Friday, March 11, 2016

Super-Blooms and Superstitious Hike

Weather:  85°, overcast

Time:  1 hour 18 minutes

About this hike:  I have always wondered how long it would take me to reach the top of Superstition Mountain via the Siphon Draw trail while hiking solo.  Every other time I've hiked this trail it's been with company.  Not that company's a bad thing...afterall, it's a 35 mile drive, $7 entry fee, and minimum 4-6 hour commitment to do this hike.

I made this big commitment on a whim this morning; it just seemed like the perfect day for it.  Plus the desert wildflowers are in full bloom right now.

So 1 hour and 18 minutes is what it takes me solo to reach the part of the trail where you then go right to the Flatiron Rim.  The final obstacle on this trail is a vertical rock wall that has been known to freak me out in the past.  The tried-and-true palo verde tree that everyone uses as a handhold is still hanging in there after all these years, although today as I was going up a helpful blue climbing rope was tied around it.  Weird thing is that by the time I began my descent the rope had vanished...

Instead of heading to the Flatiron I decided to try to make my way to what's considered the true summit of Superstition Mountain.  A true summit is hard to define because Superstition is more like a small range of hoodoos.  Regardless, me and a hiking buddy reached the summit several years ago, so I knew it was there.

The summit is not a fun nor easy hike.  More than a few times I asked myself why I was doing this.  It involves bushwhacking, carefully sidestepping aloe veras and cacti, and climbing thru tight rock crevices.  Only making it a bit easier was a group of middle-aged men whose leader knew the trail well.  I opted to follow them.

All this summit hassle was so I could sign the nylon flag that I saw perched up there last time.  Brave hikers were known to autograph it, but last time I had no writing instrument.  Today I had a Sharpie, but there was no longer a flag.  Signing a dead aloe vera stalk crossed my mind, but that may be considered defacing State/National Forest land.  I'm not that type of person...

A lunch break was originally scheduled for the summit, but a strange uneasiness came over me.  Maybe it's the sheer remoteness of this mountain and a feeling of dread if anything should happen... Regardless, I've had this come over me before hiking at Superstition.  It's an urgent feeling to get off the mountain.  I opted to get off the summit and eat lunch on the Flatiron.  The wind was bad on the rim and it made for an unpleasant lunch.

With that, I began my descent.  Once thru Siphon Draw the fields of colorful wildflowers were dazzling.  All this was set against a perfectly lit backdrop of the Goldfield Mountains and Four Peaks.  The Downtown Phoenix skyline loomed painfully small in the hazy distance.

So I'll be honest...I had a lot of time to reflect.  It's been a year since I last did this hike, and I could easily go another year before doing it again.  Superstition Mountain is so beautiful in the spring, but this hike will kick your you-know-what.  It's treacherous and grueling, and as I get older I'm wondering if such risk is necessary.  I have so many other hikes in our beautiful State of Arizona on my bucket list that maybe it's high time I start checking some of these off.  Regardless, I'm sure I'll be back at Superstition before too long.

Desert super-blooms as Four Peaks looms in the distance

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