Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Friday, March 04, 2005  

Near Fatal Curiosity, Camping Angels and Penniless Wanderings

Chapter Three: The Outpost

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

“The Native Americans too were driven out. Much of the narrative, in fact, focuses on the bitter, sustained conflict between native dwellers and the practitioners of what would soon be known as Manifest Destiny. And it is here that Clark makes his first appearance in the annals of American history.”

Jonathan Kirsch

MONO LAKE, CA. Get rich schemes and tall tales – both consumed and sustained Mark Twain. Shuttling as much as he did between Carson City and Virginia City, it was San Francisco that captured his imagination – but it was Mono Lake that almost killed him – and his curiosity.

J2020F: Well it’s no secret that the investments made in mining on the Comstock in the 1860's, 1870's and 1880's fueled the building of San Francisco. Legendary names in California’s history -- William Ralston and Charles Crocker, founders of the Bank of California made their money in Virginia City. Others, like Leland Stanford, George Hearst, John Mackay, William Flood and many others made their fortunes building the railroad and supply chain required to support Comstock mining operations.

Eagle: Virginia City became the most important town in the West, certainly between Denver and San Francisco. As the ragged prospectors became rich they built mansions, imported furniture and fashions from Europe and the Orient.

J2020F: And with the riches came the need to ship the ore more efficiently stimulated the demand for the railroad. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad ran from Reno to Carson City to Virginia City and later to Minden.

Explorer: Like those other emigrants from the east and immigrants from the Far East, dreams of striking it rich and figuring out how he’d spend the money filled in the time. For Twain, it was building a house in San Francisco on Russian Hill.

Eagle: What doe Mono Lake have to do with those schemes and tall tales?

Explorer: According to Twain, three German brothers survived Indian attacks on the Plains and as they dragged themselves step-by-step towards the West they accidentally discovered a vein of cement with gold chunks floating in it.

J2020F: A vein of cement?

Explorer: Yup. Twain described it as being about as wide as a curbstone “and fully two-thirds of it was pure gold. Every pound of the wonderful cement was worth well-nigh $200.”

Pathfinder: How did they capitalize on it?

Explorer: At first they loaded up 25 lbs of it to carry to civilization after they hid all traces of it and drew a crude map to its location.

Eagle: Don’t tell me.

Explorer: As you might have guessed. One brother broke his leg and was left in the wilderness by the other.

Eagle: And what happened to the other two.

Pathfinder: Hardships and mishaps, right?

Explorer: One gave up and laid down to die he was so hungry and bone tired. But, the third reached the mining settlements in California.

J2020F: So he staked his claim and lived the high life?

Explorer: Not exactly. Twain says he was so deranged and so sick in the head that he didn’t want anything to do with the claim – even though he set the settlement on fire with gold fever.

Eagle: Well that was all a backdrop to Twain’s adventure, right?

Pathfinder: What do you mean?

Explorer: He means that when the sole surviving German brother decided to pursue farming, he handed the map over to the mysterious Whiteman. And Whiteman only appeared at night before returning to the Esmeralda Area in search of his cement mine.

Eagle: So, Twain accompanied Whiteman to Mono Lake?

Explorer: Nobody accompanied Whiteman, ever. But, Twain and Higbie decided to follow him to his cement mine without arousing the other gold fever-infected miners. They met at the divide overlooking the Mono Lake Basin -- Dead Sea of California.

Pathfinder: So the two followed the mystery man. And, he wandered around trying to find the “X” on the map.

Explorer: When they failed in their scheme, Higby and Twain decided to explore the area in and around Mono Lake. They decide to take and its wonders
a small boat, just as a storm is brewing to explore the lake.

Eagle: Let me guess. Things go from bad to worse.

Explorer: As Twain tells us they go from worse to a near fatal accident.

Pathfinder: But even today, you can see why their curiosity very nearly killed the cat.

Explorer: In other sections of ”Roughing It” Twain describes leaving for his mining adventures on horseback to Esmeralda County

J2020F: I’m a little disoriented. Just where is Mono Lake, California in relation to Experalda, Nevada?

Explorer: Here is a slice of the1895 Nevada map that shows the Esmeralda area – see Walker Lake in the north? The pinkish border to the left separates Nevada from California. Mono Lake is to the east.

Pathfinder: Here’s another map. This one shows why Esmeralda attracted Higbie, Twain, and all the rest of the miners. Check out all the locations of the mines in Esmeralda area.

Eagle: I can see why you’re confused. Check this out. Aurora was claimed by both California and Nevada. The Mono County seat had to be moved when Nevada reclaimed the camp in 1863.

Pathfinder: According to Bugs Bunny, it looks like the whole region was strewn with rags-to-riches boomtowns – and then riches-to-rags bust towns.

