Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Finding the Treasures at Lost Dutchman

We have spent the last two weeks at Lost Dutchman State Park east of Phoenix, Arizona. It was recommended by our friends, Joanne and Gary,  and we are grateful to join up with them to find the "treasure" ... the natural beauty of our surrounding and the gift of friendship.

Located in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park offers spacious campsites, scenic hiking paths, and educational nature programs. The state park derives its name from the most famous "lost gold mine" legend in American history. The legend involves the location of Jacob Waltz's rich gold mine that is supposedly hidden somewhere in the Superstition Mountains. Nicknamed the Lost Dutchman, Jacob left clues and maps that many hoped would lead to the treasure. But in the 125 years since his death, none of the thousands of gold diggers have been successful in their search. 

The treasure of gold remains hidden, while we, along with other park visitors, enjoy the TREASURES of Lost Dutchman's natural beauty. 

Finding the Treasure of Wonderful hiking

Once again, Joanne and I had many opportunities to get our 10,000 steps in each day as we walked up and down the desert mountain paths. 

We often felt even shorter than we already are when passing under the majestic saguaro and ocotillo cacti during our daily walks. 

But our hikes paled in comparison to Doug's EPIC hike up to the top of the top of the peak in the middle of this picture. He and a fellow camper, Blake, joined forces one day to climb to the top of the Flatiron

During the six mile round trip hike, they scaled up the 2080 foot trail elevation to enjoy panoramic views at the top of the Flatiron.

The six and half hour hike left them with sore muscles ... and serious bragging rights of having achieved something that few are able to achieve. Maybe if all his "fans" bug him enough, he will share the story and pictures of his Flatiron triumph in a future blog entry! 

Finding the Treasure of Nature Programs

Lost Dutchman's park rangers did an excellent job of presenting interesting nature programs on various topics during our stay.

The Medicinal Plant Walk introduced us to the desert plants as well as taught us some of the ways these plants are used to nourish and heal.

Some fun facts to know:

A mush made from the crushed Prickly Pear and Barrel Cactus and applied to the wound can help relieve the pain of snake bites.

The sap from the Brittle Bush makes an excellent chewing gum and actually helps treat toothaches.

The leaves from the Mesquite Tree can be ground up and used as a "neosporin-type" cream to heal wounds.

And for all my nurse friends, this plant produces the seeds that make up a familiar medication ... yes, the seeds of the desert Senna plant are responsible for keeping our patients "regular".

And saving the best for last, fun facts about my favorite, the Giant Saguaro. This desert beauty can weigh 10-15 tons ... because it is 98% water. It soaks up rain with its shallow roots and stores it in its "ribs" for future use. We could actually notice some "swelling" from the water it took in after one all-night rain. The Saguaro grows very slowly ... only about 1 to 3 inches a year. It grows its first "arm" at about 75 years of age and can live to be 200 years old. 

We also learned about the wonders of the night desert animals and the winter sky during the "Full Moon Hike". It is always amazing to hear the howl of the coyotes at night, and even more thrilling to see one cross our road and disappear in the brush before Doug could get a picture.

I was introduced to the fine art of desert bird watching and identification during the Bird Walk lead by Babs, our friendly and knowledgable park volunteer.

Not sure I can tell you this bird's name, but I did have a great time listening to his song as I tryed to capture his photo.

Finding the Treasure of Sightseeing Phoenix Style

Yes, Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, so you know what that means ... another photo op in front of the capitol building!

Inside the capitol building, we found a memorial to the USS Arizona commemorating the 75th anniversary of the bombing at Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the Arizona. Along with artifacts from the ship, names and stories were shared of the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Venturing further into downtown Phoenix, we were intrigued to see the festive city square complete with Santa surrounded by palm trees and an outdoor skating rink.

Another evening we enjoyed a walk around the Phoenix Zoo during their annual Zoo Lights Holiday celebration. Hundreds of thousands of lights brightened up the walkways as we strolled through the zoo.

Although most of the zoo's inhabitants were tucked away for the night, creative Lego creatures greeted us.

From the brightly lit cacti to the huge Christmas tree to the festive music and light shows, it was a wonderful way to get into the Christmas spirit while enjoying the warmth of the desert.

Other fun sightseeing opportunities included a visit to the Superstition Mountain Museum and the Goldfield Ghost Town.

Joanne and I convinced our husbands to come with us to check out what the 1500+ venders at Mesa Market Place Swap Meet have to sell. It was no great surprise that we found nothing that we need (except a purse ... a girl can always use another purse!),

We rewarded the boys for their patience at one of the local breweries. Beer Research Institute had both innovative beers served in cute science beakers and great food. 

Finding the Treasure of Reconnecting with Family and Friends

Thanks to wonders of social media, I am able to stay in touch with family and friends in other parts of the country. While in Phoenix I was grateful to visit with a former co-worker, Julie,

and my second cousin, Anne. I just love it when our travels bring us the treasure of sharing a meal, sharing laughs, and sharing memories!

Finding the Treasure of Fun Times

While many have searched for the Lost Dutchman's gold mine through the years, none have been as successful as we have been.

During our travels, we have found a treasure more tasty than ice cream,

more sweet than the Arizona citrus,

and more valuable than the Lost Dutchman's pile of gold.

We have found the gift of laughter and friendship,

... while sitting at the campfire in the middle of a beautiful desert.

Until next time ... cherish the treasures around you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!
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