Monday, April 23, 2012

Bluff Spring trail

Well, part of it at least. The weather on Sunday was a lot like the previous Sunday; sunny and beautiful. There was one key difference, though. It was about 30 degrees warmer this Sunday. The parking lot at the Peralta trailhead was full last weekend. There were 4 cars in it yesterday. Since it was such a pretty day, and since I had been wanting to check out the Bluff Spring trail, I headed out there.

Trails that have steps built into them are steep. This one is no exception.

It turns out that the Bluff Spring trail climbs about 400 feet in the first half mile. That's kind of steep. The sun is shining on that part of the trail at 3 in the afternoon, too. There was a nice breeze for a while, but I was sweating by the time I had climbed 200 feet.

The Dutchman's trail is on the left and the empty parking lot is below.

I moved slowly on this hike and made lots of stops. It places the breeze was blocked by the terrain, and in those places I thought seriously about turning back. I first took up hiking in the summer. I felt like the desert was somehow leaving when fall arrived. That made me sad. I've always felt like it should be hot when I'm out hiking since then and when it isn't, it just doesn't seem quite right. I don't think I was ready for it to be so hot yesterday, though. I was uncomfortable.

Along the trail. It doesn't look as hot as it felt.

There's some very nice scenery along that trail. I turned back just short of a mile into it, though. I drank as much water in that distance as I had in 3.5 miles the previous weekend. I had enough water to go another half mile before turning back but I didn't want to push it. I need to ease into this hot weather hiking.

I had never seen this sight before.

I don't know if I'll try that trail again before it cools off. I want to go at least 3 miles into it and it might be difficult to carry enough water to do that in the heat.

Click below to see almost all of the pictures. I will be putting the large panoramas on my Panoramio page again instead of in the web album.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Return to the Dutchman's Trail

Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day. High of about 70, nice cool breeze, almost no clouds. It was a perfect day for another attempt at the Dutchman's trail.

The Mexican Gold Poppies were gone but there were lots of prickly pear flowers. They all had honey bees and other bugs in them.

I loaded up on water and headed out there. The parking lot was full; I got the last space. I saw a lot of people on the trail again this time. I guess it's just a popular area.

People and horses on the trail.

I found myself taking pictures of exactly the same things I had taken pictures of the last time I was out there. I tried to keep moving instead of getting a lot of duplicate pictures.

There are lots of colors of cholla flowers.

There aren't quite as many ocotillo flowers here as near Mesquite Flat.

I didn't have any trouble going beyond where I had to turn back before. The trail got steeper and rocky but it was still easier than most off-trail hiking. I easily got to the intersection with the Whiskey Spring trail, which was how far I had hoped to be able to go. Shadows were getting long, though. I did some quick calculations and determined that if I didn't stop a lot, it would be dark when I got back to the parking lot. Even though I was at the halfway point in a loop and on heavily traveled trails, I didn't want to be in unfamiliar territory after sunset. The risk of being lost was low, but if there was anything cool there, there wouldn't be enough light to get pictures. Also, I would be getting very hungry by then and the temperature would be dropping. The only thing to do was to go back the way I came.

A view of Picketpost Mountain.

I think I went too fast on the way back. My ankle was pretty sore the next day. I was really tired the last mile or so (it was an 8.6 mile hike) and wanted to sit down and rest a few minutes when I came to a nice sitting rock, but then I would get to an uphill stretch and it felt so good to be going uphill for a change I didn't want to stop. Then I would get to a downhill stretch and it felt so good to be going downhill for a change I didn't want to stop. I made pretty good time getting back to the trailhead.

The parking lot was almost empty when I got back.

I made a few large panoramas again. I put them on Panoramio and not my web album, so if you want to see those go to my Panoramio page. Click below to see all of the other pictures.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

East of Tortilla Flat, again

I thought I might try to get to the yellow hills east of Tortilla Flat. I could have planned a route and entered that route in my GPS receiver and gone straight to the hills, but that wouldn't have been as much fun as just going in the direction I thought I needed to go and seeing where I wound up. I knew which canyon I would start in, but beyond that I would play it by ear.

Starting canyon. Rocks and bushes. I hoped it wouldn't be like this all the way.

It places, it was very easy walking.

