August 2004 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts








Monache Meanderings tour (camping). August 14-16. Click on image for details.


By God, to Bodie! tour (motel or camp). Sept.  11-13     


Golden Leaves and Golden Trails tour (motel or camp). Sept.  18-20  Click on images for details.

Click here for information on all our 2004 tours.


Land of Volcanoes

trip, June 2004. Click the photo

Click on the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.


Lulu Waplehorst, the First White Bride of Cerro Gordo

by Cecile Page Vargo

         For days, the young people of the silver town of Cerro Gordo scoured the mountainsides for what native wildflowers and shrubbery they could find late in the month of August of 1875, so they could fill the American Hotel with their glory. By Wednesday, the 25th, the hall nearly burst with most of the residents of Cerro Gordo, Independence and Darwin. Young women who traveled from the two  towns below the hill were allowed to use the private rooms to change into their dresses which matched the most popular fashion of the day. The daughter of Mrs. Margaret Lewis of the hotel, now stood amongst the green background. She wore a fine white dotted Swiss gown adorned with a large blue ribbon sash. She was frightened, yet happy and excited. Her groom and his co-hearts from Camp Independence stood out in their military attire.  Soft music played in the background as the very young Lulu Lewis and Al Waplehorst exchanged their vows.  

The American Hotel, built in 1871, as it stands in Cerro Gordo today.

            Gala music and dancing went on through daybreak. A painted stagecoach decorated with white ribbon bows waited to whisk the new Mr. & Mrs. Waplehorst and their entire bridal party down the mountain. The 6 horses were spirited and tore down the Yellow Grade Road only to have the harness separate as they were halfway to their destination. There was some speculation that it was not an accident, but a wedding prank, but no one really knew for sure. Regardless, the entire wedding party was stalled in their coach, while the horses galloped back up to the mining town on the top of the hill. Luckily, a Louie Munsinger Brewery wagon came along and rescued everyone. The Judge of Inyo County, the bridesmaids, and other Cerro Gordo notables climbed onto empty beer kegs. The bride and groom followed suit. They made quite a site as they swayed and jolted and giggled down the steep and winding grade.         

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Cerro Gordo and Its Ladies
by Maggie Moore Vargo

              Hi! Iím Maggie Moore, the new member of Explore Historic California. Havenít done a lot of exploring yet as I am way too young to go out much and havenít had all of my puppy shots yet.

            But that gives me lots of time to read up on who I am named after, and the place she lived in. Papa Jake (who you guys know better as Poor Little Jake) is teaching me how to write like he does, so hereís my first try:

            All I ever hear my human Mommy talk about is this place called Cerro Gordo. She says Cerro Gordo means ďFat HillĒ, because the mountain was so rich with silver. Some important guys like Mortimer Belshaw and Victor Beaudry owned the big mines up there in the mid to late 1800ís. Another guy named Remi Nadeau owned real big wagons pulled by a whole lot of mules. These wagons and mules took silver bricks from Cerro Gordo to Los Angeles, then came back to Cerro Gordo with supplies for the town. My family just barely lives in Los Angeles and weíre about 4 hours away from Cerro Gordo driving our comfy 4Runner. But in the 1800ís in Mr. Nadeauís wagons, it took days!  Longest ride Iíve ever had is 2 hours from my birth home in Apple Valley, to my permanent home here in Tujunga. That trip to Cerro Gordo must have really been something back in the really old days!

            Cerro Gordo was mainly a mining town and most of the people living there were men. There were some families that lived up there, but there was never a real school or a church, or even a newspaper. Other than the buildings that were used for mining stuff, there were mainly bunkhouses, little mining shacks, hotels, saloons, dancehalls, assay offices, general stores for supplies. The men that lived up there worked hard in the mines all day then spent their money in the saloons and dancehalls afterwards. Since many of them didnít have any families and were lonely they spent a lot of time in places like The Waterfall owned by the lady that I am named after, Madam Maggie Moore. The Waterfall was at the entrance to town. At the other end of town a lady named Lola Travis ran a place called Lolaís Palace of Pleasure. These places were really popular with the miners, but I guess decent folks, particularly married women, didnít like these places so much.

Maggie (with red neckerchief) poses with Cecile and Robin outside Lola's Palace of Pleasure at Cerro Gordo.


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Hizhonor Visits the Owens Valley  

by Roger Vargo

James Hahn, the Mayor of Los Angeles, ventured northward to the wide open spaces of Inyo and Mono Counties July 22-23. Hahn was on a two-day journey to hear feedback from local residents about his proposal to create a conservation easement that would bar future development on more than 300,000 acres of Owens Valley land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

The LADWP acquired land ownership and water rights in the early 1900's in connection with the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct 1906-1913. Development on LADWP lands has been minimal since that time.

Hahn's visit included meetings with local environmental groups, ranchers, politicians and Indian tribal leaders. "I don't think any solution about protecting DWP lands should be made without involvement of the stakeholders who live and work and have roots here," Hahn said. "That would be arrogant in the extreme."

At the conclusion of his tour, Hahn said he had no preferred plan and indicated the process would take "as long as it takes."

Hahn is running for a second term as Los Angeles' Mayor on the November, 2004, ballot.

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn casts a line into the Owens River near Bishop, Calif. Hahn was on a two-day visit to the Owens Valley to hear residents' opinions on creation of a conservation easement that would limit development on Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Lands. With Hahn is local fishing expert, Dick Noles.



Our Tours with Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures

We're climbing into 2004!

Please check here  for our 2004 tour schedule.

Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway. Click your mouse through our website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them. If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your vehicle, please visit our ECOLOGICAL 4-WHEELING ADVENTURES.

     Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn. The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 15 years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the Owens Valley.

     Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size restrictions.

     Our tours are operated under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and other authorities.

     We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old cabin or deserted mountain lookout.

     California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the "Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore historic California.

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