Dean M. Chriss
Superstition Mountains, Arizona, Springtime Sunset
(Click image to enlarge)
You have probably heard or the Superstition mountains. Most of their notoriety
comes from the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine. According to the legend, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz
discovered a mother lode of gold in the Superstition Wilderness and revealed its
location on his deathbed in Phoenix in 1891 to Julia Thomas, a boarding-house
owner who had taken care of him for many years. Several mines have been claimed
to be the actual mine that Waltz discovered, but none of those claims have been
verified. Waltz was a miner at Vulture Mine, where he likely stole the gold and
came up with the secret mine to explain his theft.
Some Apaches believe that the
hole leading down into the lower world, or hell, is located in the Superstition
Mountains. On one visit my wife and I were sitting in our vehicle in a roadside
pull-off. I noticed a full sized panel van whizzing down the road and
slowing abruptly as it passed our pull-off. A few minutes later it came back,
obviously having made a U-turn. The van parked perhaps 50 feet (15m) from us. I didn't think much about it until the driver, a very old Apache woman,
exited the van and came to our passenger window, where my wife was sitting.
She spoke what I assumed was Apache, but with some English words like "kill"
and "die" interspersed. I'm sure we had very puzzled looks on our faces. Then she
asked in English, "If someone asked you to kill someone, would you do it?" We were pretty freaked out at this point, and before either of us
could say anything she asked if I would come to help her fix her van, which seemed to be running fine when
drove by turned around, and pulled into her
parking spot. I immediately drove off and left her standing there.
Strange encounters notwithstanding, these mountains look like
anything but an entrance to the underworld when they are surrounded by a sea
of blooming brittlebush. The Superstition Mountains occupy one corner of the
160,200 acre (64831 ha) Superstition Wilderness. The mountain range has a
maximum elevation of 6,266 ft (1,910 m) and prominence of 1,706 ft (520 m)
at Mound Mountain in the far eastern section of the range.