More from the wilds of Arizona.

11 Feb

Last Sunday we moved from Usery Mountain Park to Lost Dutchman State Park. Our friends Paul and Sue who we have been spending time with this last couple of weeks were already set up over there and, without knowing their site number we had managed to choose a site directly opposite them. We were all parked below the imposing Superstition Mountains where we hoped to do some more hiking. The ultimate challenge was the Flat Iron trail the very pinnacle of the range. (Extreme right of picture)




Sue and Pauls 5th wheel and above it to the right of this picture you can see the ‘flat iron’!

Whilst Sue went to get her cast removed and her wrist checked on Monday Robert and I P1240639walked one of the lower trails which skirted the bottom of the mountains. Even so there was a steep incline to get up to the more level cross ways path, however spotting the emerging desert flowers and taking time to look at the view made the hike pass easily.

As we neared the end of our trail we came to the junction with the Siphon Draw trail which takes you to ‘The Basin’ then a further trail continues to the ‘Flat Iron’. Looking up the Siphon Draw from this junction the trail held no nasty surprises and we decided the next day we would attempt to walk to ‘The Basin’.



We set off relatively early for us before the sun got too warm. We have been enjoying temperatures mostly in the mid to high 70’s ever since we got back into Arizona, with light breezes it is perfect walking weather. As we expected the first part of the trail was fairly level, slowly rising to a rocky outcrop where it took a turn into a canyon. This part was not visible from the camp ground so there lay the mystery – what was around the corner?


From this vantage point we looked down over the town of Apache Junction and far out over the greater Phoenix valley. Here the trail became rougher and we climbed P1240667higher into the mountains. The Saguaro cactus became fewer but we did see barrel cactus and agave clinging to the rocky ledges around us. The desert seems so dry and yet so many plants make it home and find enough moisture to survive.








After some scrambling over rougher ground we came to a slick rock area where two men were sitting taking a rest before attempting the next part of the climb which would be the challenging ‘Flat Iron’ trail. They commented that this was the point where ‘sensible’ people turned back. Robert would have been ready to carry on but I am not as brave. We walked the few more yards to the basin, the bottom of a dry water fall where a small green pool was buzzing with bees, the only sign that water ever gathers there.P1240664


Flat Iron looked down on us as we walked away, still tempting the more adventurous.  We turned around and carefully made our way back down the mountain. Often the getting down is much more difficult than the getting up. Dry gravelly paths on a gradient make for easy foot sliding!










Our final reading on the GPS said we had walked 6.63 miles, we are slowly increasing our distance and with the terrain we are walking I feel our hiking fitness is improving rapidly, that is until I get up next morning and realise how stiff I am!

Paul and Robert would have loved to tackle the ‘Flat Iron’ but with us leaving on Thursday morning there was not an opportunity as we had already planned an expedition together for Wednesday.


Close to the gates of Lost Dutchman State Park is the beginning of the Apache Trail, now a road trail this was originally a foot and horse trail used by the Indians to move between high and low pasture as the seasons allowed. More recently (early 1900’s) parts of the road had been improved and paved to allow construction of the Roosevelt Dam. A good stretch of the road is unpaved, rough steep and twisty, driver beware!

An early start was required, it was to be an all day trip and we packed a picnic. Not too far along the road the scenery opened up and revealed to us what lay in the back country of Arizona.


The famous settlement at Tortilla Flats was a must do stop off. We all crammed into the tiny museum where the history of the settlement and the various owners were photo (3)displayed on the walls. Fire and flood have been devastating on several occasions, many of the buildings were totally destroyed as recently as 1987 by fire. Just along from the museum was the bar and although it was rather early for an adult beverage we thought we could manage a coffee while taking in the unique surroundings, including the saddle seats at the bar!


The walls inside the bar are completely covered with dollar bills, autographed by the donor, it would take all day and many beverages to read them all. A few trips to the ladies room may also be required, this would involve another of the bars unique features!


So…we move on…

Apache Lake lay in the valley below us and at Fish Creek Canyon Paul parked the truck for us to take in the view. We walked to the viewing platform where we could look each way along the canyon then across to where the road would lead us from here!


It was extremely windy up here and chilly with it too, despite the bright skies!

The road deteriorated!


Sue sitting in the front had prime position for taking these shots but also for being first to spot the scary bits! Paul did a great job of mostly avoiding the very bumpy bits but all the same we all got a good shaking!



Another canyon beckoned us to stop and view, a small bridge over an almost dry river bed, high rock walls all around it and a tempting cave just high enough above that the boys in long trousers would have loved to have explored!



We found a spot beside Apache Lake to eat lunch before continuing to Roosevelt Dam and Lake.


The original dam was the first project by the Bureau of Reclamation and finished in 1911.It has more recently (1989 – 1996) been enlarged and improved adding another 77ft to the walls and hopefully allowing containment of greater flood waters than were originally estimated by the early construction engineers. Some of the older buildings being incorporated into the more recently constructed ones gives a nice sense of old and new.

A visit to the Tonto National Monument was a bonus  for us all as we share an interest in the cliff dwellings which are scattered around Arizona, between us we have visited several and had plenty of questions to ask the very knowledgeable volunteer who we found within the lower building.


This settlement was a little more primitive in its construction than others we had been in, the stone walls were more crudely constructed then daubed with mud. The information told us reeds had been used for the roof – I wondered where they came upon mud and reeds in this location but, far below, was a natural spring and presumably both were carried up to where they were needed along with the water for everyday use. No mean feat given the steep climb to the dwelling!



They did a good job of the construction anyway as so much of it is still intact with little renovation.





Our day was coming to an end, we all were ready for something to eat but not in the mood to cook so thanks to technology (I pad and IPhone plus truck satnav) Sue was able to locate a nearby Mexican Restaurant where we ate a great meal while discussing the day we had enjoyed together. Robert and I were so pleased to have been able to share this journey with Sue and Paul as otherwise  we could not have experienced the wildness of this part of Arizona.



2 Responses to “More from the wilds of Arizona.”

  1. Sue February 11, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    we’ve had such a great time meeting up with you two along the way! Looking forward to more of it!
    Nice post. You can tell by reading mine that I wasn’t in the mood to post! that’s how it goes sometimes. On to Sedona- see you soon!

    • elainethehill February 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

      Yes! Here’s to more great hiking weather.
      Your posts are always interesting especially getting another impression of the same place we have been. Hope you enjoy Sedona and its not too cold!

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