Becher, L.A. Daily News outdoor writer and photographer
went to Bodie with us. Read what he wrote about the trip. Click
the photo to link to the story.
God, to Bodie and Golden Leaves trips,
Sept. 2004. Click the
photo to go to the gallery
the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.
Don't have a 4X and want to
visit historic sites in Eastern California?
Capture the spirit of the past as it comes alive with true tales of pioneer families, prospectors, muleskinners, hero's and gunslingers. Listen to legends of lost gold, found wealth and superstitions.
Journey back in time with Terri Geissinger - Historian, Interpreter and Guide
Click on Terri's yellow van for Terri's
Ghost Town Tours or
contact Terri by clicking here:
Benton Fremont's Christmas Fairyland
Cecile Page Vargo
As a child, the daughter of
United States Senator Thomas Hart Benton was among the many
fortunate children invited to attend the grand Christmas party thrown by
Count Alexander de la Bodisco, the Russian minister to the United
States. The night was snowy, and only beacon lights marked the path as
one approached the hill to the Count's large and elegant house, as they
did not yet have gas lights. In front of the house was an empty square
with huge bonfires lit for the drivers of the guests coaches to warm
themselves by. Once inside the house, Jessie Benton and her friends were
treated to what she later described as "fairyland", with every
room up to the third floor full of "wonderful red and gold swings,
tables covered with toys, games, picture books, dolls, and stacks of
little satin bags with 'Bon-Bons' in gilt letters." The dressing
room was full of boxes complete with little white kid gloves, pretty
fans, and bolts of colors of light ribbons. It was every child's dream
of Christmas in the early 1800's.
circa 1835. She was the daughter of U.S. Senator Thomas Hart
A Suitable House
At the age of 17, Jessie
Benton met and fell in love with John C. Fremont,
who became famous as the "Great Pathfinder" who blazed
trails across the North American continent from St. Louis
. Once those trails
were blazed, the couple settled in California, far from the East
Coast where Jessie had experienced the "fairyland" Christmas
of her childhood. Following a summer in a cramped cottage, Jessie turned
down the offer to stay in two story brick housing near San Francisco, while a
"suitable" house would be built near her husband's mining
claims near Mariposa.
It was only two weeks before Christmas, and there was much
to be done to the cottage on twelve fenced in acres with park-like
grounds of native grass and wildflowers, well laid out paths and a carriage driveway. Flowering shrubs,
noble evergreen oaks, and towering pine trees provided a natural
landscape on the property. In the garden and on sunny slopes surrounding
the cottage, the fragrance of pink
rose of Castile
was everywhere. The
one story cottage was roomy, but not enough so for the Fremont
family needs and
The Madam's Christmas-Box
As first order of business, Jessie Benton Fremont oversaw
workmen with ox-teams to move several large one room cabins from
elsewhere on their property, so they could be attached to the main
cottage. Her husband's bookkeeper had picked the men to do the job. A
grizzled man from Maine
who hauled the wood
for the mills looked much like Kriss Kringle with his gray beard and
bunched clothes, as he worked with his long team of oxen. A carpenter
directed where the planks
and shingles should be placed. Men who sewed sacks for the ores were on
hand to make new carpets and curtains once everything was put together.
Our Tours with
Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures
Our 2004 tour schedule is
we're doing some less
Please check back for our 2005 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 16
years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the
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
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.
Roger, Cecile and Marty