Hello reddit!

About a year ago, I did an AMA about a former mining town I purchased with a friend called Cerro Gordo. You can see some photos of the town here

I'm currently at the town filling in for our caretaker who has been home for past 3 weeks. I'm up here socially distancing and currently snowed in with at least 4 ft of snow on our 7 mile road back to civilization. Seemed like a great time to do an AMA!

We've done a number of renovations since buying and the last year or so has been filled with lots of adventures and people.

For more background on the property:

Cerro Gordo was originally established in 1865 and by 1869 they were pulling 340 tons of bullion out of the mountain for Los Angeles.

The silver from Cerro Gordo was responsible for building Los Angeles. The prosperity of Cerro Gordo demanded a larger port city and pushed LA to develop quickly.

The Los Angeles News once wrote:

“What Los Angeles is, is mainly due to it. It is the silver cord that binds our present existence. Should it be uncomfortably severed, we would inevitably collapse.”

In total, there has been over $17,000,000 of minerals pulled from Cerro Gordo. Adjusted for inflation, that number is close to $500,000,000.

Currently, there are about 22 buildings still standing over 380 acres. We've been in process of restoring them.

More background: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/us/cerro-gordo-ghost-town-california.html

The plan was to develop a hospitality destination where people would stay overnight. COVID-19 and other things are impacting that plan heavily.

PROOF: Here is a photo from today: https://imgur.com/a/uvmIqJp

EDIT: If you want to follow along in future, here is our Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cerro.gordo.ca/

EDIT 2: I send updates about the town from time to time from email list. Can find that and contact me here: http://brentunderwood.com/

AMA!

Comments: 2419 • Responses: 112  • Date: 

resortdude3130 karma

I run a fairly substantial, remotely located resort in California and I think you definitely have some challenges in front of you, the largest of which are your utilities. It is easy to take for granted the easy access and no real regulations that city/county/municipal systems provide for but it is much more challenging to be fairly self sufficient.

In the use case you have right now, non-commercial, you can pretty much do whatever you want. But once you go commercial you definitely have some challenges you will need to work through.

Water - You know this is a big deal, but given your comment about the options you feel are available to you (water tower, run off, mine pumping, etc...) I feel like you may not appreciate how challenging this one is. If you are providing your own sourced water and are commercial, and as long as year round you have less than 25 people living there year round, you should research Transient Non-Community Water systems. And under any circumstances you do NOT want to be a Non-Transient, Non-Community Water system, the testing and regulations will crush you as a small operator. Here is a link:

https://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/information-about-public-water-systems

Now the rules for water are largely defined by the EPA but you better bet that the California Water Resources Board has their own rules and regulations you will need to adhere to. I can tell you right up front that if you use surface water (run off for example) you will have a huge headache to prove the water is safe and will need a treatment system, if only for filtration and chlorination. The odds of them allowing you to pump out of the mine are slim to none. Really, well drilling is the only viable option. I oversee our water system and we have 7 active wells, each one over 1000' deep. They vary in production between 2 GPM and 20 GPM, our daily usage is 20k and I am a state certified D2 and T2 water operator. Each well cost, including associated infrastructure and testing, about $50k a piece.

Sewage - As a commercial entity you will need some kind of system. Not sure your county rules but you will probably need an engineered system and if it's big/complex enough you will need a Wastewater Operator to run it for you. Those guys are expensive! You better pray they allow you to use a traditional leach field system but in this day and age, I feel it's unlikely.

Propane - Can they deliver that up your road? Will you have tanks large enough for a winter supply? As a commercial enterprise there is no way they let you hook up and store 50 little propane tanks around your property. Would your tank be above ground or below ground?

Electricity - If you can get away with electric cooking and water heating, you will definitely need a reliable source of electricity. And if you have paying guests, you better have a back-up generator. I just bought a new, smaller diesel one. $50k all said and done with a 7 day fuel tank, concrete pad, delivery and crane placement, county permitting. And don't think you can just get away with a used generator someone sells you. Look up CARB, California Air Resource Board.

Fire Suppression - As a commercial Enterprise, you will likely need a fire suppression system, although this is typically a county level decision. But hope you don't need one, because the cost of installing and maintain one are terrible. You will need a sufficient water supply. So my water tank is 90k total but I have to keep 55k gallons in it at all times for fire suppression, so I really only have 40k of usable water at any given time, if my tank is full. Also, better hope your tank is high enough in elevation that you don't need a diesel pump for your fire suppression system or a variable speed booster pump for your domestic water system.

Employees - So this might be your biggest challenge. I have 120 employees total, 80 of whom live on site and i provide housing and 3 meals a day. And also deal with all the interpersonal bullshit that goes along with it.

So let's end with some numbers.... Learn these terms: ADR, RevPAR, & Occ%. Let's say you have 20 rooms to rent. Your Average Daily Rate (ADR) is $100/night and let's say you are open year round (a big IF given your snow) and your occupancy percentage is 50% (a pretty realistic goal given your circumstances). $100 * 20 * 365 *.5 = $365k in revenue. Now you need to start subtracting the fees that OTA (online travel agency) charge which in your case, as a small time operator, would be 20%-ish. And how much of your bookings come from OTA's? At the beginning you will live and die by bookings from Expedia and Booking.com because the public doesn't understand how terrible they are for them as a consumer. But your life's goal from day 1 is organic bookings and minimizing those OTA bookings. But remember, a room night is a perishable product, so you got to use them.

