March 2004 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




Maggie Moore Joins Explore Historic California Crew

 Seven week old Maggie poses with Cecile.

Big Dog Jessie June, 1989-Nov. 4, 2003

This month we introduce our new trail dog, seven week old Maggie Moore. Maggie comes to us from MMRANCH, thanks to Monty Messer. Her father was a yellow Labrador, and her mother a pure rottweiler, which makes her a fine rottador.  Maggie hopes to follow in the paws of our Big Dog Jessie, who passed away on November 4, 2003 .  

With a little luck and some  training she will become as fine a trail companion as Jessie was. Poor Little Jake, now known as Papa Jake, hopes to give Maggie writing lessons, so she can tell you about Madam Maggie Moore who owned the Waterfall up at Cerro Gordo.  Sadie, has taken over as Maggie’s surrogate mother and can hardly wait to take her on her first romp in the Piutes in June. We’re sure you’ll be seeing and hearing more from Maggie Moore herself, in the coming months. She’s a great addition to our family and our Explore Historic California crew!


Lost Mines of the Western Mojave

by Cecile Page Vargo

The first  mining stories out of the El Paso Mountains in the Western Mojave talk of  discoveries in the narrow canyon known today as Goler Canyon or Goler Gulch.  There are many different versions of the original story. The most popular tells of John Goler crossing over the arid  Mojave desert after surviving the horrors of Death Valley in 1849. Weakened from thirst and hunger, Goler and companion  found a few gold nuggets as they were looking for water.  

 Supposedly, Goler was so afraid of Indians he hurried away, but had time to leave his gun to mark the spot where he had found the nuggets. When he was safe and sound in Los Angeles he began displaying the gold and a small map where he had supposedly found them. Future investors were told there would be no problem locating Goler’s potential gold mine because of that gun he had left  standing on the hill at the canyon mouth. 

Goler’s Lost Gold

Goler and a man named Grant P. Cuddeback set out with a well equipped party of men to find the fast becoming famous canyon. Unfortunately, the Mojave desert turned out to be riddled with many canyons that fit the description of the one on Goler’s map, and no gun could be found at the entrance to any of them. The now disgruntled party, returned to Los Angeles , none the richer for their efforts. Still positive he could re-discover the area where he had found his gold nuggets, Goler organized another party, only to be disappointed a second time. Throughout the years that followed, freighters coming back and forth from the successful mining camps north of Mojave, told stories of seeing a lonely man and his burro prospecting in the eastern El Paso foothills. While camping at Mesquite Springs,  Freighter “Slate Range Jack” ran into Goler with more nuggets said to have been found 5 miles to the east of them. Many a man outfitted himself with prospecting supplies and headed into the Western Mojave in search of  “The Lost Gunsight Mine” or  “Goler’s Lost Gold. In 1893, when a bonanza was finally found in a dry narrow gulch in the Southern El Paso Mountains, many believed that this was the site of John Goler’s lost mine, and named the camp that grew up around it Goler.

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Can This Mine be Saved?
You Can Make a Difference

           Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada Mountains high above the Mono Basin is an almost completely intact mine and mill.  Legend has it that two prospectors wondered up the mountain and discovered gold, but one miner was killed in an avalanche before they could do anything with the claim. The year would have been1890, and the  original file on this claim was listed as  the Mendocino. The mine and mill were active through the 1980’s.

            Until recently, only a few tried and true ghost towners or local residents have ventured up the dusty dirt road, and explored the area. Most refused to talk much about it in fear that less mindful  people would haul everything away. Today, the Inyo National Forest and the Mono Basin Historical Society have joined hands in efforts to preserve what remains. Plans are in the making to make this area safe for general public access to this important part of California ’s mining history.  Buildings are being locked and safety hazards removed.  Plexiglas may replace glass windows for viewing the complicated mining machinery inside these buildings. Interpretive signs may be put up to help visitors identify what they are seeing.  There’s even talk that a  caretaker will stay at the site during the summer months.

            The Mono Basin Historical Society is spearheading the preservation efforts for this nearly forgotten mine and mill, but they  can’t do this alone. If enough interest from people who care about preserving our mining history is not shown, there is a possibility that these efforts will stall, and this historic site will  fall victim to the harsh winter weather and to the vandals and souvenir hunters who have discovered it.

            Please e-mail us at or contact Don Banta of the Mono Basin Historical Society (760-647-6627) or, or the Inyo National Forest (760-647-3044), if you would like to  help save this endangered mine and mill.    Volunteers are also needed to help  collect oral or written histories from old timers that actually worked in this mine.  

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Our Tours with Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures

We're climbing into 2004!

Please check here  for our 2004 tour schedule.

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 visit our ECOLOGICAL 4-WHEELING ADVENTURES.

     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 15 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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