Bucket List: America’s Ghost Towns Part 2

bucketlistghosttown2In the second section of America’s ghost towns off on my own personal bucket list, I’m going to continue where I left off and move across the country in alphabetical order.

Pearce, Arizona

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Flickr Photo: © Phillip Capper – Pearce, Arizona, USA 1990

Discovered by and named for James Pearce, the town of Pearce, Arizona formed up around the infamous Commonwealth mine after James made a chance discovery with the throw of a rock. Said to be one of the most prosperous mines in the state, it’s easy to understand how this patch of desert seemed to grow overnight into a bustling little town with a movie theater, railroad, saloon, post office, boarding house, and literally both the families and houses of tombstone. Sadly the town met its demise when the Great Depression rolled across the country and took with it a large portion of the businesses in town. Soon it would be as if Pearce had never been at all. Today, the town is seeing a resurgence as buildings are being transformed into shop fronts catering towards the tourists making their way on the famous “ghost trail”.

Santa Claus, Arizona

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Flickr Photo: © David Smith – Santa’s Village 2

Although Santa Claus, Arizona was never technically a town, it was a popular tourist attraction on Highway 93 south of the Nevada/Arizona border at Hoover Dam. Closed in 1995, this once magical attraction with themed food and trinkets for everyone’s favorite holiday, has now been left to rot in the Arizona sun and has been covered with years of graffiti.There’s really no telling what you might find if you decide to visit, apart from the few remaining buildings, but I for one am shamelessly happy there’s one less Santa themed place in the world… you know… because he’s creepy.

Dogpatch, Arkansas

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Flickr Photo: © Clinton Steeds – Dogpatch Grounds

Hailed as the most famous amusement park in the United States, Dogpatch U.S.A. in Marble Falls, Arkansas opened it’s doors in 1968 to a crowd of 8,000 people. With a creative mix of characters, rides, and attractions the park performed well for a number of years despite behind the scenes drama and a few personal injury lawsuits along the way. Dogpatch kept its doors open until 1993, and shortly there after began garnering attention for being vacant. Sadly for all of you urban explorers out there, the park was purchased by inventor Charles L. Pelsor in 2014 and is slowly being revived while remaining open for tours.

Bodie, California

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Flickr Photo: © James Marvin Phelps – Abandoned Old Chevy

Built in the 1860’s and named after William Bodey (Waterman S. Body), who was the first to discover gold in the area, the town grew steadily until the early 1880’s when the gold mines began to close and people moved on to more prosperous areas of the country. Although there was a brief resurgence of inhabitants throughout most of the early 1900’s thanks to new mining technology, the town slowly faded towards the ghost town it would become in the 1940’s. In 1962, Bodie was declared both a State Historic Park and National Historic Landmark thanks to the state of “arrested decay” that has been maintained since the state took over. The park is open year round for tourism.

Calico, California

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Flickr Photo: © Steven Martin – Main Street, Calico Ghost Town

Formed in the 1880’s and named for the beautiful mountains that surround the city, Calico grew up around multiple silver mines and soon became a thriving locale. When the value of silver dropped only 10 years later, the town was hard hit and people would begin to abandon the city until the final residents left in 1929. When Walter Knott purchased the ghost town in the 1950’s he set about restoring the remaining buildings and tried to make them look as authentic as possible while making them sturdy for a hopefully long future. Luckily for Knott, his hard work paid off and Calico was made a State Historic Landmark in 2005, and is open year round for tours and a step back in time.

Chemung Mine/Masonic, California

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Flickr Photo: © Cowgirl Jules – Chemung Mine 1

Discovered in 1909, Chemung Mine in Masonic Mountain remained open until 1938 when as far as I can discern, it was abandoned overnight (probably not). Inhabited by 1,000 people at the height of its existence, the mining town is built on three levels, and used an extensive tram system to transport the gold from the mine back into town. Although the town has been abandoned for 78 years, the remains of buildings are still standing and said to be in good condition for their age and lack of repair. Located close to Bodie, you’ll have to drive to get here, but even if you’re unimpressed with the dilapidated buildings, the beautiful desert views should be worth your time.

