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The Unseen Episode of California's Gold with Huell Howser

The late television personality Huell Howser believed the South family saga was a quintessential California story. He produced a special episode based on filmmaker John McDonald’s documentary for his television series California’s Gold before the series was cancelled by PBS. Here is the intriguing episode that never aired!

Episode running time: 62 minutes
Bonus features: 56 minutes
Extras include:

  • “California, Here I Come” music video by Huell and the Musicians Institute
  • Mark Jorgensen, former Park Superintendent, visits Ghost Mountain
  • Oldest child Rider South shares family heirlooms from Ghost Mountain
  • Post-screening Q&A with filmmakers and guests in Borrego Springs
  • Musicians perform at Ghost Mountain’s trailhead


62 minute episode plus 56 minutes of bonus features:
Buy $12.99 or Rent $6.49

62 minute episode only:
Buy $9.99 or Rent $4.99

Bonus features only:
Buy $4.99 or Rent $2.49


62 minute episode plus 56 minutes of bonus features $24.99

Original Feature Length Film, Director's Cut

Filmmaker's personal message:

William Faulkner, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, said that he did his work “...in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.” I believe the South family, in creating their simple adobe home, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain were driven by that human spirit Faulkner describes, and that they did leave something behind for all of us. It is in this same spirit that I am committed to making a documentary about the Souths’ lives and to share it with a wide audience.

Why did I feel so strongly compelled to make this film? Why is it important for people to see? The story of Marshal South’s dream appeals to our pioneer spirit. The saga of a strong, resourceful, and resilient family surviving alone on an isolated mountaintop fascinates and inspires us, but also challenges us to evaluate our own lives and perceptions. What valuable aspects of American life are eroding just as surely as the walls of Yaquitepec?

There is something haunting about the story of Ghost Mountain. We see the South children sitting naked on granite boulders outside their home or making pottery under a shaded patio. We imagine them laughing as they hop from rock to rock or are all snuggled up under blankets, listening to their father’s stories by fire glow. We smell agave slowly roasting in the hot stones of a mescal pit. We feel the dry, blistering heat of summer, the cold, gritty winter winds, and we hear the long-awaited rain pelting down on the corrugated steel roof, filling the cement cisterns. Images like these tap into some atavistic, inner gallery within our own dreams, evoking primal memories of a long ago, forgotten time.

Wilderness is part of our history as a people. Every time we spend a quiet weekend in the backcountry or stare into a campfire, we are reconnecting with the crucible that shaped us as a nation. Natural open space unfettered by the hum of a nearby freeway or the sight of yet another shopping mall is as precious to Americans as are the hallowed, marbled monuments in Washington D.C. The Souths’ back-to-nature story moves us because it reminds us of our heritage and the ideals we celebrate, but tend to forget between the demands of making a living and keeping up with the technology that was supposed to set us free. Experiencing nature in the raw is vital to us now and to our future: it helps us remember who we are and where we came from.

—John McDonald

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Complete 76 minute film
Buy $9.99 or Rent $4.99


Complete 76 minute film $19.99

A Note About Downloading Videos

Dear Customer,

When you buy one of my video packages you then own it forever. You can stream the videos right away and download them to your computer to watch at any time. When you rent one of my packages you have 3 days to finish watching after you start. In those 3 days, you have total access to stream the content as many times as you like. After payment, if you never watch it, that rental expires in 30 days. Thank you for your interest in my work.

—John McDonald, Director

Controlled Chaos Design