I think I have rambled on enough and will skip talking about your capital costs to get up and running (with wells and septic and power), skip talking about operating costs, skip talking about activities like guiding on your property and mine tours and the insurance costs, skip talking about restaurant and tavern for your guests and the licensing and building codes required... You get the idea.

Wish you the best of luck! The good news is that your location is actually incredibly beneficial to you, although you may not know why. And you have a unique product. So there is potential. But good lord do you need a lot of capital.

hkaustin1277 karma

Thank you!! This is very detailed. Saves. Could I shoot you a note with some questions?

We've been working closely with the county and state about the full entitlements. It is certainly an uphill battle and political.

MikeWhiskey352 karma

Hey man, I wish you the best of luck. When it comes to the water side of things give me a shout. I work in the pump and filter world helping waste water operators daily. I'm not 100% sure I can help you, but I can't hurt. My pumps are pretty good too

hkaustin254 karma

Wow! Thank you! Can I email you? Maybe send a PM with a few ?s?

KingSirJosh1857 karma

What are yall eating drinking whilst stuck up there?

hkaustin2845 karma

Well, I'd like to say I planned well and brought tons of supplies, but that wouldnt' be true.

I brought up what I thought was a lot of supplies, but currently eating a can of soup and some rice for lunch for about the 8th day straight.

Breakfast is usually eggs (while they lasted) on some frozen Texas Toast or cereal out of a solo cup as to not create dishes. The town doesn't currently have running water, so that adds all type of problems.

Lunch maybe some rice and beans or spaghetti. Dinner burgers (have a bunch of frozen ones), tacos, or again, more soup.

Not lots of veggies up at Cerro Gordo at the moment!

Tacoman4041541 karma

Hey, maybe you're a good candidate for someone's drone delivery startup.

hkaustin2028 karma

As long as it's not Bezos! Have a little beef with that guy

wings22262 karma

What's the story behind Bezos?

hkaustin2047 karma

Well, in a different life, I made a "#1 Amazon Bestselling Book" in 3 minutes with $5 to show how easy it was to be a 'bestselling author' and how little value that title means. The book was just a photo of my foot with no words.

A newspaper asked Amazon to confirm and they said it never happened and took my book off Amazon. Then I kept emailing Bezos about it and why he took down my book and he finally called me and explained their reasoning. All ended well however, we met about a year later at a conference and he laughed about it.

losian439 karma

And what was their reasoning? It showed how their system is built upon metrics and advertising rather than anything vaguely genuinely useful to consumer yet is constantly presented as if it were?

Their whole shtick seems to be all this stuff that looks objective - recommendations from 'experts' that mean nothing, bestselling items that are paid for slots and manipulation, and they certainly don't care.. because every sale, crooked or otherwise, is cash in their pocket. There's no incentive.

hkaustin623 karma

They said it was a 'customer satisfaction issue' - aka some customers complained so they pulled it off. Seemed like a cop out to me.

WillbursWorld6 karma

I'm confused here as the Twitter pic is not the people posted with goldbloom in the town, and it says Brent Underwood in Twitter and your reddit name is hkaustin.

hkaustin23 karma

I have a hostel in Austin, TX named HK Austin. I originally made this account for that hostel, just use it everywhere. My name is Brent!

https://hkaustin.com/squad/

UUo_oUU27 karma

Man you own a hostel, an abandoned mining town that built LA, and you've hung out with movie stars and billionaires

What is it you doooo

hkaustin50 karma

Browse reddit, mostly...

the_twilight_bard135 karma

How much did the town cost you, and what made you decide to try to do this? Are you a western-nerd or are you seeing this as an easy financial opportunity? Sorry to be blunt but trying to get a handle on how this whole thing came about...

hkaustin344 karma

The town was $1.4M, it was mostly funded by investors and my biz partner and I. I am a big history nerd and learning the deep history of this place made me fall in love with it. It was not an easy financial opportunity at all, it was a lot of my savings (and now close to all). But I felt it was something I'd look back on fondly and so far it has brought all sorts of interesting people and stories into my life.

debt-free-dad94 karma

What do you think the property is worth? $1.4 million for 380 acres in California seems really cheap.

Would you be willing to go into more detail on how you got to the point of making an investment like this? You mean you also own a hostel in TX and your friend owns a marketing company? I am just always interested in talking to people with wealth because this just is a whole different plane of experience than I live on.

Are you guys looking into funding from grants? Seems like there’d be something there for funding between the environmental clean up and the historical preservation.

What kind of EPA stuff have you run into, if any? Are you having to decontaminate the land from the old mining?

Super interesting stuff. Good luck!

hkaustin179 karma

Both my biz partner and I had a real interest in hospitality, especially locations about 2-3 hours from major cities. Just far enough to get away and want to stay away for a weekend. We wanted a large property with some history to storytell around. We originally were looking in the Catskills region of NY. There are some great old lodges up there that could have been really interesting. We were actually under contract with one to purchase when we learned of Cerro Gordo.

To be fully transparent, there wasn't a super detailed proforma or financial model prior to purchase. Too competitive of property and too many moving pieces on the timeline. We just were confident we could do something interesting with the property and had some investors who felt the same.

We had to put basically all our money and a lot of our reputation on the line, but I think it's been worth it.

We have looked into some grants, but the property isn't technically a historically preserved property so they aren't as frequent as they may otherwise be.

