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2014 Trip Report - El Paso Mountains Trip

El Paso Mountains Trip

Saturday, June 7

By: Nelson Miller

Just four vehicles met at Jawbone Ranger Station on Hwy. 14 on Saturday morning for an interesting day trip through the El Paso Mountains. Two new members, Jerry and Dolly Dupree joined Neal and Marian Johns, Gary Preston and myself. We took a quick tour of the Ranger Station, which opened at 9:00 a.m. They have a nice selection of maps of the local area available for sale.

     We headed north on Hwy. 14 through Red Rock Canyon State Park, which has some beautiful rock formations. First stop was the Old Dutch Cleanser mine, which has large open shafts, covered with very fine white pumicite. I took a quick walk about 0.2 miles along the ridge since Neal said there used to be some machinery over there. I saw the bottom half of a huge engine block but rushed back to join the group. Jerry did some research after the trip which indicated that there was a 475-foot long, inclined railway that took the mined materials to the bottom of Last Chance Canyon where it was trucked out. Next time we will have to explore further! The mine was operated from 1923 to 1947 according to Jerry’s information.

    On the way to Bonanza Gulch we made a quick stop at Holly Mine, which appears to be another large pumicite mine with some equipment and foundations still remaining. Bonanza Gulch was an active mining community in the 1890’s. The area was again active during the 1930’s during the depression. There is a post office building dating from the 1930’s which was rehabilitated by the BLM in 2006. There are a number of other cabins in the Gulch, mostly built in the 1940’s to 1950’s. We continued on to Bickel Camp, which is the best preserved camp in the area. A group of volunteers preserve memories of Walt Bickel, who lived here from the 1930’s until 1987. A fascinating place, with lots of old equipment. Final stop in this area was the Burro Schmidt Tunnel. Burro Schmidt staked his claim here in 1906 and spent 32 years digging by hand a 0.8-mile tunnel all the way through the hill. It is a nice, cool walk through the tunnel on a hot desert day.

     From this area, we headed east toward Mesquite Canyon Road. Where we intersected Mesquite Canyon Road, is Gerbracht Camp. Nothing is left but a concrete slab. Neal says he remembers in the 1980’s when a gal used to live out here. Apparently, she shot at people who trespassed too much. Neal said he remembered reading that she was taken away and placed in an institution. Apparently there were a number of structures and trailers here which were all demolished and removed by the BLM.

     We headed north on Mesquite Canyon Road, skirting along the east edge of the Wilderness Area toward Sheep Springs. This road was pretty rocky and slow-going, especially on a hot day which was up near 100 degrees. At Sheep Springs there are quite an abundance of petroglyphs, but everyone felt it was too hot to explore too much. Gary walked up the hill with me to check out a 20-foot diameter rock circle on the top of the ridge. I am always fascinated by these “rock alignments” and would like to find out more. I often wonder just how old they are and what was their purpose? This area was apparently occupied by the Kaiwasu from perhaps 100 AD to historic times. Our final stop was a concrete tank just a quarter mile down the road. A few years ago this was still being maintained by Quail Unlimited, but it was dry and abandoned.

     We headed for pavement and end of our trip in the late afternoon.


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