Oct. 6, 2014 Dirt Road to Burgess Well 23 miles
My wild west logic was making me paranoid and thirsty. Most folks are decent. Asking for a little water isn’t such a big deal right?
Not 15 minutes goes by and Carrot’s got a gallon jug of water.
“The guy’s super friendly!”
I muster up enough courage and head down to Cerro Gordo. I don’t like hustling people, but I could sure use an extra liter. I see two men talking near one of the buildings and wave.
“You must be with the other woman. Come on down!”
The Cerro Gordo mines were discovered by Mexican prospectors in 1865 and produced millions of dollars worth of silver and lead.
Also, more importantly, the town was famous for it’s “redlight” shenanigans.
The man takes me into one of the buildings that used to be a hotel. Everything is a relic- the tiles, the spoons, the curtains, the door knobs…this is every white middle class suburban antique store shopping Mom’s wet dream.
His name is Robert and he’s the owner. A diffident chihuahua he calls “Harley Davidson” guards the property.
“That’s my wife’s dog, I wouldn’t have picked a small dog.”
But I can tell he loves this dog.
“Help yourself to the water. There’s no natural source ever since Mexican Spring dried up, so I gotta drive these gallon jugs up here from the valley.”
I pour one liter.
“How many ghosts live here?”
He points to a window. “Pablo likes to peek through that window while I’m eatin’ breakfast. ”
I look but there’s no ghost.
Back at the bunker Carrot offers up old salami. I can’t imagine it’s any good in this heat, yet I wolfishly devour it. The putrid meat sates my hunger. A packet of Crystal Light lemonade remedies my dehydration. An extra liter of water gives me peace of mind. Onward!
After Cerro Gordo, the route follows a 2wd dirt road along the crest of the Inyo Mountains before dropping down to the Owen’s Valley and into Lone Pine.
Along this road we can see the mighty Sierras! A rush of accomplishment pulses through my veins. The part of the route that concerned me the most is now behind.
The road has good tread and the navigation is easy. We come upon more remnants from the boom and bust mining era, including a furniture-less cabin from an old salt tram operation. In 1911, this salt tram was built to carry salt 14 miles from Saline Valley, over the Inyo Mountains, and down to the town of Keeler in Owen’s Valley.
To pass the time road walking, Carrot and I act out turn of the century colloquies. We’re impoverished Steinbeck-y type characters who live in the Inyo Mountains and use this road to travel back and forth from Lone Pine.
“I walk this road ever’ day to go to work in Lone Pine from China Garden Spring. All I’ve got is this here potato sack to wear.”
“I’m a goin’ get my husband, he’s been down at the saloon and whore house fer a week straight!”
“Have you met the little blind boy who sells dolls without eyes?”
“I was never good with a needle, one time I knitted two left socks!”
We did this for hours. Hours turned into days. Days turned into weeks. We joked that we’d been possessed by turn of the century ghosts.
The last few miles to Burgess Well I feel like an old weary horse. My ewe neck hangs low. The toe edge of my hooves scrape along the dirt. Ears flat. Eyes dull. Lip quivering.
“Used to be a real frog walker, but too many laps around the track.”
“How much yee want fer her?”
“A nickel’ll do.”
Gotta fix this rodeo pony.Tomorrow: Lone Pine!