Porfinlohice204 karma

You know what you should do? You should build THE BIGGEST big cat zoo facility and have thousands of visitors come to your town to pet some tiger cubs

hkaustin148 karma

I think this is an allusion to a popular Netflix show that I have yet to watch because slow Internet at ghost town...

fatboyslimhere72 karma

You melting some of that ice for water?

hkaustin123 karma

To clean dishes and stuff, we sure are! We don't have sophisticated water collection procedures in place yet, but doing what we can.

thatneverhomekid16 karma

I thought eggs lasted a very long time especially in the cold like right now ? I read a segment by J.R Newberry one of the first grocers of Los Angeles , who said he stored 30 dozen eggs without refrigeration and not one of them went bad . Got to keep them away from sunlight in a cool place . He wrapped them individually though lol

hkaustin102 karma

Oh, I just meant I ate them all...

I do like that story however! I'm going to investigate more

Dkeh41 karma

The next time a pandemic traps you in an abondoned mining town, try adding the eggs to the rice. Way better that way!

Come to think of it, it would work if you were trapped in an abondoned amusement park as well. Or even an abandoned nuclear silo. I should write a cookbook called "Help I am trapped in my abandoned mining town and need tasty recipes, some of which feature eggs- and other common cooking situations".

hkaustin86 karma

I think it could be a #1 Amazon Bestseller!

buddyleex10 karma

Where do you poop if you have no water?

hkaustin44 karma

Outhouses. Lots of fun in a blizzard!

hkaustin268 karma

And drinking? Water when I can and whiskey while it lasts!

trogdor13081552 karma

Are you gonna be okay? Cause it sounds like your snowed in a ghost town in the middle of nowhere with no running water and rapidly diminishing food supplies in the middle of a global pandemic.

hkaustin1398 karma

Sounds about right. I do appreciate the concern!

Worst case scenario I can walk the 7 miles back down the mountain and get a lift to closest town.

Or that's what let's me sleep at night

Chi-Tony475 karma

If you can find away to have a steady supply Of water and stock up on food, I’d say your in a better place than most of us. A secluded ghost town seems like the place to be given the current times.

hkaustin483 karma

It is nice. If I don't check my phone or news it's like a peaceful place in a chaotic time.

michaltee51 karma

Are you alone up there or do you at least have someone with you to talk to?

hkaustin144 karma

I have reddit.

grubber2616 karma

You should have chosen the volleyball.

hkaustin22 karma

WILLSONNN

VladeMercer11 karma

Ah, ghost town - you can jerk off in the middle of the street admiring views and nobody will bother.

hkaustin18 karma

Well, I suppose you CAN, although that wasn't my first thought when thinking of what to do with a whole town...

sgrams041015 karma

Has the murder rate gone down?

beyondrepair-622 karma

no answer. guess we know who got murdered this week

hkaustin163 karma

wasn't me...

johnbobby517 karma

Having running water is kinda essential isn't it? How do you get around not having running water? Are you planning on putting water in? Does it rain much up there?

hkaustin633 karma

Very. I didn't fully appreciate how many things we use runnign water for before not having it. It's fine for a day or two. When you're at Day 18 or so like I am currently, everything is more frustrating without water. Showers, cleaning dishes, cleaning the floor, etc, etc.

We do plan to add water. A few options 1) water tower. Since there won't be too many guests or people here at any one time, a large water town would only have to be filled once a month or so. 2) Snowfall/rainwater collection. It snows a good amount in the winter and we could capture that for future use. 3) water pools 900 ft under the town in one of the old mineshafts. We could pump the water back up the old mine shaft and use that. However contamination would be issue. 4) there are these machines that pull moisture from air and give you water. We may not have enough humidity year round for that however

mukenwalla563 karma

I used to build rainfall catchment in remote locations. I am not sure what your needs are or the annual rainfall where you live, but we built 11,000 gallon systems designed to fill on 4" of precipitation. We used 80'x40' steel aprons built from C-channel purlins and type b steel decking. You could pull off a similar system for about 11 grand give or take.

hkaustin399 karma

Wow! That sounds like exactly what we need. Can I send you a message about a bit more info?

johnbobby24 karma

Yes running water is key. If you had drinkable/filtered running water that would be even better!

Was there ever a time in the towns past when there was water available?

The drilling sounds like it could be problematic at that depth. I grew up on a farm in Australia and we had a big tank that would fill up with rain water. Do you get more snow than rain? Is there a rainy season up there? Does Robert Desmarais still live on the land?

hkaustin149 karma

When the town was in full force with 4,500 residents they had unlimited drinking water from a spring as well as from Owens Lake below.

As part of the LA aqueduct program, many lakes in the region were acquired by LA in secret deals and the water was drained from lakes and springs and brought back to LA.

The spring that fed the town dried up and Owens Lake below is gone befcause of it.

The movie 'Chinatown' is about that issue.

We get lots of snow, little rain. So I think snowmelt is best.

Robert is at home with his wife for past month or so because of corona crisis. I've been filling in as caretaker

johnbobby36 karma

Amazing! and yes of course, Chinatown... such a great film that one. Nicholson with his bandaged nose is classic.

Snowmelt sounds like the go!

Good on you for helping out while Roberts away. Does the area usually get such a late in the season snowfall?

hkaustin43 karma

Very late for this type of storm. It's really snowing again right now. Probably looking at another 8 inches at least tonight

lowercaset1 karma

How bad / what kind of contamination is an issue? Have you had the water laboratory tested?

You can filter out almost anything (including at least some kinds of heavy metals) if you need to, my gut tells me that pumping the water up 900' could cost more to set up than the filtration system.

hkaustin8 karma

We did take a water sample from down there and apparently not as bad as one may think. However the combination of pumping it up 900 ft plus commercial filtration was very very expensive. Much cheaper to truck into water town infrequently for how many people we plan to have

The_Collector4404 karma

Is Jeff Goldblum involved with the ghost town? I happened to see pictures of him on both your links.

hkaustin891 karma

Jeff Goldblum came up to film an episode of his TV show "The World According To Jeff Goldblum." The episode was about denim and it's ties to mining history. The denim used in jeans back then is really valuable these days.