Bucket List: America’s Ghost Towns Part 1

Bucketlistghosttown1For me there’s something sad and mysterious about abandoned buildings and towns. Something that seems to draw me to them, as if staring at the old facades and overgrown structures will teach me something about humanity or nature. Although we all dream about visiting places like Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat because they’re far away and as mysterious as we believe them to be, there are also a number of abandoned places here in the U.S.A. that are equally as mysterious and interesting. And I plan to cover a few of them in my next few blog posts.

Cahaba(Cahawba), Alabama

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Flickr Photo: © Pat Henson – The Barker Slave House

As the first state capital of Alabama, it somehow seems fitting that this once important locale is now an archaeological site with a reputation for being haunted. Built at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers just after the state was created in 1819, the new capital soon garnered a reputation for being both unsafe and unhealthy thanks to flooding and disease. When the legislature moved, Cahaba reinvented itself into a harbor town and thrived thanks to a bustling cotton trade. After the civil war hit and the union blockade shut down the cotton trade, Cahaba was forced to reinvent itself once again, and would eventually become home to a military prison that would hold soldiers until the end of the Civil war. In 1865 the town was hit with a massive flood, and would gradually be taken back by nature until it was unincorporated in 1989. Today, the park is open daily (unless otherwise stated) for guided or self-guided tours by foot, vehicle, or bicycle for a small fee.

Kennecott, Alaska

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Flickr Photo: © Jeffrey L. Cohen – Kennecott Mill

This national historic landmark might be the best remaining example of early 20th century mining, but is mostly visited by tourists because of its iconic and imposing red buildings, and the breathtaking backdrop of mountains and lush green landscape that surrounds it. Built by the Kennecott Mining Corporation around the turn of the century, this remote mining town was a thriving metropolis of activity thanks to higher than average wages, and the push for coast to coast railroad lines during the industrial revolution. Although the mining company would go on to expand their business in various corners of the world, Kennecott was completely depleted of its copper ore by 1938 and the town was subsequently abandoned. Open from May to September for tourism, take the guided tour if it’s available, so you can see the inside of the buildings along with the open streets available to anyone wanting to visit.

Courtland, Arizona

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Flickr Photo: © Ben Lepley – IMG_6961

The town of Courtland was founded in 1909 after copper was found nearby. It didn’t take long for the town to grow once multiple mining companies set up shop, and soon this tiny dot on a map would become a town of 2,000 with two railroads, a Wells Fargo station, school-house, and post office among many other thriving businesses. Despite the promise of a “mother-lode” of copper in the area, the mines began to run out by the time 1917 rolled around, and when the final mining company closed its doors in 1920, the businesses and people soon followed suit. Today it’s hard to even consider Courtland a town. With nothing more than a few partially intact buildings and the scattered ruins of thriving businesses and homes that have been taken back by nature, it looks a bit more like something out of an apocalyptic movie starring desert plant life. Since the town in part of the famous “Ghost Town Trail” beginning in Tombstone, it’s location is easy to find, and open for anyone willing to visit.

Gleeson (Turquoise), Arizona

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Flickr Photo: © Kristy Hom – Welcome to Gleeson

Originally inhabited by Native Americans, this small town was named turquoise after the semi-precious stones found in the area. When miner John Gleeson began prospecting nearby and found large deposits of copper in 1900, this small mining camp was renamed and would grow to support a small community of miners who would occupy the town for the next 40 years. Although Gleeson technically still has residents today, most of them don’t inhabit the “old town”, and the remains of a saloon, hospital, jail, and a few houses are all that is left of what was once a flourishing mining camp. Like Courtland and many others in the area, Gleeson can be found on the famous “Ghost Town Trail”, and is easily accessible to tourists.

