December 2010 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles



Cerro Gordo is again open to day visitors, road and weather conditions permitting.

A caretaker is living on on the site and visitors must check in before venturing around the ghost town.

No supplies or accommodations are available at Cerro Gordo and visitors should bring plenty of drinking water and haul out their own trash. The dirt road from Keeler to Cerro Gordo is a steep, eight mile ascent. Four wheel drive is not usually required, but vehicles should have adequate ground clearance.

Phone 760-876-5030 for current information or contact us through email at:

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our  logo depicting the California backcountry and its rich history both true and farce.

We now offer shirts, sweats, jerseys and cups with our logo.

Click the shirt for details!


Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support

Bodie Foundation
"Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past


Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


The Panamint Breeze is a newsletter for people who love the rough and rugged deserts and mountains of California and beyond.

Published by Ruth and Emmett Harder, it is for people who are interested in the history of mining in the western states; and the people who had the fortitude to withstand the harsh elements.

It contains stories of the past and the present; stories of mining towns and the colorful residents who lived in them; and of present day adventurers.

Subscriptions are $20 per year (published quarterly – March, June, September & December) Subscriptions outside the USA are $25 per year. All previous issues are available. Gift certificates are available also.

To subscribe mail check (made payable to Real Adventure Publishing) along with name, address, phone number & e-mail address to:  Real Adventure Publishing, 18201 Muriel Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92407.

For more information about the Panamint Breeze e-mail Ruth at:

It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.



Click on the bag to find out how.

Visit Michael Piatt's site,, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Terri Geissinger is a Bodie area Historian, Guide and Chautauquan. A long time resident who lives in Bodie and Smith Valley, she is dedicated to preserving stories of the pioneer families, miners, ranchers and teamsters. Click the photo for information on her tours with the Bodie Foundation.

Credo Quia Absurdum

Back to the past in California City--Wimpy's!

8209 California City Blvd.,
California City, 93505

Hey Brother,

Can 'Ya

Spare a Job?

The nation's economic downturn has severely affected the newspaper industry. My job of nearly 30 years was eliminated several months ago.

I'm actively looking for full or part time job opportunities within my diverse skill set.

If you have, or know of any openings, please contact me through this CONTACT  link.




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 the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.



Fremont's Second Expedition

Part II:  Rock Upon Rock, Snow Upon Snow

by Cecile Page Vargo

By the time John C. Fremont made his decision to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Sacramento Valley instead of heading back east as originally planned, his party was beginning to look a bit ragged.

Portrait of John C. Fremont, circa 1859.

(Library of Congress collection)

While the expedition had gone relatively smoothly as these things go, tough terrain, the onset of winter weather, and meager provisions had begun to take its course on both the animals and the men. The jaunt from Fort Vancouver to an open area near the present day site of the town of Reno had already cost the party 37 of the original 104 horses and mules.

Discouraging Indian warnings of rocky and snowy precipices failed to convince Fremont that his decision to forge ahead was not a good one. The dilapidation of animals, deteriorating horseshoes with no means to replace them, and the anticipation of a mere seventy mile crossing to Sutter’s Fort for supplies, looked more palatable to the entire party. In lighter weather, the journey would take no more than 6-7 days.

February 1, 1844, the ascent into the high country was to begin. Heavy falling snow mounted in the meadow where the men were encamped. Complaints of lack of substantial food in their bellies could be heard. The stock could not be spared until they were so worn down they could not travel and there was no game in sight anywhere. Two camp dogs and a stray picked up in Bear Valley proved to be in good shape with meat on them. Fremont gave approval for a dog feast. After the slaughter of one fat dog, the Washoe Indians showed up with a couple of snowshoe rabbits, which were purchased from them to make a fine meal.  

The following day arrived with frosty but clear air and a view of snow covered peaks towering six or seven thousand feet above revealed itself between rolling clouds. The Indian guide shook his head and was quick to point out icy pinnacles that shot up into the sky. Silently the men broke camp, and crossed a heavy iced river, as their journey into the Sierra Nevadas commenced.

