July 2015 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts









Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

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 * Please contact owner Sean Patterson for information about visiting Cerro Gordo *



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Friends of

Cerro Gordo

The Friends of Cerro Gordo is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation established to assist in the preservation, interpretation and public enjoyment of Cerro Gordo.

Help support these efforts by becoming a member.

Click on the FOCG logo (above) for additional information and to join or make a donation.

Membership is only $10.

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.



History Underfoot

by Roger Vargo

During a recent visit to Cerro Gordo, a mystery object was unearthed. Subsequent examination revealed its full shape and purpose, but the experience got me to thinking about many of the objects we encounter underfoot on our various adventures.

This is the mystery object that was the impetus for this month's feature. Upon initial inspection with it partially uncovered, it appeared to be a large hammer head. After it was fully uncovered, the holes on each end, combined with the object's size and mass revealed it to be a counterweight that was (probably) used on one of Cerro Gordo's tram systems.

Another object from Cerro Gordo that initially defied description is shown above. Actually, there were two of these found a close distance apart. My first thought was they were parts of a barrel assembly. That theory was disproved as soon as I tried to move one of the objects as it was far too heavy to be part of a barrel. The oval opening at one end of this object and the neighboring round openings provided the clues--it is one end of an old steam boiler. The oval opening is the vent or firebox opening and the round holes are for the boiler tubes.
This illustration from an 1874 edition of Scientific American shows the arrangement of tubes in a boiler. Hot gasses from burning fuel flowed through the tubes and turned the water surrounding them into steam.

This is neither a boiler nor a water tank. It's a lime kiln located near Aurora, Nevada.

Many visitors to Aurora, Nevada, are stumped to identify this machine. It's a ball mill used to crush ore into sand-sized particles. The chamber is partially filled with ore, water and iron balls, then rotated until the balls pound the ore into dust. The precious metal (silver and gold in this case) are then extracted down the line.

Miners had to eat. While canned and dry provisions provided a significant portion of nineteenth and early twentieth century miners' diets, fresh food was welcomed when available. The problem was how to keep perishable items fresh. This cooling box at the Mammoth Consolidated Mine in Mammoth Lakes kept food cool by water evaporation. The food was placed on the shelves and protected by wire screen. Burlap or canvas fabric covered the screens and was kept damp with a constant drip of water. The water evaporation in the high elevation breeze and dry air extended the life of  fruits and veggies. The cooler's construction didn't provide much protection from marauding bears.

Nearly always underfoot, rusted cans provide clues to nutrition and entertainment of previous travelers. The can in the center of the photo held canned milk (modern cans look very similiar) and the can at the top right held beer or a soft drink.

More modern technology was found after 1916 at Cerro Gordo which had its own ice house to make and store ice. The large tank above was filled with brine (salt water) which was cooled by ammonia circulating in the coiled pipes. The brine was cooled below the freezing point of fresh water, which was in the galvanized rectangular tanks. The water froze into large ice blocks which were then lifted out of the tank and stored in an adjacent insulated room. The ice provided cooling for miners' ice boxes as well as use in the nearby American Hotel. This was the first commercial ice house in Inyo County.

Travelers along Highway 6 near Queens Canyon, Nevada, see this as just another desert derelict structure. It wasn't an ordinary residence. It was Janie's Ranch, a (legal) Nevada brothel that offered comfort to area miners and rail travelers on the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Railway.

Old dry springs are common throughout the arid Southwest. This one has a very high iron content.

Many urban cemeteries have conforming, "cookie cutter" gravesites. The cemetery in Johannesburg, California, contains all manner of burial markers. The bedframe marks the final resting spot of Evelyn "Tonie" Seger, the owner of Burro Schmidt's Tunnel. Tonie died in the bed in 2003. Schmidt's grave is at the upper left.

Many historic graves are still marked, but time and weathering have erased all information as to their occupant. This grave in the old cemetery at Aurora, Nevada, used a wooden grave marker which did not weather well.

However, grave markers in this cemetery in Nevada City, California, are still readable after more than 140 years.

Many uninformed visitors to the Volcanic Tableland north of Bishop, California, see these rock alignments as campfire rings and walk right past them. The rings are actually "house circles" marking the perimeter of centuries-old Native American dwellings made from brush and branches. The opening in the left edge of the circle was the door facing into the rising sun of the east.
History is underfoot wherever you travel. Take some time to enjoy it, marvel at it, photograph it, decipher it. Please don't remove it or deface it. Leave it for the next explore to discover.
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