Massacre Grounds Hike

The Superstition Wilderness is known as some of the most arduous hiking terrain in the United States. In the desert, everything fights back. We no longer have to be wary of Apache raiders, but the mountains still have their own surprises.

I am amazed at people that come to the trails wearing sandals or flip flops, and carry a single bottle of water.

Granted, most of the trails are fairly well marked. However, almost every plant has evolved its own mechanism of self defense, cacti among the most nefarious.

Heat and dehydration are your mortal enemy, even during our “cooler” months of February and March. As winter begins to wave its goodbyes, the temps are  in the 80’s today.

Rattlesnakes claim the trails as their own, as they sun themselves. Trust me, you will not see them before they hopefully raises their tails in warning.

The Western Diamondback, the venomous snake not the baseball team, wants only to be left alone. Quite often they will hightail it out when they hear you coming. But then again, as often as not, they will stubbornly protect their resting spot.

If you evade the rattlers, you will certainly not be able to evade the Hanging Chain Cholla, aka “Jumping Cholla”. The burs are barbed, and will cause an infection if you snag one. You can’t pull them off, as they will embed deeply into your fingers if you try to pull them off. I carry an afro comb to pull off cholla barbs.

I carry a 3 litre camel pack filled with water when I hike, accompanied by a couple of pint Gatorade bottles filled with ice water. I never hike in shorts, no matter how warm the temps.

Last month a local, a man who knows the mountains as well as anyone, slipped and slid into a crevasse. He spent time in the emergency ward, and is still recovering.

But enough of the scare tactics. Any hike in the Superstition wilderness is well worth the risks. Even if you are not a Boy Scout, be prepared. The Apache considered Superstition Mountain as sacred. To this day they admonish that you not enter the wilderness until you have purified your heart.

The scenery is spectacular. Today I will write about the Massacre Grounds trail. You access the trailhead on Second Water Road. From the trailhead, you will hike a mile or so to a cattle gate, the entrance to the trail.

The vista stretches for miles. The trail is vague in areas, but marked by cairns to assist hikers. Te first landmark is a massive outcropping of rock called the Praying Hands, because it looks like… well you are probably intelligent enough to figure that one out.

From many points you will spy Four Peaks mountain range. Four Peaks is roughly north, so if you left your compass at home, that will help.  You do have a compass, right?

The Massacre Grounds are the location of a legendary massacre of members of the Peralta family.

Before the civil war, 1848, lore has it that a Mexican family had a gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.  The Peraltas were transporting gold from this mine back to Mexico when they were ambushed by the Apache. The Peralta party were pursued by Apaches, until they came to a dead end on the trail. The trail ended at a precipice. Everyone in this party was killed except for a few members of the Peralta family that escaped and made their way back to Mexico..

Legend has it that the Apaches buried the gold and buried the mine. Many think that this mine was later discovered by Jacob Waltz, the “Lost Dutchman”.

This hike is one of the easier hikes. But, there is one way in, and the same way out. It is the perfect hike if you start out early in the morning. You can be sitting on a bar stool at one of Apache Junction’s replenishing the calories you burned in time for lunch.



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