Return to Tortilla Flats   3 comments

Superstition Mountains--Volcanic Fortress

After my first trip to Tortilla Flats, I knew I would want to return some time.  The opportunity finally came on March 18, 2011.  I got my trusty digital camera, jumped in the car with wife and son and a chest of bottled water, and headed east.  We wasted no time following Van Buren and Mill and Apache Blvd and Main Street through East Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, and Apache Junction–just got on the 202 freeway and hauled ass out to the edge of Pinal County at warp speed.

Our first destination was the Lost Dutchman State Park.  You find it just past the fake ghost mining town at the very beginning of the Apache Trail.  The chief attraction is that people can camp there, and do lots of hiking in the surrounding Sonoran Desert.  You do get a good view of the Superstition Mountains.  To document this trip I’m using all my own pictures.  We got out there by about 10 a.m.  The weather was balmy–high 70s with a light breeze blowing.  Because I’ve been taking a geology couse at Phoenix College, I was on the lookout for interesting rocks–the whole area should be full of igneous clasts.  Alas, there wasn’t that much to see down in the park area.  We took about a one mile hike on a clearly marked trail, and this is what we saw.

View of the Sonoran Desert looking away from the mountains.

This whole part of the country is part of the Tonto National Forest–named after the Lone Ranger’s friend, I guess.  Considering that tonto means stupid in Spanish, I can’t see any other reason for naming it that.  It looks like a forest, but the trees are Mesquite, Palo Verde, Saguaros, and Prickly Pear cactus, with some creosote and brittlebush mixed in.

Those blocky walls and cliffs are what's left of an immense volcanic dome after it collapsed some 25 million years ago.

The path was liberally provided with signs under plexiglass that explained what we were seeing.  The only sign I bothered to photograph was the one explaining how the Superstitions were really the caldera walls of an immense collapsed volcanic dome.  Twenty-five million years of erosion has weathered it into the bizarre irregular fortress that it is today.

Coyote sundial. As you can see it was about 11 a.m. by the time we found this original desert clock.

Perhaps the most interesting thing on the trail was a coyote sundial.  There was plenty of evidence like this that whoever planned this section of the park had a good sense of humor.

The Superstitition massif in the background was by far the most interesting thing to look at.

This mountain is connected to tales of gold, crazy prospectors, Apache warriors, and death in the desert.  Authors and publishers still do a thriving business in books about this wilderness area.  Every few years some lunatics go off and die or otherwise disappear while trying to find the lost treasure trove of gold that is supposed to be here.

This little mesa looks like a hard place to reach.

The surrounding countryside is equally rugged.

The main saloon/restaurant at Tortilla Flats was having a busy day.

Carved wooden Indians (excuse me, Native Americans) guard the front door of the restaurant at the tourist trap known as Tortilla Flats.  This small town is 10 miles deeper into the hills beyond the Lost Dutchman State Park, about 1/3 of the way to Roosevelt Dam.  The road is extremely twisty but well paved and a nice ride.  This touristy survival of the Old West lies just beyond Canyon Lake.  There must have been 500 people there when we arrived.  Every parking place was taken, and the wait to get into the restaurant was over an hour.  We saw license plates on cars from all over the United States and even Canada.

Jacob Walz, the Dutchman, has been preserved under glass here to be your fortuneteller.

In point of fact, the “Dutchman” was really a German named Jacob Walz.  The best guess is that he tole people he was Deutsch (which is the German word for German), and our ignorant cowboy predecessor figured he said he was Dutch.

We did not get in to have lunch at Tortilla Flats–way too crowded for my taste.  I did get a picture of me on the side of the road.

I was thirsty and I bought a can of Orange Crush. I'm hiding it behind my back for this picture.

We headed back to Phoenix.  I had to stop and take a picute of the lake, and also of the wild flowers in bloom.

The western end of Canyon Lake seen from scenic lookout point 2 miles away.


Some desert flowers. They are bright yellow, but not very exciting.

It was past noon now, and we were all getting hungry.  We decided to try our luck at the Mining Camp Restaurant back closer to Apache Junction.  It turned out to be a good place to eat, even if it was located in the ritzy section of Apache Junction.  The road leading up to it was full of million dollar estates done in the flat-roofed Spanish style.  Envy.  Sure would be nice to live in one of those palaces.

Atmospheric, but expensive. We ended our adventure here with a $45 hamburger lunch.

The food was good.  The lemonade was sweet.  The restaurant had that old west feeling to it.  After lunch I looked through the gift shop.  They had some nice toys including the ever popular Arizona Jackalope doll.  The jackalope, if you haven’t heard of it, is a mythical Arizona desert beast that is half jack rabbit, half antelope.

I admired the toys, but didn't buy any.

And so I say farewell to the mighty Superstition Mountains of Arizona.  Summer is coming, and it will soon be way too hot to be walking around in the desert.  Future trips will be taking me to cooler places.


Suburban view of the southern Superstitions.

Posted March 19, 2011 by atroll in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Return to Tortilla Flats

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  1. The jackalopes in the giftshop look a bit like sheepdogs with limp carrots on their heads.

  2. Was fun looking thru and reading about your desert jaunt. My visit to the beautiful rocks of Arizona has given me a great love for your Beautiful State. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This the perfect time of year for such exploration. Thank you for sharing your pictures and writing about them. When I lives in Az. I got the chance to visit the O.K. Coral, the Davis Dam and a couple musiums. Mostly was too hot to get out tho.

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