Sunday, April 8, 2012

Picketpost Mountain

We have been hearing about Picketpost Mountain for a while now. Honestly, I don't know why we didn't go sooner. It has a rich history, gorgeous views and it's only 40 miles east of Phoenix. I hope you enjoy reading about it and hope you get the chance to go there yourself sometime.


Just west of the historic town of Superior, Arizona you will find Picketpost Mountain. Dominating a landscape of rock outcrops and canyons, Picketpost is hard miss. The area is a hiker’s paradise, a photographer’s dream and set an amazing backdrop for our day. This area is also known to be rich in Perlite and Obsidian.

Traveling east on Interstate 60, approaching Superior from the west, we pass the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, the largest and oldest botanical garden in Arizona (worth the time if you get a chance to visit). The first right after passing the Arboretum is Picketpost Road, the second is unmarked (both private drives), and the third is Perlite Road.

We took the 3rd right onto Perlite Road. The cattle guard just off the road looks a little daunting, though it is solid. There is room to park your vehicle here if you are not sure you’ll have enough clearance; the road ahead is unmaintained and a bit rough (more on the road in the next section). No worry though, if you do park near the entrance, the hike is only about a half to three fourths of a mile from the cattle guard. The scenery is amazing and quite worth the hike as you can appreciate the painterly views.

Trust me, it gets much rougher.
Driving beyond the cattle guard the road is slightly rocky with some ruts and mounds, though easy enough for our 2wd Xterra. A little narrow in spots, and we acquired a few more scratches from the cactus and thorny brush.

At the top of the hill, the road forks, or rather it did at one time. The left fork has been gated and blocked. This used to serve as access to the rather large excavations on the east side, and a couple small ones on the west side of the mountain. The right fork of the road continues on a short distance and then forks again. We did not travel beyond this point in the truck, but the right fork dead ends about 1000 feet ahead and the left fork continues about 1500 feet to the edge of a ridge.

The area is a lush desert with beautifully sculpted buttes. The way the sun bounces light in and through the canyon throughout the day creates some great photo ops. Wildflowers are abundant in a variety of colors this time of year. Whether you are an expert or novice photographer, you are sure to get at least a few nice shots. The landscapes provide very rich panoramas and vibrant macro opportunities. If it is already getting too warm for you to visit this spring, the colors pop in the fall as well.

Picketpost Mountain, originally called Tordillo Mountain is a significant Arizona landmark. During the Indian Wars it served as a lookout for the Calvary. Nearby Apache Leap is where the Apaches retreated to during an attack. Rather than surrender, be captured, or die at the hands of their enemies, they chose to plunge to their deaths over the cliff. The legend says the Apache women and the lovers of those who had died gathered a short distance from the base of the cliff where the sands were white, and for a moon they wept for their dead. They mourned greatly, for they realized that not only had their 75 brave Apache warriors died, but with them had died the great fighting spirit of the Pinal Apaches. Their sadness was so great, and their burden of sorrow so sincere that the Great Father imbedded into black stones the tears of the Apache women who mourned their dead. These black obsidian stones, when held to the light, reveal the translucent tear of the Apache.

Perlite matrix with visible "Tears"
"Apache Tears," Obsidian Nodules
Picketpost Mountain is littered with Apache Tears. They form in a perlite matrix. Perlite is a white to grey, glassy, flaky rock that is easy to break. It’s texture is like spun glass and when working with it gloves and eye protection are recommended. If you find some large chunks of perlite along your trek, it might be worth breaking it apart. Some have noticeable black nodules (tears) among the light grey perlite. The matrix breaks away rather easily with a hammer and chisel, or flat screwdriver. Be gentle though obsidian is fragile and the tears will break easily. Work away from where you suspect the tears to be. And if that is more effort than you wish then don't worry, there are plenty of tears to be had on the ground all around this area.

Apache tears are said to be good luck to those who possess them. They say that if you have one you would never have to cry again, as the Apache women shed their tears in place of yours. The metaphysical properties of obsidian are emotional balance and protection from being taken advantage of. When worn it is thought to bring success in business. And some use it to produce clear vision and increased psychic ability.

References and Links (obsidian)

First People

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