Saturday, July 31, 2010

4 Wheelin above Sardine Lake

Last Monday I took a ride up a 4wheel drive trail that I have been driving various off road vehicles on for many years now ... This trail is pretty hairy ... There are plenty of large rocks to slowly climb over along the way up the steep almost cliff like mountainside that leads  to upper Sardine Lake ...
The aerial views of Lower Sardine Lake are spectacular from this trail and only from this trail can you see the lake this way ... 
This year I never actually made it to Upper Sardine Lake ... There was an area that I just could not travel across with out all terrain tires on my SUV ... This section was not like this last year  ... Obviously a result of the heavy snows that buried this mountain last winter ...
However , Here is a shot of upper Sardine from the past for you ...
There are a family of River Otters that live at Lower Sardine and I had hoped to get some footage of them however I never did locate them while we were there so here are a couple of pics of them from Sierra City.Com that  I found for you ...
The Sardine Lake Vantage of the Buttes is the "traditional" view of the mountain that is most often seen in post cards and media ...
The post right under this one has another vantage point for seeing the Buttes that shows the mountain from a completely different angle giving it a totally different look than the Sardine Lake views... Truly a majestic place ....

Friday, July 30, 2010

On The Trail @ Packer Lake

High above Sierra City nestled in on the opposite side of the Buttes is the very beautiful Packer Lake ... This beautiful little alpine lake hosts some of the most incredible exclusive vantage points  of the Sierra Buttes that you can ever see up there ... The trail around the lake is very pretty as well ,

leading you through large pines in the dense forest that creeps right up to the edge of the water along much of the shoreline ...
This lake is great for an afternoon of kayaking adventures which my wife really enjoyed quite a bit ...She was out on the water paddling around for quite a while ...
All the while that she was paddling around the lake there was a very large Osprey hunting trout from above ... What a really cool experience that was for her to be out kayaking on the crystal clear waters of  Packer Lake watching an Osprey dive down from the sky and gracefully snatch a nice trout from the water flying off with it in his talons ... Which he did several times ... Apparently he had other mouths to feed ...
Unfortunately I never managed to get footage of the fish grabbing because after following him on camera for what seemed like for ever  of course I would set the camera down and that would be the moment when my wife would say "ooh wow did you see that , were you still filming" ?  Dohhh !... But here is a short clip of him hunting  above the lake just moments before he dove down and snagged a fish ...
High above Packer Lake there is a very cool four wheel drive  trail that leads to the lookout at the top of the Buttes ...
The road that leads  up to the trail is a heck of a climb with some very steep grades and cliffside views looking out across the sierra that are some of the most beautiful sites in the world ...
I always enjoy a nice off road adventure up above the lake when ever we are in this area ... The Sierra Buttes Trail is one of my favorite places to be ...
It winds up the back side of the Buttes to an elevation over 8000 feet and goes all the way to the top ... It always amazes me how even in the middle of the hot Summer there are still many patches of lush foliage and beautiful sierra mountain wildflowers thriving under the alpine canopy ... One area in particular that I like along the Sierra Buttes Trail is a small underground mountain spring about half way up ...
It  flows out of the side of the rocks and crosses the  trail ... This area is always surrounded by various beautiful ferns and many different wildflowers that splash color all around the trail ...
Although our trip was a short one we enjoyed every moment of it and we plan to get up there once more before school starts ... What a beautiful place to be !

Standing In The Falls For A Measly Ten Bucks !

This past week my family and I have been enjoying a few nice days up in Sierra City at the Yuba River Inn ... Our trip was cut short however by a death in the family which was not really sudden but still very hard on our hearts ... However we did enjoy every bit of our time together up there just as grandma would have wanted... Just up the road from our cabin is the ice cold fresh water sierra mountain springs ... These falls have been flowing out of the side of the mountain for ever and ever ... My dad has been taking our family up there all of my life ... Back in the seventies people would be lined up in cars with big drinking water containers for their campsites... The water at these falls  is soooo good ! This water is better than the stuff in the waterboys  secret necklace vile ... It doesn't get any fresher than this ...

