The Superstition Mountains ride the horizon east of Phoenix like the old spine of a dying stegosaurus, the broken skeleton of upturned Earth baked to a hard and leathery brown beneath the white-hot aura of the sun. In the warm, early morning light of December, the mountains look like serrated terracotta, their dusty brown slopes rising two thousand feet above the basin below like supersized mining spoils of shattered clay pottery. Driving up to them from several miles off, its easy to imagine at first glance that the mountains- a landscape seemingly parched, void of water, endlessly exposed to the suns ruthless gaze- are inconducive to life. But to believe such a thing is to be deluded.
There are cacti and birds, lizards and snakes, smokecolored herds of pronghorns and mule deer. If you go far enough up into these high and forlorn hills, you can even find remnants of former human life.