Archive for the ‘Superstitions’ Category

Superstitions After the Crash

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

On the day before Thanksgiving, a twin-engine plane crashed into the Flatiron formation of the Superstition Mountains killing all aboard. It made national news, but the best coverage I’ve found is from the local Apache Junction News. ( Don’t dawdle, they do not have a permanent URL to this story, so its gone when they put out a new issue.

Apache Junction is the town immediately adjacent to the Superstition Wilderness and the Lost Dutchman State Park . It is a distant suburb of Phoenix.

Rescue workers and investigators have concluded operations on the site, and the area is open to the public. There are no designated trails up Flatiron, but there are several unofficial routes climbing it. Jacob’s Crosscut and Siphon Draw are the closest designated trails to the crash-site.

Flatiron photo by Joe Bartels

The Forest Service has requested (insists, really) that any remaining debris be left undisturbed. In particular, they do not want anyone else to bring found body parts to the ranger station (this has apparently already happened).

Despite those sad circumstances, there’s really no better time to hike around the western Supes. I’m going to steer you a bit away from the crash to the Bluff Springs Loop from Peralta TH.

I wrote about this hike in D&O Tonto. The FS is redoing their online trail guides, and the current description have only mileage, elevation, wilderness rules and a note that the route is heavily used. If you’re a member (and that’s free) HikeAz has a good description.

This is a crowded part of the wilderness on weekends, and I will be part of that problem, since I lan to hike this myself on Saturday (12/3/11). Maybe I’ll see you there.

Behind-the-hike segments resume next week.

Eastern Superstitions

Friday, March 13th, 2009

The eastern half of the Superstition Wilderness is higher elevation and much more isolated. Much of this is because none of the trailheads are easy to reach in a passenger vehicle, and several absolutely require a 4WD.

Astute readers will notice that the Angel Basin hike and the Oak Flats hike were both smaller parts of the Eastern Superstitions Super-loop. Why yes, I covered them all in the same expedition.

And I cover them all in the same blog entry.

DATE HIKED: 24-26 April 2008

COMPANIONS: Te-wa, Nonot and Wally Farrak [I’m using their alias’ from HikeAZ.]

START TIME: Friday, 4/24/08 9:15 am

END TIME: Sunday 4/26/08 around 2pm.


The guys were worried when I told them I was writing a guidebook (and hence mumbling into my DVR at random intervals) that their antics might appear. I assured them, truthfully, that guidebooks were not structured like that. I’m going to keep that level of privacy except to note that I was, by far, the slowest of the quartet. On the first day, they’d occasionally double back just to make sure I was still with them. By the third day, however, they had resigned themselves that I would get there eventually. On Sunday, they all reached the car easily by noon.

We have a lot of pix:

If yer new – I camp in a hammock. I was able to use it both nights.

My Camp in Angel Basin

Hammock by Byer of Maine. Tarp from Cabela’s. The photo on the left – from Angel basin – the hammock is actually suspended over a coil of discarded barbed wire.

More information about the Solado People who built the prehistoric exurb of prehistoric Phoenix.

The agony of de feet. [Sorry.]

Duct tape and athletic tape – mandatory for a backpacker’s first aid kit. Happily, this is morning of day 3.

And finally, some of the varied terrain we hiked through:

Peralta Trail and Cave Trail (Worst Bushwhack Ever)

Monday, March 9th, 2009

This hike, in the western Superstitions was written as an up and back to Fremont Saddle. My actual journey was longer, more complicated, and, after sunset, far more harrowing.

DATE HIKED: 22 March 2008


START HIKE: 2:50pm


ACTUAL MILES: 7.28 miles

My late start is due to hiking the Bluff Springs Loop that morning (see previous post).

After climbing the Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle, I kept going, closer to the base of Weaver’s Needle (that’s the Big Rock Formation) looking for the remains of an old prospector hide-out called Pinon Camp. One Celeste Marie Jones and her gang used to chase folks away from her claim at the base of Weaver’s Neede throughout the 50’s and 60’s. You can reason out where the camp might have been, but there’s no actual remains. Not a bad spot to spend the night, though, if you are so inclined.

As far as I know, Lone Pine Lookout is a designation I made up. This is not to claim credit – just to warn you about looking up the name in other sources. If I were going back, I would avoid the “low” route to get there.

At about 6:15pm, I was describing the sunset going on behind the cliffs into my DVR. Past there, my notes get sketchy.

Cairns are difficult to find in twilight, and nearly impossible to find by LED headlight, unless you get stupid lucky. I have never had that sort of luck. In the end, I followed a ravine down the mountain, negotiating sheer granite boulders ad then thick tangles of scrub-oak, and then more steep boulders.

I didn’t take many good notes on that part of the journey.

I remember distinctly about 8:30 giving myself 15 more minutes to find some sort of actual trailbefore I cut cut my losses and found someplace to hole up for the night.

I wasn’t screwed in that regard: recent rains and left several deep puddles and I still had a power bar in my pocket. And I never hike without a flashlight and at least one extra layer. I would have lived. But 13 minutes later I literally stumbled upon Bluff Springs Trail.

Not only did I find the turn I missed that morning, but I made the car intime to catch the last of the Suns game as I drove home.

