This weekend we went tubing on the Salt River. The Yavapai Nation call the river Hakanyacha. It is almost 200 miles long, flowing east to west. The Salt River forms the boundary between the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Continue reading »
When I looked out my back door this morning, I knew I could waste no time in driving out to Idaho Rd and Lost Dutchman. This intersection offers one of the best unimpeded views of the Superstition Mountain.
Monsoon begins late June, early July and lasts until late September. The worst of it, or best depending on your point of view, is August when floodwaters wash away roads and people’s yards. Continue reading »
Palo Verde Beetle
It is summer. It is time for the palo verde beetles to emerge for 30 days of fun in the sun. The palo verde beetle is one of the largest beetles in North America. They grow to 3 1/2 inches or so. Continue reading »
Last night I explored the grounds of the Superstition Mountain Museum after hours. My intention was to capture the sunset, then later the Strawberry Moon as it rose over the Superstitions.
To be honest, I have seen more spectacular sunsets. Any sunset I see is good, it means I survived another day. It means I am not in jail. It means I can expect to see another sunrise. Continue reading »
Only mad dogs and Englishmen…
“But, it’s a dry heat.” So is my oven, tell that to the pot roast!
The temperatures are hovering around 110º F (43ºC). There is a stiff breeze. The sky is cloudless, not even a stray wisp of cirrus. What better excuse to take a short hike in the mountains? Continue reading »
Summertime is here, in force! It took a while to warm up, but 100º days are just around the corner. The cactus are in full blossom.
Yesterday, we spent the afternoon at Mike Henderson’s. He lives in a gated community with swimming pools. We had one pool to ourselves – the place is empty since the snowbirds have flocked home.
We drank gin and tonics and ate bratwursts. I go a sun burn – the first one since I have been in Arizona. Of course, this is the first time I have spent an afternoon in a pool.
Governor Ducey signed into law legislation banning dog racing in Arizona. The law was inevitable, as these dogs are often mistreated, and it is cruel and inhumane. That said, Liz and I attended a dog race at Captain’s Lounge in Apache Junction.
Okay, so this wasn’t real dog racing. It was Chihuahua racing – and the proceeds benefited our own Paws and Claws animal shelter. We have had dealings with Paws and Claws, and they are a first rate organization. Their primary goal is to adopt out animals, not euthanize. Euthanisation is a last resort, with many of the volunteers adopting the unadoptable. Continue reading »
The original Pony Express never traveled through Arizona. Founded in 1860, it lasted less than two years, and ended in bankruptcy. The route ran from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, CA. Arizona was not even on their radar, maybe because radar would not be invented for another 70 years. The completion of the Pacific Telegraph Line sounded the death knell for the Express. Continue reading »
We finally took the plunge and took a tour on the Dolly Steamboat. Dolly is a replica of the classic American sternwheel boat. It is docked on Canyon Lake, the smallest of the four lakes formed by hydroelectric dams that provide electricity to the Valley by the Salt River Project.
Canyon Lake is 130 feet deep at places – so I won’t be swimming to the bottom anytime soon. It is 950 acres, and surrounded by cliffs and mountains. There are several free camping areas – some accessible only by boat.
The tour is a 6-mile route. We saw bighorn sheep and nesting bald eagles. The mountains and cliffs were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. The cliff faces are painted with yellow, green and black patterns and streaks of lichens and “desert varnish”. Desert varnish is composed of bacterial microorganisms that stain the cliff sides.
We saw nesting bald eagles, and a couple bighorn sheep on the cliffs. Unfortunately my telephoto lens wasn’t strong enough to capture and decent shots of the wildlife.
Years of erosion created the Slat River, and man-made dams created the lake system. Canyon Lake is closest to Apache Junction, and a favorite destination of boaters. There is a swimming area and there are boat ramps available to the public.
The Dolly Steamboat offers several cruises. Ours was a dinner cruise, catered by the Mining Camp restaurant.The captain also acted as docent, providing a constant stream of anecdotes and history of the area, as well as an education on the flora, fauna and geology of the region. The bar offered mixed drinks and cold beer at not affordable prices.
There were plenty of small fishing boats, and canoes and kayaks and even a cabin cruiser on the lake that night. I was surprised to see Mallard ducks swimming along the edges of the lake, sheltered by the cliff sides. One cliff was comprised of petrified tree trunks – that was one helluva forest before this area became desert. So what was that you said about global warming? Our climate has been anything but static – and a hundred years is not enough to base any long term predictions of doom and gloom.
If you are into fishing, the lake boasts walleye, rainbow trout (yum), large mouth and yellow bass, and crappie. All of this less than a half hour drive from my house. The river divides the Superstition Wilderness from the base of the range that comprises Four Peaks. Four Peaks is home to the largest amethyst mine in the northern hemisphere. The mine is owned by the same man that is responsible for you being able to track your packages that are shipped via UPS or FedEx. The mine is accessible by helicopter, or by an extremely arduous climb up the side of the mountain.
