We awoke on this clear Sunday morning in Lone Pine, and headed to the east side of Owens Lake. Our mission—to explore the old stuff in and around Keeler and Cerro Gordo. The day before was windy and chilly, but today was beautiful, mild, and nearly calm. Prior to Keeler we stopped at a monument marker and a collapsing cabin at a ghost town by the name of “Swansea.” Some 140 years ago, ships transported silver from Swansea to Cartago on the opposite side of Owens Lake. From there, mule teams pulled wagons filled with Cerro Gordo silver ingots to Los Angeles.
The next stop was Keeler. The sign says that the population is 50, but it seems like it is closer to zero. As far as I can tell, there are no services—-no stores, no gas, no motels—-available in Keeler. The town was open for business prior to about 1960, but since then has hit very hard times. I suppose it is a good place to live if you want to get away from it all, but winds over the dry lake kick up a lot of dust and alkali. Recently, mosquitoes have been a warm-season problem due to the re-diversion of water onto the lake to keep dust levels low. We drove through most of Keeler and found an abandoned beach, an abandoned pool, and a lot of junk.
Next up was Cerro Gordo, about 4500 feet higher than Keeler. A decent dirt road winds up and into the Inyo Mountains from Keeler, and along the way we could see some remnants of an old tram that was used to get supplies and minerals up and down the mountain. At Cerro Gordo, we each paid ten dollars to a caretaker who gave us a little tour, gave us a lot of background on the ghost town, and invited us into the American Hotel. It was well worth the price!