Searching the Superstition Mountains for treasure
The legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine began back in 1864 when a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz and five other prospectors stumbled onto a ledge of pure gold in the Superstition Mountains, but before they could mine the rich vein, they were attacked by Apaches. Two miners were killed, but one managed to slip away and run through the night to Fort McDowell. By mid-morning, just when all seemed lost, the US Cavalry reached what was left of the besieged men and rescued them. Because of the continuing fierce Apache resistance, none of the miners dared return, and over the next quarter of a century, the location of the gold was lost.
Back in 1894, Mrs. Julia Thomas had fared no better than Trisha and me. For two years Julia searched the country all around Weaver’s Needle, until she finally gave up, but not until she infected two brothers with the Dutchman’s gold fever, Herman and “Old Pete” Petrasch. They lit out for the canyons around Weaver’s Needle too.
Trisha and I descended deeper into Boulder Canyon. The Peralta Trail ended at the intersection of Forest Service #104 – The Dutchman’s Trail. This was the trail that Julia and the Petrasch brothers crossed and re-crossed looking for the elusive ledge of white quartz that held the Dutchman’s gold. I scanned the canyon walls for white quartz outcroppings, but I only observed deep red and orange bands, volcanic rock that was devoid of precious minerals.
The next morning as we struck camp, I kicked at the little pieces of white rock along the ground at my feet. Quartz! I stared at the white boulder next to our tent. Was it possible this was quartz too?
For an instant my imagination ran a wild spectrum. The quartz ledge hidden in the cliffs above, the flash of gold in the mesquite, the glory and fame of discovery, the independence from financial worry, the fun and excitement, excess and decadence, dark dissolution, aloneness. “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver,” said a warning voice. I shouldered my pack. What is wealth, really? It’s love, health, friendship, beauty, understanding, challenge and acceptance. I already had all of these things in my beautiful wife, children, family and friends.
Though Trisha and I had a problem-free, few days backpacking the Superstition Mountain Wilderness, here are a few cautions and disclaimers. The Peralta Trailhead is 45 minutes east of the Magnuson Hotel Papago Inn, just past Apache Junction on I-60. There has been vandalism reported at the trail head, so don't leave anything of value in your car. Trish and I were lucky in that we had no major safety issues on our trip, but be cautious! Backpacking the Superstition Wilderness is dangerous. You need to watch for rattlesnakes, flash floods, thirst, and getting lost, just to name a few issues. The authors or anybody connected to this website accept no liability for accidents or injuries in connection with this article. This article provides general information of interest to hikers and would-be hikers; readers are cautioned to supplement this article with other sources of information when planning your backpacking trip. Additionally, readers should be aware that reported conditions may change, that there may be errors in the article or on this website, and that certain hazards are inherent in backcountry travel. Always carry essential equipment that will aide during emergencies and inclement weather.