Monday, May 12, 2008

Al Morrow of Needle Canyon

May 12, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

As long as there are those who dream, there will be Dutch Hunters and treasure hunters probing the towering spires and deep canyons of the Superstition Wilderness searching for lost gold and treasure.

Men like Al Morrow.

Al Morrow spent nineteen years of his life living in Needle Canyon in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness searching for the Peralta Mines. He believed these mines and the Dutchman were one in the same.

This man knew what happiness was and he most definitely knew the pain of loneliness among the towering escarpments of Needle Canyon. He found success in something that we are not able to measure, in his simple everyday task of survival in this remote wilderness. Morrow chose this way of life so he could deal with nature firsthand and continue his life at a slow pace. He did this with great success and integrity, and in an age where everything is based on material wealth. It is difficult to imagine the likes of Al Morrow and other prospectors like him, who choose such a solo way of life despite the demands of modern society. Al Morrow marched to the beat of a different “drummer.”

Al Morrow at his mine in Needle Canyon.

Superstition Mountain is a tribute to those people and their stories of hidden gold and the never-ending search for it. This mountain has become a fitting monument to these men and women who suffered the hardships of isolation, hard work and being different just to survive. Maintaining a camp deep in the mountains required an enormous amount of work and the constant search for good water. However, the beauty and adventure associated with searching the lofty ridges and deep canyons for hidden wealth was well worth any exerted energy.

Just maybe someday a lucky man or woman will come forth with the gold of Superstition Mountain and forever end the tantalizing tales of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Such a discovery would also vindicate all those who have believed in the legend. Jacob Waltz undoubtedly left behind the most lingering story ever told about lost gold in the American Southwest. 

Until that gold is found, the legend of Superstition Mountain is the stuff of which dreams are made of. Dreams of hidden gold or personal enrichment it matters not because the opportunity to search has been worthwhile.

This is strictly a romantic view of the Superstition Wilderness Area, but as we face the future the significance and importance of the region will grow enormously. Today we find hikers and joggers wandering the trails of the Superstition Wilderness looking for adventure, recreation, and relief from the stress of our modern urban society. The Superstition Wilderness Area has become an important habitat for these urbanites on weekends.

Today the region serves more as a park than a true wilderness with more than 70,000 (as per estimated figures for 1997) people using the system trails this past year. The future and survival of the wilderness is totally dependent on the forest service’s management as the Phoenix metropolitan area grows. We will probably soon see the day access will be limited to the wilderness as more and more state trust lands are closed or developed. This legendary land of the old “Dutchman’s” lost mine has become a prime recreational resource for the Phoenix metropolitan area, however old Superstition Mountain remains a tribute to a legend.

Monday, May 5, 2008