My son for some reason enjoys standing under these freezing falls ... It has become something of a tradition for my son and I after betting him ten bucks last year that he wouldn't stand under those freezing cold falls ... Well he did stand in the falls last year and I had to pay up ... This year he did it again !
The other day as we were passing by the falls on our way to Packer Lake he spoke up and wanted to know if the offer still stood ...Well , needless to say I eagerly pulled over at the falls remembering how entertaining this site was for me last year ...
You would never get me to stand under this particularly icy cold glacial waterfall for a measly ten bucks but I sure do get a kick out of watching him do it !...

Chizuru Ikewaki

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"We don't know if it was one bear, two bears, a black bear or grizzly bear,"--- 1 Dead, 2 Hurt in Bear Attack at Campground

COOKE CITY, Mont. (July 28) -- - At least one bear rampaged through a heavily occupied campground Wednesday near Yellowstone National Park in the middle of the night, killing one person and injuring two others during a terrifying attack that forced people to hide in their cars as an animal tore through tents.

Authorities said three separate attacks left a male dead and a woman and another male injured at the Soda Butte campground. The woman suffered severe lacerations and crushed bones from bites on her arms, and the surviving male was bitten on his calf.

Wildlife officials did not release the names or ages of the victims.

Don and Paige Wilhelm of Aledo, Texas, were spending the night in the campsite next to the woman.

"We heard a scream about 2," Don Wilhelm said. "We weren't sure what it was. We thought maybe teenagers yelling."

Paige Wilhelm added: "We heard a lady in the tent next door say 'no.' I said, 'Don, there's a bear,' and started hearing this snuffling. We heard her say, 'a bear has attacked me.'"

The couple waited until they could no longer hear the animal breathing before running for their car. Don Wilhelm later helped bandage the woman's wounds.

Both survivors were hospitalized in Cody, Wyo.

The victims were in three different tents, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Capt. Sam Sheppard. Two of the tents were close to each other. The male who was killed was alone in a tent about a quarter-mile away in the heavily occupied campground that has 27 sites for tents and recreational vehicles, he said.

Campers throughout the site had their food in storage boxes, Sheppard said.

"They were doing things right," Sheppard said. "It was random. I have no idea why this bear picked these three tents out of all the tents there."

Wildlife officials were inspecting the campground to determine what happened.

"We don't know if it was one bear, two bears, a black bear or grizzly bear," Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said. "Obviously, the bear's gone now. Will it come back tonight? That's the question."

Authorities set five baited traps and were collecting bear hair, saliva and droppings while measuring the bite wounds of victims to determine the type and number of bears involved.

If they trap a bear involved, it will be killed, Sheppard said.

Park County dispatchers took a 911 call early Wednesday from a male reporting that a bear had bitten his ankle and was tearing up tents, Aasheim said. Dispatchers got two more calls, including one from a man who said a bear bit the leg of his daughter's boyfriend.

At 3:50 a.m., park officials went through the campground to advise campers to get into their cars. A half-hour later, the dead male was discovered at a campsite. Authorities evacuated the campground, sending campers to nearby hotels.

It was not immediately clear how many people were in the campground at the time.

The same campground was the site of a 2008 attack in which a grizzly bear bit and injured a man sleeping in a tent. A young adult female grizzly was captured in a trap four days later and transported to a bear research center at Washington State University in Pullman.

The 10-acre Soda Butte campground is located in Gallatin National Forest, some five miles from the northeastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It is located just off the mountainous Beartooth Highway about 125 miles southwest of Billings.

"It is a populated area for bears, not just grizzly bears but black bears," Gallatin National Forest spokeswoman Marna Daley said.

The campground, which is run by the U.S. Forest Service, has been closed, as well as two other nearby campgrounds, Daley said. Forest Service officials will consider closing more campgrounds after consulting with state wildlife officials leading the investigation, she said.