There were places in the canyon where it looked like it might not be too difficult to go up one side and check out the surroundings, to see if I was headed in the right direction. That would be cheating, though, and would also have been tiring. I thought I could see the yellow hills now and then. At the first fork I came to, I tried going to the right first. I didn't go very far up that fork before I came to thick brush. I wimped out and turned back. It turns out that was probably the route I should have taken to get to the hills. I was more interested in seeing what was out there than in reaching a specific destination, though, so it's no big deal.

Should I push through all this stuff....

... or walk along here? I'll take the easy path this time.

I took another fork or two that didn't work out. In one I was blocked by a large puddle. Eventually, I decided that it was late enough that I would need to turn back soon, so I decided to climb up one of the sides and see what the view was like. As I started up the solid rock canyon wall, it was pretty steep. Steep enough to make me a little nervous. The good thing about being on solid rock that steep is that all the loose rocks fall off of it. The surface is bare. Traction is good. I slipped twice (but didn't fall) on the way back down later in spots that weren't nearly as steep but were covered with pebbles that rolled under the hard soles of my shoes. Mushier soles would be safer but my feet would hurt.

Looking back while on the way up.

Anyway, on the way up I came across a couple of cairns. I couldn't see any hint of a trail, though, and I couldn't find more cairns by looking around, so I don't know where they led. I'm pretty sure that I left the route they followed because I came to a dead end. It was a scenic dead end, though. I made a composite panorama there that shows the view. I uploaded it to the web album full size so you can zoom way in.

After getting a few pictures up there, I decided it was getting late enough that I should hurry back. As cloudy as it was, it was going to be too dark for pictures soon, anyway. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

High point

It's not really all that high, though.

I wanted to get outside and take some pictures yesterday, and maybe see a nice sunset. I headed for Silly Mountain. It's easy to climb and I might be able to get some good sunset pictures from there. Also, it had cooled off and I wanted to enjoy the 75 degree weather before the scorching heat arrives.

This is what Silly Mountain looks like. Not real impressive.

This is what the sun looked like on the way up.

Silly Mountain is very easy to get to, so there are always people there. It isn't crowded, though, unless those other people happen to be exactly where you were going. I thought about taking a 360 panorama from the top but there were other people up there. Oh well, I need to do something like that earlier in the day anyway.

There's a sign to let you know you are at the top. I wonder how many people have trouble figuring that out. Well, maybe that's just the name of that spot on the mountain.

High point, trail ends.

The sunset wasn't as spectacular as I had hoped, but it was nice.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Sunday, April 08, 2012


I did a little more exploring just east of Tortilla Flat. I walked along a road I had seen the last time I was out there. It was overcast. Not very good for pictures. I seem to have a knack for going out on cloudy days. The ocotillos had lots of pretty flowers and I wanted to get pictures of them. They look best with a blue sky background, but there wasn't any blue sky. I took lots of pictures of them anyway, and pictures of other flowers, too.

Hedgehog cactus flower.

Prickly pear.


Not only was it overcast, but it was hazy, too. I don't know what was in the air. It wasn't moisture or dust.

I thought I might try to get to those yellow hills.

I was on top of a ridge and could see some yellow hills not too far away. I thought I might see if I could get to them. I couldn't go directly toward them because there was a steep-sided canyon in the way. The road I was following eventually dropped into a canyon and I followed that upstream for a while.

There were lots of puddles in the canyon.

I eventually got to a spot that I thought might be very close to the yellow hills. Maybe on the other side of them. I would know for sure if I went another quarter mile or so with a lot of ups and downs. By that time, though, I had used half my water. Yes, there was lots of water around, and I had iodine pills, but I don't want to drink from stagnant puddles if I can avoid it. I headed back to the truck.

There was lots of nice scenery. The sun tried to come out for a little while, which made me realize how hot I would have been if it had been shining the whole time.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Desert piranha, and getting focused

I've been meaning to do something for a few weeks now and I finally remembered to yesterday. I had read once that some people prefer to manually focus their SLR because that's the only way they can get it focused correctly. I wondered what they were smoking. I had tried manually focusing my camera and the results were always bad. I just couldn't tell when it was focused. Then one of those people let the secret slip. You put the camera in live view mode and then magnify the display all the way (read your manual if you don't know how to do that). It's a piece of cake to focus manually when you do that. Oh, you will need to have the camera on a tripod. Go ahead and try it without one. Then put the camera on a tripod. If you notice the image drifting around when you try to focus, that will be your reminder to turn image stabilization off.

