Superstitious

As long range travel is pretty much out these days, I was looking through some of my old photographs to create a new post, and came across some shots I had taken on a trip my wife and I had made to Arizona several years ago when she was showing her Arabian horses in Scottsdale.

These photographs were all taken in April 2009 during a hike I took in the Superstition Mountains. This range is not far east of Scottsdale, and you may have heard about these mountains in reference to the legends surrounding the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. As the legend goes this gold dates back to the Spanish occupation of this land in the 1600s. A Spaniard named Pedro de Peralta was supposedly massacred by Apache Indians while mining for gold near here. The story is unsubstantiated, however. The “Dutchman” was a German immigrant, Jacob Waltz, who had spent considerable time searching for this lost gold. The link above will give you more information about the legend.

It was unseasonably hot that April, and on the day I went hiking it was about 106° Fahrenheit (41°C). Growing up in El Paso, Texas I had always wanted to see these mountains. (No, I did not find any gold that day – ha ha.) But what I did find was a beautiful spring desert much greener than I would have guessed, filled with wonderful photo opportunities.

Superstitions 2 wp
This was my destination, not far, but far enough on a 106° day under the Arizona sun. The saguaro cacti (plural for more than one cactus) are a little distorted from my fisheye lens I had used for the shot.

The Sonoran desert is the only place in the world where one can see the beautifully majestic saguaro cactus. They range from Arizona down into Sonora, Mexico and a little over into southern California. These cacti are amazing plants as they can grow to about 40 feet (12 meters) tall and can live for over 150 years.

The Sonoran desert is also home to several other cactus species such as ocotillos (pronounced O cuh ti yo), the yucca plant and the cholla (pronounced choy ya) cactus, rather infamous for their numerous fine needles that some claim “jump” out onto passerbys. Here is a photo of some chollas and a couple of saguaros in that hot afternoon sun.

Saguaro 1 wp
The cholla needles are so numerous and fine that the cacti almost look “furry”. But take my word for it, DO NOT touch these.

And here is my favorite cactus, the ocotillo. There were fairly common around the El Paso area over in the Chihuahuan desert. Take a look at my old post about the El Paso area if you are interested.

Ocatillo wp
Interestingly the Sonoran ocotillos are somewhat different than those found in my old home area around west Texas and southern New Mexico. Nevertheless, I just love those bright red flowers.

And speaking of flowers, here is another photograph of a flowering prickly pear I found along the hike. I was super lucky to be able to catch some prickly pear cacti in bloom. Their blossoms are really beautiful, but they only bloom under the right conditions.

Prickly Pear bloom wp
This is a close-up of a prickly pear cactus bloom. The red color seems fairly rare, at least from what I have seen. Perhaps the soil composition helps determine the flower color. I usually see colors range from pinks to yellows.

As I was trudging along in the heat I came upon this little fellow trying to stay out of the direct sun. I didn’t have a thermometer with me on the hike, but our truck thermometer did read 106°F just prior to my parking it. All I know is it was horribly hot. But hey, it was such a wonderful opportunity to see this amazing place.

Lizard wp
You really have to look close as this little lizard is almost perfectly camouflaged for his surroundings. At least he found some shade.

Well, here is another shot of some of the cacti along the way as I got closer to the peaks. I don’t know if it was the heat or so many wonderful things to photograph, but it seemed to take forever to get to those peaks.

Cacti wp
This was fairly close to the trailhead, and you can see the trail taking off toward the right.

Finally, I had arrived. The ruggedness of the Superstitions is simply indescribable. They are so rugged and abrupt in their eruption from the surrounding terrain that in some ways these mountains just don’t seem real. I don’t know if my photos do these magnificent formations justice, but here are a few examples.

Saguaro 2 wp
Approaching the peaks from the north, I came upon this old saguaro struggling to survive — pretty much how I was feeling at this point.

And here is one of my favorite views. I just think this is so classic when you think about the Superstition Mountains.

Supersttions 1 wp
These rugged peaks are the remains of an ancient volcano. Some scientists believe that the mountains are actually the remains on an ancient caldera (a gigantic crater) that reformed, and now we are left with these unbelievable peaks.

Here is one more shot of the peaks. As hot as it was, I ended up spending considerable time exploring around and looking for the right photo opportunities. Perhaps one of these days I will return and try my hand at finding that lost mine – but on a cooler day.

Treo wp
These three large rocks were quite fascinating. They kind of remind of Stonehenge by how they are so perfectly aligned.

On my way back I found another really spectacular cactus flower in a beautiful orange.

Cactus Flower wp
I am sorry as I just cannot recall the name of this cactus, but the blooms were striking.

And just as I was about to get back to my truck with the extra two gallons of water, I found this little guy sitting high up in another interesting cactus called a century plant. This cactus is so named because it only sends up a bloom about once every one hundred years.

Roadrunner wp
Meep! Meep! This is a real roadrunner perched atop a century plant. The blooms on this one are past prime, now dying. Our friend certainly does have a wonderful view from up there.

Well, that is about all for today. Writing this post and going through my old photos really makes me long for more adventures. Hopefully those will come sooner rather than later. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me on my “virtual” tour of the beautiful, but hot, Superstition Mountains.

Best wishes, my friends!

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