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Indian Springs, Arizona

An Indian Hills Airpark Great Dune Buggy Outing

By Ron Kilber

November 2, 2000

A bunch of us in six off-road vehicles are roaring up a desert wash on our way from the Indian Hills Airpark to Indian Springs. John Hong is in the lead at the controls of his dune buggy (with Suzanne). The temperature is in the 60s, absolutely a beautiful day in Arizona's Outback. Dust is flying, rear ends fish-tailing and everyone is hanging on just in case control is lost. If a film crew were here cutting to various close-up and angle shots, each of us might pass for futuristic characters terrorizing the desert while on our way to some survival or war-game objective.

As I negotiate the wash and obstacles, I think of how off-road travel like this is really the ultimate video-game experience. Eat your hearts out, video arcade quarter-poppers!

As it is, we're only on our way to have lunch at a place where prisoners once were forced to cut granite used to build the historically famous Yuma Territorial Prison. Indian Springs is near Tank Pass, named and made famous by General George S. Patton who trained commanders for tank warfare during WWII. Indian Springs is about five miles northwest of Salome, Arizona.

I only found out about this outing about an hour ago -- when I hadn't had breakfast yet. I had to decide between real potatoes and eggs or four-wheeling down a dusty wash. Well, here I am -- without breakfast and hungry -- and none the worse for all the fun I'm having.

As we near our destination, a voice on the CB says McDonalds is dead-ahead. Someone else comments about a French-fry attack (artery-plugging food). Me, I'll be happy with my peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. It's what's for lunch. Let's eat!

As we enjoy our sack lunch, the vantage point from Indian Springs is gorgeous. The altitude is considerably above that of the airpark, so each of us has a bird's-eye view of much of the McMullen Valley and farms below. We're probably the only humans around within seventy square miles or more. No pollution. No noise. No low-lifers.

No one wants to sit on their duff after eating. Revived and energized, some of us embark on a pilgrimage in search of the springs, which this place is supposedly named after. Howard Smith leads the way, climbing up and up a wash with polished granite and huge boulders. The rest of us follow, helping each other where we can. This is no longer just a hike, but travel over fourth-class terrain, meaning all-fours are required to guard against a fall that potentially could be fatal.

Indian Springs Climbing
Ernie Wright helping Vera Wright over the crux. Yours truly watching. (Picture by Suzanne Hong)

After Howard, Ernie and I gain considerable altitude, we find no running water in sight. So we retreat to the group we left midway, content that there's always another day to explore and find the "springs".

There are interesting rock formations at the Indian Springs parking area. For one, there's a large hollow under a huge, three-story boulder, which was used to house prisoners. A make-shift concrete wall in front provided security.

Nearby are remnants of rock cut for block. Dynamite holes in the stone are everywhere to remind how the granite was split.

Higher up are interesting perches that seem from here to be a great challenge for a rock climber. They're not Yosemite- or Devils Tower-class stuff, but nonetheless intriguing. Afteral, the rock is granite.

While this is a beautiful, remote and serene place to visit, Indian Springs is a sad spectacle today. Beautiful granite rock faces are infested with graffiti. You know: "Jim +Linda was here"...that kind of stuff spray-painted everywhere. Worse, there's litter all around: beer cans, pop bottles, candy wrappers, etc. What ever happened to the "Don't be a litterbug" campaign? Where do all these creeps come from today? We've more media today than during post-WWII days to deliver the message, yet we have more slobs trashing the environment than ever. We don't need freeway shooters, we need litterbug shooters.

Nonetheless, it's been an enjoyable day.

The trip home is every bit as much fun, though trickier. Gravity aids travel down the wash, which has plenty of bumps and obstacles that can be downright dangerous when moving too fast, not to mention the guy in front if you're following to closely.

No one wants a good thing to end. When we arrive at Route 60, rather than taking the short-cut home, leader Hong prolongs the fun with the back country route via the old Salome Airport. A lone turbine-powered crop duster sits on a trail between the dirt strip and Salome. Its pilot might well be having a late lunch in the nearby Restaurant.

It's been another great day for some from the Indian Hills Airpark. It certainly was worth it to miss breakfast.

Group Pic
Today's participants: (Picture by Suzanne Hong)

Bob & Terry "RV-6" Bumgardner
Art "Twin-Comanche" Anderson
Ron "C-150" Kilber
Ernie & Vera "Luscombe" Wright
John & Suzanne "Glasair" Hong
Howard (not pictured) & Marjorie "Mooney" Smith

Copyright (C) 2000 Ron Kilber Non-commercial reproduction permitted in its entirety with this copyright notice intact.

7:20PM 11/3/00

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