January 2013 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

Visit our Explore Historic California site on Facebook



Cerro Gordo officially


as of July 25, 2012

Please phone Sean Patterson (661-303-3692) or Cerro Gordo (760-876-5030) for additional information.

Caretakers are still on site to prevent vandalism.


Contact us through email at:

Now Available

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.

ISBN: 978-0970025869

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

Email: hsumd@ridgenet.net

Announcing our Arcadia Publishing Book:



Cerro Gordo

by Cecile Page Vargo and Roger W. Vargo

ISBN: 9780738595207

Arcadia Publishing Images of America series

Price: $21.99

128 pages/ softcover

Available now!

(Click the cover image for ordering information)

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

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:  echco@msn.com

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

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

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.



Bumping Along Burro Schmidt's Trail

By Cecile Page Vargo

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 the mountain.

Once a 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.

Robin and 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.

We were 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.

A woman 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.

There 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.

Now, as 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.

I could 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.

Robin and 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.

Needless 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.

When 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.

We 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!

The 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

The Breeze is a quarterly publication put out by Emmett and Ruth Harder. It includes many desert adventures and histories. Please visit www.panamintbreeze.net for more information. Please visit www.burroschmidttunnel.org/ for more information on Burro Schmidt's Famous Tunnel.

Scott Cole, Brandy Cole and Marty Cole, Jr. explore Schmidt's tunnel.





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