How one trip to a familiar destination changed my views of Dove Springs
Story & Photos Provided By: Betsy Fessler
We received an impromptu invitation from friends to meet and ride at Dove Springs. Truthfully, I felt lukewarm about going. We have visited that area many times before and are familiar with the trails, so I thought it would be boring. We agreed to go though, because we enjoy the group and had never actually camped at Dove Springs before. It was an opportunity to see what it is all about.
The Dove Springs OHV area is 10 miles north of the Jawbone Canyon OHV area off of Highway 14. Red Rock Canyon State Park is between the two, which is known for its amazingly colorful and unique rock formations. The two combined, in addition to the vast acres of riding on the east side of Highway 14 make for many hundreds of miles of trails to explore.
In my previous experience, Dove Springs was an area that we drove through while traveling from Jawbone Canyon to destinations like Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel or the talc mines. We would pass by “the bowl,” a popular camping spot at the base of a huge hill climb. Every time we drove through, it was noisy and busy, and there was a perpetually hanging dust cloud. I never understood why anyone would camp there.
After traveling seven hours, we were the last ones in our group to show up. Our group leader dropped us a pin to find our camp spot. It was dead accurate. We turned off of Highway 14 onto the entrance to Dove Springs. Thankfully the roads to camp were present on Google Maps, leading us right to the group.
Our arrival couldn’t have been more perfect. As we drove up, the rest of the group were just returning from a ride. After setting up camp and having dinner, we social distanced around the fire and talked about the next day’s ride. It was a treat to have someone else plan the trip and our rides. That is usually my role. But again, I felt sure that I was going to ride on the same ole’ trails, and see all of the things I had seen before.
I was so wrong.
Ready to ride at 10:00 AM, we suited up and headed east of camp to the El Paso Mountains. Our first stop was the famous Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel. Burro Schmidt was a gold miner who used dynamite and hand tools to dig a half mile long tunnel through a mountain in search of gold. It took him 38 years and he never struck it rich. Today, visitors bring flashlights and enjoy walking through the cool tunnel. A beautiful view of a valley below greets you when you emerge from the other end.
Continuing our ride eastward, we visited a neat old cabin with yet another panoramic view of valleys below. I had never been there. Driving even further east we drove through The Narrows – a place that in all the years I have visited the area that I have also never seen. I was pretty pumped as it was a long, fast and fun canyon that continued for miles.
Our next stop was a brief break to check out the Apache Mine, then on to Sheep Springs. Sheep Springs is an area sprinkled with ancient Indian petroglyphs. I had been to Sheep Springs several times before, but this time one of our group members brought my attention to an indian grinding stone on top of the hill that was surrounded by a circle of rocks. It was yet another new and cool thing that I had never seen. We logged 75 miles of “firsts” that day and had a lot of fun.
I was eager to go on the next day’s ride. We were going to Indian Wells Brewing, which I always enjoy. But before the brewery, our group leader took us to yet another location that I’d never seen. We toured the Nadeau-Magnolia Mine. It is a gold mine that was in operation in the early to mid-1900’s. Now under BLM management, a handful of blocked mine shafts, a few well-preserved buildings, and lots of old equipment and vehicles are on site to explore.
Leaving the mine, Indian Wells Brewing was not too far away. We didn’t waste any time getting there. We all brought lunches to eat on their patio. But when we arrived, we learned that there is a new business on the property. Uncle Virgil’s Burgers was open and serving. Burgers sounded way better than anything we brought to eat, so we all ordered and ate burgers for lunch instead. They were really good.
We couldn’t leave without shopping at the brewery. It is always fun to peruse all of the many interesting Rocket Fizz Soda flavors like Buffalo Wing, Barf, and Bacon. They have cool T-shirts too. And, of course we had to buy beer to enjoy responsibly back at camp.
My series of firsts didn’t stop that day. On the way back to camp I requested to stop by Robbers Roost, another place I had never seen. I was interested in Robbers Roost because it is a huge rock outcropping that was used by outlaws in the 1800’s to hide out and rob passing wagons. Today, you can hike and climb on it. Robbers Roost is closed to traffic from February 1-July 1 every year as it is a nesting site for birds of prey.
The next day we spent a lot of time enveloped in the dramatic geology of Red Rock Canyon State Park. There are several trails available for UTV’s to access the park. Iron Canyon is one of them. Iron Canyon is my favorite because it leads you through vibrantly colored and deeply carved sandstone formations that are breathtaking. It feels like you are at a grand nature-made cathedral.
Big perks go out to our group leader for enabling me to be a follower instead of a leader that weekend. Because of her, I quickly learned that Dove Springs has a lot to offer. There are roomy camp spots, easily accessible by groups with large rigs. Also, it is central not only to many of the popular riding destinations in the area, but also a handful that I had never seen.
In the beginning, I was not very enthused about going to Dove Springs. I wasn’t sure why people would camp there. I didn’t think I would see anything that I hadn’t already seen.
I was so wrong.