He was as awesome as I had hoped. Came into the room and acted like nothing else existed except you. Quite the charmer

EDIT: Here is photo with Jeff: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxi61GAFGSq/

woden_spoon210 karma

Saw that episode, and it struck me that the happenstance of finding a pair of old jeans in what seemed to be a “common room” in an old mining building seemed a bit far-fetched. Do you know if the jeans were planted there, or was it a legit find?

hkaustin324 karma

I believe they did find a real pair of old jeans up by the hoist house earlier in the episode. The pair they're looking at in the common room that is in really good shape was brought in for explanation purposes

not_a_droid50 karma

Oh shit, I knew that sounded familiar. I’m just saw that episode a couple of weeks ago. So, was that you he was “hunting” with?

hkaustin80 karma

haha, no, that was Brit Easton AKA "Indiana Jeans" - another eccentric amazing human being

https://www.denimhunters.com/brit-eaton/

awildopportunity210 karma

While exploring and renovating the town have you ever came across anything that struck you as odd or out-of-place?

hkaustin458 karma

Everyday! The town has had a few different 'phases' we'll call it. It was a silver mine, then a lead mine, then used for other minerals. Then different private families owned it for the past 100 years. Each of them left their own marks on the place and so there isn't a uniform feel to each and every building.

If you were alluding to ghosts, I was a firm non-believer prior to purchasing the property. Since having it, I've had a few times where I can't really explain what happened. And since you're in a 'ghost town' the default when you can't explain something is 'ghosts'

graysonyank169 karma

Curious minds will want to know what these instances are that you may now consider a default trait of your 'ghost town'

hkaustin563 karma

Well, we had this TV show come and do an interview with us. They asked if I believed in ghosts and I said 'no.'

That night, I was walking down the the bunkhouse (an 8 bedroom building that used to house miners) and I saw the living room light was on. I get closer and someone opens and looks out the front room, then closes the blind.

No big deal, our contractors had been coming and going and staying in that house. So I go back up to a different house and sleep for the night.

Next morning I ask our caretaker how long the contractors are staying in the bunkhouse. He turns and tells me they left 2 weeks ago. I'm a little creeped out so I go back down to bunkhouse and the living room light is off now.

I lock the door and go back to the other buildings.

That night, we're going to watch the sunset, and I see the living room light BACK ON. Door still locked.

Either faulty electric or we got some ghosts in these buildings.

awildopportunity73 karma

Thanks for the response! I was eluding to what you covered in the other question where you mentioned you found a briefcase of a miner's entire life preserved in time. Was thinking of any odd family photos that stuck with you, heirlooms, etc. Perhaps the price-list for the local stag saloon from it's hey-day. Ghosts...eh-unless you've seen something move on it's own or a voice or something. I imagine the town was the final spot of many if it once had a murder a week.

hkaustin152 karma

It was really strange to find a miner's income tax return. As far as I read the mining stopped in 1920s or so. But I found a miner's tax return from 1945 (he made $2,350). Interesting glimpse into someone's life

EDIT: here is photo of lots of the docs: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-xZ0BYpqJ3/

monkey_monkey_monkey91 karma

That equals about $33,800 in today's money

hkaustin67 karma

robwormald170 karma

Do you know about the new California Backcountry Discovery Route? https://ridebdr.com/cabdr-south/ - I've been wanting to ride it for a while, was planning on doing it this summer before Coronavirus. Looks like Cerro Gordo is near one of the existing segments (to Lone Pine), and it would be a perfect stopping point. Might be worth advertising with them when you're more set up!

hkaustin185 karma

Wow! That route actually shows them going through Cerro Gordo!

When they turn up from Keeler just south of Lone Pine, that route has them going about 20 ft from where I'm typing currently.

Wild. I'll have to reach out

heylook42152 karma

Man! I remember years ago, going on an off roading trip with my dad through Death Valley and we ended up there. The caretaker let us camp out near his house, cooked up some steaks for us, and told us old ghost stories about the boom town. Remember having my first beer there!

Odd question, but is Brandon still the caretaker? Maybe not, since this was almost 25 years ago.

hkaustin159 karma

Wow! Robert is the caretaker now. He's been here for about 21 years so must have had a transition.

If you make your way back I'll cook some steaks and make sure to have some beers...

thekraken27146 karma

Okay, so I just followed your Instagram page, it’s awesome!

I have a few questions, some are kind of personal so understand if you don’t want to answer.

1.) what was the initial investment on something like this, and what careers do/did you and your friend have before buying the property.

2.) How does one become a guest of the property?

3.) what are some improvements you see becoming a reality for the property in the coming like 12 months (assuming COVID-19 wasn’t an issue)

4.) How much money have you had to spend to make portions of the property livable if at all?

5.) Have you considered hiring or have you hired any folks to live on and maintain/improve the property?

6.) If money were no object what 5 things would you do to the property to improve it and bring value (whether that’s monetarily or the value of joy or whatever you want to describe as valuable to yourself)

hkaustin229 karma

1) The town was $1.4M. That was a combination of life savings, friends investments, and a loan. I work with authors on marketing stuff and have a backpacker hostel in Austin, TX. My friend has a marketing company for wellness brands and athletes.

