I got to the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction just after 6:15am, as there was no traffic and no police, and the few people on the I-10 were averaging about 80mph. Mine was the only car in the "day use" parking lot when I arrived. Good. I cherish my solitude, and don't like crowded hikes. I hit the Discovery & Siphon Draw trails and headed uphill, carrying almost 5 liters of water (large Camelback, 2 Nalgenes, and 2 Kelteys) on my back, and no breakfast in my stomach. I got to see a glorious sunrise over the East Valley.
As I was ascending into the Superstition Mountains, I was passed on 3 occasions, by lone hikers, males in their 20s or early 30s, carrying less than a liter of water each. They were each wearing NBA style shorts and an athletic t-shirt. Old man Joe was in jeans and 3 layers - it was 55F and very windy, and walking with my Gandalf-esque walking stick. They each passed me like I was standing still. 2 of them reached the top, turned around, and began their descent passing me in the opposite direction before I reached the Flat Iron summit.But that's ok, 'old age, wisdom & cunning' before 'youth, beauty & strength', I always say! (or at least I say it now that I'm in the 2nd half of my life) - LOL!
Before this V rock canyon, the ascent is pretty gradual and routine. After the V rock canyon, it gets increasingly steep and tricky. The trail is well marked with dots and arrows (thankfully!) to guide the trail novice up. The last 100 feet are the hardest scramble, requiring very grippy gloves, very grippy shoes, and careful foot and hand placement to scale some difficult rock formations.
But once you are at the summit, it's pretty amazing. You can google "Flat Iron Panorama" and see all sorts of Youtube videos on it. There's the left side.. the right side... but the actual upper summit (higher than the Flat Iron by another 3 or 400 feet) is back behind all of those.
It was extremely windy, so I only made a panorama at the very summit, where some clever individual had attached an American flag to a 20 foot tall Agave stalk. It took a great deal of scrambling to reach the upper most summit. At the top I saw countless prickly pear cacti, agaves, palo verde trees, mesquite bushes, and ironwood trees, all of which had been hit by lightening, and were partially burnt, or completely incinerated. it reinforced 'getting off the mountain' before the evening thunderstorms were to arrive.
|The summit is seen in the center, upper right.|
This is a shot I took looking back up the trail upon descent. Two 20-something year old male hikers with FULL Back Packs and bed rolls were ascending, and we passed each other. I asked them incredulously "you're not gonna camp up there tonight, are you?"
"We got the gear, we got the beer!!!" and as the distance increased and I continued down, I over-heard one of the fool-hearty young men say "that's why I take my aluminum helmet, old man!" and his buddy laughed uproariously. Good luck to them. NASA says men are 4 times more likely to be hit by lightning than women. Go figure.
It was a good thing I got such an early start. The hike down was CROWDED. Ridiculously crowded. With hikers queuing up at narrow points and scrambling areas, and causing small rock and gravel slides down on each other. It was about as bad as Camelback Mountain on a nice week day... but not quite as bad as on a tourist-filled Spring or Fall weekend.
There were lots of wildflowers, every-where, on the slopes, along the trail, in the trail, and at the summit, and many of the cacti were blooming as well.
When Dr Desert Flower and I were at the Superstitions last weekend, there were some wild flowers blooming, sure. But this week, it's an explosion of yellow, with many other colors thrown in there as well. After tonight's rain, there'll be a prismatic spray of color to be taken in. Too bad we live so far away from the Superstition Mountains.