As a youngster I heard a lot of stories about the Superstition Wilderness Area. Some of these tales included segments about the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. My father allowed me to make my first solo trip into the mountains when I was fourteen years old. After that I was in the mountains as often as possible from September until June while I was in high school. I was a very inquisitive kid and I liked searching for lost treasure. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the mountains and their stories.
Most adults in those days ignored me unless they had known my dad. He was highly respected for his knowledge about geology and mining. My father spent a lot of time around Goldfield, but always thought of the area as a gold teaser. He didn’t have a lot of faith in the region east of Goldfield either, but enjoyed the mystery and tales that prevailed there.
Some old cowboy told dad about a water trough in the Superstition Mountains that supposedly was used by Jacob Waltz near a place called White Mountain. Many people confused White Mountain in the Superstition Wilderness with the White Mountains of northeastern Arizona. The Army called White Mountain “Sierra Blanco” on its military maps. Dad visited the old Arizona State Teacher’s College library looking for information about the Superstitions and the military campaign around Sierra Blanco. Believe me, there wasn’t much in the library in those early days. Dad did most of his research at the University of Arizona Library and at the Arizona Bureau of Mines library in Tucson.
Once I established the location of White Mountain in my mind, I was ready for an expedition into the area. It was October of 1955 when I drove up the Apache Trail to Fish Creek Canyon Bridge. A friend and I planned to hike up Fish Creek Canyon to Rough’s Canyon, convinced we could easily access Redwood Trough. Let me tell you, this was certainly a mistake.
We hiked up Fish Creek, then up Roger’s Canyon to Angel Basin. I had never climbed over so many rocks in my life in Fish Creek and Roger’s Canyon. We were soaked to the bone from our [waists] down. We spent the night in Angel Basin, and if it hadn’t been for a good fire we would have really suffered that night.
The sun didn’t hit our flimsy bedrolls until about 9:30 a.m. the next morning because of the steep slope to the east of Angel Basin. We were exhausted, but had slept well by a warm fire the night before.
I hollered at Gary to get up so we could find Redwood Trough. The reason for this exhausting hike was to locate a site where we could find some alternating layers of basalt and ash intruded by a highly mineralized dike similar to the one across East Boulder Canyon above its confluence with West Boulder Canyon. I had been told the deposit of ash and basalt lay immediately north of Redwood Trough.
I wasn’t sure exactly where White Mountain was located and I didn’t realize White Mountain was directly east of Angel Basin. After looking at a regional topographic map of the area I located White Mountain. Gary and I sat down, heated a can of Spam for breakfast, and studied the map. It wasn’t long before we realized Redwood Trough was directly east of us.
“Wow,” Gary exclaimed, looking at the steep cliffs lying to the east. “Are we going to have to climb that?”
We were young and stupid. Certainly, we would try to climb the west face of White Mountain and look for Redwood Trough.
[Part II – September 14, 1999]
If you have ever been to Angel Basin you can imagine the challenge which lay before us. Gary and I planned to climb to the top of White Mountain and look down on the surrounding terrain. We were convinced we could spot the old wooden water trough in one of the canyons that drained off the eastern side of White Mountain.
We packed our gear after finishing breakfast and hiked up Roger’s Canyon for about a mile. We then turned east and started our [ascent] of the west face of White Mountain. This was a challenge, but not impossible for two sixteen-year-olds.
We topped out on a high ridge just below the summit of White Mountain. The vista from this location was overwhelming, even to a couple of teenagers. We finally spotted our objective deep in a tributary canyon and hiked down to the small canyon the trough was located in and inspected the area.
The old trough was made of redwood, pinned together with square nails and dowels, indicating the trough was very old. I could only imagine the energy required to pack this redwood lumber into this site to build this old trough. We didn’t find our geologic objective, but we had a great time exploring the area. We spent the night at Redwood, then hiked down through Rough Canyon and around several cliff faces to reach Fish Creek Canyon and our path back to the Apache Trail and our car.
Today, as I reminisce about this trip, I think of how foolish we were in our youth. But no challenge is too great when you’re sixteen. It was with this same zest for life that caused Gary and I to join the military two years later, and I think of the Superstition Wilderness Area as our stepping stone to adulthood. Each weekend in the Superstition Mountains was another challenge. As I look back I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
We found our objective; we experienced success. We returned home as champions in our minds. Life is filled with many disappointments, but if one searches for challenges then most disappointments will be minimized and easily forgotten. The discovery of Redwood Trough answered our challenge for that particular weekend some forty-four years ago.