North of Canyon Lake, you have Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake. Roosevelt Lake was created in 1911 (the same year that Arizona became a state) and was named after Teddy Roosevelt. It is 22 miles long, and more than 21,000 acres.
As we debarked the boat, we were treated to a wonderful moonrise over the mountains. It was a full moon, or close to it. One of the Dolly Steamboat tours is an Astronomical Tour. In the pitch black of the wilderness, you have a view of starts you never knew existed. That is on my agenda some time in the future. The lake is quiet in the daytime, and I imagine it is eerily so at night. To imagine the Pima tribes, and the Apaches that wandered these mountains hundreds of years ago adds to the mystique.
We learned from a Navajo friend who is a pottery artist, descended from a long line of medicine women, that Superstition Mountain is known as the Healing Mountain. Her mother was a renowned medicine woman who had never been to the mountain, but knew from family history that the mountain is home to herbs and plants that grow nowhere else, plants that have healing properties. Yet one more reason to cherish the wilderness, and to protect it.
The Hackberry Spring loop is a quiet and easy hike in the Superstition Mountains. You will need moderate trail-finding skills, as the trail is one of the unmarked wonders. One wrong turn, and the simple loop doubles in duration. Today we just wanted a short hike, as we have chores and life calling.
To access the trail-head, you take Rt. 88 to First Water Road in the Tonto National Forest. This is an unimproved road; it is graded for most of the tourist season, but it sometimes has deep ruts and is not recommended for passenger vehicles. A Chevy Cavalier will do okay, a Porsche not so much.
About four miles in you will come to a parking area for horse trailers. This is the best place to park for the beginning of the hike. From the parking area, head North from the northeast corner. The trail is clear. Before long you will be walking alongside a cliff covered with green lichen. Lizards will cross the path, and if you are lucky you might see some ground squirrels. Today we saw a red-tail hawk soaring above the cliff.
A honeybee was hovering around a thistle in full bloom. The washes were all but dry, with only the vestiges of water puddles left from the winter rains. Flowering plants with buds of blue, yellow and lavender speckled the landscape. We hiked to the First Water wash, which was mostly bone dry. At the wash, you can turn right, which will take you to the abandoned corral and back to the road. We crossed the wash and headed left. Cairns mark the way, as the trail gets fuzzy here. You will know you are on the correct path when you spot the trail heading between a crevasse of two outcroppings of mountain.
This is a wonderful area, as there is always a strong breeze and the area is in shadow most of the day. There are numerous caves and indentations in the rocks to explore. The vegetation is lush, and often the wash is full of bubbling, running water. The going is a bit tricky and you need to be sure-footed as the path is rocky.
Pretty soon you will find yourself at Hackberry Spring, a lush oasis in the middle of the harsh desert mountains. You are surrounded by a grove of trees, with a carpet of green grass. Once through the grove, you are back on the mountain trail. You need to use trail-finding skills here. If you follow the main trail, you will find yourself on a treacherous and steep pass that takes you to the Garden Valley and Black Mesa. This is a very rewarding hike, but will double your hike. At the small mesa, you will want to to take the trail that heads to the right.
The views are nothing short of spectacular. We passed one couple hiking today. This is the perfect trail if you prefer seclusion and a solitary hike without the interference of other hikers. When I hike I want peace and quiet, to hear the sounds of nature and not the chit-chat of others. Just call me anti-social. We said hello tot he couple we passed, and they told us they had just spotted a Gila Monster on the path 500 yards from where we were. Lucky folks, Gila Monsters are very shy, and you are fortunate to see one.
The hedgehog cactus were in full blossom today. The usually monochrome landscape was speckled with blue, yellow, orange and lavender flowers. The sky was vacant of clouds. The washes and creek beds had puddles of standing water – not conducive to drinking unless you have a purification system. The mountains were still green from the heavy winter rainfall – this is not a good thing. As summer comes on, the vegetation dries and dies and becomes tinder for wildfires.
We came to the long forgotten entrance to the ranch. Once upon a time cattle roamed these hills, and cattlemen and ranchers born of sturdy stock walked these same trails. The trail leads to a defunct corral, with the skeletal remains of a windmill and a water tank on the hillside.
Our hike today was short – just over two hours. The final stretch is an uphill hike over a rocky path. Soon you hit the cattle gate, a hundred feet from the road. From there it is a short walk back to the parking area.
This is the perfect hike to experience all of the varied landscapes of the wilderness without wandering too far off of the beaten track. As the trail is not marked, you do not meet many novices. It is an open secret, and relatively easy. It is one of my favorite hikes. Along the way you can cut it short, or make it longer simply by choice of an alternate path.