As legend has it, in 1847 a band of Apache ambushed Mexican mine workers transporting gold from a fabled mine owned by the Peralta family. They slaughtered all of the workers, only a few Peralta family members escaped. The Apache took the ponies, and scattered the gold and covered the mine.
There are many stories associated with the legend, but something happened that caused the Apache to launch this attack; the most probable theory being the intrusion on a sacred mountain. The Apache believed the Superstitions were the home to their Thunder god. If they did not protect the mountain, the Thunder god would take umbrage on them.
This story ties in with the Lost Dutchman, many believing that Jacob Waltz discovered the old Peralta mine. At least one historian claims the Peralta mine never existed, and the story of the massacre was made up by Peralta to sell worthless land.
What is clear is that a massacre did occur on this site; bones have been discovered. Some have claimed it was a skirmish between warring tribes – but teeth with gold fillings were found in some of the skulls, proving a Spanish presence.
And what is clear is that gold has been found. Nobody knows the source of Jacob Waltz’s gold – whether he discovered the mine or discovered the cache of lost gold. Some say he ambushed Mexican miners himself and stole their gold.
Lending credence to the legend, in 1917 two prospectors named Silverlocke and Malm found a cache of gold ore on the northwest slope near the Massacre Grounds. Never hearing of the legend of the Massacre, they thought it was a free-floating deposit of gold ore. They continued prospecting the area without luck, as they died penniless, one being committed to a mental institution.
Whether the saddlebags filled with ore, carried by the Peralta family and scattered by the Apache were the source of Jacob Waltz’s fortune we can only conjecture.
The hike is a moderate to easy hike, depending on how well equipped you are. If you think an easy hike is akin to a walk on a Philadelphia sidewalk, then you simply need to stay off of Arizona trails. This is not California with fancy trails that are smooth and flat. A Philly boy might turn his ankle on a pebble.
The trail gains 980 feet in elevation in three miles, and is very well-marked with cairns. There is only one way in, and one way out once you pass the Praying Hands. The Praying Hands is a large stone outcropping visible from St. Hwy 88 as you approach the Superstitions. They are located 1 1/2 miles in, and make a very nice and easy hike for a picnic.
The trail alternates between smooth rock, sand, and large loose rocks. A walking stick is a must even for the sure-footed. There is absolutely no water on this trail, so you must pack your own. Even on a cool day I would not contemplate this hike without at least a couple of bottles of water.
This is a great hike simply because you are unlikely to run into a lot of other hikers. We did meet a family with two toddlers who had hiked to the Praying Hands. They were not locals; and I doubt they were Mormons because he eyed my handgun holstered on my side with consternation. No local would give it a second thought, and Mormons love guns.
I have never used a gun while hiking, and do not expect to. There is no target shooting allowed on these trails because of the danger to other hikers and campers. But I would rather have a gun and not need it than otherwise. I have seen bear tracks in the sand on our hikes, we have wildcats and javelina. Any wild animal that is startled is a danger, and the trails are narrow with no side trails for escape.
We worked up quite an appetite. Liz made a batch of biscuits and gravy when we got home, and then we went to Mike and Tami’s to see Paul and Allison, down from Michigan. They had the trip from Hell – their flight was delayed for three hours while the airline replaced a part on their plane. No compensation for the delay. By the time they arrived in Las Vegas, the car rental agency was closed – yeah, the city that never sleeps and the car agency was asleep. So they idled five hours in the exciting airport lobby, and when they finally made it to their hotel it was checkout time, no reimbursement for the room. They paid for an empty room.
Needless to say Paul was ready for a drink by the time they arrived! I will be ready for a drink by Wednesday morning – I have to work three eleven hour shifts beginning tonight to make up for having this Friday off. But the good news is I will have a long weekend – off until the following Sunday night.