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Monday, February 25, 2013

Wildflowers of the wild west

Superstition Wilderness
corral at Whitlow Canyon

Fairy Duster
Early spring brings a magical transition to the Superstition Wilderness.  It's a time when winter-worn shrubs and the gray stubble of last year's flora make a yawning renewal.  Right now, the craggy, hilly terrain is awash in splendor-hinting shades of green with the first of the early blooming wildflowers already beginning to show on sunny side of the mountains.  Although most any trail in the Superstitions would be good for viewing wildflowers, the routes leaving from the Peralta trailhead are particularly productive due to the way water rolls down from hoodoo edged ridgelines over loose-soil slopes before settling into deeply incised canyons where mesquite and Palo verde trees play nurse maid to myriad fragile perennials.  For our first wildflower hike of the year, we selected a mostly unshaded route to catch the early bloomers. This week we observed spotty specimens of wild hyacinth, fiddleneck, scorpion weed, buckwheat, brittlebush, red maids, filaree and Mexican gold poppies.  Best of all, an abundant crop of sprouts teased for a better-than-average wildflower season to come. Color was best along the Dutchman's Trail, especially where riparian life zones thrive around lingering pools of water.  At 2.6 miles, we turned onto the Coffee Flat Trail with the goal of visiting the mesquite bosque and old stock corral at Whitlow Canyon. The corral is a collection of knotted barbed wire and rusty signs drenched in rugged old west character.  Before heading back the way we came, we took a break beneath a twisted mesquite tree surrounded by greenery that will soon burst into fields of golden poppies .
Water on the Dutchman's Trail

From the Peralta trailhead, begin hiking east on Dutchman's Trail #104.  At 2.6 miles veer right at the signed junction for Coffee Flat Trail # 108.  Follow #108 for 1.7 miles to the prominent wash of Whitlow Canyon, cross the wash and within a few yards, look for a cairned "Y" intersection.  Take the right fork to get to the corral. See "more photos" for images of these unsigned waypoints.

LENGTH:  9.2 miles roundtrip
RATING:  easy- moderate
ELEVATION:  2287' - 2680'
FACILITIES: restrooms
From Phoenix, travel east on US60 to Apache Junction.  Continue roughly 8 miles to Peralta Road (FR77) located between mileposts 204 and 205.  There’s also a sign indicating "Peralta Trailhead". Turn left and follow Peralta Road 7.2 miles to the trailhead. 
INFO: Mesa Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 480-610-3300

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