My first trip to Yosemite was when I was 6
months old. Nature and outdoors must
have been in my blood. The family
camped several times a year, sometimes in
the San Gabriel Mountains above our
house, and sometimes in Yosemite or
Sequoia National Parks. We always
camped in real campgrounds, so didn't
know what a real back road was, or a
primitive campground, and a ghost town
was Calico, which I didn't care much for at
9 years old.
My husband, Roger, and I got married at 19, and had our son right away. Roger and a high school
friend used to go to Lucerne Valley where the friend's uncle had left them a cabin with an old yellow
jeep they used to wander around in. Women and children weren't allowed, and if they did come they
had to stay inside the house because the desert was hot and there were snakes and it was scary. So I
hated the desert; my family only drove through it, never stopped; and my young husband and his
buddy only reinforced that.
When my son was 5 we started going on family vacations and would motel-it in Bishop. Later we had
access to a friend's cabin in Swall Meadows north of Bishop. The desert became a friendly place, and
we discovered Bodie & Aurora, ghost towns. Sometime in between that, expenses were tight and I
knew if we wanted to have a vacation we'd have to camp. But Roger said women and children don't
camp. Yet I had more camping under my belt than he did, albeit real campgrounds. Mom still had
the 8x10 cabin tent, so I took it and had to hand sew new window screens in it. We went up to the
same campground in the San Gabriels that my family did when I was little. It was fall, it was extremely
windy, the bees were out, and every time we opened our mouth to talk or to eat a meal, the bees
would fly in our mouths. I survived without complaint and proved that women could camp. We
bought our own tent and camped on Kern River with our son when we couldn't afford a cabin, or a
Later on SUV's became a reality, and Roger, remembering his buddy's old Jeep, had to have one. We
bought a Chevy Blazer, took it to Utah, and a friend of ours in an identical Chevy Blazer got stuck in the
mud. We had to leave him there and go into town and someone told us about tow straps, which we
bought and went back and pulled him out. When we got home, the local college catalogue came
out with a class in how to 4 WD. That was Harry Llewellyn & Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures. I insisted
Roger, who was a photojournalist, take it. I figured if he was going to do this kind of stuff, he'd better
learn how to do it properly.
Roger went to the class and covered it for the paper so he wouldn't have to pay for it. Then he went
on the trip the following weekend that accompanied the class. He told me about it, and I did the
same thing next time it came around. Our son who was 16 then did the same. We realized it wasn't
much different than our family outings, where we dug up history and found out where it was, except it
wasn't in the backcountry. So we put together what is our Mojave Expedition, offered it as an outing for
the Great Los Angeles Press Club, which at one time Roger was president of. We invited Harry Llewellyn,
and he liked it, so we started doing that tour for him, then we started developing one by one over a
couple of more years, all the rest of our tours.
I have always liked to write, and began writing stories about our adventures for my friends and cousins
in other states, when e-mails first became popular. I called them trip-a-logues. Then somebody showed
me message boards & I started doing the same thing on the message boards. A few years after that I
developed my website www.explorehistoricalif.com just so I could have a place to write histories and
stuff about the places I love to go to.
This became a passion for me, being out in nature, exploring ghost towns and writing. I had been a full
time Mom, a volunteer church secretary, worked at a friend's bookstore and I was receptionist at the
local YMCA. But the trips and the stories I wrote were more important to me. I took a two month leave
of absence from the YMCA to stay up at Cerro Gordo during Jody Stewart's Memorial Service and to run
our spring trips. I decided I liked that better than I liked anything else in my life, so I quit my job, and the
rest, is history. I'm traveling and writing and having the time of my life!
The only thing I ever knew I wanted to do in life was be a Mom but after one child I realized it wasn't
quite what I thought being a Mom would be, and the other thing I wanted to do more than anything
in the world was write. I actually imagined myself a hermit in the mountains, just writing, because I was
too shy to have a boyfriend till my senior year in high school when the now college man, Roger, asked
me if I wanted a ride home on his motorcycle from the library. We've been together ever since, and
fortunately share the same interests, and grown together. I want to continue to travel the backcountry
and research and write for the rest of my life. I've gotten to know a lot of the historians that write the
books about my favorite places, and who knows... the next book might be mine so I can officially call
myself a writer and a historian, instead of pretending that I am one. I also want an opportunity to
spend a summer volunteering at Bodie so I can say that I experienced two ghost towns first hand by
volunteering and living there, and am working on making that a reality this June for three weeks.
Between that we share adventures, and history and that's the story of me, and of us, in a nutshell.
****Cecile is seeing her dreams come true, and will be living and working eight weeks
during the summer of 2010 at the ghost town of Bodie. She has been hired as
administrative assistant to the business manager of the newly formed Bodie Foundation.
She and her husband Roger will also continue to volunteer, and caretake the town of
Cerro Gordo as time permits. ****