Quickly, the trek through the snow deepened as the men made their ascent.  A party of ten of them mounted the ablest of horses, taking turns opening the road on foot or horseback until exhaustion set in. In spite of rough going, sixteen miles were traversed this day.  By the third day the going slowed to a mere seven miles, as they continued along steep hillsides and over spurs where good quality grass was exposed thanks to wind and sun. Upon reaching a stream at another basin, no more grass was found, and the rest of the day was spent beating down a road within a foot of a hill that was only a mile or two distant. Indians joined them on snow shoes during the day.

On February 4, Fremont and several of his men went on to break the road ahead. The hollow was abandoned for the steep mountainside, snow covered with crusty ice. Slowly they cut a footing, trampling a trail for the animals.  Still, an occasional horse or mule would plunge outside this trail and slide along the field to the bottom a hundred yards below.

That night, after laborious attempts to force a road, the best horses gave out, and brought everything to a stand still. The Indian guide told them they were just beginning to reach the deep snows. That evening, after the group with only the best horses succeeding to reach the hill, an unsheltered camp was set up, with a large fire around a the trunk of a huge pine to warm them. The men covered the snow with small boughs, and spread their blankets for a clear but strong winded night with temperatures down to 10 degrees. Two Indians joined them here, one an old man warning, “Rock upon rock- rock upon rock-snow upon snow- snow upon snow.”

Once again, Fremont ignored the treacherous warnings, and declined an offer to be shown an easier more southerly route. His expedition continued on, shoveling snow, and beating trails so they would be hard enough to hold the weight of the horses and mules. Snow shoes and sledges were built to make transporting themselves, and their baggage easier. This also allowed the animals to conserve their energy for their own trek over the newly made paths. Fatigue, lack of food and salt in the men’s diet, combined with continued frigid temperatures took toll daily. 

Upon reaching camp on February 6, a man by the name of Fallon was exhausted and showing signs of frost bite in his feet. A fire was built in the trunk of a dry old cedar, and Mr. Fitzpatrick stayed with him until his clothes dried and he could move on. Meanwhile, another twenty miles of hard travel faced everyone until nightfall hit and camp was made.

Two days later, in extreme temperatures dipping down to 3 degrees below zero before the sun rose, two more men showed signs of extreme hunger and fatigue, after being sent ahead to ascend a higher peak and check on conditions. As the sleighs arrived with supplies, and more snow-clouds carried the threat of yet another storm, Fremont gave the men tea and sugar. By February 9, the rest of the party began showing signs of weakness from lack of salt and food. More trees were set to fire, and snow holes dug to provide camp.

High winds, and the glare of snow plagued travels as elevations of eight thousand and fifty feet were reached, with more peaks remaining to be ascended. Black silk handkerchiefs were donned as veils to protect the eyes. The situation was described as tiresome and dreary, by February 11, in Fremont’s memoirs. The news from Mr. Fitzpatrick left behind with the mules and horses didn’t sound much more promising, when he sent a message that the half hidden trail was too slight to support them, and they had broken through plunging about or lying in half-buried snow. Fremont sent orders to send the animals to pasture while mauls and shovels were made to strengthen the trail and try again.

Two more days passed, with hard labor on the road, and a visit from not only Mr. Fitzpatrick reporting that all was going well on his end, but a party of Indians passed as well. The Indians were on their way to the western side of the mountain after fish, indicating salmon coming up streams, and food in the party’s future. That evening, the meat train did not arrive, and orders were given to kill and prepare the favorite dog Tlamath, for dinner. The dog was prepared Indian style, with hair scorched off; skin washed with soap and snow, and then cut in pieces which was laid into the snow. Not long after, the sleigh full of meat finally arrived, and an extraordinary dinner of pea-soup, mule, and dog was had by all.

