January 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.

NOTE: Because of heavy snowfall, access is not recommended during the winter months.

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:


Robert C. Likes, co-author of From This Mountain--Cerro Gordo, has  completed a second book about Cerro Gordo.

Click on the cover image (above) to learn more.

This is a story of a generation that sought its own self-identity in a world that suddenly became more complicated with an uncertain future and values.

This epic journey was staged on desert mountains, on steamboats carrying silver bullion across a desert lake, and on a freighting trail that traversed 200 miles of inhospitable desert.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you


A new book

by Nick Garieff

Discovering Bodie tells stories about twenty residents of the High Sierra ghost town of Bodie, California. Included are a selection of the author's black and white photographs presented as duochromes of buildings or artifacts relating to the residents lives.

The story of Eli and Lottie Johl is an example of new revelations this book uncovers.

Published 2010 by Nick Gariaeff, Gilroy, CA.
80 pages including 64 photographs.
8 1/2 inch square perfect bound
ISBN 978-0-984363

Click on the book cover above to go to discoveringbodie.com

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:  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.

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.



Fremont's Second Expedition

Part III:  Starvation and Struggle

by Cecile Page Vargo

Early the morning of February 21, Kit Carson woke up and started the fire.  Fremont joined, with the rest of the men to follow. According to Fremont’s journals they paused for awhile to enjoy purple ranges bordered with bright yellow gold and a beautiful blue sky as the sun rose before them. Weak coffee and mule meat provided fuel for the start of their day and the beginning of their trek into the western side of the Sierras.

This day’s journey would take them across six miles of clear ground alternating with snow encrusted fields. Path finding was difficult, often leading to impassable banks, and snow appearing heavier at the tree line below. Weather was like an April day, with strong winds, and occasional snow flurries. One roll of thunder, and a quick look towards the Sacramento Valley in the distance revealed blue skies beyond the clouds and a view of the San Francisco Bay. 

The orange glow of fires in the distance brought the promise of civilization in the Sacramento Valley and Sutter’s Fort, but later proved to be Indians camping along the Tulare River some eighty miles away on the shore of the bay. As they set up their own camp in the mountains after their struggle through the difficult and snowy terrain, they had only mule to look forward to for the evening’s meal.

Travel would continue, over draws and canyons and snowy drifts. Ridges were no better, with timber, and brush to fight through. Granite, slate, lava, and creeks flowing madly over polished boulders took what little strength the men had to conquer. Food was so scarce, that each day or so another horse or mule was shot to supply food for the entire party.  By the time they reached present day Strawberry Valley, the men were on the verge of collapse. 

A mule was noted nibbling on the tail of a horse. Others took bites out of saddles and bridles desperate for some form of nourishment. It was a relief when they reached a creek with rushes tender with fresh shoots, and a halt was ordered for the day.

February 24, a party of eight men was chosen to forge ahead with the strongest of horses to head towards Sutter’s Fort for supplies and fresh mounts. An Indian trail led them through groves of massive oaks with branches intertwined with mistletoe. The sound of birds and summer wind greeted them. After ten miles of travel, camp was set up in an oak and pine bottom near a roaring stream. One of the half starved horses was killed for their meal once again.

Rain would greet them two days later, as they found themselves following a stream and mountains increasing in height as they descended. Narrow precipices made difficult going for men and horses. Lightening struck across the dark sky and heavy downpours continued through the afternoon.  The red clay soil they traversed became slick and sticky. The men were wet and uncomfortable as they tackled a steep and narrow canyon that eventually became impassable beside rushing river waters. They camped on a slope, embracing a wet and miserable night.

The following day the going was not much better. The stream, sixty feet wide and gushing over boulders was somehow forded and they got to the opposite hill. Only one mile was traveled before camp was made on the slope. A mule was killed once again, his head boiled in a large kettle with water for a passable soup.  

Lack of sufficient food, exhaustion from traversing snow and sticky red clay mud, as well as continued exposure to both freezing and wet weather began to take its toll on the group. As they continued to work through steep cliffs that dropped off to river canyons Charles Towns was unable to keep up, but was found and brought back by one of the men named Jacob. Three horses were lost to exhaustion as well.

