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Take it all in. Open space. Big sky. A sea of flowers – red, pink, yellow, orange. . . The sun on my back. Miles of trails – some easy, some rugged. Forests. Stream crossings, my favorite. Birds, deer, coyotes, lizards, and at least one Gila monster. Yep. It’s a wide-open space, to run free, to just be, a wilderness. A place untrammeled by my human friends.

Superstition Wilderness

Yo Mama

Packed-up and ready to go to the Superstition Wilderness. Backpacks in the car and Mom is going to carry my food. Yo mama! She is a pack mule extraordinaire. I don’t mean you look like a mule, Mom, far from it, but wow you are a strong steady Mama. Humm, I’m not sure what Dad means when he calls you a Hot Mama? I wonder how long we have to be in the car. Sometimes it takes hours. What? The “Sups” are on the edge of town? Hot diggity dog!

Superstition Wilderness

The Superstition Wilderness is just on the outskirts of the Phoenix Metro area. With 180 miles of trails across 160,236 acres of wide open S P A C E. Rolling desert surrounded by steep, rugged and nearly vertical terrain. Weaver’s Needle is a dramatic volcanic plug which rises to 4,553 feet. In the summer, the area it is pretty inhospitable with soaring temperatures, but in the spring water is running and the creeks crisscross the trails like ribbons.

The Wilderness Act

The area was first recognized as a primitive area in 1939, it was named a Pre-Wilderness Act “wilderness” in 1940, and became an official Wilderness area in 1964. All thanks to Howard Zahniser. He wrote the first draft of the Wilderness Act in 1956 and chose the word “untrammeled” to describe a wilderness. “A wilderness . . .is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man . . .”

The Act was made law in 1964, formally acknowledging the importance of wild places to the human spirit and fabric of our nation. Congress passed the law by almost a unanimous vote. It is a vote to permanently protect the most natural and undisturbed places in America. Well I think permanently . . . not easy with today’s partisan politics and corporate greed.  Dad says he’ll fight and die to keep it untrammeled. Geez, this place must be important!

The Dutchman

We turned off the US60 onto Peralta Road. Ten dirt road miles to Peralta Trailhead and we were ready to go. Not only a wilderness area, but one filled with lore and, you guessed it, superstitions. We hit the Dutchman’s Trail.  You see the Dutchman is still out in the wilderness somewhere. Actually, he is the Lost Dutchman. Go figure.

But first, back to the Superstition lore. The indigenous Pima tribe told stories of strange sounds, people who disappeared, mysterious deaths and an overall fear of the area. White farmers in the late 1800’s decided naming the area the Superstition Mountains was a good one. Now, speaking of people who disappeared, there was the lost Dutchman. In search of gold, there is still a treasure, he went into the wilderness and was never to be seen again. Yikes, I hope we don’t get lost like that Dutchman dude!

Miles Away

OK, the Dutchman’s Trail. Well, we got on it and other than a few diversions, never got off until the big turn to home on the Terrapin. Whew, was I glad when we knew we weren’t lost. Our first stop was Oak Spring. A beautiful restful stop, close to the creek, cover with, you guessed it, oak trees. We (well I took a much needed nap) got the camp set-up and then went down to the creek.

Astrophysics in the Wilderness

Mom, I smell people coming. Hikers. About eleven footsteps and voices with lots of food! Where did they come from? ASU, of course. That’s one long walk. Even if it is near the East Valley. Oh maybe they drove like us. A quandary… Turns out they were part of a Wilderness Astronomy class, dreamed-up by Parke and Melodie, their instructors, postdoctoral astrophysics researchers. The course culminates with a week-long backpacking adventure in the Superstitions to explore the intersection of physics, wilderness exploration and alien worlds. How awesome is that. Real life. Real adventure. All in a real Wilderness, saved for us. I’m gonna change my name to Sparky!

I really liked the group as they each brought their own stash of food, and I could walk around camp make friends, sniff their gear and earn some treats. . .by just looking cute. Easy pickings. ASU, The New American University, turning the Wilderness into a classroom. I wonder if I have a college fund?

Superstition WIlderness

A Quiet Respite

We parted ways in the morning, as they were headed out and into the stars. Then we headed deeper into the Wilderness. We had planned a longer day, but Marsh Valley looked too inviting. So we took a turn north and found a sweet camp off Cavalry Trail, where La Barge Canyon and Squaw Canyon come together. We stopped when the creek crossing required more than rock hopping.

It’s amazing how a long walk clears your mind, helps set things in perspective. Just taking time to relax in the afternoon, to listen, to smell, to feel, and to nap in a tent with fluffy down sleeping bags. A dog’s life for sure.

Speak out for the Wilderness

We eventually headed homeward, passing Weavers Needle and the beauty that is the Superstition Wilderness. You know, the Wilderness has no voice, we have to be its voice and make the sounds to keep it protected for future generations. . . of wildlife, plantlife, Catahoulas and humans, and maybe even alien worlds.

Superstition Wilderness

If you go…


  1. Kay Hanson

    The Catahoulagans: exploration, education, inspiration!
    Thanks, Louie!🐾

  2. Can I go next time?! You make it sound so wonderful ….

  3. Beautiful scenery and love the photos!

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