May 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.

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

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:

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

Visit Michael Piatt's site,, 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.



Theodore P. Lukens

The Father of Forestry

by Cecile Page Vargo

Mount Lukens, at an elevation of 5,074 feet, is the highest point within the City of Los Angeles. It towers over our local foothill valleys,. The mountain was originally dubbed "Sister Else Peak" by the 1874 U.S. Army’s Wheeler Survey, in memory of a Roman Catholic nun who ran El Rancho de Dos Hermanas, an orphanage for Indian children. 

Sister Else Peak is highlighted in the center of this 1883 map from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers under the command of Lt. George M. Wheeler.

Courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Although it has been said that Sister Elsie was well known and much loved for her good deeds and acts of kindness, there has never been any official documentation to prove that she actually existed. The Forest Service changed the name to its more modern version, Mount Lukens, in the late 1920’s in honor of a former Angeles National Forest supervisor, and Pasadena mayor by the name of Theodore P. Lukens. However, the peak retains its original name by long time residents of Sunland/Tujunga and surrounding communities.

Fires were a constant threat to Mount Lukens and the San Gabriel Mountains even more so in the early days, than today. From 1923 – 1937, the peak was the site of a Forest Service fire. Before the lookout was built, great fires in the years of 1896 and 1900 in the Big and Little Santa Anita Canyons denuded the mountains all the way to the head of the Big Tujunga. Lukens earned his claim to fame through his restoration work at the Henniger Flats (near Mt. Wilson) experimental forest nursery.

Lukens was an early day believer in reforestation and experiments with groves of ponderosa, Coulter and knob cone pines at Henniger, leading to the eventual planting of 65,000 pine seeds on mountain slopes above Pasadena as early as 1899. By 1903, Lukens and a crew of six men, constructed buildings, irrigation pipe, and pine seedlings in government sponsored reforestation.

Theodore P. Lukens circa 1910.

The following year, 250,000 young trees grew on the flats and ridges. Between 1905, and 1908, when the nursery shut down, thousands of seedlings were transplanted along the charred hills of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains.

In 1906 Lukens reforestation work came to an end. In January when he was appointed acting supervisor of the San Gabriel Forest Reserve. Lukens was a “doer” and self-made man, who didn’t always follow the proper channels to achieve his goals.

This found him at odds with his Washington superiors. His service ended within six months, when he was removed from office and sent to a “special reforestation work” assignment. The controversy surrounding this, created deep wounds which were never healed, and Lukens resigned from the Division of Forestry within a month’s time. His beloved project at Henniger Flats was abandoned and shut down after two years, citing lack of a good wagon road and water expenses as the reason.

Theodore Lukens died in 1918, his ambitions in the Forest Service hierarchy somewhat of a failure. His seeding and reforestation efforts lived on, and his name immortalized in a nearby mountain. His biographer, Shirley Sargent says it best in her book Theodore Lukens: Father of Forestry.

“Reforestation was no longer just Lukens' dream; it was everyone’s reality…Lukens’ work with seed collecting and tree planting was observed and followed by foresters and conservationists in many national forests, other states and foreign countries. Inevitably he gained the title ‘Father of Forestry’.”


The Colorful Characters

of Early Big Tujunga Canyon

by Cecile Page Vargo

When Rancho Tujunga land grant owner, Fernando Lopez, discovered gold flakes in Placerita Canyon, white men flocked to the San Gabriel Mountains to see if they could strike it rich. Along with the miners, came the earliest white settlers of Big Tujunga Canyon, in our own neck of the woods. Among the earliest to arrive and settle were the Bilderbeck brothers.

The Bilderbeck’s built a rustic cabin in the lower canyon sometime in the 1860’s. By January of 1871, the headlines of the Los Angeles Star reported the sad demise of the brothers at the hands of a Southern California bandit known as “Buckskin Bill”. June that same year a posse discovered “Buckskin” in Baja California, and put a quick end to his long crime spree.

Pedro Ybarra was an early miner and homesteader. As early as 1867 he filed a water claim and took up residence in a small cabin several years later, just east of the mouth of Trail Canyon. Vineyard and fruit orchards were planted, and the Ybarra Ranch grew. Sons, Jose, Frank and Cruz managed the property for more than 60 years.

Around 1883, Silas Hoyt arrived. He settled at the mouth of Vasquez Canyon. Stones and logs were collected to form a crude cabin. A big grey horse named Beelzebub was his companion, and was used for work around the property. Hoyt was a loner, and disliked the city. On rare occasion he would hitch Beelzebub to a wagon and head to town. Beelzebub also was used to pull whole tree trunks for the cabin fireplace. Once the logs were drawn to the cabin, Hoyt would roll and pull them through the front door as they burned off in the fire.

Well known Los Angeles Times artist, Lon Chapin, came to the Hoyt Homestead in 1900. He made a deal with the old man to keep up the road and keep him in supplies in exchange for property for a weekend retreat. This retreat became a popular shady retreat for many. Hoyt, ever the reclusive, continued to live on his property and was a familiar sight in the canyon until he was too feeble to be by himself and was moved to a city hospital in 1912.

Hoyt had become an eccentric old man, with bad eye sight from his overgrown eyebrows, and all the wood smoke from his cabin fires. Another canyon resident, Dr. Homer A. Hansen was credited for saving his eyesight. Silas Hoyt lived to be 97 years old and died in 1925.

Dr. Hansen originally visited Big Tujunga as a teenager in 1892. Upon his return as a young physician a few years later, he enjoyed camping spots in the shade of the great oak and spruce trees that dotted the terrain. In the early 1900’s Hansen was forced to retire to the canyon upon diagnosis of acute inflammatory rheumatism.

With only a year to live, Dr. Hansen found the sunshine and pure mountain environment therapeutic, and was fully recovered by 1909. A claim was filed for 93 acres at just below the present Big Tujunga Dam. Within a year he built a small cabin, then built  Hanson’s Lodge, which grew to be a popular spot with politicians and celebrities from Southern California. The lodge was complete with guest accommodations, stables, and swimming pool. The flood of 1926 destroyed Hanson’s Lodge, but he rebuilt it, only to have it destroyed again in 1938 by one of the biggest floods to hit the area. All but stone fireplaces were knocked down by the forces of nature.

The most colorful character in the canyon was “Barefoot Tom” Lucas, who roamed the canyon and called it his home, as one of the early-day rangers for the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve. Lucas moved from camp to camp, hunting and patrolling the mountains. His forte’ was grizzly bear tracking and killing. “Barefoot Tom was hard to miss when he showed up with game to trade for food and tobacco, dressed in home tanned deerskin, with a waist long beard and single barrel shotgun at his side. Following retirement from the Forest Service, Lucas worked at the Ybarra Ranch. Tom Lucas Campground in Trail Canyon, memorializes Lucas today. Copyright © 2011, All Rights Reserved.                           Powered by