Cholla flower.

I am often disappointed with the focus of my flower pictures, so I tried this with some flowers yesterday. The only ones I could find were cholla flowers, and they were plain looking cholla flowers at that. Also, it was late and hazy. Also, it was breezy, so the camera and flowers were moving. Oh, that reminds me, you will probably need to use the timer to trip the shutter so your pictures don't get blurred by your shaky hands. Anyway, I'm not crazy about my results, but I can see that this will work great under better circumstances.

Cholla flower.

As I was wandering around the desert looking for a flower to photograph, I came across a strange fish. It reminds me of a piranha, mostly because of the teeth. I don't think the person that made it had any specific kind of fish in mind, though.

This just seems out of place. I think it's a piranha. What do you think?

At first I couldn't imagine why anybody would leave such a fine fish out in the desert. As I walked by I looked at the back and realized why it was there. There was a small canister attached to the back. It's a geocache.

I didn't sign the log. Believe it or not, I don't carry a pen in my huge 15 pound backpack.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Another one checked off

Along Apache Trail, between Mesquite Flat (which is a short distance east of Tortilla Flat) and Fish Creek Hill, there are a lot of narrow canyons. Every time I drive past them I think, "I should check those out some time." I finally started doing that.

There seems to be a bug in Picasa web albums that won't let me link to the picture I wanted to put here, so this will have to do.

I thought I was going to be following a canyon on one side of the road, but the first thing I did was cross under the road. It was a long culvert; 80 or 90 steps. There was a lot of high-schoolish babble on the sides that I might have taken the time to read if I wasn't worried that my GPS logger might croak without a signal. On the other side, I could tell that I wasn't too far from one of the spots where I would glance over as I drove by and wonder what the bottom of that canyon looked like. It turns out that the bottom was very rocky and had lots of plants and lots of the plants had thorns.

Here's an easy stretch.

Some spots required a little climbing. Just a little.

This gives you an idea of the narrowness. You can also see that it wouldn't be easy to drop into this canyon just anywhere.

I pushed and clambered for a long time. The clambering isn't so bad, but I don't like pushing through plants for several reasons. First, I might pick up bugs (like ticks). Second, Arizona plants are covered in dust and when you push through them you create a dust cloud. Third, some of them HURT. At one point I decided I was tired of getting scratched up and got my multitool out to cut some catclaw out of the way. It isn't the best tool for cutting branches, so I stood there cutting and getting scratched anyway for a while. I finally decided I had cut enough and pushed through and discovered I had missed a major catclaw branch. I gingerly held it out of the way as I worked my way through and had to change hands on it as I went by. That's when it grabbed me. I lost more flesh in that one spot that on all the rest of the hike combined. Then I came to something that made it all worthwhile.

A Canyon Treefrog.

Anybody from one of those soggy places like the Texas coast probably thinks that seeing a frog is no big deal, but I can count on one hand the number of frogs I've seen in Arizona in the past 9 years. I've seen almost as many Gila monsters as frogs. I took lots of pictures of that frog.

I didn't make it quite to the spot I wanted to get to in that canyon, but I had seen (and felt) enough. When I got back to the culvert, I decided to take a different wash upstream. It was much easier.

Much easier walking.

There was water flowing through the other wash so I had to take lots of pictures of puddles.

I'm going to have to explore that second wash further. I also saw some other directions I could check out. I'll keep myself busy in that area for a while. Click below for all the pictures.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

The gold has been found

A few weeks ago, I had talked about searching for the Lost Dutchman's gold. I think I mentioned that it was kind of in the back of my mind but I didn't really look for it. I also said that I might keep it a secret if I did find it. Well, after thinking about it for a while I decided that it would be best to tell my story and put an end to the madness. I suppose that fools will continue doing stupid things to kill themselves, but hopefully they will stop doing it in while looking for gold in the Superstition Mountains.