Camp was set up in a ravine and  a few men went back for the missing horses. Among the horses was one of Fremont’s favorites.  Baptiste Derosier took off looking for it and failed to return by night fall, causing concern. The weather was warmer, and the party moved on hoping that Derosier had hooked up with the group they had left behind. Meanwhile, a delusional Charles Towns decided the warmer weather meant summer had arrived and took a swim in the icy river. Towns was rescued from the raging waters before he drowned.

While Towns was recovering from his swim, Derosier suddenly appeared, sat by the fire and relayed his story of wandering around lost on the mountain, hungry, fatigued, and fearful of perishing. As he talked, it was obvious he thought he had been gone for several days, as opposed to a few, and was deranged.

In spite of the desperate condition of the men, the party had to continue on with the hope that the next mountain slope would lead them into the Sacramento Valley and Sutter’s Fort. In their critical state, with mountain precipices replacing the river canyons, only a few miles were accomplished until the next encampment. Here at least, springs and fresh grass were in abundance. Charles Preuss, not realizing the men had already stopped for the day, disappeared next. It was nightfall before his absence was noticed by anyone.

On March 3,  a search began for Preuss. Evidence of his trail was picked up along the river. Shouts and gun shots in the air received no answer as they descended from pine forests to oaks. At one point an Indian heard the cries, and answered back, and there was even more cause for alarm should they be greeted by an unfriendly group.

Preuss himself continued to follow the river with expectations it would lead him right into the Sacramento Valley. Wild onions, ants and raw frog legs sustained his hunger, but he noted in his journals that he mostly missed a good smoke and tobacco for his pipe. After a few days he discovered a few Indians roasting acorns, offering his pocket knife in return for the favor.

His pockets full of nourishment, he continued on until he reached a spot where ashes smoldered from a noon stop the Fremont party had made. Encouraged by the warmth lingering in the fire pit Preuss pushed ahead until sunset to catch up with them. The shape of Fremont’s teepee in the distance proved a welcome sight. Preuss caught up with Fremont and the rest of the party camped near the site of  present day Coloma. Tales were swapped and roast horse and mule were cooked around the evening fire.

The morning of March 6 the men continued, now through beautiful country with the sun to warm them. All manner of wild flowers, among tall green grass lay beneath towering oak trees. Many of the oaks featured wild grapevines twisting intricately amongst their branches. This was foothill country, and the great Sierra Nevadas were behind them at last.

The horses and mules found enough to feast on to renew their strength. The men marveled at deer, quail, geese and more. At the junction of the North-Middle Fork and the South Fork of the American River they followed the river bank and fresh tracks of cattle and horses. Before long they discovered a village of Maidu Indians.  Unable to communicate with them, they found a spot beneath the shadow of a large oak and lunched on acorn meal, then moved on. Shortly after they approached a high knoll with a little adobe house overlooking the river and the valley. The site of glass windows excited them.  More Maidu Indians greeted them instead of the hoped for Mexican ranchero and its family. A little further on, they reached a large village of Indians, clean and dressed in cotton shirts and civilized dresses. One particularly well attired Indian approached them in Spanish, “I am a vaquero in the service of Captain Sutter, and the people of this Rancheria work for him,” he said.

 It would not be long now before Fremont and his men would meet up with Captain Sutter at his fort. They would fill their stomachs, drink good wine, and have a roof over their head through Sutter’s generosity before heading back up with supplies to rescue the rest of the expedition. By March 8 all men had arrived at Sutter’s Fort living in comfort for two weeks.

Out of sixty-seven horses and mules, only thirty-three survived.  Fortunately, they left the Sierras with the same human count they had entered with. It would be another four months of travel and adventure before they would return to St. Louis.

Fremont would unite with his beloved, Jessie, and together they would prepare the reports that would introduce the world to the territory he had covered. These reports would eventually lead simple men and their families to brave similar journeys in search of a new life in a promised land. The howitzer he had taken along and abandoned in the wilderness, as well as military and political intentions of future jaunts to California would eventually come back to haunt him, but for now John C. Fremont was a hero.



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



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