Native Pima Indian legends inspired the name for The Superstition Mountains in the area. In the 1840s, the Peralta family of Northern Mexico mined massive amount of gold from the mountains… but on their last expedition to carry gold back to Mexico, the tale is told that they were ambushed by Apaches and all were killed save for two Peralta family members. Whispers of the mine’s location traveled far; purported maps were sold and resold. Those that sought the mine typically met with ruin — financial or mortal. In the 1870s, Jacob Waltz, “The Dutchman” albeit he was a native of Germany, claimed to have found the mine with the help of a Peralta descendant. Waltz and his partner Jacob Weiser worked the mine and hid caches of their gold at various places the Superstitions. Allegedly, Weiser was killed in an Apache raid… or perhaps Waltz did him in to take his share. Decades later, Waltz died in Phoenix and supposedly described the mine’s location via mysterious clues. But despite the attempts of many, many treasure hunters over the years, no one has found the Lost Dutchman Mine… and as before, many have met unfortunate ends… the superstitions and legends persist. Pop culture is rife with stories about and inspired by the ill-fated quests for the lost gold.
I write all of this because like those fool-hardy prospectors of old, I too sought the gold. The Lost Dutchman Marathon was a race I had done in 2015 and the area is beautiful. I thought a return attempt for the golden bling of the medal would be fun… and it was… to a point. But like those treasure hunters, I met an untimely demise in the Superstition Mountains. Not death… spoiler alert: I don’t die. Not physically. But metaphorically maybe. I don’t know if it’s the years or the extra weight I’ve found myself carrying these past few years or if it was just the toll 26.2 miles can take, but my body faltered and wavered in the closing miles. At least it was pretty. I mean, I wasn’t pretty. But the place was.
The race starts in the mountains and winds its way back down to Apache Junction. Warming fires, complete with yoga mat style carpet samples were setup before we moved to the start line proper. In the pre-race announcements, we heard the legend not of Jabob Waltz but of the Lost Dutchman Marathon. Twenty-three years ago, the race director and a running buddy were splitting a pitcher of beer and inspiration struck — they should stage their own marathon in the Phoenix area… but east of Phoenix. A second pitcher of beer later and they had settled on the idea of The Lost Dutchman and the Superstition Mountains. A third pitcher of beer and things got a bit murky. But the next morning, even a bit hungover, they knew they were on to something… after all, they had scribbled on a napkin the map for a marathon…
My photos never quite do the desert vistas justify — I’m no John Ford. I regrettably all too often have the horizon line at the center of the frame. I did now and again try and put the horizon line at the top or bottom of the frame but there’s more to being John Ford than that, ya know?
On the plus side, I did get to take a photo with the race mascots, even if it does feel like the setup to a joke: So a donkey, a prospector, and a jackass all walk into a bar…
I’m sore this morning as I type this. But I live to tell the tale.
And for you fortune seekers out there – here are Waltz’s clues to find his mine.
“From my mine you can see the military trail, but from the military trail you can not see my mine. The rays of the setting sun shine into the entrance of my mine. There is a trick in the trail to my mine. My mine is located in a north-trending canyon. There is a rock face on the trail to my mine.”
Me? I’ve got my own gold to pursue. The quest for 500 continues.