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Superstitions Trip Report Part 2; Apaches and Art; Mona Lisa of the Range; Back in The Villages; A Dove by Any Other Name

The first part of my trip to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona had gone well, but rain was coming. After helping the other hiker back to his car, I checked the weather, and the forecast was still grim. My choices were to tough out 2 inches of rain in my tent for a couple of days or to wuss out and find dry lodging. “My Momma never raised no fool…” Because of the Superbowl, hotels in the Phoenix/Mesa area were far too expensive, so I drove to Tucson (a two hour drive from the Superstitions) and checked into Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s temporary quarters – known to us old farts as the Bachelor Officer Quarters, or BOQ (not exactly politically correct terminology today). Because I had broken camp before the dew on my tent dried that morning, I had to hang the tent, tent fly, groundsheet and sleeping bag up to dry out to prevent mildew. Along with all my other gear, this gave the room the appearance of a gypsy camp. I have to admit that sleeping in a soft bed was more comfortable than my tent, but when a group of young Air Force officers in the room directly over mine continued their loud party past 2300 (and failed to invite me), I got a bit ticked off and asked them to pipe down. Finally getting to sleep, I was reasonably well rested the next morning, except that the symptoms of a bad head cold were making their first appearance. 

It was raining heavily in the morning, so I decided to take it easy. I visited a museum at Fort Lowell, an old US Army cavalry outpost which was the local headquarters for operations against Geronimo and his band of obstreperous Chihuahua Apaches back in the 1870s/1880s. This photo shows some of the “good guys”, Apache scouts hired by the Army to help track Geronimo and his men. This band of Apaches was exiled to Fort Pickens in Pensacola for seven years before being transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This photo could have a modern caption, “Turn over your weapons. The government will take care of you.” These scouts, having served honorably and risked their lives with the US Army for years, were disarmed and relocated with the “bad guys” to Florida and Oklahoma… so much for promises from our federal government and elected politicians. (A pessimist might say that things haven’t changed much since 1880…)

Rain continued… so I moved on to the Tucson Museum of Art, where works by Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and Chagall kept me occupied for the rest of the day.

Part of the Tucson Museum’s collection is Art of the American West. Lots of paintings of Indians, the Grand Canyon, etc., were interesting, but a 1981 photograph of Julie Hagen, a working cowgirl in Wyoming, caught my eye. She has been called “the Mona Lisa of the Range”, and at least I got the impression that Julie could take on any ranch job with confidence… 


It was still raining the next morning when I went out for a diner breakfast. This more contemporary art painted on an abandoned building next to the diner was actually pretty good… I spent the day at a bookstore and got a lot of reading done, but was anxious to get back to the mountains. I thought that I would have another freeze-dried meal in the BOQ, but after preparing a nice chicken stew with lots of veggies, decided that dehydrated food is much more appropriate for a starving guy in the wilderness… so I gave up and went to a steakhouse.

When the rain finally ended, I drove back to the Superstitions, but canyon flooding kept me from going into the back country. I day hiked for two days out of Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. The first day’s hike was up Siphon Draw to The Basin, at the foot of the Flatiron. That’s the mountain directly above this handsome hiker’s head.

The terrain here is fairly rugged. Younger hikers can climb up to the summit of the Flatiron in about four hours; I decided that Prudence was the better part of Virtue, and stayed off the steepest boulders so I wouldn’t become a statistic or a splat on a rock…

This was the view from my campsite; “not too shabby…” Dinner that night was Mountain House (commercial) sweet and sour pork. I have to admit, it was tastier than my dehydrated vegetable stew,

My last hike was to Massacre Grounds, where according to legend, a group of Apaches were slaughtered by a group of Mexican miners in the early 18th Century. In spite of the fact that we are close to the Phoenix metro area, there were only a handful of hikers and three equestrians on the trail on a perfect day.

Returning to civilization was only slightly complicated by the 80,000 Superbowl fans trying to get back to Boston and Seattle. The airport was a zoo, but my flight was on time, and I was reunited with My Lovely Bride, Rudy and Gretchen in time for dinner (see the previous post). But just as I got home, I got in trouble… I had to go to the grocery, and looking at the list, saw Dove. Knowing that Suzanne uses Dove shampoo and conditioner, I got both. On my return to the house, she looked in the bag and asked, “Ty, where is my dark chocolate?” It took a moment to realize that I had made a grievous error… 

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