October 2005 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts





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.

Bumps in the Night and on the Road

by Cecile Page Vargo

Merri K. didn’t realize she had captured this ghostly Bodie resident until she got home and processed the pictures from her Memorial Day visit. Bob Pilatos, who has examined many Bodie ghost pictures states, "Merri has undoubtedly captured on film the finest supernatural aberration ever recorded in Bodie! What is interesting about her image is the fact that the figure in the window is wearing the same type of eyeglasses that are on the counter inside of the Boone Store! Could it be that James Stuart Cain still watches over the town?"

Eyeglasses on the counter in the Boone Store in Bodie. These appear to be the same style worn by the person in the window of the Odd Fellows Lodge (the above photo).

(Photo courtesy of Bob Pilatos)

          In addition to things that go “bump” on the road, you may find your favorite dirt road has things that go bump in the night as well. Mike Marinacci’s “Mysterious California” includes several of our frequent haunts, and I have personally heard a few ghost stories as well.


          Off roaders are not the only ones who enjoy the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California. Marinacci lists it as not only the largest park in California, but also the most mysterious.

Spirits of Borrego

          Nearly everyone is familiar with Peg Leg Smith’s legendary lost gold mine that is memorialized four miles northeast of Borrego Springs at the end of Pegleg Road. Many have chased their dreams looking for his lost mine. During that same time, the Borrego Badlands was haunted by the ghost of an old prospector who was owner of the appropriately named Phantom Mine. His eight foot skeleton, with a lantern light flickering in his bony chest, is said to roam the desert, chasing intruders off his claim.

          In the Carrizo Wash, a stagecoach pulled by four mules, travels along the old Butterfield Stage Road with no passengers--just a ghostly driver. Back in the 1860’s, a stage disappeared after its driver was held up by bandits and killed for a box of gold. Wheel ruts are said to be seen in the soft sand after the stage has driven by.

          Vallecito Station is haunted by the Carrizo Wash stage ghost and a few others. A phantom white horse has occasionally been seen galloping down the road, as well as the ghosts of two Texan duelists who killed one another. In 1869, an eastern bride traveling to Sacramento to meet her fiancé fell ill at Vallecito and died. She was buried in the bridal gown found in her trunk. Known as “The Woman in White”, some say she can be seen pacing the adobe grounds even today.

          In addition to ghosts and phantom miners, a Viking ship may lie buried in rocks and soil in a canyon above Agua Caliente Springs. Bigfoot has been occasionally spotted near the Borrego Sink. Ghost lights, or as old miners called them “burning balls”, have lit up the night skies over Oriflame Mountain west of Butterfield Ranch for years.

 Read More         



Back to the Mojave Expedition

 by Cecile Page Vargo

The Mojave Expedition was the first tour we offered for Ecological 4-wheeling Adventures way back in 1989, if memory serves me correctly. We are proud to bring to you the Mojave Expedition-2005 on November 12 under our Explore Historic California name. To whet your appetite for this ever popular tour chalk  full of living Western Mojave legend and lore, we re-print this write-up from the spring of 2000. There have been a few changes in the trip since then, thanks or no-thanks to nature and to mankind. We have done a little re-routing here and there, and sadly watched the state of Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel change since Tonie Seger’s passing,  but the spirit of the trip and even the tunnel still live on. Sit back and relax in your computer armchair as we go on a historical adventure!

           March 18, marked our first Mojave Expedition of the year 2000. Winds were predicted but didn’t show up. We were left with beautiful warm weather and clear blue, calm skies. This was our first outing since Thanksgiving weekend.

          Early Saturday morning our longtime friend, Marty Cole, met us at our house and drove with us to Mojave. After filling our gas tanks, and emptying our wallets and bladders in Mojave, we ventured to Jawbone Station. Ruby had snacks and coffee waiting for us.

          We were excited to see good friends and regulars Steve and Anita Spangler and Dave Legters among the many new faces joining us for the day. The Spanglers and their black “Spanglermobile” Blazer volunteered to sweep on this day. Steve also came equipped with his video camera to record the more interesting parts of our adventure.

          From Jawbone Station we headed out to Highway 14 into Red Rock Canyon State Park, and on to Opal Canyon Road, our official dirt road start. Once the start of the dirt road lecture was over, we got a few moments to stretch and perhaps make a quick visit to a mesquite or creosote bush.

          Traveling through Opal Canyon, we passed the signs for the Nowalk and Barnett mines. We were saddened to see a new sign announcing that Dick and Shirley Barnett had passed away. We explained for the tour how, for a couple of dollars, the Barnett’s would let visitors picnic and pick and keep all of the opals they found in a day. If one was really lucky, Dick would bring out the “Mojave Flame” ring that he made from a large fire opal. We hope the ring is on display at the Smithsonian, as Dick had written in his will.

          From the opal mines, it’s a bit of a climb then down a rocky steep hill, to a flat area overlooking Last Chance Canyon. We paused there for a lecture stop and a chance to walk the dogs. Roger explained more local geology and geography and what lay ahead.

          Harry Lewellyn, who led an expedition three weeks before, had warned us that there were several potential tough spots in the streambed around Cudahy Camp. We safely maneuvered the first spot over the wet, slippery rocks and around the huge square boulder that sits as a sentinel in Last Chance Canyon. Dave Legters avoided the streambed altogether and took the soft, sandy and deeply rutted uphill branch in his new Toyota pickup. With lockers, he made it look easy, but we suggested the rest of the tour follow Roger’s lead through the streambed to the parking area above.

Read More


2005 Tour Information

We're back on the road again! 

Click on the photo for schedule details.

Our next tour is the Fathill Fandango, October 15-17, 2005 and we've reduced the price!  The tour begins near Mojave and ends in Lone Pine, Calif. 

We are heading out to Jawbone Station to lead a Mojave Expedition (day trip) Saturday, November 12, 2005. The tour begins near Mojave and ends in or near Randsburg.

Please contact us at info@explorehistoricalif.com 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

explorehistoricalif.com Copyright © 2005, All Rights Reserved.                           Powered by death-valley.us