July 2006 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




Mojave Expedition (11-12-05) photo gallery--Click the photo to go to the gallery



Burro Schmidt's

Tunnel Update

Burro Schmidt's "Famous Tunnel" now has a group of "friends" trying to preserve and protect the site.   

Click the photo to visit  their Website.



Click on the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.

Cerro Gordo now has its own Web site. Click the link below to visit.




The Panamint Breeze is a new publication highlighting the history and legends California and Nevada.  

Click on the logo for details.

The Mammoth Consolidated Mine

 by Cecile Page Vargo

          Tucked away on the mountain high above Old Mammoth, and modern day campgrounds, lies the site of the Mammoth Consolidated Mine, circa 1927 -1933. Today we can still go back to that time period, when the water wheels and horses of early day mining were replaced by gas powered machinery and modern transportation.

          The Mahan family was responsible for the Mammoth Consolidated, and donated the buildings and equipment that you see on the interpretive trail where remnants of buildings and machinery still stand. In 1927, A.G. Mahan Sr., his son Arch, and several partners purchased the claims under the full name of Mammoth Consolidated Mining Company. Samples taken early on indicated six tenths of an ounce of gold and one fifth of an ounce of silver per ton of rock. At 1927 prices that would be approximately $12.70 per ton. The mining company was located at the top of Red Mountain, which got it's name from the reddish orange iron sulphides in the rock. The iron sulphides made extraction of the gold ore more expensive, but the investors and owners were determined to keep the mine in operation as long as they could. About $100,000 of gold was pulled out, but it is doubtful that paid their expenses.

One of four wood and tarpaper bunkhouses where miners lived at the Mammoth Consolidated Mine. 

          The bunkhouses are the first buildings we come to as we begin the trail. Depending upon the time of year, there would have been anywhere from six to fourteen workers in the high sierra camp. Housing was provided in four tar paper-covered bunkhouses that were heated by cast iron wood stoves, but had no electricity or running water. The sun shining through the pocket windows and kerosene lanterns provided the only light in the buildings. A miner made $5.25 a day, which was good pay for the era. $1.25 of each days pay went towards bed and board.

          In addition to the miners, a cook, assayers, truck driver, blacksmith and superintendent lived at the camp. Mrs. Pemberton was a the cook. She was noted as a large woman that was not too friendly. Little complaints were made about the meals Mrs. Pemberton prepared on the old stove, probably because the men were afraid of her temperament.

          A.G. Mahon Sr. used a bedroom in the mining office, which consisted of the office itself and the two bedrooms. One bedroom was reserved for his use, the other was for visiting stockholders and potential investors. Son and daughter in-law, Arch and Gladys Mahan spent the warm months of the year in the lodgepole pine cabin that was built sometime around 1929. During the harsh winter months Arch would travel from Los Angeles every couple of weeks. Skis and snowshoes were donned for the last 30 miles of travel through snow depths which often reached as high as 25 feet and temperatures known to dip below minus 30 to 40 degrees. Arch carried the mail, payroll, and tobacco with him. Regular supplies were brought in by dogsled during the winters, by local residents, Bill Lewis and Tex Cushion.

          Much of the ore processing mill still remains. The actual frame that housed the 110 horsepower diesel engine and the equipment it powered was destroyed in an avalanche sometime during the 1940's. Large iron flywheels maintained smooth and continuous operation of the big single-cylinder engine. A smaller wooden bullwheel drove a 20 inch wide leather belt. This was connected to the largest pulley on the shaft. The rusty shaft remains, but the supporting 12 foot floor is long gone. From the shaft, more belts and pulleys distributed power to the machinery that was used to extract ore from the rock. 

The 110 HP Ingersol Rand diesel engine stands out amongst the clutter in the remains of the ore processing mill.

          Carts transported ore from the mines. These carts were pushed by the miners along a tramway to the processing mill. There it was dumped onto the large coarse steel grate known as a “grizzly”. The grizzly separated the rocks according to size, with the smaller chunks falling on through the grates and the larger chunks being rolled into the nearby jaw crusher to be turned into smaller chunks. A bucket conveyor lifted ore to a storage bin where it was then fed by small amounts into a barrel shaped container known as a “ball mill”. The ball mill here was five feet across and contained fist sized steel balls that pulverized the rock into sand as they bumbled over and over again. The concrete pillar supports for the ball mill still stand on the original old mill floor.     

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The "Land of Volcanoes"

 Photography by Marty Cole and Roger Vargo

       Our June journey returned us to the Eastern Sierra where we explored the volcanic tableland and mountains from Bishop to Mammoth and Mono Lake.

An early morning sun blazes over the 760,000 year old volcanic tableland   north of Bishop.



A brightly colored insect contrasts with the volcanic soil. A sign reminds modern travelers that they were not the first to visit this area. 


Legend says that "Water Baby" left footprints of man and animals.


See More Photos



Tour Information--REVISED 7/06

We're back on the road again! 

Our 2006 permits are approved.

Our FAT HILL FANDANGO tour, July 15-17 is on.

Please click on the photo for tour details.

Please contact us at info@explorehistoricalif.com for additional information or reservations.


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 our website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them. If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your vehicle, please contact us at: info@explorehistoricalif.com.

     Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn. The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 16 years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the Owens Valley.

     Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size restrictions.

     Our tours are operated under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and other authorities.

     We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old cabin or deserted mountain lookout.

     California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the "Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore historic California.

Roger, Cecile and Marty


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