J2020F: You can get a sense of Aurora in its hey day, why for instance Twain would have ventured there with high hopes.

Explorer: It was during his stay at
Aurora that Samuel Clemens started writing articles for the Territorial Enterprise Newspaper.
At a career crossroads, he came to grips with his ”Trapped and Permanently Temporary” situation after listed mining as one more on a long list of failed occupations.

J2020F: But, at last he found his calling and a way out of his hopeless mess.

Pathfinder: True, he was offered a job with the newspaper at $25.00 a week, but like many other times, he left Aurora pennyless and had to walk all the way from Aurora to Virginia City.

Explorer: Turning to journalism as an occupation seemed to suit him, once he got the hang of it working for the “Enterprise.”

Pathfinder: Twain spun a lot of myths and tall tales, but according to Nevada State Archivist, Guy Rocha, when tourists visit the Enterprise building in downtown Virginia City on South C Street between Union and Taylor the city has spun a tall tale of its own.

Explorer: When Twain wasn’t mining or reporting he wrote about vacation trips to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. The Tahoe tripped turned into a new entrepreneurial scheme, though.

Eagle: Mining again?

Explorer: No, harvesting timber. He found himself: “Hiking for hours to view Lake Tahoe and its timberlands ” … to take up a wood ranch or so for ourselves and become wealthy…. As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.”

Pathfinder: The man seemed possessed.

Explorer: Even camping and boating on Lake Tahoe turned into marking timber claims.

J2020F: Doesn’t Twain tell a story about a boulder or something in Tuolumne – a hard luck story with a surprise twist?

Explorer: Hmm. Well there’s this passage about the lifecycle of the Tuolumne mining community: "By and by, an old friend of mine, a miner, came down from one of the decayed mining camps of Tuolumne, California, and I went back with him. We lived in a small cabin on a verdant hillside, and there were not five other cabins in view over the wide expanse of hill and forest.”

J2020F: Maybe.

Explorer: He continues, “Yet a flourishing city of two or three thousand population had occupied this grassy dead solitude during the flush times of twelve or fifteen years before, and where our cabin stood had once been the heart of the teeming hive, the center of the city. When the mines gave out the town fell into decay, and in a few years wholly disappeared -- streets, dwellings, shops, everything -- and left no sign. The grassy slopes were as green and smooth and desolate of life as if they had never been disturbed."

J2020F: No. If I recall correctly, he describes the pocket-mining technique. What I’m trying to recall is the incident about a good-for-nothing resting place on the trail into town for supplies.

Explorer: Oh, yeah. Here it is: "In Tuolumne lived two miners who used to go to the neighboring village in the afternoon and return every night with household supplies. Part of the distance they traversed a trail, and nearly always sat down to rest on a great boulder that lay beside the path. In the course of thirteen years they had worn that boulder tolerably smooth, sitting on it.”

J2020F: That’s it.

Explorer: “By and by two vagrant Mexicans came along and occupied the seat. They began to amuse themselves by chipping off flakes from the bolder with a sledgehammer. They examined one of these flakes and found it rich with gold. That boulder paid them eight hundred dollars afterward.”

Eagle: Now, that would be my luck.

Explorer: Wait, there’s more. “But the aggravating circumstance was that these 'greasers' knew that there must be more gold where that boulder came from, and so they went panning up the hill and found what was probably the richest pocket that region has yet produced."

Pathfinder: So Twain roamed Esmeralda County in Nevada and camped for a time in Lake Tahoe and Tuolumne, but wasn’t there another mining community made famous by his writings? Starting with the letter “A,” not Aurora?

Explorer: You’re probably thinking about Angels Camp and the jumping frog incident: We prospected around Angel's Camp in Calaveras County, during three weeks, but had no success. Then we wandered on foot among the mountains, sleeping under the trees at night, for the weather was mild, but still we remained as centless as the last rose of summer."

Pathfinder: Angel’s Camp. That’s it.

Explorer: What I like about this passage is his description of shared hospitality among miners: "In accordance with the custom of the country, our door had always stood open and our board welcomed to tramping miners -- they drifted along nearly every day, dumped their paust shovels by the threshold, and took 'potluck' with us -- and now on our own tramp we never found cold hospitality.

J2020F: Isn’t it in this section where he touches on his trips to back to Yosemite, almost due east from Mammoth Lakes and south to Kings Canyon?

Explorer: He sure does. “Our wanderings were wide and in many directions; and now I could give the reader a vivid description of the Big Trees and the marvels of the Yosemite -- but what has this reader done to me that I should persecute him? I will deliver him into the hands of less conscientious tourists and take his blessing."

Eagle: Speaking of Mammoth, shouldn’t we leave Mono Lake and hit 395 south?

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Copyright ©2002 - 2006 Aarnaes Howard Associates. All rights reserved worldwide.

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