Bear pic not actual...AP Writers Matt Volz and Amy Beth Hanson in Helena contributed to this report. Aol News

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Top 10 Animal Viewing Tips

Here is another cool post from the Smokey Mountains Hiking Blog that I read ,I added the pic....In the June issue of Backpacker Magazine, author Kelly Bastone offers up her top 10 animal viewing tips.

1. Keep a safe distance.

2. Hike at a leisurely pace.

3. Take long breaks.

4. Hike in the right weather.

5. Call wildlife biologists (at a park or college) and rangers.

6. Keep binocs/camera handy.

7. Look for parts and portions.

8. Practice "scatter vision."

9. Sneak up ridges.

10. Observe prey animals.

Obviously these tips assume you're not in a car on the Cades Cove Loop Road.... Weather you are in the Great Smokey Mountains or here on Smokeys Mountain these are some good tips for those of us who enjoy 
seeing critters in the wild out on the trail ...I am actually packing right now ! I leave tomorrow for the Yuba and I cant wait to get out there and enjoy myself ... Number two , three , ten and  six on the list above there are pretty much my usual  plan but I am looking forward to doing some of number nine and possibly seven too ...

To learn more and read the full article, please click here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Beautiful Day In The Canyon

That was indeed a beautiful day in Donner Canyon taken earlier this year ... Stay Cool...

Park District To Purchase 460-Acre Property Between Pittsburg And Clayton

At their July 20, 2010 meeting, the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors agreed to purchase 460 acres located at 8040 Black Diamond Way between the cities of Pittsburg and Clayton. The property will be an addition to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve and is located along the existing Black Diamond Trail, providing access to the western portion of that park. The property is being acquired through a partnership with the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy (Conservancy). This acquisition is the Park District’s seventh joint project with the Conservancy, which was created to identify, preserve and restore high priority land areas with significant habitat for protected species.

The subject property is located west of the former Chopra property, historically known as Irish Canyon, which was recently acquired by Save Mt. Diablo. Irish Canyon was named for early settlers in the 1800s who raised food crops and sold them to miners at the nearby coal mines. Irish Creek runs through the newly acquired property.    This information comes from EBPARKS.ORG

The Dance

In the mountains you can see something that's more stable than you are...Something that's more enduring than you are... Our moment on stage is soooo brief,,,But if you can be aware of the ingredients that make up the stage upon which you live your life, dance your life ,,,You can enjoy the Dance Of Life ever so much more...                         Ruth Kirk       

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Killer Whale Plays With A Dog On The Deck Of A Fishing Boat ! Very Cool ...

Click HERE to see this incredible video footage ... Apparently this whale was called Luna and became pretty famous from this footage ... You can find lots more about Luna the dog friendly Orca at  the Luna Stewardship Collective ... Also click HERE for another absolutely incredible completely unrelated video starring a dog and a shark that is pretty cool as well  ...Enjoy !

The Yuba River Inn

Ever been here ?      Earlier this month I did a post called "Vacation Much"  which was all about getting out there and enjoying your life this summer... Particularly up in the beautiful Gold Lakes basin  mountains of Sierra City ... I also mentioned how money is tight this year and we were gonna do our best to get up there later in the year ... Well it pleases me greatly to share that next week we are unexpectedly headed up to the Yuba River inn @ Sierra City  for a week !   The Yuba River Inn was originally a piece of Gold Rush history. The Inn’s property was part of the Devine family farm in the 1800’s which supplied miners and townspeople with food. The property was purchased by the Tschopp family and was established as an inn with a swimming pool and cabin rentals. The Inn opened its doors for business in 1937. The one and only private swimming pool in Sierra City is located here. People traveled up Hwy 49 in busses for day trips and enjoyed lunch around the pool after the main building burned in the 1960’s.
Many famous news and entertainment personalities, authors, and song writers have spent time at the Inn, relishing in the solitude of the Sierras and rejuvenating their creative well-being.
Most of the original log cabins have undergone restoration and remodeling, with the exception of the main Inn building, which burned down in the 1960’s.   Needless to say , I will definitely be posting lots of pictures of the area as well as some hiking stories and hopefully some unique wildlife footage also ...The last time I stayed here I had a big bear right on my porch one night and another evening there was a beautiful Grey fox at the back sliding glass door ... So , I am hopeful to get some more great animal pictures for you !

