Haunted Lost Dutchman’s Park
I worked another frantic week on my feet busing tables, serving food and rearranging tables, chairs and silverware for the next day’s wedding. However, the upside to my job came with this week of freedom of not working until Friday. I used this time to plan an adventure and by plan, I mean, pack up my bicycle, a pannier and my backpack and hit the road for Lost Dutchman State Park to hike Flatiron. I awoke at 11 AM on Tuesday morning to start my journey to Apache Junction. A mere 57 miles meant the longest one-day ride for me in two years when I left on my bicycle tour from DE to CO. I did not know what to expect, but hit the road with anxiety and excitement for what lied ahead. Within the first 20 miles I made several switchbacks across the road as the sidewalk kept magically ending making me realize Arizona was not a cycle-friendly state. The scenery stayed dull and boring as I pedaled through downtown Tempe riding through the ghetto neighborhoods with skyscrapers hidden in the background. Construction boomed everywhere in the city with housing development and businesses popping up everywhere imaginable. I passed the train yard and an abandoned flour mill, but rushing daylight I lacked the time to stop so kept trucking along to reach my destination before sun-down. I crossed over the High Line Canal several times and after a few hours of cycling I decided to refuel at Wendy’s.
Much of the lackluster desert scenery spanned for miles, but certain sections left me in awe and as I found myself inching closer to Lost Dutchman’s the scenery began to shift to a beautiful spectrum of mountains and orchards. I crossed an orange orchard that grew for miles right next to the roadway. I stopped and when no one drove by I plucked one for a night-time snack. The rest of the ride brought me back to memories of the TransAmerica Trail as I neared the 60 mile mark. I remembered the burn and aching pain in my knees as I pushed harder pedaling down the shoulder-less roads nearing closer to Lost Dutchman’s State Park. My head pounded from dehydration as I pedaled in a zombie-like trance avoiding pot holes and patches of gravel. The Superstition Mountains loomed above me casting their huge shadows across the desert as I made it to Apache Junction. Sweat dripped down my face and my lips began to crust over from an unquenchable thirst as I stopped right before the Mining Ghost Town tourist attraction. I pulled off onto the shoulder and pushed my bicycle up a gravel hill hiding behind desert brush. I sat down to regain my composure next to an old illegal dump site piling full of mattress pads and other debris. I crawled around close to the ground as I remained hidden just feet from the nearest road until the night sky rolled in bringing in the brisk weather. I pitched my sleeping bag and bivy sack on a flat piece of ground covered in pointy gravel behind a huge tumbleweed. Time stopped as I cuddled deeper into my shelter and gazed up at the sky accumulating a myriad of stars every hour. Despite calling it a night at 6 PM I did not fall asleep until midnight. I spent several hours stargazing, pondering and enjoying the cold desert breeze tickling my nose through my bivy mosquito netting until fading away in the night in the fetal position. I awoke several times from packs of Coyotes howling at the moon causing a domino effect of neighboring dogs to bark ferociously. Tiny critters scampered and crawled around my camp site as I dozed in and out of sleep finally awakening at 9 AM as the sun strolled in peaking in through the mountains.
I replenished my water and ate a quick snack before heading into the park, where they charged me a $3.00 admission fee for bicycles (crazy right?), as I grabbed a map for the Flatiron hike. I followed the road to the end where Siphon Draw Trail starts as I searched for a spot to hide my bicycle. A nice bush off the trail made for a perfect location to stash my bicycle and some gear. I grabbed my 20-pound pack and hit the dirt trail trekking through the cold desert in sweatpants and a Gortex jacket waiting for the sun to warm up my bones. The first few miles felt uneventful as the trail gradually gained elevation and the dirt road transformed from a steep dirt incline to hopping on boulders that meandered up to a dry water basin. I stopped a few times to catch my breathe and take off layers as sweat drenched my back. A few groups passed me in the process only carrying hydration packs and I decided to follow them since the trail lacked markings as the climb became steeper. Lifting my legs and crawling up boulders my legs began to crumble like jello, but I pushed it to the top where a mini plateau offered a choice of three directions, left, right or straight. I turned my head on a swivel looking for spray painted white arrows or people without any luck. Turning right I walked by two fire-pits as the trail picked back up through the mountains. Off in the near distance I saw two people climbing to a peak, one in a black shirt and the other in fluorescent yellow. I stopped looking for markings and followed their lead hoping to reach it to the top of Flatiron by 10:30 AM.
The trail disappeared again as I found myself tiptoeing through desert avoiding dead cactus, prickers, and animal droppings, but it eventually picked back up. As I neared closer I saw the individuals squint looking out in every direction like they made a wrong turn on the trail. I approached and acquainted myself. We all agreed that we made a wrong turn since we stood on a series of boulders towering over the city below instead of a flat plateau, but regardless we enjoyed the view. Ryan, a young man with longer sleek black hair and a scruffy, patchy, beard laid out across a boulder to meditate and soak in the view. Kayla, a petite, white-haired girl who reminded me of Anna from the movie Frozen ventured off to the other overlook of the canyon. We chatted for a bit about our lives and after a short acquaintance she offered me a ride back to Goodyear, AZ if I could fit my bicycle in the trunk of her Corolla. After twenty minutes of sitting in the sun and a half gallon of water we gathered the crew for our trek down to the trail-head, disappointed we took a wrong turn and never reached the summit. The hike down tore up my feet and joints as I slipped and slid on lone rocks and cactus prickers. After a mile we reached the point where we made a wrong turn and saw a group of people relaxing on a boulder, dripping in sweat, they inquired where we moseyed off to as they wiped their faces with their shirts. We all chuckled and said we made our own trail. Apparently the trail dipped down and went straight up a steep climb to the Flatiron.
Kayla needed to get back home to attend an ultrasound class for school and since they were my ride I decided to follow them down the mountain. The thought of cycling 60 miles back in the same direction on shoulder-less roads and crossing the street every few blocks when the sidewalk ended seemed less than thrilling to me. I disassembled my bicycle taking off the front basket, front tire and rear pannier as I positioned it in her trunk to fit properly. We put down both back seats and finally she fit inside just enough to close the trunk. Kayla grabbed a few pillows from her recent camping trip and placed them over my bike as I sprawled out in the back finding a comfy position to lay in for the ride back.
We hit the highway and instead of a 5 to 6 hour bike ride home we ended the trip with an hour ride to Goodyear and Taco Bell. I made some friends in the process and my two-day trip to the Superstition Mountains incorporated cycling, hiking and hitchhiking. In the future I have a few more people to hike with and explore the other relics of Abandoned Arizona! Stay tuned for my future adventures in the Grand Canyon in January when I work there as a dishwasher and hike the trails in my free-time.