December 2005 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




Mojave Expedition (11-12-05) photo gallery--Click the photo to go to the gallery



Burro Schmidt's

Tunnel Update

Burro Schmidt's "Famous Tunnel" now has a group of "friends" trying to preserve and protect the site.   

Click the photo to visit  their Website.



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

Cerro Gordo now has its own Web site. Click the link below to visit.


Join us at the Nevada Boom Town History Conference, Feb. 3-5, 2006 in Amargosa, Nevada.  Click the drawing for details.




The Panamint Breeze is a new publication highlighting the history and legends California and Nevada.  

Click on the logo for details.



Exploring California 's Early Christmas Past:

Before and After The Gringos

 by Cecile Page Vargo

          Know then, that on the right hand of the Indies, there is an island called California, very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise, and it was peopled by black women, without any man among them for they lived in the fashion of the Amazons. They were of strong and hardy bodies, of ardent courage and great force. Their island was the strongest in all the world, with its steep cliffs and rocky shores. Their arms were all of gold, and so was the harness of the wild beasts which they tamed and rode. For in the whole island, there was no metal but gold.  

          Thus wrote Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo in The Adventures of Esplandiam, which was published in Madrid , Spain in 1510. This romantic science fiction novel more than likely inspired the Spanish conquest of the golden state of California , although they were slow about doing so. In spite of the promise of Amazon women and gold riches, it would be another 25 years before Hernando Cortez would land in and explore the area. Yet another seven years would go by before Portuguese born sailor, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, would set foot in what we now know as the harbor of San Diego , under the flag of Spain

Corneille Wytfliet. Granata Nova et California. Lovanii, 1597-Maps of the Pimería Early Cartography of the Southwest

Image courtesy of:

            While the timeline of our state's history shows other explorations, it took another 227 years before Europeans actually settled in what was known as Alta California . Therefore, we find no mention of  the Christmas celebrations of any kind until Governor Gaspar de Portola sets out for his search for Monterey in 1769. We can thank Franciscan Father Juan Crespi for diaries that he kept while accompanying the Governor on his explorations.

          December 24, 1769 :  On this day before Christmas...we set out in the morning on the same road by which we came…The march covered three leagues, and we halted on the same spot as on the 10th of September, which was in the valley of El Osito de San Buenaventura . It was God's will that we should celebrate the "Nativity" joyfully, which was done in this way: more than two hundred heathen of both sexes came to visit us in this place, bringing us Christmas gifts, for many of them came with good baskets of pinole and some fish, with which everybody supplied himself, so that we had something with which to celebrate Christmas Day. Blessed be the providence of God, who succors us more than we deserve! These gifts were returned with beads, which pleased them greatly.

          December 25,1769 :  On this day of the "Nativity of Our Lord" we could not celebrate in any other manner than by saying Mass….The cold is so biting that it gives us good reason to meditate upon what the infant Jesus, who was born this day in Bethlehem , suffered for us. We made three leagues and a half, and went to stop a little farther to the south of the estuary of Santa Serafina, close to a small village of Indian fishermen, from whence a great deal of fish was obtained in exchange for beads, with which all provided themselves. So we celebrated Christmas with this dainty, which tasted better to everyone than capons and chickens had tasted in other places, because of the good sauce of San Bernardo hunger which all had in abundance.

Captain Juan Bautista de Anza (Courtesy National Park Service)

A Christmas Baby in Coyote Canyon

          It is not until six years later, during the winter of 1775 that we see mention of the blessed holiday once again in the annals of California history. Journey with us back in time as we travel with Captain Juan Bautista de Anza and a party of 240 persons, which included 30 soldiers, 29 of which had their wives accompanying them, four colonist families, and a total of 115 children. Our intrepid explorers also took 355 head of cattle and 450 saddle horses and pack mules. They traveled  from Sonora , Mexico , to Monterey , California . As the Christmas season came to pass, the de Anza party found themselves on a cold and foggy day in Coyote Canyon which is located in present day Riverside County . Somewhere during their travels from  the southern Arizona presidio of Tubac and Coyote Canyon three more children had been born, and one woman had died. It was Christmas Eve, and the soldiers enjoyed brandy that was given to them by their commander.

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Tour Information

We're back on the road again! 

Click on the photo for our preliminary 2006 schedule details.

Thanks to all who joined us on our dirt road travels.

Please contact us at for additional information or reservations.

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 contact us at:

     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 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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