Chef and Brewmaster

Join Lindsay Wildlife Museum August 13 at 6 PM for a fabulous 5 course dinner and beer pairing. Morgan Cox, Co-founder of Ale Industries and James Koskiniemi, Chef / Owner of A Grand Affair Catering will talk about the pairings for each course that evening. You must be 21 to attend. Space is limited so make a reservation at 925-627-2951 or online. Proceeds from this event benefit the museum’s education and wildlife programs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This old west RE: Three Fingers Jack

After receiving an interesting comment from a reader known only as lp , I became curious about a man called "Three Fingers Jack" and found this interesting piece at a site called Wandering Lizard...
The legend continues with Joaquin tracking down and killing the five men who had raped and murdered his wife and then swearing that he would take revenge on all Americans. He formed a bandit group and began a life of robbery and murder that allegedly spanned the length and breadth of the Mother Lode Region of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Murrieta's right hand man was Three Finger Jack (Manuel Garcia) who played a minor, if grisly, role in the Bear Flag revolt and is credited with numerous atrocious murders. Virtually every community in the Sierra foothills has one or more stories of Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack during the three years from 1850 to 1853.
The nature of Joaquin Murrieta's character depends on who is telling the story. Lawmen of the day considered him to be one of the worst banditos ever to appear in California. Many others saw him as a kind of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Allegedly he had a vast and loyal following among Mexicans living in California who saw him as an avenger of the wrongs being committed against them by the newly arrived Anglo-American interlopers. All seem to agree that Murrieta and his band were accomplished cattle and horse thieves, inveterate robbers, and ruthless killers.
In July 1853 it was announced that, on order of California Governor Bigler, a specially formed company of State Rangers led by Captain Harry Love had killed both Joaquin Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack at Ponoche Pass in Tulare Valley. In order to prove their deaths, Murrieta was decapitated and three Fingered Jack's hand was amputated. These items were then placed in bottles, embalmed in alcohol, and taken back to the State Capitol where a reward was paid to Love. Official announcements were made proclaiming Murrieta's death and the gruesome bottles went on tour through the state.
In spite of the official proclamations, rumor quickly spread that Love had not killed Joaquin Murrieta but rather another man named Joaquin. Sightings of Joaquin were reported in various places and people who claimed to have known him declared that the head in the bottle was not his. One story has it that he retired to Mexico. Another has him reappearing in Hornitos, California, to reclaim a fortune in gold that he had buried there. Whatever the truth of the matter, there is no question but that his name has, for some political activists at least, symbolized resistance against Anglo-American economic and cultural domination in California.

Volunteers Needed For Coastal Cleanup Day

Volunteers are needed to join in East Bay Regional Park District's share of the 26th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, scheduled for Saturday, September 25.
Participants will help to rid the shoreline of trash and debris, as well as recyclables. Of  particular concern is the plastic refuse that collects along the shore because of its detrimental effect on the wildlife.
Contra Costa County
• Bay Point Regional Shoreline, Port Chicago Highway exit off Hwy. 4 in Bay Point, go north to McAvoy Harbor.
• Martinez Regional Shoreline, north end of Ferry St. in Martinez.
• Eckley Pier, Bull Valley Staging Area, Carquinez Regional Shoreline on Carquinez Scenic Drive between Port Costa and Crockett.
• Lone Tree Point, end of Pacific Ave. in Rodeo.
• Breuner Marsh, Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Giant Highway in Richmond. From points south of Richmond, take I-580 west to the Richmond Parkway and head east towards I-80. From points east of Richmond, take I-80 to the Richmond Parkway exit and head west. Once on the Parkway take Goodrick Avenue north to the end where the park gate is located. Follow the graveled trail to the Bay Area Radio Control Society parking lot on your right. A few hundred yards farther is a rocked, flat area that will be the temporary staging area for volunteer cleanups.
• Bayfront Park, west end of Tennent Ave. in Pinole. To volunteer, call (510) 724-9837 after July 15.
• Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, end of Isabel St. in Richmond.
The work day will last from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon.  Volunteers should wear work clothes, gloves, and sturdy shoes and should bring snacks.  Beverages will be provided.
Volunteers may choose among 14 staging areas in the two counties where cleanup crews may assemble.  Pre-registration is required. Except where noted, register after July 15 by calling 1-888-327-2757,  or register online after July 20, 2010 at
You can also help with a trail cleanup work effort on the Marsh Creek Regional Trail in the Oakley/Brentwood area. Go to for details.
See also the State of California's Web site.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Joaquin Murrieta: Literary Fiction or Historical Fact?

