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Lost Goldmine Trail Day Hike
Superstition Wilderness
January 10, 2009
by Chuck Parsons
  GPS Map 
by Ted Tenny
Arizona Trailblazers at the Cloudview Trailhead

On a cool and sunny Saturday morning in early January, eleven Arizona Trailblazers are ready to hit the Lost Goldmine Trail at the base of the Superstitions and pause for a quick group picture at the Cloudview Trailhead. From left to right: Julie, Bertha, Doug E., Doug L., Cassady, Michael, Craig, Kathy, and Jenni. Hike leader, Chuck Parsons, is the unseen photographer.

Michael and his trusty four-legged companion, Zeke, are anxious to hike and are already 100 yards down the trail, patiently waiting for the rest of us to arrive. The Superstition foothills are beckoning. It’s time to start hiking!

trail view
First trail view of the Superstitions

With an ideal hiking temperature of 60 degrees and not a cloud in sight, we couldn’t ask for a better day to hike the spectacular Superstition Mountains — land of mystery, legend, and enchantment.

Today’s hike will be a joint effort with the Sierra Club, involving a car key exchange and lunch somewhere along the middle of the trail.

Eleven Arizona Trailblazers are hiking east from the Cloudview Trailhead, while 13 Sierra Club hikers, led by Ted Tenny, are hiking west from the Lost Goldmine Trailhead.

If everything goes according to plan, we’ll all arrive to find our own vehicles awaiting us at the other end of the Lost Goldmine Trail, skirting the base of the rugged Superstition Range along its entire six-mile length.

Next to catclaw acacia, once referred to as “cowboy’s sorrow” because of its vicious curved thorns that are capable of scratching and ripping the flesh of both two and four-legged passers-by, teddy bear chollas (commonly referred to as “jumping chollas”) are the second most-feared prickly vegetation of the Sonoran Desert.

These two prickly desert plants are responsible for more scratches and flesh wounds than all others, and every hiker with enough miles and years logged onto their boot soles has a few tales of woe to tell about painful encounters with both.

The last of the morning’s dew is quickly evaporating from this cholla as its ultra-sharp needles reflect the rays of the morning sun.

Teddy Bear Chollas — up close and dangerous.

By popular demand, we decide to take a short side trip up Hieroglyphic Canyon to explore the numerous ancient petroglyphs etched into the canyon walls and to see how much water is still flowing in the canyon as a result of earlier heavy rainfall in the Superstitions. As we head north into the canyon along a ridge line and start hiking in deep shade, a cold wind blowing from the upper canyon quickly drops the temperature 10-15 degrees and most stop to pull on an extra layer or two.

After 1.4 miles of hiking and gaining about 600 feet of elevation, we finally arrive on this scene deep in the canyon and find many other hikers already in the area.

Water is still flowing, and we estimate the depth of this pool to be six to eight feet deep at one end. The water is ice cold and crystal clear, and with a proper filter would make excellent drinking water.

Gathering at the pool.

Most experts agree that these intriguing petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls are the work of Hohokam Indians who occupied this area from approximately A.D. 700 to A.D. 1100 and then mysteriously vanished for unknown reasons.

Although many of these petroglyphs are scattered along the canyon walls, we are running short of time and need to return to the main trail to rendezvous with the Sierra Club folks for lunch.

Due to the hard work and dedication of many concerned individuals interested in protecting and preserving these ancient drawings for future generations, in 1994 Hieroglyphic Canyon was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Drawings of the ancients.
on the move
Trailblazers on the move.

Once we exit Hieroglyphic Canyon and merge back onto the Lost Goldmine Trail, we need to start making up for lost time so our Sierra Club counterparts won’t begin to wonder what happened to us.

Besides, we also have the keys to their vehicles parked back at Cloudview, and they can’t go anywhere without us.

Wedding Cake. [photo by Ted Tenny]

Nor for that matter can we go anywhere without them since they also have the keys to our vehicles parked at the opposite end of the trail. We waste no time now as we hoof it to our rendezvous point for lunch and the critical key exchange.

But we also take some time to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Superstition foothills and snap a few pictures along the way to capture the moment.

Rendezvous and lunch break

We finally meet up with the Sierra Club hikers and sit down together to rest and break bread.

Michael H. uses the opportunity to hold an impromptu technical seminar on rocket science and space travel for a captive, but curious, audience of hikers from both hiking clubs.

All too soon, we part company and head off in opposite directions to our waiting vehicles.

But as the following picture shows, there’s still plenty of spectacular scenery to enjoy along the way.

This six-mile stretch of the Lost Goldmine Trail between the Cloudview and Lost Goldmine trailheads is a great introduction to the Superstitions for new hikers to the area, as well as a terrific all-around hike for everyone.

Parting look at the Superstitions

Kathy stands at the base of the largest saguaro we have ever seen in the Superstitions.

This behemoth is located near Lost Goldmine Trailhead and serves as a great landmark to let east-bound hikers know they are now only minutes away from the trailhead.

Since these huge saguaros are typically 200 years or more in age, this one was probably well-established with several arms when Abraham Lincoln was President and the Civil War broke out in 1861.

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.

Saguaro Gargantuan
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updated January 21, 2017