[picture by Ted] Front Row: Perry, Sankar, Garth, Cindy, Quy, Olga, and Rudy.
Back Row: Ted, Beth, Andy, Chris, Keith, Deb, Dave, Chuck, Jenni, Rob, Craig.
Eighteen Arizona Trailblazers meet roughly midway on the Lost Goldmine
Trail for the first time since departing from our meeting location off
Power Road and the Superstition Freeway in Mesa. There we split into two
separate groups of hikers, one starting from the Cloudview Trailhead at
the far west end of the trail and one starting from the Lost Goldmine
Trailhead at the far east end of the trail. We stop for a lunch break
under partly cloudy skies with a balmy temperature of 60 degrees.
The hike begins under somber gray overcast, but the weather people have
promised us that any rains would hold off until later in the evening.
We’re going to hold them to their word today.
Although they may look cuddly and inviting, you definitely don’t
want to hug or even go anywhere near these members of the cholla family
of cactus. There are probably more close encounters of the painful and
agonizing kind that involve Teddy Bear chollas than for virtually any
other type of flora in the Sonoran Desert. Any desert hiker with enough
hiking hours under their pack hip belt has a horror story or two to
share about uncomfortable Teddy Bear cholla encounters. The name
“jumping cholla” is often used for this cactus since the
loosely attached joints seemingly jump onto you as you innocently pass
by. Although they don’t actually jump, many a surprised hiker
would swear otherwise when painfully adorned with several of them.
Teddy Bear says, “Won’t you hug me?” [picture by Ted]
This behemoth is located close to the trail and just a few hundred yards
from the Lost Goldmine Trailhead, serving as a prominent landmark to let
eastbound hikers know they are now only minutes away from the trailhead.
Grand Saguaro on the Lost Goldmine [Chuck]
Phainopepla checking his surroundings. [Rob]
Since these huge saguaros with multiple arms are typically 200 years or
more in age, this one was probably well-established with several arms
when the Civil War broke out in 1861. Between increased human activity
in the area, including mining and free-range cattle grazing in past
decades, severe droughts, freezing winter nights, and many desert
wildfires over the years, it’s amazing that it has survived these
odds in such great shape.
We once counted over forty arms on this giant
before finally giving up in frustration since they are clustered so
tightly towards the center and become hidden from sight that it quickly
becomes a lesson in futility.
Often referred to as the “black cardinal” because of its
profile’s resemblance to the more common and widespread Northern
cardinal, including the distinctive crest and long tail,
Phainopepla’s range is much smaller, restricted to the
southwestern United States and Mexico.
It is common throughout the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona
and is easily identified since it’s the only all-black bird with
a crest. Males typically fly to heights of 300 feet or more during
their elaborate courtship rituals.
Rob took this nice silhouette shot of Phainopepla, displaying its
distinctive crest against somber gray Arizona skies, within a mile
or so of the trailhead.
The Superstition Mountains loom over the Lost Goldmine Trail.
[pictures by Chuck]
Some of the most pristine desert and spectacular scenery in the Superstition
Mountains can be found along the Lost Goldmine Trail, as it meanders along
the base and southern face of the Superstitions for almost 11 miles between its
junction with the Jacob’s Crosscut Trail and the Lost Goldmine Trailhead
off Peralta Road. One of the newest trails in the Superstitions, it was
completed in January, 2002, both to ensure continued public access to the
area and to preserve and honor the legend and lore of Jacob Waltz and the
Lost Dutchman Goldmine.
Many a grizzled prospector has spent a lifetime searching for the
Dutchman’s gold in the Superstitions and many books have been
written and endless tales told over the decades since Jacob Waltz died in
1891, carrying the details and location of the goldmine to his grave.
To this day desperate men, driven by the eternal lust for gold, still
search in vain for the elusive goldmine. This past year in August of
2010, three more hopeful miners died agonizing deaths in the searing
desert heat of mid-summer as they added yet three more names to the
long list of unlucky people who have died in the ceaseless search for
the fabled Lost Dutchman Goldmine.
This barrel cactus is in bad need of a haircut.
Quintuplets of the sticky and prickly kind.
[pictures by Chuck]
We spot these two candidates for strange and bizarre flora to be found
along the Lost Goldmine Trail. I’m not sure if the single barrel
cactus has simply decided to stand out from its counterparts and be
completely different or if there’s some sort of deformity or mutation
involved. And we’ve all seen clusters of two or three and even
occasionally four barrel cactus growing together out of the same root
system, but five sets an all-time record for me.
One of the many side benefits of hiking are the unexpected little
surprises that await you just around that next bend in the trail or
over that next hill.
Every hike is a journey of anticipation and discovery.
When our two groups finally meet up roughly midway along the trail
and break for lunch and the all-important key exchange, the clouds
slowly begin to break up and we’re treated to sunshine and
blue skies for the first time today. But it was only a sneak preview
for Sunday’s weather, and less than an hour later gray skies
would prevail once again as each group of hikers make their way
to the opposite trailhead.
Equestrians and their trusty steeds navigate the Lost Goldmine Trail.
Blue skies over the Superstitions at last! [pictures by Chuck]
Meanwhile, Ted told the eastbound hikers stories about the Superstition
Ridgeline, Miocene volcanism, and the Lost Dutchman — whose mine
they didn’t find.
Turk’s Cap Hill
The great stone mushroom.
Eastbound hikers find seasonal water by the trail. [pictures by Ted]