Sunday, March 6, 2011

AZ: Superstition Mountains in the Rain

As we fled southward we passed one promising sight of spring. Near the upper end of a reservoir where the water had killed all the trees, the whitened branches of the standing snags were filled with nests. Cormorants, great blue herons, and way off, aloof, watching and watched, a bald eagle and nest.

The herons seemed to be solitary, but the black shapes of cormorants were paired up and making lovey dovey neck dances with each other. Quite charming through the binoculars, though our cameras couldn't really bring it close enough.

Further south under skies darkening with clouds and the approach of night, we fell off the main road onto the grandiose Arizona Highway 88, which looked sorta like it might take us somewhere we could camp for the night. The pavement quickly vanished, the road narrowed through steep, cactus covered mountains and briefly skirted ledges above the green water of a reservoir.

We turned off the rough main road onto a dusky track and soon found a spot to camp amid the saguaro, cholla, ocotillo and other prickly plants of the desert. We took a short stroll as the light fell out of the sky, while hidden birds cast their night cries to the still air. A small scorpion was hiding in the rocks of the fire ring and Trina tucked her pant legs into her socks, "just in case".

A breeze sprang up while we sat around the fire, reading with dogs in our laps. A scent was carried our way and the dogs leapt up to stare into the darkness. Trina's headlamp reflected back in a pair of eyes looking our way from deeper in the desert. Sprocket wagged his tail and whimpered to be unleashed so he could run and play with the visitor. We never saw what it was, though. Desert fox? Coyote?

A little rain had spattered the tent by morning. We packed up and made Trina her coffee, but we didn't eat breakfast, thinking that we'd rush on down the road and grab a civilized meal in the next town. Foolish thought, it turned out. The road wound deeper into the Superstition Mountains, and soon we were surrounded by deep craggy canyons, hidden green pools, cactus covered slopes, and towering yellow cliffs that glowed under the dark skies. Despite the wind and spatters of rain, we found ourselves unable to "rush" toward breakfast or anything else. Instead we kept leaping out of the truck to take a better look at the surroundings.

Our closer examinations led us to discover that the yellow of the cliffs was the result of a layer of bright lichen that coated most of the light colored rock, perhaps enhanced by the moist day. We also found hidden flowers blooming amid the crags. The dogs romped with a little too much abandon, at least until they re-acquanted themselves with the nasty cholla cactus, and re-learned to avoid most of it. We finally fed ourselves from our vast stockpile of food and gave up hope of reaching civilization, opting instead, to enjoy ourselves more slowly than we had "planned". Which is always our best plan.

We did eventually make it out of the mountains, skirted the wicked edge of the greater Phoenix area, and bolted southward as the rain began in earnest. On the way into Florence I took a rainy dashboard photo that was almost exactly like the rainy dashboard photo I took last year on our way into Florence. I'm not sure if it's always rainy in Florence, or if we just go to Florence whenever it rains in southern Arizona.


  1. The "Apache Trail" ... nice to see some pics from off the road there. I have only bike toured there, and was tempted to stop and explore (by foot) but did not.

  2. Zeke looks very majestic in his picture. I hope Sprocket is OK after his cholla mishap.

  3. Scott: It does look like there is MUCH more to see!

    Michael: Both dogs tangled with cholla, but once we un-stuck them, they were just as enthusiastic as they'd been before. And somewhat more careful.