Becher, L.A. Daily News outdoor writer and photographer
went to Bodie with us. Read what he wrote about the trip. Click
the photo to link to the story.
God, to Bodie and Golden Leaves trips,
Sept. 2004. Click the
photo to go to the gallery
the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.
Don't have a 4X and want to
visit historic sites in Eastern California?
Capture the spirit of the past as it comes alive with true tales of pioneer families, prospectors, muleskinners, hero's and gunslingers. Listen to legends of lost gold, found wealth and superstitions.
Journey back in time with Terri Geissinger - Historian, Interpreter and Guide
Click on Terri's yellow van for Terri's
Ghost Town Tours or
contact Terri by clicking here:
History of Darwin
Cecile Page Vargo
Somewhere between Lone Pine and
Death Valley, in a hot dusty, remote and desolate area, lies
the mere shadow of a town called Darwin. The first white travelers to pass through the
area were the Death Valley
49'ers coming from Salt Lake City
to the California
goldfields. In 1850, Dr. Erasmus Darwin French
came through on a search for the Lost Gunsight Mine, which was believed
to be in the Panamint
Valley. In 1861 silver ore was discovered ten miles
southeast of Darwin
and the Coso Mining District was formed. October
1870, William Egan, J.C. Watt, and Paul W. Bennett, discovered pure
galena near the springs of Darwin
Canyon. By the 24th of that same month, James Brady
(famous for the steamers he ran across Owens
Lake) joined the three men to organize the Granite
Mountain Mining District. The discoveries went virtually unnoticed at
the time. In the fall of 1874, discoveries made by the Brown Brothers,
William and Robert, were announced in the Inyo Independent newspaper.
Miners and entrepreneurs flocked to the site. The new Coso Mining
District was formed at this time, as well as the town of
Darwin. Erasmus Darwin French, more than likely,
visited the town that grew around the area he had traveled through so
many years before.
mines and one-time tourist cabins of Darwin today are as dead as
the occupants of the town's cemetery.
Typical of mining towns of the era, Darwin
became a rough and tumble town with rich
producing mines, claim battles, gunfights, robberies, etc. It quickly
grew from flimsy canvas hovels to substantial buildings with flourishing
businesses. By February 1875, Darwin boasted a hotel, three restaurants,
two butcher shops, a livery stable, two stores, seven saloons, a drug
store, as well as a doctor's and a lawyer's office. Soon there were two
baseball teams, the Inyos and the Independents. The Wells Fargo office
and post office followed. Victor Beaudry, also of
fame, piped in much needed water. In May of
1876, the Inyo Independent declared Darwin
"the most important mining district and
largest town" of Inyo county. Colonel Sherman Stevens began
building a tramway from Darwin
to the shore of Owens
to transport the massive bullion production. The
town population soared to 3,500 people by 1877. More than 226,672 ounces
of silver and 1,920,261 pounds of lead were recovered from the mines.
Ghosts Back From The Ghost Town
Cecile Page Vargo
While the story that my dog Jake tells about those mysterious
footprints in Mono Mills is true, it didn't really scare us and we
still joke about it today. Never really been spooked out there,
fortunately, but I do have to say I seem to bring that spooky feeling
home with me after spending time alone out there. Just recently got
ghost town. which made the population of the town 3 humans, six town
cats, and our 6 month old 55 pound puppy, as well as a plethora of
chucker, and a couple of hummingbirds. We've become pretty comfortable
up there after innumerable stays. We are always prepared for a
"spooky" experience of one sort or the other, but even when
pup Maggie let out an unexpected bark and lunged on her tie out chain,
towards the Victor Beaudry general store/museum across the street in
the late evening, we didn't get scared, and of course she was only
barking at reflections in the window caused by lights in the Belshaw
House where we were staying.
Following our two days in
, we had business in Bishop and stayed in a motel, then headed back
home. That night we were very tired and didn't even unpack the
4Runner. When I shut down the house to go to bed, I looked out the
front window and noticed a skeletal figure standing in the driveway of
my neighbor's across the street. It looked more like a ghostly
appearance I would expect to see up at
. I figured my imagination was playing tricks on me, so tried to
ignore it and didn't mention it to my husband. However, it did really
look like some tall skinny man was standing out there just staring at
their house. I could even see him turn his head once in awhile and
puff on a cigarette.
It took me about 15 minutes of staring at this
"apparition" or whatever it was, to decide to tell my
husband. He looked and he saw the same thing - a man standing out
there obviously up to no good. We decided to call 911. After another
15 minutes, in which this tall skinny man just stood out there waiting
to do something he shouldn't, the police drove up. As their vehicle
lights shined on the neighbors rock wall, the man totally vanished. I
was stunned. Where did he go - what were we seeing? The police got out
of their car, and we went out to talk to them. They searched the
neighbors yard, back and front, and shined lights in the house. No one
was to be found.
By this time, the neighbors beside us came out to see what was
going on. I sheepishly said that we thought we had seen someone
staring out there, but apparently we had just spent to much time up at
our ghost town and brought back a ghost with us. Meantime, my husband
did talk to the police about a woman in the neighborhood who prowls
around everyone's property looking for cats and coyotes in the middle
of the night and we were trying to catch her. They knew about her, and
were happy that we were able to give them her name, then sort of
laughed that we had seen nothing this time, after all.
As the police were starting to get back in
their car, the neighbors that lived in the house actually came back
from their vacation. They obviously were quite concerned to see the
police, and two sets of neighbors standing outside their place. We
told them the whole story, and they appreciated that we at least had a
good "neighborhood watch" and better safe than sorry.
Meantime I explained about getting back from
, and I must have seen a ghost, instead. I thought about how the
minute the lights from the police car hit their driveway and front
lawn rock wall, it all disappeared. The police were now driving off,
and the rock wall and driveway was dark again except for the lone
street light and their front porch light. Here was my chance to redeem
myself. Two of the neighbors went in my house and looked out my dining
room window. Sure enough there was the tall skinny skeletal man. It
was an illusion caused by a metal post against the rock wall, a shadow
from that post, and the greenery growing above the wall. I was sure
glad that the neighbors saw the same illusion Roger and I both had
seen! But I still can't figure out how after living here 25 years,
we've never noticed it before. Still must have brought one of those
ghost town ghosts back with us!
Itís been a few months since we brought the ghost back from
the ghost town. Every
night as I close down the house, I peer out my window and the shadowy
figure is still out there. Itís
become rather comforting to see him out there watching over my
neighbors house. If he ever disappears Iím sure going to miss him!
Our Tours with
Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures
Our 2004 tour schedule is
we're doing some less
Please check back for our 2005 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 16
years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the
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
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