I'm not going to say where it is, so don't get your hopes up. I made sure that any tracks from trips I've made out there are not on my SPOT page. The university archaeology department working on the find is still doing an initial survey and securing the site from looters. They will have a press release when that is done, which should be done soon, so I'm not really letting the cat out of the bag.

I was hiking in an area I had been to a couple of times before a year or two earlier. I went back because I missed the area. It isn't on a trail, though it isn't too far from one. It isn't visited by many people; I've only found one piece of trash there (not counting balloons). I was going upstream in a wash I had hiked downstream in before. It curved to the left, which is the direction I had come from before, but there was a small canyon straight ahead. I hadn't been there before, so naturally I went that way.

Before too long I was thinking that going up there was a bad idea. I was pushing through lots of brush and I don't like that, but I kept thinking I might find something interesting, so I kept thinking I would go just a little further. By the way, if you read my blog, you will know that that is how I usually explore. Nothing psychic or psychotic about this. Sometimes I'm rewarded with fantastic views or interesting sights. Sometimes I find nothing but scratches on my arms. This was turning into one of those scratches-on-the-arms things. I finally turned back. Before too long, though, things didn't look familiar. While concentrating on getting through the brush, I had into a small notch in the side of the canyon. The path must have looked easier in that direction. I wouldn't have seen it on the way up unless I had been looking behind me. Anyway, it looked like a dead end but it was easy walking so I decided to check it out. Less than 40 yards in and around a slight bend was a rectangular hole in the wall. It was rough, about 3 feet high, and not quite as wide as my shoulders and didn't quite look natural.

Of course, it was very dark inside and I couldn't see anything standing out in the bright sunshine. I come prepared for such things, though. I've carried a mirror in my backpack for years and have only gotten it out once before. I got it out now and reflected sunlight into the cave. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me because of the glittering light reflected back. I propped the mirror up on some rocks and arranged my backpack (which I had taken off to get the mirror out and left off to get through the opening) so my SPOT was aimed at the sky in case I didn't come back (it was kind of spooky). I was thinking about the gold and the Apache curse, but I'm not a superstitious person and didn't really believe I would find anything worthwhile. But I had to look.

There were plenty of sticks around and I used one to poke around in there before going in. I knocked something over and it rang like metal. It also sounded like it was in a large room. I kept telling myself not to get excited. I stood there breathing slowly and deeply, looking all around me for signs of other people, or signs that anyone had been there recently. Nothing. I finally got up the nerve to go in, which took some nerve since my body blocked the only source of light. Crawling into a dark hole in the middle of nowhere. Crazy.

Once inside, I moved over enough to let the light in and then sat there in stunned silence as my eyes adjusted to the dark. I had knocked a bracelet off a small rock pedestal, but most of the gold was in formless lumps in piles against the walls of the "room", going a couple of feet up the walls. I figured there was at least several hundred pounds. I couldn't tell how high the roof was, but the outside was solid rock for at least 25 feet up so it could have been high. No sense in making such a room so tall, so I think the room was mostly natural and might have been modified a little.

I kept thinking about the Apache curse and didn't like the feel of the air in there, so I got out. No, I didn't take any pictures. Too dark, and my built-in flash doesn't work. I wouldn't put them here if I had anyway. Would probably drive some fool crazy.

I stood there shaking and trying to decide what to do. I decided not to tell anyone anything for a few days. I started to walk away without my backpack. I was rattled. I got it (and the mirror) and stumbled and fell back to the wash and then concentrated hard on calming down for the rest of the hike back to the truck. By the time I got home I was able to act mostly normal, though Sweetums did ask me once of something was bothering me.

I finally decided that knowing about that place was too much of a burden for me. I had to turn it over to some archaeologists. There were a few interesting figurines scattered around in there. I've been out there a couple of times with the archaeologists. There was one that rubbed me the wrong way. She seemed devious. I felt like we should be checking her pockets whenever she left. Anyway, she was on her way out of the room once and banged her temple on a protruding rock near the entry. She was in a coma for 3 days and still can't think straight. I keep thinking about that Apache curse. I keep saying I'm not superstitious, either, but I may turn over everything to the university.

There are no pictures from this adventure. Pictures on the outside would be a clue to the location, and I don't know if that will ever be revealed. As I said, I didn't take any on the inside. There is just one last thing that I need to tell you, if you haven't already figured it out. April Fool.