St. Valentine’s Day arrived and Fremont took his man Preuss with him for a hike just north of camp. The Peak, now called Red Lake Peak, provided a view of a magnificent lake to the north. The lake was judged to be about fifteen miles in length, completely surrounded by mountains, with no apparent outlet. The lake had been described to them earlier by the Paiutes at Pyramid Lake. Fremont and Preuss were the first white men to see this lake, which would eventually be known as Lake Tahoe.

Fremont reported successfully getting the animals safely to the first grassy hill on February 16. He chose one of his men by the name of Jacob to accompany him on an expedition beyond the mountain. As they traveled crests of narrow ridges, extending down from the mountain towards the valley, the snow was fast melting away. Open spots of good grass was spotted. As the sun went down icy spots were discovered in a deep hollow; and as they descended the mountain, near the head waters of a little creek appeared to be a good spot to spend the night. The sound of wild animals, including a flock of wild geese, accompanied the clear long night bringing pleasure to their senses and the hope that game would be in abundance and relieve their near depleted supplies.

Map of an exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the year 1842 and to Oregon & North California in the years 1843-44 / by Brevet Capt. J.C. Frémont of the Corps of Topographical Engineers; lith. by E. Weber Co., Baltimore, Md.

(Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

As morning came, they followed the creek, relieved to hear the sound of rushing water below the icy surface. The ice broke through as they walked through after a few miles.  Here they halted to make a fire and dry their clothes before continuing on another couple of miles where they could walk laboriously without snowshoes. The headwaters of this creek proved to travel west toward the Pacific, and Fremont was convinced that he had struck a stream that would lead them to their destination in Sacramento Valley.

Fremont and Jacob climbed to the top of the ridge using all their strength and determination, until they reached the base camp at dark. The site of the remaining fifty-seven animals grazing at a grassy hill near the camp was especially pleasing. This and the availability of an abundance of salt and pine nuts which had been traded by local Indians proved exceedingly good news for hungry and weak men.

The sun warmed, and the snow continued to melt, making trail building to the pass easier so remaining baggage could be brought up from a lower camp. By February 20, the expedition was moving out of snow holes, heading up the canyon and climbing towards the mountain summit. That night they camped with all of the animals and all of the camp material on the summit dubbed “Snowy Mountain” by Fremont. The pass was just south of present Kit Carson Pass. The following day, February 21, the Fremont expedition considered themselves “victorious over the mountain, with only a descent before us, and the valley under our eyes, we felt strong hope that we should force our way down.”  Ahead, however, “lay deep fields of snow and a large intervening space of rough-looking mountains” which they had yet to accomplish.

 To be continued…..



A Newer World-Kit Carson, John C. Fremont, and The Claiming of the American West

by David Roberts

Simon & Schuster, 2000


Fremont Explorer for a Restless Nation

by Ferol Egan

University of Nevada Press, 1977


Jessie Benton Fremont

by Pamela Herr

University of Oklahoma Press, 1987


Memoirs of My Life, John Charles Fremont Explorer of the American West

New Introduction by Charles M. Robinson III

Cooper Square Press, 2001


John C. Fremont lithograph portrait and expedition map

Unites States Library of Congress


Desert Mine Rescue

by Roger Vargo

Rescuers from the BLM, Kern and San Bernardino counties make preparations to remove a seventeen year old youth from the bottom of a 30-foot mine shaft near the old railway bypass off RM-15 on Thanksgiving weekend.


An unidentified 17 year old motorcycle rider had an unplanned Thanksgiving weekend adventure after slipping from the edge of an abandoned mine and falling 30 feet into the hole. Rescuers from the BLM, Kern and San Bernardino counties worked together approximately 90 minutes to hoist the youth out of the vertical shaft located east of Highway 395 off RM-15.

The youth was transported by ground ambulance to a Ridgecrest hospital for examination.

A rescue worker checks on the condition of victim in the mine shaft as curious onlookers watch (top) and is later lowered into the shaft (above).


The victim is raised to the surface and was later transported to a Ridgecrest hospital.


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