In Our Own Backyard 4-23-11

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The Goldfield Mountains are one of the most scenic places we can take a ride that is just outside our back door. Only a few miles up the Apache Trail toward Canyon Lake, we parked the truck at one of the locked gate parking lots managed by the US Forest Service. A permit is required for this area and with your permit comes a code for the lock on the gate. Anyone can hike, but if you are driving a motor vehicle, you will need the permit. Ralph had planned a circle route for us, including a stop at a geocache that he and his daughter placed in ’03.

Right as we started out I knew this was going to be an awesome ride. There were more cacti blooming this weekend than on our ride last week. I love the desert more than any other landscape in Arizona. There is nothing more beautiful than the desert in bloom and it’s only like this for a few short months. So it’s a true gift and privilege to spend my spring weekends enjoying it.

We found the ammo box fairly quickly and Ralph enjoyed looking through some of the original trinkets donated by his daughters. The view to the north gets you a peak at Saguaro Lake and to the south you can see the Superstitions. A perfect spot for a geocache. Unfortunately, on the way back to the quad, a rock flipped out from under my foot and I took a spill. Our nice camera was in my uphill hand, and I wasn’t about to let go of that, so I came down HARD on my elbow and forearm on top of a big rock. It shook me up. I like to think I’m pretty tough, but I may or may not have shed a tear or two. I felt better after cradling my arm for awhile in a Zip-lock bag full of ice. Apparently we don’t have any pain relievers in our first aid kit but luckily I have a stash of hard candies and suckers in my bag. If you don’t have Ibuprofen, make sure you at least have sugar, it’s almost as good. Later on I noticed a dent in the back of the camera. Thank goodness it still worked. This was our camera’s second drop and the first time sent it out for repair. My pain subsided and off we went.

The planned circle route was blocked by some impassible boulders in our creek bed road. So we turned around and looked for an alternate route. Then we came across something amazing:  A Gila Monster!!! We almost ran over him but immediately stopped and hopped out to look at it and take pictures. He was probably 14-16” long and pretty fat. I don’t like snakes or lizards at all. But I do love Gila Monsters. They are so rare and unusual and they are relatively slow movers. We saw a dead one in the road on one of our Bradshaw trips, and I think I remember seeing a live one on a rock in the Superstitions as a kid. But that’s it. For the amount of time I’ve been in the desert that’s amazing. So, I was VERY excited to see this guy. The Gila Monster sighting made up for the tumble I took. It was fun to watch his determination to climb up a couple of feet of vertical eroded creek bed. It was awesome!

Rocks and boulders intrigue me. I wonder why they are shaped as they are and why they are where they are. In the Goldfields, some of the mountains are just one solid gigantic rock. Massive rocks that jut up out of the earth. Beautiful and majestic. I was pleased to see so many views of the Superstitions in the distance, framed by rocky canyon walls. At one point I also spotted my beloved Four Peaks to the north.

We came out of the back country at a different gate along the southern border of the area. We jetted through some roads in Apache Junction that Ralph was very familiar with from his time spent living there. He took me to a giant hole that you can drive into that is the entrance to the inactive Mammoth Gold Mine. The Mammoth Gold Mine was one of the top producers of gold in Arizona. Being the city folk tourists that we are (not), we stopped at the Goldfield Ghost Town and watched the gunfight show and bought some gourmet red licorice. Then we moseyed our way back to the truck via dirt roads and then a few miles on Apache Trail. A really nice day right in our own backyard.

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About Ellen

A native Arizonan, who grew up camping and backpacking all over Arizona. My husband and I share a love for the spectacular Arizona landscape and rich history. We are passionate about spending our weekends exploring in our RZR. Backcountry driving combines my love of the outdoors with the thrill of experiencing my husband's expert four-wheeling skills on challenging terrain!
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