After a respite among the cool spring waters, we headed up Peters Trail for the top of Peter’s mesa where, for all we knew, there was no water.
In this photograph I face northwest, looking down on Dutchman Trail. The peak, upper center left, is Black Mountain. The cleft of Charlebois Canyon is lower middle right. Stag Horn Cholla cactus is lower right with Prickly Pear cactus scattered in the brush. Poles of young saguaro cactus are scattered around the lower slopes. Look carefully and you can make out the pooled water of our rest stop.
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Here is a recap of the last few Superstition Wilderness posts. The expedition route, in red, starts on the right where Dutchman and Terrapin trails meet. The total distance is 2.6 miles. Photograph timestamps tell me about 2 hours passed — 1.3 miles per hour in this rough country.
The expedition party rested where Dutchman Trail intersected the creek, full of flow from Charlebois Canyon, Music Canyon and LaBarge springs. We filled the water reservoirs in preparation for the climb up to the night’s camping spot on Peter’s Mesa, a 1,300 foot climb over 1.2 miles.
Behind Colorado and “Ed’s Horse” (don’t recall the name) is Bluff Spring Mountain.
A view to west on Dutchman Trail between Bluff Spring Mountain and Peter’s Mesa. The creek flowing from Charlebois, Music Mountain and LaBarge springs nourishes this Fremont’s Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and other riparian flora. The tree is flanked by volcanic rock from an ancient eruption.
Lost gold mine legends tell of Saguaros bearing secret markings leading to the hidden location of rich gold mines. This specimen, perched on an ancient volcanic boulder, lives in LaBarge Canyon along the Dutchman trail.
This view from Dutchman Trail was taken on the red line trail (below) between Black Top Mesa (out of view, on left) and Bluff Springs Mountain (right), on the approach to White Rock Spring and LaBarge canyon (the large canyon at the north end (left) of the red line.
Those cliffs above the Dutchman Trail (in red from the push pin “Dutchman Terrapin Trail Junction”) climb 670 feet in 0.2 mile. Fifteen minutes after starting I stopped to photograph a group of wildflowers.
The bright yellow flowers on right are a member of the pea (Fabaceae) family named Wright’s Deervetch (Acmispon wrightii) I am able to pick it out from many similar flowers due to the characteristic narrow leaves with small hairs. These start out yellow, turning to red with age eventually forming brown seed pods. Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) to the right.
The small white flowers are Chickweed (Minuartia macrantha) of the family Carnation (Caryophyllaceae).
Here is the topographic map with Terrapin Trail (yellow) meeting Dutchman Trail (orange) to the right of Upper Black Top Mesa Pass, bottom center
The beetling cliffs off Bluff Spring Mountain loom over where Terrapin and Dutchman trails meet. Patches of yellow are Mexican Poppies blooming on the talus slope. Terrapin Trail climbs the ridge, to right. Here is where I caught up with mounted expedition members, the spotted rump of an Appaloosa figures prominently next to the signpost.
Terrapin Trail almost immediately starts a climb up to an eponymous pass between Bluff Springs Mountain and Weavers Needle. From here, it is the best way into the mountain. The trail name is a misnomer, as terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) turtle habitat is near the ocean. There is a desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) you might encounter during the rainy season as they are otherwise inactive.
As we descended Upper Black Top Mesa Pass into Bluff Spring Mountain canyon we found, foreground, Palo Verde and brittle bush, and, midground, Saguaro. The presence of Palo Verde reveals water flows through this area intermittently though not enough to sustain a large tree. Palo Verde is in the pea family (Fabaceae), as evidenced by production of seeds in pods.
Calling it “Buff Mountain” some say the mountain is named for these buff-colored cliffs. Others, calling it “Bluff Spring Mountain” name it for the cliffs and the spring within a canyon on top.
Closer to the junction with Terrapin Trail this Bluff Spring Mountain ridge rose above us. A fine specimen of mature Saguaro cactus is in midground.
Our second day began in East Boulder Canyon, in the following map it is at the foot of the “Z” of the orange line, the Dutchman Trail, lower left center. The shape is the signature of a switchback needed to negotiate a steep slope up to Upper Black Top Mesa pass. This day will see us traverse Dutchman Trail to the intersection with Peter’s Trail (yellow), another steep climb up Peter’s Mesa.
Today’s post features photographs of flourishing Sonoran Desert plants and landscape on the slopes of Black Top Mesa. Dipterostemon capitatus known by the common names blue dicks, purplehead and brodiaea is native to the Western United States (particularly Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico and northwest Mexico.
Here I used the “zoom” for a better view of distant Yellow Peak. In foreground is Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and Blue Dick. In the distance Saguaro Cactus. Below the cliff of Black Top Mesa, above East Boulder Canyon, is a patch of yellow, Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica).
Here is camera, set to zoom, is swung toward the mesa cliffs. Prickly Pear and Brittlebush growing along the Upper Black Top Mesa Pass trail. I have not identified the shaggy shrub above the Brittlebush. In the distance Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean) flourishes. Below the cliff are patches of “gold dust”, the Mexican Poppy.
Heading southeast climbing out of East Boulder Canyon with a very young Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean) just off trail on left, a large specimen silhouetted on ridge ahead. Windmill Pink (AKA Common Catchfly) (Silene gallica) foreground, lower left. Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) on both sides.
This post ends as it began, with wildflowers growing next to the trailon a March morning. Blue Dicks (AKA Purplehead) (Dipterostemon capitatus), Tidy Tips (Layia) — daisy like flower, Brittlebush flowers are yellow when not dried. The larger small white flowers are Desert Phlox (Phlox austromontana) — I have not identified the tiny white flowers sprinkled around.