Goldfield, Arizona

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Flickr Photo: © Jc Olivera – Goldfield Ghost Town

Aptly named for the gold ore found in the area in the late 1800’s, Goldfield is one of the most famous ghost towns in Arizona. At its height, it boasted 3 saloons, a post office, brewery, blacksmith, and many other buildings including a school. When the ground began to run out of gold just before the turn of the century, the miners began to leave, and the town would be mostly uninhabited until the 1920’s when new mining techniques gave the city a new life. Since history has a way of repeating itself no matter how hard we work, the towns revival would only last for another 5 years, and when the gold ran out the people left. When  Robert F. “Bob” Schoose fell in love with Goldfield in the late 1960’s, he began purchasing all the land in the area, and recreating the once thriving ghost town with new buildings, tourists attractions, and an authentic feel. Although the town itself might not be the real Goldfield, the tourist attraction in its place will probably be an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

A Weekend in Tucson

I know I said that my next post would be about my itinerary, but when I wrote that I hadn’t anticipated having a weekend worth mentioning. After having so much fun the last few days, I decided to delay revealing my itinerary to bring you a post about the very Tucson weekend I just had. I wish I could say it started with an incredibly interesting Friday evening, but thanks to the 6 immunization shots I got earlier that afternoon, this is not the case. By Saturday I could move my arms again and wasn’t feeling quite so light-headed, so I decided to make the most of my day. I  ran a few errands, sold some lamps on Craigslist, and attended my very first rodeo and barn yard dance.

That’s right… I just said rodeo and barn yard dance. I bet that you didn’t see that one coming. I’ll admit that initially I was hesitant about going to both the rodeo and the dance, having never been before, but ultimately I’m happy I did. It was a unique experience and a fun afternoon involving good people, entertainment, junk food, and a lesson in two-stepping. Apparently I’m a natural… or the guy who taught me is a really good liar.

Then Sunday I headed over to Bookmans to sell some of my things, and afterwards ventured over to the Tucson Gem and Mineral show. If you’re a little bit of a nerd and/or female, then it’s hard not to love the excessive amount of sparkly things found at this show. It was well worth the $10 entrance fee, and this years theme was Fluorite: Colors of the Rainbow, so everywhere you looked fluorite was on display or for sale. I walked away with a camera full of photos and an adorable elephant charm on a leather cord. All in all a great afternoon.

Seven Falls

One of the best things about relocating to Tucson, Arizona at the beginning of my AmeriCorps term was the prospect of lots of places to go hiking. I grew up in Illinois where good hiking is hard to come by due to the lack of elevation. Since I love the outdoors I try to go hiking as often as I can, and in as many places as I can in the area. I’ve been in Tucson almost a year now, and have definitely done my share of hiking. The one thing I hadn’t accomplished yet was hiking the 7 Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon when there was running water. This past weekend I finally changed that.


View of the Falls as you approach

There’s a moment when you round a corner and see the falls directly opposite you that makes the whole hike worth while. I took a moment here to appreciate the view before continuing down to the end of the trail.


End of the trail view

Once you finally come to the end of the trail your view will be something like the photo above. There aren’t as many people lounging around the falls as you’ll find along the rest of the trail, but there will be a few others enjoying the reward of their hike.


Main Section of the Falls

As I relaxed I played with my new camera and took a few close-up shots of the falls in front of me like the one above.


One of the falls lower down

Below the end of the trail are a few more falls. The first of the two I could see is in the photo above. After adventuring around it for a little while I hiked back up towards the main section of falls to the largest in the photo below.


One of the largest falls near the top

If you’re in Tucson I’d recommend making a day trip out to Sabino Canyon for the 7 Falls Hike. It’s a moderately difficult trail and if you go when water is flowing it will be well worth the trip as you can see from the pictures above. If your experience level is a little lower there are tons of trails through Sabino Canyon that will offer beautiful desert scenery without the length.