December 2011 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.

Please phone (760-876-5030) for current conditions before venturing out!

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:


Cerro Gordo

A Ghost Town

Caught Between


Cecile Page Vargo's collection of Cerro Gordo stories, true, farce and somewhere in between, is being published in a new book, Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries.

The book gives glimpses of Cerro Gordo from the silver and lead mining days through the early twentieth century zinc era to its modern place as, according to author Phil Varney, "Southern California's best, true, ghost town." There's even a possible solution to the location of the fabled "Lost Gunsight Mine" that former Cerro Gordo owner Mike Patterson once suggested.

We are proud to team with the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert (HSUMD) in Ridgecrest, Calif., to bring Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries to print. This is their first major publishing venture. The book is  available for sale directly from HSUMD or through selected book sellers.

Contact HSUMD directly to order:

P.O. Box 2001, Ridgecrest, CA. 93556-2001.

Phone: 760 375-8456


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.

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




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.



At the Muleskinner's Camp

by Cecile Page Vargo

After a busy year of  book writing, researching and promoting and ghost town traveling, our Christmas gift to our EHC readers is a little piece of fiction which hopefully will make you smile. Perhaps somewhere in history a scene just like this was someone’s truth, if not, as the Clampers are so fond of saying “It ought to be!” 

 Life got tough for a couple of hours and she couldn't explain it away. She grabbed her friend Eleanor, the beauty with the faint moustache that made her smile and teased the men at the gambling tables and together they headed out of town on foot. Not too far out the muleskinner with his great freight wagon and his large team of mules offered them a ride. That evening they camped at his wagon.

It was a balmy night with a hint of summer in the early spring air. The sky was pitch black and moonless, but the logs on the campfire lit just enough. The desert wind subsided for the evening, but the strains of the mule skinner's sad and lonely fiddle playing permeated the air. The girls sat across from him holding each other and singing an off key:

“You Are my sunshine my only sunshine

You make me happy when skies are grey

You never know dear how much I love you

Please don’t take my sunshine away…”

The coyotes howled in the distant mountains in mournful unison to go with his sad version of the normally bright song. 

When the sounds stopped the girls had a tear drop, one in each dark eye. They held each other tightly, staring into the campfire watching the flames through a blur. The muleskinner stood up and poked and prodded the fire just a bit then poured himself a cup of strong coffee from the old spackled pot.

While he slowly sipped his coffee Eleanor remembered the cards she always kept in her pocket and brought them out for a game. The girls gambled for stones until the muleskinner picked up the violin again. The strains were lively this time, and the two sets of female feet began moving in time to it. Before you know it, they were gathering their skirts and rising from the sandy ground. They took each others hands and began spinning each other around and laughing hysterically. As they spun, the muleskinner fiddled all the faster, occasionally bellowing a loud “Gee haw!”

The dance frenzy went on till the moonlight finally peaked. As the darkness disappeared the fiddle stopped and the girls plopped down on the ground, their petticoats flying in the air for a brief moment as they did so. Eleanor reached in her pocket once again, and took a silver flask to lips for a long hard swig. She wiped the dribble from her chin, and passed it on, the friend and the muleskinner took turns and did the same.

The muleskinner picked up the fiddle once again and began the sour notes of his original song once again in an even more somber tune than before.  The girls listened, again with a tear in each dark eye, as his sorrowful voice accompanied his own fiddling:

The other nite, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

I'll always love you
And make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me
To love another
You'll regret it all some day;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

You told me once, dear
You really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you've left me
And love another
You have shattered all my dreams;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

As the last verse was completed, the flask went around one more time, and the muleskinner went to the wagon and tossed out a bed pack which he gave to the girls. He took a jacket for a pillow, and soon was passed out on the still warm sand. The girls shared the bed pack until just before sunrise, then slipped back in to town before the muleskinner opened his eyes.  

The song remained in the hearts of the girls and the sad off key version became the favorite with the men who’s eyes they caught the fancy of night after night. The muleskinner woke to a solitary campfire breakfast then  hitched his mules and went off with his freight to the next destination with nary a tune in his head.


Roger and Cecile,

Explore Historic California



by Roger Vargo

Late fall is a wonderful time to spend time with friends and family in the desert.


There's lots to eat.


Games to play and friends to hang out with.


Powerful machines to conquer.


And views to enjoy.



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