To read this incredible story of  famous old west history that went on right here in our county just click the Read more link ... Fascinating stuff...
The popular legend of Joaquin Murrieta is that of a peace loving man driven to seek revenge when he and his brother were falsely accused of stealing a mule. His brother was hung and Joaquin horsewhipped. His young wife was gang raped and in one version she died in Joaquin’s arms. Swearing revenge, Joaquin hunted down all who had violated his sweetheart. He embarked on a short but violent career that brought death to his Anglo tormentors. The state of California then offered a reward of up to $5000 for Joaquin "dead or alive." In the end Joaquin was hunted down, killed and mutilated by a drunken brute of a man, Harry Love.
This is the tale that a sometimes newspaperman and poet, John Rollin Ridge, wrote in 1854, a year after Joaquin’s death. John Ridge was a part Cherokee Indian who fled to California after killing a man in Arkansas. Borrowing from newspaper reports from the gold camps, he created a romantic story of lust and revenge starring the recently dead bandit, Joaquin Murrieta, as the victim of biased society.
After Ridge’s book was published, it was rumored that Joaquin had not been killed but returned to Mexico. Even more fantastic was the story that he returned mortally wounded to Niles Canyon (part of Contra Costa County in 1853) where he died and was buried beneath the family adobe. In 1986 the adobe floor was even excavated in an unsuccessful attempt to find Murrieta’s bones.
On one hand we have the popular belief exemplified by the famous histories of Hubert Howe Bancroft who legitimized the Ridge version of Joaquin as a daring Mexican Robin Hood. We also have modern historians who charge that the real Murrieta was a vicious killer and thug.
What can we make of all this? Can we find a general consensus after examining the known facts? Joseph Henry Jackson in his book, Bad Company (1949), carefully traced the evolution and growth of the Joaquin Murrieta legend around the world. Later researchers including Frank Latta, William B. Secrest, Remi Nadeau, James F. Varley and John Boessenecker uncovered original source materials that clarified this violent chapter in California history.

The Known Historical Record

Interesting historical parallels exist between the Murrieta – Feliz family and the James – Younger gang. In both cases close relatives formed the core of the outlaw gangs. Both bands were spawned in the economic and political upheaval of a society disrupted by war. The gangs were sheltered and protected by citizens who were threatened by the new economic and social order. Strangely, in both cases, it was also newspapermen who built these outlaws into sympathic victims of an unjust society.
What are the generally accepted and verified historical facts about Joaquin Murrieta? We know from Church records that Joaquin was born in the southern part of the Mexican state of Sonora in 1830 to Joaquin and Rosalia Murrieta. His mother had been previously married to a man named Carrillo. In later years Joaquin sometimes called himself Joaquin Carrillo, which led to much confusion and helped create the "many Joaquins" theory. The young Joaquin eventually married Rosa Feliz of Vayoreca. They, along with Jesus Murrieta and Rosa’s three brothers, went to California upon news of the gold strike. Rosa’s brother, Claudio Feliz, began gold mining with Anglo partners near Sonora while Joaquin and his bride eventually moved to Niles Canyon, then part of Contra Costa County. In these early years there is evidence that Joaquin worked as a vaquero near Oakley and Brentwood in 1850 and as a mestenero (mustang catcher).
From court records and newspaper accounts, the first we hear of the Murrieta - Feliz clan’s brush with the law was in 1849 when Claudio was arrested for stealing another miner’s gold. The evidence of his guilt proved overwhelming. However Claudio was able to escape from the Stockton jail and launch a new career. By 1850 he was the leader of one of the most vicious bands of outlaws to have ever preyed upon the Anglo, Oriental and Hispanic inhabitants of California.

