Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tour of Cerro Gordo

After leaving Darwin Falls, we headed west of CA-190 until we came to the almost deserted town of Keeler which is located on the northern shores of Owens Lake. For many decades this has been a dry lake, but in recent years, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has been flooding sections of the expansive lake bed in an effort to control the massive dust storms. We later found out that because of this there is now a very bad problem with horse flies.
At Keeler, we turned off the highway onto a dirt road that wound its way up a steep (8%) and windy road with many switch-backs in order to gain about 6,500 feet in elevation. We drove about 6 miles to accomplish this elevation change. When we left Keeler, the outside temperature was around 90 degrees and when we stepped out of our vehicles at Cerro Gordo at about 2:00 pm, it was around 45 degrees with patches of snow on the ground. NOTE: A reminder that you can enlarge any picture by just clicking on it.

Established in 1867, the mining community 0f Cerro Gordo grew until at one time there were 42,000 people living here at this nearly 9,000-foot elevation. There are many miles of mine tunnels that are spread throughout these hills with the main vertical shaft that goes down some six or seven thousand feet. Mike, the town owner, gave our group a tour of what remains of the town.
We started by gathering in the General Store, which still has just about everything one would have found in it back in the day. Mike showed us a series of enlarged pictures of the various activities of the mining process along with some of the history of the town.

At one time, there was a 5-mile, overhead cable tramway that took ore down the mountain in a series of buckets like this one to Keeler to be processed.

We wound up our tour at the American Hotel which is still used for weddings, receptions, and meetings for various organizations.

Keith bought several of us a Root Beer. This was a special Root Beer that is bottled just for Cerro Gordo and it was very good tasting, too! Mike serves his Root Beer by having you stand at one end of the long bar while he stands at the other end. He then slides the bottle all the way down the length of the bar with just enough speed so that the bottle will stop right in front of you.

Keith listened to Mike tell stories about Cerro
Gordo's glory days while some of the rest of us looked around.

After spending an hour or so with Mike, we piled back in our very dusty vehicles and headed back down the mountain on that steep, winding, single lane road to Keeler where we welcomed the pavement of CA-190. We took that highway all the way back to Furnace Creek.

If you click on the above picture, you can zoom in and see how the lake has been divided up into sections for the flooding program.

No comments:

Post a Comment