Sonoran Sojourn

It’s cold and snowy here at the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Since it’s only a two-day drive from my home in Boulder Colorado to one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America it seemed like a good time to go camping in the desert.

Many of you may recognize the Sonoran desert by its iconic saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) which is unique to this place. The saguaro is the largest cactus in  the United States, commonly reaching 40 feet (12 m) tall; a few have attained 60 feet (18 m) and one was measured at 78 feet (23.8 m). The cylindrical stems are accordion-pleated; the ridges (outer “ribs”) are lined with clusters  of hard spines along the lower 8 feet (2.4 m) and flexible bristles above this height. White flowers are about 3  inches (8 cm) in diameter; they bloom mainly in May and June and are followed a month later by juicy red fruit. The saguaro’s range is almost completely restricted to southern Arizona and western Sonora. A few plants grow just across the political borders in California and Sinaloa. Saguaro reach their greatest abundance in Arizona Upland. Plants grow from sea level to about 4000 feet (1200 m). In the northern part of their range they are most numerous on warmer south-facing slopes.

Sonoran Saguaro

Sonoran Saguaro

The trip from took me across the Colorado Plateau, an area covering 337,000 km/ 130,000 mi within western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, southern and eastern Utah, and northern Arizona

I Descended into The Sonoran Desert (33°28'41.53"N 111°14'21.43"W)

I Descended into The Sonoran Desert (33°28’41.53″N 111°14’21.43″W)

My campsite was in Lost Dutchman State Park at the base of the Superstition Mountains

Lost Dutchman State Park Entrance (

Lost Dutchman State Park Entrance (

Named after a fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located 40 miles east of the Phoenix AZ Metropolitan Area in the Valley of the Sun. For more than 120 years gold seekers have tried to find a lost mine in these mountains.  Jacob Waltz, known as the Lost Dutchman, died in 1891, at the age of 83. A box of gold was found under his bed after he died. He supposedly described the mine’s location to Julia Thomas, a neighbor who took care of him prior to his death. Neither she nor dozens of other seekers in the years that followed were able to find the “Lost Dutchman’s Mine.” Subsequent searchers have sometimes met with foul play or even death, contributing to the superstition and legend that surround these mountains. Before he died he tried to tell Julia Thomas where the gold mine was located. Jacob left many clues for them to follow, but kept telling them to pay attention because the mine was hard enough to find even if you knew where to look. In 1916, two miners found an old Spanish saddle bag filled with $16,000 worth of smelted gold. This evidence, along with the stories and records of gold transport issued by Waltz, confirms the legend of the Lost Dutchman.

Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest providing the opportunity to find the lost gold if you dare…

Superstition Wilderness

The Superstition Wilderness…There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

Here the lack of moisture and extreme heat of summer have evolved a hearty and diverse ecosystem of plants and animals able to tolerate the harsh conditions…



Bird on Saguaro

Bird on Saguaro

Bird in Saguaro

Bird in Saguaro

Jumping Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)

Jumping Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)

Today’s desert gold is water! The Phoenix Metro Area is thirsty for water from Canyon Lake, one of the four lakes created by dams on the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest. The others are Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake and Saguaro Lake. These dams make life on the Sonoran possible for us humans…

Canyon Lake Brings Water to The Valley of the Sun (( 33°32'31.96N 111°26'11.52W)

Canyon Lake Brings Water to The Valley of the Sun ( 33°32’31.96N 111°26’11.52W)

The geologic centerpiece of the National Forest is Superstition Mountain, formed 25 million years ago by a volcanic crater pushed up over 2000 feet by pressure from below. From my standpoint this resurgent dome was a visual centerpiece and I couldn’t get enough photos. Here’s my favorite taken at dusk. It consists of 4 rows of 22 images merged into a single panorama…

Superstition Sunset Captured 10 December 2102 5:00pm @ 33°28’41.53″N 111°14’21.43″W

My time in the desert was too short but Colorado calls me home despite the cold weather up in the Rockies.

Sonoran Sunset

Sonoran Sunset

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2 Responses to “Sonoran Sojourn”

  1. Peter Stevenson Says:

    Beautiful spot and lovely photos. Thanks for sharing Richard.

  2. The Creation of the Boulder Flatirons | Tales from the Trails Says:

    […] Mountains in northwestern Colorado, the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park and the Superstition Mountains near […]

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