Greater Phoenix:  Mesa and Lost Dutchman State Park

April 12-18, 2014

Our first night in the Phoenix area was spent in a mega RV complex in Mesa.  You know the ones where they have 1800 spots!  We had one night to find somewhere to stay before our state park reservation, so we decided to see how the snowbirds of Arizona live.  We stayed at Mesa Spirit RV Resort, but there are literally hundreds of these parks surrounding Phoenix.  Overall, I will say that these are not the types of resorts that we favor, as we enjoy natural beauty and privacy.  The RV spots are very close with minimal, if any, vegetation.  About 1/3 to 1/2 of the park consists of permanent homes.  Some are old travel trailers that have been added on to and some are manufactured resort homes.  These permanent structures create much more privacy for the dwellers.  These parks are great for active seniors.  Mesa Spirit is overflowing with community activities and has lots of friendly residents.  As an illustration there are three pools and spas, a social hall, fitness centers, dozens of arts and crafts rooms (quilting, stained glass, pottery, painting, etc.), dozens of shuffleboard courts, a putt-putt golf course, and tennis courts, just to name a few amenities.  For Wizard’s enjoyment there are several fenced in dog play areas.  Although some of the fences are only 2 feet high!  I can see why active seniors who desire warm weather, a wonderful community, and minimal maintenance would love to stay here, however it is not our ‘thing’ yet. If you would like to see pictures, read our resort view here.

So we gladly headed on our way from Mesa Spirit to the Lost Dutchman State Park the following morning.  This is another gem of a state park in Arizona.  It is at the base of the Superstition Mountain/Wilderness and surrounded by the Tonto National Forest.  Upon arrival we were invited to a ranger guided moonlight hike that night.  So after setting up camp and relaxing the afternoon away, we headed out in the moonlight to explore this park.  It was one day shy of the full moon and a very clear night, so no flashlights were required.  We enjoyed the moonlight trails and informative ranger.  This park is named after a fabled lost gold mine found by a Deutshman (German).  However Americans got confused by Deutshman and called him a Dutchman, classic American folly.  Anyway this man died without any family and his secret gold mine was lost.  It has been searched for since his death in the last 1800s without success. Now as it is national forest no further surveying/scouting is allowed, so it will remain lore.  Our ranger also gave us insight into the Native American lore of Superstition Mountain.  The moonlight walk ended with a campfire and marshmallow toasting, awesome!

Our next adventure in this area east of Phoenix was to explore the historic Apache Trail.  This is a driving loop that takes you deep into the Tonto National Forest.  Tonto National Forest is one of the largest national forests in America (nearly 3 million acres) and consists of cactus (the mighty saguaro) studded desert to pine clad mountains.  It also has a wide elevation range, from 1300 to 8000 feet!  The Apache Trail takes you through a great sampling of this forest.  It is paved for about 2/3 of the way with an exciting, twisting, washboard mountain dirt road the remainder of the way.  It is amazing to take a mountain turn and witness a deep blue canyon lake amongst the desert.  In fact you drive by three amazingly beautiful canyon lakes, with Roosevelt Lake being the last.  Roosevelt Lake is created by the massive Theodore Roosevelt Dam, which was built between 1903-1911.  At that time it was the highest masonry arch dam in the world!  Needless to say it is very impressive.  Even more so since it was raised by 77 feet in 1996.   After admiring the dam and Roosevelt Lake we headed to Tonto National Monument.  One of the last Salado cliff dwellings is located here.  This twelve-room pueblo cliff dwelling is quite impressive!   We admired the ingenuity of the Natives and drooled over their view of the Salt River Valley and Roosevelt Lake then continued on our way.  The last leg of the Apache Trail takes you through mining towns and many still active mines.

After arriving home, we had the delight of a campfire and the viewing of the lunar eclipse and blood Moon.   Talk about magic, a lunar eclipse and blood moon over the Superstition Wilderness in the dark Southwest sky!

After day filled with enjoying the beauty and history of the Apache Trail and the blood moon we decided the next day would be filled with a Western ghost town.  The Goldfield Ghost Town is literally across the street from the Lost Dutchman State Park.  It is not an actual ghost town but one recreated on this site.  It is really a Western amusement park.  It has lots of activities, such as a mine tour, a scenic railroad (Arizona’s only narrow gauge train), gold panning, shooting range, live reptile exhibit, and horse trail rides.  We wandered along the streets and did some window-shopping, but our only purchase was some delicious prickly pear fudge.  It is a nice place, but it seemed a little too fabricated for our taste.

Our final adventure in this area was to climb Superstition Mountain!  The Flatiron peaked our interest as we stared at it each day from our campsite.  Wade said to me on one of the first days that he wanted to climb it and I said, there is no way to climb all the way to that peak!  I thought for sure that the trail would not go all the way to the top.  So on our second to last day here we decided to hike the trail and see where we ended up.  We were told it was a 6 miles round trip 6 hour hike.  So we headed out fairly early in the morning.  The beginning of the trail is fairly steady climb to the base of the mountain.  Then the fun starts.  The rocky trail turns into a slick rock face, and then it becomes mountain climbing!  Really!  We were climbing vertical rocks.  In one mile you gain 1500 feet in elevation and it is nothing more than a strenuous climb up jagged rocks.  No switchbacks here!  Then when you think it can’t get any worse there is a 12-foot rock wall to ascend.  At this point you can see the Flatiron so there is no turning back and somehow you manage to scale this rock face.  Two ladies were hiking a short distance in front of us and we heard one say, “Something doesn’t feel right about this?!”   While she hit the nail on the head!  However, when you reach the summit at 4861 feet you are greatly rewarded.  The views of the greater Phoenix and Superstition Wilderness are enchanting. It is like an airplane view.  By the way some airplanes were flying at a similar altitude as we climbed.  We started at 2000 feet and in a matter of 3 miles and 3.5 hours we were at 4861 feet, wow!  We enjoyed our packed lunch while gazing at the world below and caught our breath.  Well, we caught our breath while having our breath taken away by the beauty.  It truly is an amazing experience.  However, we still had to descend this mountain.  So we cautiously descended the 12-foot rock face and followed the ‘trail’ down the mountain. In reality the ‘trail’ is just a dried up river/waterfall.  Talk about a full body workout.  I will admit that a several points I had to slide down on my bottom.  Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do and there is no shame in it.  After another 3 hours we finally arrived at our home.  What an adventure!  For another great description click on the link provided above or here!

So as you can imagine our last day in Lost Dutchman State Park was spent resting!

Panoramic view from the Flatiron

Panoramic view from the Flatiron