2) Shoot us an email with some dates! We can't have overnight visitors yet, but Robert our caretaker gives the best mining tours in the continental US. We hope to have overnight guests by July, but we'll see how the covid crisis plays out. Shoot an email to [email protected] and put reddit or something in subject!

3) Running water first and foremost to the 4 main buildings we are focusing on. Comfortable finishings in those 4 buildings. That mainly means removing lots of the stuff within the houses that has built up over time and replacing with modern beds, etc. Finally, a really big clean up. The property has lots of scrap material from different machines that needs to be tidyed before we continue.

4) ~$300k, mainly from investors. "Liveable" is also very subjective and we're still not at the point we'd welcome anyone overnight that wasn't a family or friend and wouldn't judge critically.

5) yes! We have a caretaker Robert who is typically here 24/7/365. He is currently at home (not on mountain) with his wife given corona crisis. We would like to have our contractors stay longer than the 3-4 days they typically stay on-site given the remote nature of the property

6) 1. Unlimited running water to all the buildings 2. create a indoor pool with glass enclosure to enjoy the high desert while still enjoying water 3. rebuild 10 additional cabins in original locations to increase the number of people who could be on the property at one time 4. put sidings up along the road to make it less dangerous at night 5. have a helicopter to get up here faster from major airports to reduce my total transit time here. I think for guest it is important to get full expedrience of driving up mountain,. But sometimes I have to go up and down a few times in a day and that can get old

PM_ur_Rump62 karma

Do you have a skidoo for emergencies?

hkaustin129 karma

We don't, although after this experience I think that's on the list of things to get.

We have a quad (or 4-wheeler) but it can only handle so much. The snow right now in some banks in the road is maybe 5 ft deep? So even the 4-wheeler wouldn't get through it.

We have snow shoes though! Worst case scenario, I'm walking the 7 miles back down the mountain

PM_ur_Rump85 karma

7mi downhill on shoes isn't too bad. Bring money for a sled so you don't need to hike back up!

Honestly, I think you are in a pretty good spot right now. I remember your AMA from before, and the town was rad.

Edit, looked at the photo from today. I would kill to be there! I'm bringing my sled down and we are going boarding...

hkaustin30 karma

done and done!

converter-bot27 karma

7 miles is 11.27 km

hkaustin35 karma

thank you!

D_rotic61 karma

Do you have an emergency plan to get out of there? If you reach out to the Tacoma world or 4Runner Facebook groups they do rescues all the time. Those dudes are ready to ride man, and nothing will stand in their way.

hkaustin46 karma

This is really helpful, thank you. I have a brief one, but as a Tacoma owner, would be nice either way to connect with those guys

TimeTravellersWaifu_59 karma

Can I come visit sometime? I'll bring beer.

hkaustin112 karma

Hey, I'm not going to say no to anyone bringing beer! Although let's wait till this shelter in place is out of the way.

Cat2Rupert31 karma

I want to take a trip once we're allowed to talk to people again and I was thinking I could stop at home depot for him on my way. Can I come too?

hkaustin45 karma

Come on out. We need aluminum tape and some insulation for one of the small cabins. And a new phillips head drill bit. Got it? Got it!

scar1234655 karma

Omg that's awesome. What do you find the hardest with the restarvations? Are there people who give you trouble during the process? I have so many questions but I just want to know every single detail of everything.

hkaustin95 karma

Thanks! It's been interesting. Lots of challenges with the restorations, but the main one is probably the remote nature of the town.

We're at the end of a 7 mile private road that increases in elevation from about 2,000 ft to 8,200 ft in that 7 miles. It's single lane, gravel, etc. So getting any type of big equipment up here is difficult. Added to that that the closest Home Depot or large box retailer like that is a few hours away, and you really want to make sure you have EVERYTHING you need for a job before starting up the mountain!

Also, the town doesn't have water. Which is a big deal with cleanup, etc, etc.

Dalai-Parma50 karma

How's the internet situation out there?

hkaustin114 karma

We have satellite internet (huges net). Not great for streaming. Well, not possible, so I'm behind on Tiger King. But emails and reddit? Works just fine!

ProfessorEIm35 karma

God HughesNet sucks.

hkaustin52 karma

Yes! And so expensive...

bethelbread1 karma

I was also going to ask about this. Guessing you don't get any 4G cell reception??

hkaustin2 karma

ATT has a town not too far away. So if you have ATT you may be in luck!

themonkinizer-45 karma

Have you thought of excavation of the land to see if there is still silver?

hkaustin194 karma

Over the years various mining companies have come up and taken core samples to test for different minerals. They haven't found any that would be worth the price of mining.

We have a caretaker named Robert who is a miner by trade however. Even given all the evidence from big companies, Robert is convinced there is still a big silver vein on the property. Every time it rains, he walks the property looking for the lost vein.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll see Robert with a really nice new truck or two and know he finally found some silver!

themonkinizer-69 karma

Do you have mineral rights?

hkaustin132 karma

yup! Full mineral rights.

There is also a lot of 'slag' on the property or waste product from some of the refining. Robert can further refine the slag to pull more silver than they did back in the day

mrsmoose12341 karma

Ooh - I can imagine future guests paying to take part in refining the slag and making jewellery out of what they find (and/or out of what’s been found previously). Are you thinking of having artisan workshops on site?

hkaustin68 karma

We'd love to. Our caretaker Robert refines small batches of silver currently. There is also turquoise from the property. We've made small items so far. Would love to make more

lucerndia13 karma

I have a friend in Virginia City NV that would likely be very interested, he owns a jewelry store and loves the old timey stuff

hkaustin15 karma

Send us a message through instagram or our website!

https://cerrogordomines.com/

akak197241 karma

If you see this, what are your thoughts on these unsolicited suggestions?

