pinnacle can be seen in front of Elephant Mountain.
There were some interesting cairns / trail markers along the Limestone Trail (TR 252). We could have shortened our hike by following the arrow back to Spur Cross, but I wanted to proceed onward towards Rondo Spring.
Another trail marker on TR 252:
The crossed several substantial washes and then proceeded upward. Route finding became somewhat more difficult; at one point, I thought we had gone too far and had missed the trail back into the park (from the Tonto National Forest), but we still had further to go. In this photo, below, Nancy and Marilyn make their way up from the trail from one of several wash crossings.
I think this is a look back at Sugarloaf Mountain. When we hiked to Black Mesa last year, we thought we’d summit on that formation, but we were mistaken. Black Mesa is mostly out of the frame to the left.
On Sunday, Linda, Bob, and I hiked 11.6 miles between the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area and the Cave Creek Recreation Area. Marilyn hiked out 4.5 miles with us and then returned to the car for a 9 mile hike. According to my GPS watch, we ended up with 1,070 feet of total ascent and 1335 feet of total descent.
A view from near the beginning of the Spur Cross Trail:
Linda spotted this heart shaped prickly pear:
Bob, Linda, and Marilyn:
Another group ahead of us – they hiked to the park boundary and then returned.
Looking up at Elephant Mountain:
We encountered a watering hole shortly after leaving the park. Marilyn told us that she saw cows on the way back.
Views from the Maricopa Trail…
This is a view from the Go John Trail in the Cave Creek Recreation Area:
This dog has its own pack and boots, too!
We’re done! This is a view from above the amphitheater outside of the Nature Center at the Cave Creek Recreation Area.
Bob, Nick, Allen, Janet, and I hiked from the Spur Cross Trailhead to the top of Black Mesa. It was an arduous hike. We started at 8:00am and hiked all day with few rests, returning to our vehicle after dark. Total distance was 14 miles with over 3100 feet of total ascent. The trails in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area were in good condition. We had difficulty following the trails once we entered Tonto National Forest. Tall grass has grown up over the rocks blocking our view of many of the cairns. If it were not for the track that I had loaded into my GPS, we probably would not have found our way. Hiking uphill through tall grass over unseen rocks was very tiring. Despite the difficulty, I had fun on the hike anyway.
Below are two views of the fortress. We passed the path up to the top on our way back (adding two miles to our hike), but we were running short on daylight, so we left it for another day.
We took a short break after passing through one of the fences.
A view of Black Mesa. At the start of the day, we thought that we’d be hiking up a different nearby formation.
Bob, after emerging from one section of tall grass.
Allen, Janet, and Nick on an easy section of the hike.
A view from part way up the final ascent of Black Mesa:
It turns out that there’s a very good trail, complete with switchbacks, up to the top of Black Mesa. We couldn’t find it on the way up, however. We did find it on the way down, but it became harder and harder to follow (due to the grass) as we descended.
Another view from part way up:
We were surprised to find a tire, painted yellow, in a tree at the top of the mesa.
A view from the top:
A view of Elephant Mountain at the right and the fortress, below it to the left:
A barrel cactus alongside the trail. The trail is quite good here.
Two more views of the fortress…
We went the wrong way and missed seeing this large saguaro on our way out.
Black Mesa is the formation to the left. We started the day thinking that we’d be hiking the mesa at the right. In the morning light, it looked more like a “black mesa” than the other one.
Another view of the Fortress with the sun getting lower in the sky.
Another view of Black Mesa (left) and Sugarloaf Mountain (right):
Another view of the Fortress:
A view from the pass between Elephant Mountain and the Fortress:
More views from the Elephant Mountain Trail:
I think these last three photos were taken from the Spur Cross Trail:
Bob, Venie, Linda, Nancy, and I did an eight mile hike at the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. Our hike took us out into the Tonto National Forest briefly. Halfway through, we hiked up to the top of the fortress peak where we looked at the walls built by an ancient people, presumably for defense.
Our hike started on the Spur Cross Trail, where we encountered Cave Creek.
Fortunately, there is narrow bridge of sorts, so we didn’t have to get our feet wet crossing the creek.
A view of Elephant Mountain on the left with the fortress peak lower down to the right. The steep walls around most of the fortress peak make it fairly inaccessible via any route except for a steep, but relatively easy trail accessible from the saddle between these two formations.
We encountered a fork on Trail 252 and took the left fork. This lead us back to a fork of the Elephant Mountain Trail that we had bypassed earlier in the hike. I think this view, below, is a view of Elephant Mountain from that trail.
Linda says that this is “fountain grass”. She says that it’s a non-native grass. Some of her work with the McDowell Sonoran preserve involves eliminating some of this grass from the preserve. It’s pretty in this photo, but it prevents native plants from growing. When dry, it is very combustible and presents more of a fire danger than do native plants.
Marilyn and I hiked at the Spur Cross Ranch Recreation Area on Sunday.
We hiked the Spur Cross Trail to Tortuga, at which point we continued straight on Tortuga. Tortuga branches off to the left, but we continued going straight which is the Elephant Mountain Trail at that point. The Elephant Mountain Trail descends into a wash, follows the wash for a time and then gradually ascends to a pass which separates the main bulk of Elephant Mountain from a lower peak to the East. This lower peak is the site of an old Native American fortress, complete with walls somewhat below the relatively flat top of the peak. We continued on Elephant Mountain Trail until it met up with the Spur Cross Trail, which we followed back to the parking area.
A view of Elephant Mountain from either the Tortuga Trail or near the beginning of the Elephant Mountain trail from where it connects to the Tortuga Trail. The fortress peak with the shear sides is in front of the main bulk of Elephant Mountain.
In the photo below, we were on the Elephant Mountain Trail, beginning our descent into the wash.
A view of the Elephant Mountain fortress peak from where the Elephant Mountain Trail dips into a wash:
I think this might be Sugarloaf Mountain with Skull Mesa to the right. (I’m not certain though.)
Another view of the Elephant Mountain fortress rock:
A wall of ridged rock on Elephant Mountain:
One of the views as we were making our way back to the Spur Cross Trail:
Another look at one of the rock walls on Elephant Mountain:
Marilyn amidst some very tall saguaros:
A mountain biker descending the Spur Cross Trail:
Marilyn on the Spur Cross Trail:
Saguaros on the Spur Cross Trail:
White stone and brown rocks along the Spur Cross Trail:
The sun came out shortly before setting, bathing the trail in an orange glow:
Marilyn, waiting for me as I take lots of “golden hour” photos:
More views near sunset…
I noticed these ruins near the parking area just prior to leaving. I’m puzzled about the wood beam though. It doesn’t look weathered enough to be original.