The midnight attack by Claudio Feliz's outlaw band on the Marsh Rancho, December 5, 1850.
The first known attack by Claudio Feliz’s gang occurred in Contra Costa County at the John Marsh Rancho (Los Meganos) during the night of December 5, 1850. Under the cover of darkness, twelve armed men sacked the Marsh rancho. William Harrington, an unarmed Anglo visitor, was run down, shot and then lanced to death. Surprised by the sudden onslaught Marsh and his servants were quickly subdued and robbed.
Ten days later the ranch of Digby Smith near San Jose was hit. After everyone was tied up, Digby’s skull was crushed, another settler had his head split open by an axe and the cook’s head was severed. The ranch house was burned to the ground. In the ashes were found the blackened corpses of his victims. Over twelve desperadoes including seven Anglos formed this band of vicious killers.
In February Claudio struck again at the rancho of a native Californio, Anastacio Chabolla, only two miles from San Jose. This time his intended victims were on guard and the well-armed vaqueros fought off the outlaws. Claudio’s band of killers retreated to the gold country of the Sierra foothills where they committed numerous robberies and murders. They specialized in robbing and murdering lone travelers. They followed a very successful, proven criminal plan of “dead men tell no tales.”
We know that by 1851 Joaquin along with Reyes Feliz, Claudio’s brother, had joined the gang and were learning the killers trade. Although the group was now composed mainly of Hispanics, for a time three Anglos also participated in the bloody business. After a series of misadventures, Claudio carried on as an equal opportunity killer. He was never shy about robbing and murdering fellow Hispanics. Other victims included Chinese, Anglos and even one hapless Black. As pressure from the Law mounted, Joaquin left the Feliz gang for the relative safety of Los Angeles where he warmed the bed of Ana Benitez, a young woman from New Mexico.
Meanwhile, in September 1851, Claudio raided John Kottinger’s ranch in Pleasanton but was repelled by John’s suspicious wife. Feliz next made a fatal mistake by leaving alive a robbery victim; a Monterey County Californio named Agapito. In this part of California, the old Hispanic Californio families were politically powerful and deadly serious about enforcing the law. By robbing a fellow Hispanic, Claudio lost the protection of his fellow countrymen and his gang was quickly cornered. During the ensuing gun battle Claudio Feliz was shot to pieces and killed.
Leadership of the remaining members of the gang soon passed to Joaquin Murrieta. Claudio’s brother, Reyes Feliz, had joined Joaquin in Los Angeles. Joaquin and Reyes were soon implicated in the shooting death of General Joshua Bean, a major general in the state militia. Enraged, the Los Angeles vigilance committee arrested Reyes Feliz along with several members of the notorious southern California Salomon Pico gang. Joaquin abandoned Reyes to his fate and immediately returned to the gold camps. Reyes Feliz was hung for the murder of General Bean and shortly afterwards in January 1853 there began the short, bloody crime spree that was to make the name of Joaquin Murrieta infamous throughout California.
Because they tended to be unarmed and docile, Chinese miners were a favorite target of Joaquin’s gang. There also appears to have been racial hatred associated with many of these crimes. Many Chinese were killed; apparently just for the pleasure it gave the outlaws. Usually the Asians had their throats slit. Protected by the large Hispanic population, the Mexican bandits killed 22 men in two months, most of them Chinese. By now Joaquin’s face was too well known in the mining camps for his personal safety. During March 1853 the gang vanished into the wilderness of the remote San Joaquin Valley.
A corps of state rangers was organized to track down Joaquin under the leadership of Harry Love, a hard fighting frontiersman. They had little success until they captured Jesus Feliz, the youngest and last remaining Feliz brother. Jesus informed on the Murrieta gang’s hideout. Some have speculated that he may have blamed Joaquin for deserting his older brother, Reyes, in Los Angeles. There is some evidence that Joaquin may have been the real killer of General Bean. Based on the information from Jesus Feliz, Harry Love’s rangers captured the Murrieta gang on July 25, 1853 and killed Joaquin during a running gunfight near today’s intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 33. Jesus Feliz was released, settled in Bakersfield, raised a family before dying in 1910. Harry Love cut off the head of Murrieta and preserved it in a bottle of alcohol.
In the days before DNA, fingerprints or mug shots, this was the most practical means of proving identification. The head was carried through the mining camps where Joaquin Murrieta’s face was well known. There was near universal agreement that it was in fact Joaquin. The preserved head was on display in San Francisco until 1906 when it was destroyed in the great earthquake and fire.