Still, when I wrote not to attmept Cave Trail in the dark – that’s Good Advice From Direct Experience. Worst Bushwhack Ever.

Bluff Springs Loop

Friday, March 6th, 2009

A great loop of several connecting trails in the western Superstitions.

DATE HIKED: 3/22/08


START TIME: 8:15 am

END TIME:  2pm

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 11.3 miles

I had originally planned a longer loop, taking the Terrapin Trail around Weaver’s Needle and returning via the Peralta Trail, but a mile into the hike, I realized that I had left lunch in the car, and revised my route to very close to what ended up in the guidebook.

I did go up the Terrapin Trail a bit. Here are my notes:

Terrapin is a steep, slippery climb for a view that is
better had elsewhere. Climb one steep hill and then another, often over bare rock,
to emerge at a ridge top crowned with a large assortment of hoodoos.  Just past those hoodoos (@ 8 miles), down
the ridge a bit, you will indeed come across a postcard-worthy vista of
Weaver's Needle.

Heading down towards the trailhead, I missed the turn at the edge of the ridge, and ended up sliding down a little goat trail to get to the TH.

Oddly, I found that turn later on that day, returning from the Peralta hike (see next time) in the dark.

Back at the Peralta TH, I helped jump someone’s car, and when I refused cash, they offered me some fruit, which I accepted, supplementing an otherwise meager lunch.

Jacob’s Crosscut & Treasure Loop

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Neither Jacob’s Crosscut nor Treasure Loop are in the Superstition Wilderness proper, but they go along the western slopes of the mountain range.

Date Hiked: 27 December 2007

Companions: Ben

Actual Hiking time: 11:30am to 6:30 pm

My mileage notes are deceptive because we actually hiked the entirety of Jacob’s Crosscut, even though the guide hike  has the loop around at Treasure Loop. Once you get past (north) of Treause Loop and the State Park, you get into some relatively pristine and lonely desert. You cross a couple of washes, and then follow the barbed-wire fence until you hit Crosscut Trailhead. This makes for a stupid-easy car-shuttle if so desired.

I deliberately mentioned the restroom at Lost Dutchman State Park because that section of the trail is Far Too Crowded to simply relieve yourself on a palo verde tree.

Why yes, 6:30pm is well past sunset in December. This is why I always carry a flashlight.

Freind of this blog, Roxxan Lizzie has a Flickr set of photos from her hike. She ran out of daylight too.

We lost Bongo, my beloved plastic gorrilla which I used to photograph on my various travels. He has yet to be adequately replaced. I once assumed this blog would be dedicated to Bongo photos, but alas, he is lost. He might still be out there, but the trail gets serious traffic, and its been over a year. I like to think some child found him and is enjoying him for what he is.

Have you seen this toy?

Have you seen this toy?

Boulder Canyon from 1st Water

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

This hike, in the western Superstitions, was a complex combination of several trails foring a loop that hit several highlights of the area.

Date Hiked: 31 Jan 2008

Companions: none

Actual mileage : 13 miles

Actual time: 10am to 7pm

I got my butt kicked on this hike, mostly because Boulder Creek was running at well above normal level and I stopped counting crossings at 12. It was, however, one of the few hikes where water was never a problem.

There were pockets of ice on the trail when I started, but by late afternoon I had shed clothes down to my t-shirt. The shadow of the sign near the second Black Mesa junction was indeed quite long. If the details about the latter portions of the Dutchman Trail seem scanty, I walked that part by flashlight.

And it was getting loooong....

And it was getting loooong....

In my opinion, this was the best and hardest hike I took in the western Supes.

Superstitions of the Superstitions

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

The Superstition Wilderness is one of the long-suspected homes to the Lost Dutchman Mine, and a good deal of folklore surrounds it – much of which I ignored in the book for space considerations.

My personal theory is that the earthquake in the 1890’s wiped out whatever hole in the ground Jacob Waltz was pulling gold out of. Even so, the area is not geologically promising for gold. The most likely source is the Peralta expedition,  a Spanish column which supposedly hauled gold across the region when they were assaulted by Apaches or Yavapai (probably Yavapai).

The wilderness area, established in 1940, covers 160,000 acres of rugged mountains, and can be roughly divided into the western, or lower Supes, primarily covered in desert, and the eastern or higher Supes, primarily covered with transition chapparal or pine forest. The western edge butts up against the eastern edge of the Phoenix metro area (namely Apache Junction) and this accessibility has made it one of the most visited wilderness areas in the system. Conversely, there are parts of the central and eastern Supes where they may never find your body.

Hiking in the Superstitions is all about water, even in the cooler months. It’s the middle of February right now in Phoenix, and our high temp was 89F. Many springs are notoriously unreliable. Find out first. (HikeAZ – link to the right – has a going chat board on that very subject.)

There are only a few trailheads, all in the western portion, that can be reached in a late model Buick Century. All of the others require at least HC, probably 4WD. A few are simply impassable in foul weather.

The Forest Service has a decent over-view pamphlet – free at any ranger station. Also, if you want to explore these mountains in fie detail, pick up Hiker’s Guide to the Superstition Wilderness by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart. (not a Menasha Ridge title – you’ll have to copy/paste/google yerself).