1) At least one building should be left to its old-timey state. This will make people appreciate the sheer difference of luxury and the efforts a typical business goes to to provide comforts. Plus it can be a starting point for conversations - leading to merchandise sail sale from those periods

2) Try reverse psychology in terms of tourism marketing.

Quietly (= low budget) market it as a place for writers, artists, for people recovering (from tragedies, rehab, whatever). Skip the regular-tourist advertising 100%

3) Look into hydroponics

hkaustin60 karma

1) Totally. That is the saloon for us right now. It has bullet holes in the walls, blood stains on the floors, and more spur marks than you can count. It's staying as-is. Well, adding running water

2) Excellent

3) Go on...

theycallmeninx36 karma

What's been the largest hurdle so far you've had with getting the town restored?

hkaustin72 karma

Largest is funding and remote nature so far. It's one thing to collect together investors, friends, etc to buy the place. To convince a bunch of people to invest in restoring a remote ghost town to become a hotel of sorts is tough. ESPECIALLY right now given nobody is traveling for anything.

Other than that, probably the lack of running water. It affects everything. But it is solvable if we solve the problem mentioned above.

Noxium5132 karma

You realize you're living in the plot of a horror movie right?

hkaustin55 karma

all work and no play...

eyezLOfromHYDRO32 karma

What is the “coolest” thing you’ve done since it’s purchase (activities, renting, exploring)?

And - What is your biggest regret since purchasing?

hkaustin114 karma

The coolest thing is just exploring everything inside the buildings. Everything was pretty much packed up and left.

Two days ago I found a briefcase under a shelf in the old general store. It was behind tons of old furniture we were moving. Inside the box there was a guy's entire life. Bank statements from the 1910s, mining leases, lawsuits with other miners, divorce papers, uncashed checks, love letters, everything. It was this perfectly preserved time capsule of a miner's life.

We find things like that every day. Knowing that those people walked the same streets and slept in the same houses is very cool.

EDIT: here is some photos of briefcase: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-xZ0BYpqJ3/

Also, going into a lot of the old mines. We walked over a mile back into a tunnel the other day. Knowing you are a mile inside a mountain is crazy if you've never done it before.

TellYouEverything67 karma

Dude, pardon the pun but you’ve hit on a YouTube money-making goldmine.

I would love to keep up to date with your adventures, discoveries and just your general day-to-day of this stuff! It sounds equal parts spooky/ fascinating/ awe-inspiring.

Thanks for the photos that you’ve shared so far!

hkaustin57 karma

Thanks! It's been a lot of fun. I have a nice camera up here. Maybe I'll start it up tonight!

petal1431 karma

Do you need a gardener?

hkaustin45 karma

Any suggestions on plants to grow at 8,200 ft with limited water??

TheToastyWesterosi31 karma

I remember you! Not sure if it’s been asked already, but is that cool old caretaker guy still living up there too?

hkaustin58 karma

Robert! Robert is back home off the mountain for a month or so with his wife given the corona crisis. I've been filling in up here. Find myself talking to birds and such 3 weeks in. Becoming Robert rapidly

pm_cheesecakes29 karma

what do you do with explorers like me that come to take pictures? Also, I want to come take pictures.

hkaustin39 karma

Come take pictures then!

Well, actually wait till after this covid crisis dies down a bit, then come take picture. Will be much more hospitable then...

PrincessPooge23 karma

I’ve followed you guys on Instagram for a while, super cool project you’re working on! I’m sure it’s great getting to discover new pieces of history on the regular.

Silly question...I’ve also seen the episode of Ghost Adventures there. Did you guys own the property when this was filmed? How is it being snowed in with all those ghosts?

hkaustin39 karma

Cool! Thank you.

Yes, we owned it when Ghost Adventures came and were on site when they did their investigation and all that,

The building they said had kids trapped in a closet or something is the building I am writing this response from!

ceeweed99922 karma

Have u found any tombstones, graves or markers?

hkaustin59 karma

There are a few in an old cemetery. We try to really respect that area and not go in there much.

txageod22 karma

Can I.. can I... come do some drone mapping up there? That looks amazing!

hkaustin33 karma

Come on down!

Well, actually, wait for the corona crisis to subside, then COME ON DOWN

Robabon22 karma

What are your goals?

hkaustin58 karma

We'd love to make the town comfortable enough to have overnight visitors. The place used to have 4,500 residents. It was a bustling town, now it seems to be sitting, waiting.

I think it would be interesting for more people to be able to experience the magic of this place. So to do that we're trying to preserve everything we can while introducing amenities that would make it comfortable for everyone. Running water would be a start...

uncannyHeroics22 karma

4500 people in a 22 building shantytown? Where did they all live?

hkaustin51 karma

There used to be hundreds of buildings! Many have burned down, been torn down, destroyed over the years, etc. Only 22 remain.

Robabon6 karma

I know overlanding types and Jeepers would love open areas to roam. Decent, respectable community on the whole that could provide some stimulus. Probably decent hunting too? Could tap into guided hunting trips.

hkaustin11 karma

We've had a bunch of Jeep clubs come up! Our property borders Death Valley National Park and lots of them come up from there to visit the town. In terms of hunting, not too much, but this morning did see some bobcat tracks. I've heard a few deer come through and sheep but I haven't seen any in 1 year +

memesonmars21 karma

I’m a bit late to this, but I’d like to know your plans for the museum! Are there any improvements you guys plan to make? Any plans to incorporate modern museum practices?

