February 2005 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts







Bill Becher, L.A. Daily News outdoor writer and photographer went to Bodie with us in September. Read what he wrote about the trip. Click the photo to link to the story.




The birth of a new year is also the death of California campfire permits issued in 2004. Visit your local land management agency (BLM, NPS, USFS or State Parks) to renew your campfire permit for the 2005 calendar year.

Click on the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.





Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures


Click on either graphic below to get there.

Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures (ECO4WD) offers more than 20 exciting four wheel drive backcountry adventure tours, SUV excursions, 4WD classes and 4-wheeling trainings. Their adventure tours range from one-day outings into Southern California's mountains and deserts to SUV mini-vacations in Death Valley, whale watching (4WD not required!) on the Baja peninsula and a 12-day, surprising luxurious expedition (no camping) into the uncharted depths of Mexico's Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre). Their "clean and easy" eco-tour style is sensitive and responsible to the environment, your family and your four wheel drive vehicle.

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:



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

Click on the logo to request  subscription information.

The Great Floods of the San Gabriel Mountains

by Cecile Page Vargo

          California, land of little rain. Some years are so dry one forgets what moisture is. Then comes the rain years, and at times it's as if God turned the faucet on and forgot to turn it off. Yearly rain averages can be hard to calculate for this reason. Recent January 2005 rains dumped more water in a few days than all of 2004. Throughout recorded history this is not uncommon. Unfortunately these dry periods followed by short periods of  large amounts of rainfall make many areas of California ripe for catastrophic floods. The San Gabriel Mountains north of the City of Los Angeles, and the communities that built up in and around the mountain have been molded and shaped by the great rainfalls and the destruction they caused.  

Cars detour around a portion of Big Tujunga Road washed out by the waters of Big Tujunga Creek in January, 2005. 

 Part I:  Camps & Resorts Rise and  Fall With The Flood Waters  


           "There has been some excitement this past week about the new gold diggings on the headwaters of the San Gabriel. We have met persons who have been out prospecting and although they found gold of the best quality, differ very much as the regards the richness of the mines. The Crab Hollow diggings are now considered the best and will pay from two to five cents to the pan. It is understood that if the river can be turned from its present bed, some rich leads may be found and big piles realized." The Los Angeles Star, September 21, 1854 . 

          The lure of gold brought men to the San Gabriel Canyon, with the big rush coming in 1859. The first mining camp was set up to supply needs of the miners and a place for them to spend their gold.  Prospect Bar was located four miles up the East Fork, near the stream and Cattle Canyon. The Little Falls Company, and McClure & Company were just two of many mining operations that sprang up. "The former have constructed a flume several hundred feet in length, and of sufficient capacity to carry the waters of the San Gabriel at a high stage...The later of the parties named above are engaged in putting up a hydraulic pump for the purpose of washing a hill claim." The Southern Vineyard, August 23, 1859

           "A dam has been constructed which lays bare a large section of the river bed, which they have found quite rich…" The Star, November 5, 1859

          By December 3rd, the Star was describing devastation caused by heavy rainfall a few weeks after the construction of the dam: "We regret to have to record the total demolition of the  mining works in the San Gabriel Canyon...So tremendous was the force of the torrent rushing down, that it swept away as chaff all the mining works erected on the river--dams, wheels sluices, everything, in fact. The amount of damage sustained by miners cannot be calculated."  

          Within a month, San Gabriel Canyon prospectors had rebuilt their dams, waterwheels and sluices, and gold was being pulled out once again. The Eldoradoville Mining District was formed by March of 1860, and the town of Eldoradoville took Prospect Bar's place. Eldoradoville was a rowdy town with no law, just the justice of a knife or pistol. Three stores, and  half dozen saloons accommodated the miners needs. By August 1861, the Wells Fargo & Company reported shipments of gold from their Los Angeles office, averaging $15,000 in a six month period, primarily from the San Gabriel Canyon mines.

          The night of January 17th-18th, 1862   Eldoradoville was hit by a torrential cloudburst once again. The East Fork turned into a flood of churning gray water intent on destroying everything in it came across. The residents of the town managed to climb the hillsides to safety, but the town was washed away. Shacks, whiskey barrels, groceries, beds, roulette wheels, sluices, long toms, wing dams and China pumps were swept into the floodplain of the San Gabriel Valley. Eldoradoville was destroyed by the same forces of nature that had hit Prospect Bar; only mud and debris remained. The boom mining days on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River were gone.

Read More  


Follows Camp

by Cecile Page Vargo

          Brothers, Ralph and Jack Follows arrived in Azusa in 1891 from England, hoping the therapeutic powers of the San Gabriel Canyon would cure Ralph's tuberculosis. They rented a cabin on the old Ferguson property in the lower East Fork. As Ralph's health improved, he turned the little cabin into a short-order restaurant for canyon travelers and miners.  In 1896, the Henry Roberts property upstream from the Ferguson place was in his name, and he  began work on what was to become the largest most famous camp in the San Gabriel Canyon. 

           Ralph married Jennie Heaton, the daughter of one of the miners, the following year. Together they turned Follows Camp into a place noted for "Good home cooking, a genial friendliness and welcome, good fishing and glorious scenery were the attractions." An early brochure touted that camp life was "spent in real comfort.  The tents are all good size, well floored, cozily furnished and are kept spotlessly clean.  Where guests may prefer, homelike rooms may be reserved. The camp is provided with bath tubs, shower baths and plunge bath - and every modern arrangement has been incorporated to insure perfect sanitation and health throughout the camp. Pure mountain water is pumped by a private water plant which Mr. Follows has installed at enormous expense.  Mountain fruits and vegetables, rich milk and fresh eggs are produced on the premises. The table is always supplied with fresh meats and seasonable delicacies, and ice is brought up daily on the stage."

          In spite of his own battle with tuberculosis, Follows was unsympathetic to others suffering from the disease.  Brochures for Camp Follows sternly announced "NO CONSUMPTIVES ADMIITED. This rule is absolute and no deviation from it will be made!"

          The four-horse Follows Stage was famous for hauling guests up the grueling twelve mile canyon road.  Upon arrival in camp there were accommodations for over 200 guests...Thousands of people came from all over the west to stay in the camp over the years.  If  one  was lucky during their stay, early-day film stars such as Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle would be filming silent movies. Guests sometimes found themselves being used as extras in the old Westerns, as did Follows himself,  his stage and four horses, and the hired hands.  

Read More  


Our Tours with Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures

Our 2004 tour schedule is complete and

we're doing some less strenuous driving!

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 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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