Growth of the Legend

John Rollin Ridge’s little 90-page book, “The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, The Celebrated California Bandit,” was published in 1854 about a year after the outlaw’s death. Filled with florid, imaginary conversations between Joaquin and his men, this tiny book proved wildly popular. Five years later an anonymous writer for the California Police Gazette, plagiarized Ridge’s little work and republished it under the title “The Life of Joaquin Murieta, Brigand Chief of California.” This new book was even more popular than the original. However the changes in the story allow us to trace the evolution of the Murrieta legend across continents.
In the new book Joaquin’s wife is called Carmela rather than Rosita (her real name was Rosa). Now, after she was ravished, American miners killed her. Also Joaquin has acquired a beautiful mistress, Clarina. The stolen book soon appeared in Spain where the story of a brave Joaquin fighting personal injustice became nearly as popular as in California. Then the French plagiarists picked it up. From there it appeared in Chile where it was translated from French back into Spanish by Roberto Hyenne. Under the new author Murrieta loses his Mexican citizenship and becomes a Chilean, “El Bandito Chileno.” In fact Joaquin becomes so popular among his “fellow countrymen” that a statue was erected in Chile dedicated to the memory of this brave “Chilean” fighter against injustice.
Spanish publishers plagiarized the Chilean version and republished the book as El Caballero Chileno, by a “Professor” Acigar. Then the Mexicans issued the book and changed Joaquin back into a Mexican. A stage drama of Ridge’s “Rosita” version was written by Charles Howe and added to the legend by having San Joaquin County offer a $5000 reward for Joaquin, dead or alive. Later writers reported as a “fact” that the state of California had made the offer and that Joaquin had written on the wanted poster, “I will give $10,000” and signed it. Great drama but no such public rewards were ever offered by either the state or county.
Cincinnatus Hiner Miller wrote a long and very amateurish poem, Joaquin. In the poem Miller gave Murrieta a deep knife-scar across his forehead. The general public picked up this imaginary scar from the poem and later pioneer “eye witnesses” describe the fictional scar in great detail. In the 1880’s this poem by “Joaquin” Miller as he is now commonly known became popular on the East Coast. There the Murrieta legend grew in strength and his story was republished in numerous dime novels such as Joaquin, the Saddle King and Joaquin: The Claude Duval of California.
Herbert Howe Bancroft legitimized the Ridge’s fictionalized version of Joaquin as a daring Mexican Robin Hood. He (or his paid note takers and writers) uncritically used Ridge’s “Third Edition,” published soon after John Ridge’s death in 1871 as a primary source. Bancroft added new quotes from newspapers concerning Joaquin’s pickled head and the damage to California history was done.
Another historian contemporaneous with Bancroft, Theodore Hittell, also wrote about Murrieta but using Ridge as only a secondary source. Hittell warned the reader that the sources Ridge used were “to a great extent unreliable.” Hittell wrote that Murrieta was, “Never anything but a vicious and abandoned character, low, brutal, and cruel, intrinsically and at heart a thief and a cut-throat.” Unfortunately his words were too little and too late. The public only saw that the tale was in the famous Bancroft histories so therefore it must be true.
Now with the apparent scholarly blessing of Herbert Bancroft, magazines picked up the Joaquin legend and soon created an “old timer’s” explosion of recollections. In the 1890’s every pioneer writing about his adventures in early California had “recollections” of Murrieta and his nonexistent, fearsome scar, the disfigurement invented by “Joaquin” Miller. Even Charles Fremont wrote that Joaquin Murrieta was a member of one of his early California expeditions-clearly a historical improbability given Joaquin’s established age. In the numerous stories told by the old Forty-niners, details were often contradictory with many “facts” drawn from the popular Ridge story or its many variants. In some tales the old timers swore Murrieta was blue eyed and blonde and in others he was brown eyed with curly black hair. Many local pioneer families in Contra Costa and Alameda counties have fascinating (but suspect) stories of various handsome, mysterious strangers who appeared at their ranch house doors but everyone’s astonishment later turned out to be none other than Joaquin himself. Nearly every Eastbay hill with a cave or hollow is credited with once being a Murrieta hideout.