I understand that the museum probably isn’t the highest priority in terms of attractions at the ghost town. Having grown up around mining towns and ghost towns, I think these kinds of museums are extra special for being able to preserve small items which give tremendous insight to the every day lives of the people who lived in these mining towns in the 19th century, shedding light on how people of the past live in a way that a lot of larger museums don’t. Especially in a small museum, taking certain modern museum practices into account can elevate a mining town museum from a dusty, badly-lit room full of rusty metal to a window into a lively past.

hkaustin31 karma

We have a very well stocked museum here! I actually just went through it the other day. We fully plan to preserve that and make it a focal point of the town. The reason the property is interesting is because of the history and we full plan to preserve that.

Any suggestions from your favorite museums?

MuonManLaserJab19 karma

How long do you think it will take you to bring the town back to its former glory, murder-wise?

hkaustin26 karma

Given current population that rate doesn't seem sustainable. Or would be called suicide...

28bitdumpsterfire18 karma

Do you have a Youtube channel? Like, you could just do an episode about not having water. I think people would love to know what you are up to.

hkaustin28 karma

I need to start this ASAP. I have a camera up here too. Tomorrow's project!

Cranky_Windlass16 karma

Thats a legendary reno project to undertake! How structurally sound are most of thr buildings?

hkaustin27 karma

Thank you! It's certainly an adventure.

I'd say 6-7 of the 20 something buildings are really solid. I'm sitting in a house currently that was owned by one of the original silver mining owners that was built in 1891. It's been standing since then and still is sound.

Then there are another 6-7 that are pretty good. We probably need to go back in and reinforce everything, but they're standing on their own. Then another 5 or so that are basically collapsed that will have to be completely re-done.

It's been fun for me to try to restore some of the smaller and more beat up ones. Learning on the job for sure.

2cool_4u15 karma

Did ghost adventures film in your town before?

hkaustin15 karma

They did! I was up here when they filmed that. I'm sitting typing in the house that they thought children were trapped in the closet at one point.

https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/ghost-adventures/episodes/cerro-gordo-ghost-town

Mrblue63013 karma

How's Robert doing?

hkaustin19 karma

Robert is doing well. He's back home with his wife during the covid crisis, but likes to check in on the town most days. He really loves this place.

alteredst8812 karma

Ski-able terrain? Sounds like you have the snow.

hkaustin23 karma

Lots of rocks! So sledding is the best we can do, unfortunately.

RubyVisor12 karma

Are there silver in them there hills?

hkaustin12 karma

oh, there's some silver left in fat hill. just a matter of time

Robabon11 karma

Will you start back up silver mining in todays climate? Could be a good opportunity?

hkaustin22 karma

If we can find the lost vein! Local rumors are there is another $500 million of silver in these hills. Many professional mining companies who have searched the property and took core samples have not been able to find anything. But hey, we haven't given up yet

skyhiker1410 karma

Went thru and met Rob while doing the Low to High hike last September!

Maybe there’s someone in Lone Pine that could drop food off at the bottom of the road or hitch a ride into town with?

hkaustin12 karma

Amazing! Did you take a tour? Robert is a real gem.

Yes, worst case I know some folks in Lone Pine and in Keeler too that could help out. Riding this out for now on reddit!

Yawniebrabo9 karma

What's the creepiest/scariest incidents you've experienced? I seen you mention the lights on and off cabin but any dangerous/odd people ever come out there? How do you approach them? I think I've read about you before and I believe you have firearms but do you just avoid people until you know their intentions?

hkaustin34 karma

The most uncomfortable situation with another human was one night around 2am we were standing on the deck of one of the houses admiring the stars. Nobody ever comes up, especially at night.

All the sudden this dude on a black dirt-bike, wearing all black, comes directly up to us at the porch.

He whips off his helmet and doesn't say a word for like 10 seconds.

Finally I think we ask whats up and it turns out he has a neighboring property a ways away. Decided then was the time to introduce himself? Super weird

Shnoochieboochies8 karma

Have you ever thought of turning the place into its own principality like Hutt River? You could be king for a day. I'll put down the wiki so it gives you something to do....

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principality_of_Hutt_River

hkaustin31 karma

You know, I did go down a deep rabbit hole of micronations one night after watching a documentary on VICE. I had forgotten all that research until right now. So thank you. Time for a renewed interest in that

Brianphase908 karma

Got enough TP?

hkaustin27 karma

Stocked up! It may be from 1980 or so, but we have enough to cover myself and the ghosts

captcharlieplumb7 karma

You are the ultimate social distancer. The virus can never touch you! But how long can you hold out?

hkaustin12 karma

Dun dun dun. Tune in next week on stranded in a ghost town!

chuckliddelnutpunch6 karma

Have you taken any EVPs???

hkaustin7 karma

for ghosts? Ghost Adventures came and did an investigation here. I believe they did in the episode

https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/ghost-adventures/episodes/cerro-gordo-ghost-town

onedeep6 karma

Hello hkaustin!

I am still waiting on your response from your last AMA. Still in a shitty spot, and quite possibly shittier because of covid-19.

Only change is now I have even more work experience under my belt if you needed help around the town! Would still love to buy or lease a piece of land from ya.

