With the New Year upon us, we cleaned out
some old files and ran across an old adventure Cecile
had that left her with a quite a headache. Until we have
time to write some new histories for you, we bring this
tale to our readers for your enjoyment and education.
Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel in the El Paso Mountains of Kern
Co. is not exactly an abandoned mine – but a hand dug tunnel
to nowhere by William Henry “Burro" Schmidt – it is one of
the few tunnels or mines I will go in just because I am so
claustrophobic. It was back in June of 2003 when a 100 fans,
friends, and family members paid respects to the tunnel’s
modern caretaker, Evelyn “Tonie” Seger. I attended the
service with my husband, Roger, and friend, Robin Flinchum.
Following the service, Robin and I explored inside the
tunnel. It turned out to be a valuable lesson in mine or
tunnel safety, and a reminder that one should never be too
self-assured when they go in these types of places.
Burro Schmidt's Tunnel extends about 2087 feet
through Copper Mountain in the El Paso Mountains.
Schmidt dug the tunnel by hand from 1906-1938. The
tunnel decreases in height as it extends deeper into
year or so I go in the tunnel, and have always been able to
walk completely through there without worrying about the
height, as I have always been just short enough to get
through without bumping my head. Well, either the rocks to
the tunnel grew a fraction of an inch lower in one
particular spot, or I grew a fraction of an inch, or perhaps
I was walking a bit taller and straighter than my normally
hunched over self when I go through.
I were going through the tunnel with two little boys who had
also come to pay their respects to the Queen of the El Paso
Mountains. The little boys were busy trying to convince us
how brave they were and that they did not believe in ghosts.
Of course Robin and I started talking big and loud about old
Burro Schmidt’s ghost and perhaps now Tonie Seger’s ghost
was haunting the tunnel since she was so recently deceased.
Tunnel owner Evelyn "Tonie" Seger poses with a
letter to Schmidt from Repley's Believe it or Not
circa 1989. Seger died in 2003 and is buried next to
Schmidt in the Johannesburg cemetery.
Burro Schmidt's grave marker is at the upper left
corner of the photo. He died in 1954. Tonie Seger's
grave marker is her bed. She died in 2003.
so busy trying to scare those boys as we went through the
tunnel, and having such a good time doing it, that I forgot
any claustrophobia that I normally might have. I also forgot
to watch where I was going. Suddenly I whacked my head! I
said something to Robin who then turned around and shined a
flashlight on me and asked if I was ok. I replied that I was
a little stunned, but all right, then suddenly the blood
started gushing from my scalp and covering my face.
I was a
little panicky, as I am prone to panic attacks anyway, but
didn’t worry too much about it. I felt my head and it didn’t
appear that I could put my hand inside my scalp, so I just
proceeded on out of the tunnel. There at the exit the two
little boys took one look at me and were scared half to
death. The sight of all that blood running down my face must
have convinced them that I was one of the ghosts that they
were trying not to believe in or be afraid of.
came upon us from behind the tunnel, and announced that she
just happened to be a nurse. She cleaned me up with a
Kleenex she had and twisted a piece of my hair over the bump
so it wouldn’t bleed any more. Another lady came by and she
had Wet Ones with her and cleaned my face enough that I no
longer looked like a ghoul. A tall older man came through
and announced that he too had bumped his head a bit, but his
was not the bleeder that mine had proved to be.
were many people traveling through the tunnel that day, all
attendees of Tonie’s memorial service. One person came upon
us and decided we should photograph my blood trickled face
and the bump. My camera was handed to someone, but in the
excitement it wasn’t set right and the pictures didn’t turn
out, so unfortunately, I have nothing to prove my injury and
the gory mess it was.
if the head wound wasn’t enough, aRobin and I headed over
the hill from the exit of the tunnel, and got to the dirt
road, I decided to take the dirt road instead of the hiking
path that crossed it, as I was very familiar with the road,
but not so sure of the hiking path. The road turns to a
very steep, almost straight downhill that is slippery in
spots, and deeply rutted. In our 4 wheel drive tour days,
this is where we taught people how to maneuver hills and
trust the ability of their vehicle.
see Roger and our partner, Marty, sitting at the tailgate of
the 4Runner having lunch at the bottom of the hill. I knew
it would be slow going down that hill, but I also knew I was
headed in the right direction. Halfway down the road I
reached for my hand held radio and called the guys to look
up at us. I don’t know why until that moment, I had not
remembered the radio.
I were tired and a bit shook up from the head wound I had
suffered, and what little water we had with us, we had
finished off. I radioed to the guys and asked them to come
up the hill and save us the rest of the steep walk and a bit
of an uphill climb back to them. But the 4Runner wasn’t
really equipped to make it up that road, and it’s a long,
long, way around to hit it from the other side. We were
advised to forge ahead, which Robin and I did, laughing and
complaining all the way. Of course had it been a real
emergency, I think the guys would have taken the long route
and rescued us.
to say, Robin and I eventually got back to the parking lot
near Burro Schmidt’s tunnel and the guys poured water over
my head full of blonde hair now turned pink from blood. We
were both none the worse for wear in spite of our
adventures. We also drank a goodly amount of water to quench
our thirst. Meantime, Robin was sent back to the tunnel
entrance to hunt down Roger’s flashlight which she had
loaned to the little boys. Of course the boys were long
gone, but had thought to leave the flash light with one of
the ladies who had helped clean me up after I bumped my
head. Apparently the boys had high tailed it back through
the tunnel to the entrance, scared to death of the two
ghostly ladies who had gone through the tunnel with them.
Robin got back with Roger’s flashlight, we decided that if
anyone were stupid enough to pick us for the any of the
survivor shows, we would be booted off the island before the
show got started. But we had an adventure, and we were lucky
things weren’t worse than they were.
of course, reminded of some important things which we knew,
but didn’t heed. Watch where you are walking. Carry plenty
of water with you. Wear appropriate shoes (Robin had on
sandals which kept slipping on that steep hill). Don’t lose
your sense of direction, and use common sense. And it might
be a good idea to wear a helmet or at least a hat of some
sort to avoid a head wound even when you are familiar with
the darned tunnel! Remember to use your two-way radio and
don’t forget to set the camera properly so you have pictures
of your adventure to prove it really happened.
If two of
us who are experienced and knowledgeable can play around and
almost get into trouble on a short jaunt, it makes it easier
to understand how desert neophytes can wind up in serious
trouble out there. Be safe wherever you go!
original version of this story entitled “Why Some People
Shouldn’t Be Allowed Out In The Desert By Themselves”
appeared in the March 2006 Panamint Breeze, Issue 9
Breeze is a quarterly publication put out by Emmett and Ruth
Harder. It includes many desert adventures and histories.
www.panamintbreeze.net for more information. Please
www.burroschmidttunnel.org/ for more information on
Burro Schmidt's Famous Tunnel.
Scott Cole, Brandy Cole and Marty Cole, Jr. explore