Arizona Springtime – A Weekend in the Shadow of the Superstition Mountains

The trail is shared with horses, but no motorized vehicles are allowed.

Apache Junction, Arizona

This Travel Tuesday we take a break from our tour of Mazatlan. More from Mexico next Travel Tuesday. The first weekend of March found us east of the Phoenix metro area. Until the end of March, every weekend you can go back in time to the Renaissance at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. Held every February and March weekend at Gold Canyon, Arizona; the festival attracts thousands to experience a glimpse of life in an earlier time. You can review my post from 2014’s festival here. This post contains two galleries; the first gallery focuses on our day at the festival. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

The site of the festival is a little over an hour’s drive from our house in Buckeye, and it’s near many hiking trails that wind their way around and through the Superstition Mountains. Many stories focus on the lore of the Lost Dutchman Mine and Jacob Waltz. There is no doubt that Waltz had become a wealthy man, but he carried the secret of the source of his gold to his deathbed. The Lost Dutchman Mine and other much better documented mines in the Superstitions were the stuff of legend.

What better way to spend a weekend than to wander through the Renaissance Festival on Saturday and spend Sunday hiking in the Superstitions? We decided to use some accumulated reward points on a night in a hotel in Mesa, about 20 minutes from our desired hiking trail on Sunday morning.

We happened upon the Dutchman #104 Trail quite by accident. Our original goal would put us on the Peralta Trail. That trailhead would be easy to find from highway 60, a road sign indicates the turnoff only a short distance from the festival grounds. After our night in the hotel, we stopped at a convenience store, purchased some bottled water and a couple of fountain pop cups that we filled completely with ice. The ice and some of the water would go into the bladder in my backpack. The store clerk probably guessed our purpose for the ice-filled cups and asked what we were planning. We mentioned going hiking, and she immediately recommended the First Water Trail. After our conversation, we decided to head there instead of the Peralta Trail. As it turned out, Dutchman #104 trail connects First Water Trail and the Peralta Trail. Dutchman #104 is about 18 miles long, one way. Upon looking at the map at the First Water Trailhead, we decided to take Dutchman #104 toward Peralta Trail until we decided to return to our car. There is no fee for either access or parking at the First Water Trailhead, so on the weekend, unless you arrive early in the day, you can expect to park in the overflow parking area. A half-mile section of trail links the overflow area to the trailhead or you can hike along the road, a decidedly less scenic option. The second gallery features images taken along Dutchman #104. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner

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