We left Silver City, New Mexico and all its wonders on July 16, 1985. We were sad to leave the area as there were many things that we would have liked to stay and see, but we did have an agenda (not a really rigid one), but enough to move on to Arizona and the Superstition Mountains.
The Superstition Mountains are east of the Phoenix area. The recreational features in this area are endless. The mountains are within the Superstition Wilderness Area where trails, lakes, mountain terrain, and desert prevail. There’s rock climbing at Weaver’s Needle. One can find the high desert a bit toasty in the summer months, but the dry climate does help with the heat index.
We usually avoided metropolitan areas on our trip, because we always felt the best scenery, and the best options for us to really “see’ the country lie in keeping far from city life. But since the Superstition Mountains were close to Phoenix, we bent our rules just a tiny bit.
We camped outside of Phoenix in a campground that was mostly deserted. We were told by the campground attendant that the park was known for its “snowbird” population during the winter. Sites were crammed in very close to each other on the sandy, desert floor. Thankfully, there were only about 2 other campers in the whole park, so we didn’t mind too much. It’s not that we didn’t like to see and talk to people while traveling. It was more about the privacy issues of being in such close proximity to the next site. When it’s a 110 degrees inside your motor home without the luxury of air conditioning, you didn’t want people peeking in first thing in the morning when you weren’t really donning many clothes. We also liked to be able to have a conversation without feeling that our neighbor could hear us unless we whispered to each other.
Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time, so in the middle of the summer one can expect to see the sun make its fast decline below the horizon around 8:00 p.m. Our days felt shorter due to this, but it didn’t stop us from checking out the surrounding area.
You may be wondering what the attraction to Superstition Mountains was that encouraged us to bend our rule of staying far from big cities. Bill has always loved the idea of gold prospecting. In fact, while living in California for almost 10 years, Bill, Laurie and their young son (at that time he was just a toddler) did a lot of weekend prospecting.
Legend holds that the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine lies within the Superstition Mountains. Mining has since been restricted within the Superstition Mountains due to the fact that it lies within the wilderness area, but Bill still had the yearning to poke around a bit.
The Lost Dutchman’s Gold mine is a legendary story of a man named Jacob Waltz who on his deathbed confessed that he had discovered a rich gold vein near Apache Junction. There are many mines that were developed after his death, but no verified reports that they were Waltz’s vein. The legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold mine is one of the most famous “lost mine” legends in America today. Although Bill had a great mind to explore the area for the lost mine, we also did a lot of touring of the area. In fact, the motorcycle tours we took were so beautiful that Bill pretty much forgot about poking around for those old gold mines.
We woke the next day to a very young couple (just like us) arriving at the campground with a large U-Haul truck. They were from Pennsylvania – not a great distance from us when we lived in central New York when you consider how far we were from home.
Naturally we stuck up a conversation with the two travelers. They were looking to settle the wife (Theresa) in Apache Junction, while Mike (the husband) was going to be traveling onto San Diego, California. He was in the U.S. Navy. He was expecting to go out on a big ship for a very long time, so he was settling Theresa in with her parents in Apache Junction. She was 5 months pregnant at the time, and honestly, we don’t know how she handled the heat so well being that pregnant.
Mike opened the back of his U-Haul truck to reveal his fairly new 700 cc Honda motorcycle. Bill started grinning from ear to ear. After a brief discussion among the men, we all decided to take our motorcycles for a tour on the Apache Trail.
The Apache Trail is a 180 mile loop which consists of some gravel/dirt roads that give a rustic charm to the drive. We traveled through the tiny town of Tortilla Flat. If you blinked you would miss it.
We saw hordes of tarantulas crawling along the roadway. On a motorcycle it can be hazardous to come along a tarantula making its way across the road. We tried to avoid them at all costs, because they can be flung up by the tires of a motorcycle onto the people riding. Nope, not for us! We saw dead rattlesnakes (only dead ones, thankfully) lying in the road. One we saw was over a yard in length.
We traveled approximately 28 miles on a gravely, then sandy road. The sandy road was tough going as there were hairpin turns and we could only travel at 10 15 miles per hour which is tough on a motorcycle as it grinds its way through the sandy sludge of the so called road. We never seemed to get enough traction to get going very fast, and those hairpin turns were looking treacherous at times.
We stopped at Apache Lake for a nice swim.
We stopped at Canyon Lake for a swim.
We stopped at Roosevelt Lake for yet another dip.
It was extremely hot and humid, so all the swimming holes along the way made for a nice way to cool off.
We drove through Tonto National State Park. At the state park, we met a traveler who was riding a bicycle along the Apache Trail. He was a young man from Germany. He had started his travels in Georgia by riding his bicycle all the way to Arizona. His destination was California, where he planned on catching a flight back to his home in Germany. He had told us that he had only spent $15.00 so far for overnight accommodations. He mostly slept along the road in his sleeping bag. We discussed with Mike and Theresa how we thought this young German man was so brave as he was out there sleeping amongst the Gila Monsters (deadly), black widows (deadly), scorpions (also deadly, tarantulas, coral snakes (you guessed correctly – deadly), and rattlesnakes (guess we don’t have to tell you all that they are DEADLY!)
The desert scenery was one that we never tired of. The Saguaro cacti were plentiful. They can grow up to 50 feet tall and weigh 12 tons.
The Saguaro can live up to 200 years. The first arms of the saguaro develop at age 75. It can have as many as 50 arms. The Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where it grows.
The view within the mountains brought a serene atmosphere to our long drive.
It was a long day, but an enjoyable one. We were a bit sorry to say goodbye to Mike and Theresa, but it was probably just as well. Mike and Bill together were a bit mischievous during the day. They had found a large open field with rocks lying on the desert terrain, and much to Laurie and Theresa’s horror they decided to start turning over the rock. What were these two dare devils up to? They were looking for scorpions. They also had a run in with some fireworks, but we won’t bore you all with that silliness.
Join us next time as we travel on to Holbrook, Arizona. Does anyone know what wonderful attraction is near Holbrook Arizona? If you don’t know, come join us next time as we move our old motor home down the road.
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