Documented Facts

What we do know is that Joaquin began his outlaw career in the footsteps of his brother- in-law. Greed, not social injustice, was responsible for his turning outlaw. There was no evidence from either court records or newspaper clippings of whipping, ravishing of his bride or loss of a mining claim. Women and rape were extremely rare in the gold fields and was extensively reported when it occurred. We know that Joaquin’s brother was never lynched as commonly reported. He returned to Mexico and, according to family records, was still alive in the 1860’s.

A drawing of Joaquin Murrieta's severed head.
During his lifetime Joaquin was recognized as a cold-blooded killer of both Anglos and Orientals. The Chinese community in San Francisco even raised $1000 and presented it to Harry Love in appreciation for killing a notorious murderer of their fellow citizens. In 1980 Frank Latta reinforced the Murrieta myth when he published a 685-page book, Joaquin Murrieta and His Horse Gangs. Frank Latta did some valuable research in Mexico and conducted the first interviews of the Murrieta family. However most the California oral interviews were recorded in the 1920’s and never checked for accuracy. By not critically examining his sources, Latta produced a badly flawed document, which conflicts with the historical record.
One of his primary sources was an old man, Avelino Martinez, who claimed to have ridden with Murrieta. In later interviews Martinez doesn’t mention being a gang member but only that he met Joaquin in 1877 - 24 years after Joaquin’s death! Martinez had a well-known reputation as a teller of tall tales. Latta also relied heavily on the unverified diary of Ben Marshall for pushing the myth of Murrieta’s whipping and the miners’ treatment of Rosa Feliz Murrieta. Historians have since discovered that those widely quoted entries were actually copied from the 1869 fictionalized poetry book by “Joaquin” Miller.
The tradition in Latin cultures of the bandit as a social revolutionary is well known. Eric Hobsbawm in his classic, Bandits, discusses the social implications of the Joaquin Murrieta legend and how it fits into the traditional Hispanic view of rural banditry. In fact the Chicano movement of the 1970’s adopted Murrieta as a symbol of the fight against “Anglo” oppression. Sadly, because of protests from a few in the Mexican- American community, Harry Love’s burial site has been denied a proper historical marker while Tiburcio Vasquez, convicted leader of the infamous Tres Pinos massacre, in a nearby graveyard has his final resting place marked by an elaborate monument.
Joaquin Murrieta along with Jesse James and Billy the Kid is one of America’s most interesting examples of myth creation. In contrast to the original Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest fame, enough written material remains to enable scholars to trace the evolution of a short lived, violent outlaw into a defender of the oppressed and downtrodden. A scholarly investigation of this phenomenon probably tells us more about ourselves than it does about the real Joaquin Murrieta.
The Murrieta controversy does contain another lesson for us all. Historical truths are often elusive. The general public usually prefers a good story over verifiable facts from primary sources. Most popular histories are commonly viewed through the lens of current social and political prejudices. Perhaps that is another good reason why history should be studied and analyzed with as much care as any of the physical sciences.

Written by William Mero ...  All this and more interesting Contra Costa  history can be found at :