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.
Our camp for the first night was East Boulder Canyon, between Black Top Mesa and Palamino mountain. On the topographic map, below. the bright orange line is Dutchman Trail. We are at the lower center, at the foot of the “Z” in trail, a switchback over Black Top Mesa pass we’ll traverse the next day.
Our evening was a quiet one of camp chores, an enjoyable meal with homemade beef jerky, coffee and plenty of water to rehydrate. The horses chomped on grain from feed bags. They packed in the grain as grazing is not allowed in the wilderness. I gave each a treat of carrot and apple.
I was up well before dawn to capture the morning constellations over Weavers Needle: from the left, I believe I recognize Lyra with Vega accompanied by Epsilon Lyra, next the keystone of Hercules. The brightest object is Venus.
Taking a break from morning water gathering in East Boulder Canyon: saguaro cactuses reflected in a still pool, looking up to the northwest you can just about see the Peralta trail where it crosses a Palamino Mountain ridge. West/Northwest the Peralta trail crosses behind the same ridge.
It is ironical the word “legend,” from the Latin verb “to read,” is the word used to describe the ahistorical stories, rumors really, of the Superstition Wilderness anchored, concurrently undermined, with the hard facts of geology. “Named for Paulino Weaver, a famed mountain man, scout, trapper and miner, Weavers Needle is a volcanic monolith that rises almost 1,300 feet from its base to an elevation of 4,553 feet. It’s the most recognizable landmark in the wilderness, and it’s also considered a marker for the legendary Peralta Mine.” — Arizona Highways
“As the story goes, Don Miguel de Peralta and his family, who had come to the Superstition Mountains from Mexico, discovered gold, lots of gold, in the shadow of Weavers Needle. However, before cashing in, according to the story, they were killed by Apaches, who allegedly sealed off the mine. A few decades later, Jacob Waltz, better known as the “Lost Dutchman,” claimed to have found the old Peralta Mine, but he died before proving his claim. Since then, thousands of treasure hunters have gone looking, including Arthur Weber and the Dons of Phoenix, but no one has ever found the gold. And it’s unlikely anyone ever will — the volcanic rock out there isn’t conducive to producing precious metals. They’ll keep looking, though. Meantime, the real treasure is the trail. Especially in the springtime, when the ground is covered with gold. ” –Arizona Highways
Here is a view of part of the day’s trail. We started at 1911 feet elevation, Apache Junction, topping 2693, Parker Pass, with 2512 our resting spot with many ups and downs in between: a combined descent of 1760. Our rest was well earned. Palamino Mountain is on the left, Black Top Mesa the right. Look carefully to see the Peralta Trail surmounting Palamino Mountain ridge, descending in a zigzag to Boulder Canyon where it terminates on Dutchman Trail.
Deep shade combined with the distant sunlit needle made for a difficult photographic capture. In fact, this picture needed significant work in Photoshop. I wore the 8 megapixel Sony F828 to capture the handheld shots of this series. A few days later I dropped the camera while riding Colorado, rendering it inoperable. This was when I acquired my Sony Alpha 700 during downtime in Phoenix. Later, the F828 was repaired at Sony and is still operable.
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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
The black basalt of the mesa, for which it is named, is just visible above the lighter colored alternating layers of ash and tuff all remnants of volcanic eruptions 15 to 29 million years ago. We are on the Dutchman trail with the slopes of Palamino Mountain on the right. Ahead, other members of the expedition are just visible.
In this view the late afternoon shadow of Palamino Mountain reveals the defile to which we are headed. Poles of young Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean), poke from the black basalt capping Black Top Mesa. Foreground left is Stag Horn Cholla (Cylindropuntia), on the right is Prickly Pear (Optuna).
Look carefully for a scattering of color, like gold dust, at the foot of the volcanic cliffs. That is spring blooms of Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica).