September 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.








The Panamint Breeze is a new publication highlighting the history and legends California and Nevada.  

Click on the logo to request  subscription information.

New Volunteer Fire Department

Retimbers Union Mine's Hoist House

by Observer

     CERRO GORDO, INYO CO.--August 20--Members of the newly organized Cerro Gordo Volunteer Fire Department mustered to repair and retimber the Union Consolidated Mine hoist house. The present structure was built after the disastrous inferno that engulfed the hoist works and shaft down to 200 feet in August, 1877. It's wooden frame was constructed using mortise joints and wooden pegs. 

       A continuous onslaught by the relentless wind and winter snows peeled away much of the building's tin roof, exposing the Union shaft, hoisting equipment and compressor to the elements.

Angle iron brackets bolt together a supporting beam. Original wooden pegs can be seen at the top of the bracket. Buckey custom modifies a bracket.

       Members of the brigade spent two days toiling in Cerro Gordo's thin air to realign the aging timbers. The original wood fasteners were enhanced with the latest hardware consisting of metal bolts and brackets custom forged and welded to specifications. 

Town Boss Mike Patterson coaxes an upright support into alignment.

        Members of the Women's Auxiliary spent the afternoon working in the American Hotel kitchen preparing a feast for the boys and town guests that evening. Served in the Hotel's elegant main dining room, the feast consisted of roasted meat, fresh salads, potatoes, vegetables of the season and breads and deserts. Plentiful liquid libations were also on hand.

Three of Lola's girls at the American Hotel bar (on another night off).

       Owing the the presence of the women folk, Lola's and Maggie's girls were given the night off.

       The following morning, work commenced at 5 a.m., accompanied by the expected complaints from some of the brigade members. 

       Meanwhile, breakfast was being rustled up at the Hotel. Morning eats included cooked eggs, bacon, sausages, sourdough pancakes and gallons of coffee. Maria, the Hungarian tart and one of Lola's girls, aroused herself from her bed early enough to add freshly made crepes to the breakfast menu. 



The Union Mine hoist house before members of the Volunteer Fire Department started restoration work.


Members of the Cerro Gordo Volunteer Fire Department surrender at day's end to Observer's camera. The partially retimbered hoist house is in the background.

       Several more visits from the boys of the Volunteer Fire Department will be required before the hoist house can be buttoned up with tin. Until then, town visitors are asked to steer clear of the hoist works for their own safety.



What We Saw This Summer 

       Our insurance crisis, which is now over,  prevented us from offering commercial tours the last several months. However, we didn't cloister ourselves away. We used our off time to explore new locations that may become future tour destinations, and reacquaint ourselves with familiar territory.

       In June we traveled to California's gold country and spent several days in the Grass Valley and Nevada City areas. Besides exploring these historic towns, we visited the Empire Mine. Now a California State Park, the Empire-Star Mines were major producers of gold for more than a century. The mine's deepest working level was nearly a vertical mile underground.

Visitors peer down the main shaft of the Empire Mine in Grass Valley. Click on the photo to view a gallery of our summer travels.

       We also explored several old cemeteries in the Grass Valley-Nevada City area, including a Chinese cemetery where most of the bodies had been removed for reburial in their homeland.

        Next, we headed over the "hill", in this case the Sierras, to Bridgeport and joined the Mono Basin Historical Society for their "Ghosts of the Sagebrush" tour.

        The month of July led us to declare our independence from the city and head to Cerro Gordo to spend a few days with owner Mike Patterson.

        We again returned to the Owens Valley area in August for a living history event sponsored by the Friends of Bodie. 

Not all Bodie women were ladies. A reenactor (L) portrays Rosa May, one the town's better known female companions. Click on the photo to view a gallery of our summer travels.

        We have been to this most famous of  California ghost towns many times, but had never encountered a living history day where volunteers dressed in period costumes and reenacted events from Bodie's sordid past.

        Click on any of the photos to view a photo gallery of our summer travels.



2005 Tour Information

We're back on the road again! 

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. Click on the photo for details.

We also expect to offer a Mojave Expedition (day trip) in early November.

Please contact us at 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:

     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.

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