Monday, February 10, 2014

Hiking the Lost Dutchman State Park

The Superstition Mountains have been a source of mystery and legend since early times. The area is dotted with ancient cliff dwellings and caves, many showing signs of former habitation by a number of different Native American groups, up until the 1800's. We visited the cliff dwellings on our drive through the mountains.

During the 1840's, the Peralta family of northern Mexico supposedly developed a rich gold mine in the Superstitions. According to legend, an Apache ambush ended the family's last expedition, and the gold remained in the area. In the 1870's, Jacob Waltz ("the Dutchman") was said to have located the mine with the aid of a Peralta descendant. Waltz and his partner, Jacob Weiser, worked in the mine and allegedly hid one or more caches of gold in the Superstitions.

After Waltz's death in 1891, several people attempted to seek out the Lost Dutchman's Mine, all without luck. Later searchers sometimes met with foul play or even death, contributing to the superstition and legend of these mountains.

So this seemed like an excellent spot to go for a closer look at the mountains. There are several hikes on the park's map with varying degrees of difficulty. We chose the Treasure Loop Trail - a 2.4 mile hike to an elevation of 2580 feet. Rated as moderate it seemed very do-able to us.
The "X" marks our goal
So we put on our hiking shoes, took water and a walking pole and off we went.
The saguaro cactus Arch is standing by is pretty scarred and pretty old. These huge plants are found only in Arizona and Mexico and weigh about 100 pounds per foot.

The views on the way up were spectacular:
And the trail was very well groomed:
X marks the top of the trail
And there were a couple of rest spots
But near the top it got pretty tricky:
Phew! We made it:
Top of the trail
The way down was much easier:
But you still need to be careful and the walking pole helps a lot. We bought the poles at a swap meet (the Arizona term for a flea market) for $7 each. And so far they seem to be every bit as good as the $100 a pair ones we buy in Canada. Time will tell.

We met these horseback riders on their way up:
That is the state park camp ground in the left of the picture. You can just see the top of the RVs parked there. A beautiful spot.

The views in this area are so vast and spectacular. One never gets tired of them. So different from the "small and incredibly beautiful" landscapes we are accustomed to in Nova Scotia.
Half-way down the trail. 

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