Total Miles: 455.5
The last time I looked up at the sky, it was filled with nothing but stars. By the middle of the night, those same stars were nowhere to be found, as though they might never have been there at all. Was I dreaming?
The rain droplets falling on my arm as I reached out of the tent certainly felt real, as did the gusty wind quartering the tent. Having battened down the hatches, we tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep for the remaining hours before dawn, so ceaseless was the report of rain and wind on the tent walls only inches above our heads.
But come the dim and dusty time before dawn, the rain had stopped while the wind continued unabated, giving the added benefit of drying out the tent as if the storm had never happened. We set out up to an exposed ridge, the wind buffeting us while we watched the storm clouds sulk away into the distance.
The storm having exited, the sun stepped back into its usual place on center stage though without its usual warmer temperatures. The newly crisp fall air made for perfect hiking conditions while we watched the shadows of morning lend an air of mystery to these Superstition Mountains.
In a range that the Apache believed might contain the gateway to hell, perhaps it’s fitting that these mountains have been named the Superstitions. Among the more famous folklore related to the Superstition Mountains is that of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. According to legend, an immigrant and prospector named Jacob Waltz had discovered a mother lode of gold somewhere in the Superstition Mountains and on his deathbed revealed its whereabouts to just a single person. Even today, mystery surrounds whether the claim was found or if it ever even existed.
There may not have been any black cats darting across the trail, but reminders of their claws were everywhere. A constant presence and sometimes crowding the trail from both sides, catclaw mimosa—which we’ve taken to calling “bad kitty”—has its gently hooked claws out to snag any bit of clothing or flesh that might be passing by.
The trail itself continues to be elusive, waffling in its indecision whether to be a clear, smooth path or one where wildfire-fueled growth threatens to obscure or outright consume it altogether. It was a reminder of how fleeting any trail’s existence really is. A couple seasons of neglect following a wildfire, and places where you’d be hard pressed to identify where the trail now exists—or if it ever did at all—are not in short supply.
Only in the final mile of our day, before the beginning of a descent that would take us down from the spine of the Superstition Mountains, did we look out to see a yellow fireball floating down from a blue sky into an increasingly orange one. Waves of mountains stretched toward the setting sun, with each successive wave a lighter shade of gray than the one nearer to us. What mysteries they might hold.