I can pay cash and/or labor. Would you be interested in selling or leasing some land within your town?

hkaustin5 karma

once covid calms down, send us a message through website!

https://cerrogordomines.com/

Fumblerful-5 karma

What is the murder rate these days?

hkaustin8 karma

Steady

wat3rcurse4 karma

Whoa. This is incredible. Would you ever consider having a small artist residency there? I’m a photographer who’s very interested in the elements I use in my process (silver specifically) and I’m getting all kinds of inspiration reading about Cerro Gordo

hkaustin5 karma

We'd love to! We have a recording artist up here right now recording an album.

When this corona crisis subsides a bit shoot a note or email? Here is our website: https://cerrogordomines.com/

Throwawayunknown554 karma

Ya ever heard of the Dinner party?

hkaustin4 karma

I have not! Go on

captsolo233 karma

how often does it snow in april there, historically?

hkaustin6 karma

It's very unusual for it to be snowing this much. Our caretaker has detailed records for the past 21 years but he is not here currently. When I asked however he said this is not normal.

xTinyCarma2 karma

In the NYTimes article you linked, it states that with any ghost town there have been sightings. Have you ran into any ghosts and if so any stories about them? Have you discovered anything in the old buildings like photographs/journals/etc that could tie back to the 1800's?

hkaustin4 karma

In terms of ghosts -

Well, we had this TV show come and do an interview with us. They asked if I believed in ghosts and I said 'no.'

That night, I was walking down the the bunkhouse (an 8 bedroom building that used to house miners) and I saw the living room light was on. I get closer and someone opens and looks out the front room, then closes the blind.

No big deal, our contractors had been coming and going and staying in that house. So I go back up to a different house and sleep for the night.

Next morning I ask our caretaker how long the contractors are staying in the bunkhouse. He turns and tells me they left 2 weeks ago. I'm a little creeped out so I go back down to bunkhouse and the living room light is off now.

I lock the door and go back to the other buildings.

That night, we're going to watch the sunset, and I see the living room light BACK ON. Door still locked.

Either faulty electric or we got some ghosts in these buildings.

BushWookey2 karma

Any paranormal activity recorded in the area?! Interesting to hear there was a murder every week!

hkaustin2 karma

There have been a lot of sightings/reports of ghosts here. Ghost Adventures came up and did an episode as well

https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/ghost-adventures/episodes/cerro-gordo-ghost-town

reb6781 karma

Need a bartender up there?

hkaustin3 karma

Indeed. Bar never closes

SableyeFan1 karma

Only 4ft of snow?

This Minnesotan is not intimidated

hkaustin3 karma

Any tips for enjoying this? I have a baking sheet I've fashioned for a sled to decent success. Other things to do outside?

pregnantbaby1 karma

Do you feel like you’ve acquired a curse in any way? Any Shining like happenings? Or actual ghosts?

hkaustin4 karma

Ghosts probably. I'm also a bit superstitious to take anything from the property off the property. Because haunting. You know?

RedditPrat1 karma

Do you have an airstrip? Would it be possible to put one on your property?

hkaustin1 karma

We dont' have one currently and we're in the mountains so not enough flat space for one! A helipad may be possible however

theoeverard1 karma

what is the most unusual/rarest thing you have found?

hkaustin6 karma

Some of my favorite finds were:

  • A Bible from 1859 with an inscription in it
  • A briefcase with one miner's whole life story in it. Bank statements, tax returns, lawsuits, divorce orders, love letters, family photos, etc
  • Jeans from late 1800s

Disciple_Of_Tachanka1 karma

Do you ever hope to have the town be a full town again with permanent residents and all? I'm sure some silicon valley startup types would love to live there haha.

hkaustin2 karma

hahah. Well, I think part of the beauty here is it's stillness and lack of tons of people. We have Robert the caretaker, who lives here full time.

I think if we did have full-time residents they'd be in 5-10 cabins surrounding the town. To preserve that peace and stillness

MasonSatchmo1 karma

I never knew it, but buying a town with a dude named Gordo is on my bucket list now. How you doing out there man?

hkaustin1 karma

Doing pretty good. It's a full blizzard outside so looks like I'll be snowed in here for a few weeks. Lots of time for reddit!

zampe1 karma

Are you regretting the purchase? Is there a path to profitability?

hkaustin1 karma

No regrets. It's financially burdening, but it's brought a lot of amazing people and stories into my life.

I knew going in that it would be very difficult, but if I'm dying and can tell my grandkids I once tried to restore an old mining town, that's a reward in itself.

I do think there are many paths to profitability. We had strong interest in overnight accommodation, but coronavirus is putting a wrench in that for now

tswatkins1 karma

We short a movie there YEARS ago. What an awesome experience. I’m glad you guys bought it and have put time and effort into it. I checked out your insta and it’s looking good. The guy who used to own it, I forgot his name, was a super sweet guy. He told us a story of how he found an old pair of Levi’s in one of the buildings. I guess they were over 100 years old. He eventually sold or donated them to Levi’s.
Did you guys find anything else cool or unique around there?

hkaustin2 karma

Wow! Amazing.

Was the guy Mike Patterson?

Recently I found a briefcase under a shelf in the old general store. It was behind tons of old furniture we were moving. Inside the box there was a guy's entire life. Bank statements from the 1910s, mining leases, lawsuits with other miners, divorce papers, uncashed checks, love letters, everything. It was this perfectly preserved time capsule of a miner's life.

waiting_for_rain0 karma

Ever think about making it a paintball or airsoft arena? (maybe laser tag to better preserve buildings)

hkaustin2 karma

two competing laser tags already in town...

kidding. no! I had not, but that could be a lot of fun. As you said, I wouldn't want paint on buildings (even if it washed off) so laser may be it