Archives for category: – Ghost Towns

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About a year ago the forgotten ghost town of Seneca made national news after Paul Reubens (of Pee Wee Herman fame) tweeted about a long-idle Craigslist ad listing the town for sale. This year the “town,” which is just three rundown cabins and an old bar, sold. The bar, once called “The Gin Mill,” did come with an actual liquor license, so who knows, maybe it’ll reopen one day.

I mention it here because, if you live anywhere near the Sierras, it might make a good overlanding trip. The town sits at about 3600′ elevation in a canyon along the Feather River, about 50 miles northeast of Oroville and about 75 miles southwest of Redding. It’s actually just south of Lake Almanor, if you know where that is. Here are the coordinates: 40.112083,-121.0848

The roads to the site, though not that rough looking, are said to travel along 1000′ dropoffs, so if you go in winter, bring chains, shovels, and another friend with a truck.

Keep me posted, if you go check it out!

Links:
Craigslist ad

Google Map

LA Times article

Facebook page

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The aftermarket Jeep parts supplier, Extreme Terrain, is giving away three separate 4 day / 3 night trips to major off-road destinations as part of a promotional contest. A single contestant will win the whole lot. He and his (or her) guest will be flown to California’s Rubicon Trail, Moab in Utah, and Ouray in Colorado. Once there, they’ll be given the use of a Jeep Wrangler with which they can explore the trails.

Read the rest of the post for additional details culled from Extreme Terrain’s press release.

Link:
Contest entry page Read the rest of this entry »

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Titus Canyon, all photos: Gus M.

Bay Area WCXC reader Gus M. sent in these excellent photos of a ride he, his wife, and some friends took to through Furnace Creek in Death Valley. He reports that there’s a little more going on than in nearby Stovepipe Wells, including few restaurant options, gas station, post office and even a swimming pool and cell service.

See the rest of the photos, and an area map, after the link. Thanks, Gus! Read the rest of this entry »

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Read the whole post here.

We picked up this book recently while browsing the shelves of a bookstore in Fairhaven, Washington, Bellingham’s historic downtown.

It tells the story of Polly Bemis, who, as a young woman, was sold by her starving, rural, Chinese family for two bags of seed and shipped by traffickers to San Francisco in 1872. There she was sold again, sight-unseen, to a Chinese merchant living in the remote mining town of Warrens, Idaho, for the considerably larger sum of $2500 (about $46,000 today).

Some years later, as legend has it, the merchant wagered her in a poker game, with a local saloon keeper named Charlie Bemis, and lost. She ended up living with Charlie, ran his boarding house and, in 1890, saved his life when he was almost killed in a gunfight. Four years later they would marry and move to an even more remote ranch, 17 miles out of Warrens, on the banks of the Salmon River.

Well, Natalie and I thought this sounded like an amazing story and began to read when, to our utter surprise, we realized that we’d been to Warrens, Idaho!

Today Warren, as it’s now known, is mostly a ghost town, though Wikipedia lists its current population as 16. Below are some photos of our trip there in the fall of 2010.

If you’re interested in other places to go in Idaho, check out these posts:

Burgdorf Hot Springs (in business since the 1870s)
Ghost town of Silver City (founded 1864)
Redfish Lake Lodge (built in 1929)

Update 2/11/2013: I found the location of the Bemis house and mapped a possible route to Warren. See the map after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Here’s a beautiful video of Bodie, the ghost town in the Sierra Nevada a few miles from the Nevada border. We visited there on our Mark Twain trip. Click here, if you’d like to read more about it.

Thanks for the tip, Greg!


Photo: Greg MacDonald

When we last left Mark Twain he was slaughtering passers-by in the pages of the Territorial Enterprise. He wrote a similar story in the fall of 1863 meant to shame financiers for artificially inflating stock prices—yes, it happened back then too—and to embarrass San Francisco newspapers for their complicity.

Entitled “The Massacre at Empire City,” it told the story of a man who, in seeing no way out of a huge financial scandal (think 19th-century Enron), committed suicide after gruesomely murdering his wife and most of their nine children.

Twain intended it as satire but big-city papers reprinted the piece as fact, too caught up in the grisly details to catch the finer, cautionary tale. When he recanted the whole thing, cries for Mark Twain’s head could be heard up and down the west coast. Shocked, Twain offered to resign from the paper. “Nonsense,” his editor replied, “We can furnish the people with news, but we can’t supply them with sense.”

In making his first real mark on the West, Twain had, to his amazement, discovered the power of the media.

At our camp in the Bodie Hills, Greg had discovered the power of a wonky stomach. Marinated chicken and my lack of ice-chest due diligence had been the culprits. Back at Desert Creek I had grilled chicken. Natalie warned that it might not have survived the thaw. It had tasted fine but I spit it out anyway. Greg passed too, after swallowing a bite. That simple italics made all the difference. Now in the Bodie Hills he made excursions into the sagebrush with shovel in hand. Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Nik Schulz

When Clemens arrived in Virginia City in 1862, it was a mere three years old. Its mines, however, had already produced over $400 million dollars in silver, enough to bankroll the building of San Francisco and eventually help the Union win the Civil War. The booming town was lined with businesses, restaurants, saloons, and populated with well-paid miners and dancing girls. After his own hard-scrabble mining stint, Sam Clemens, newly shaved and puffing on his ever-present cigar, must have surveyed the bustling, cosmopolitan scene and thought, “Now this is more like it.”

Here he began to thrive writing stories for the Territorial Enterprise. When the news wasn’t interesting enough for him, which it rarely was, he stretched the facts like taffy, folding and molding them until he had produced a confection that bore little resemblance to the reality from which it was derived. To these colorfully fabricated accounts, he added his colorful new pen name: Mark Twain.

I found one wagon that was going to California, and made some judicious inquiries of the proprietor. When I learned, through his short and surly answers to my cross-questioning, that he was certainly going on and would not be in the city the next day to make trouble… I took down his list of names and added his party to the killed and wounded. Having more scope here, I put this wagon through an Indian fight that to this day has no parallel in history.

My two columns were filled. When I read them over in the morning I felt that I had found my legitimate occupation at last… I felt I could take my pen and murder all the emigrants on the plains if need be, and the interests of the paper demanded it.

Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter 42

Our legitimate occupation involved getting to the former town of Masonic in the Bodie Hills. First though we had to follow the trail south from our Desert Creek campsite to Jackass Creek and over the Sweetwater Mountains. Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Greg MacDonald

As I mentioned in the first “Twain Trip” post, Sam Clemens planned to work as an assistant to his brother, the newly appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory—a secretary to the Secretary as it were. This notion he abandoned, however, when he learned that his salary would be deducted straight from his brother’s paycheck. Surely seeking to maintain positive fraternal relations, he sought his fortune by other means, first as a timber baron, then as a mining tycoon.

Things did not work out as planned, however. Aside from nearly capsizing in Mono Lake and almost freezing to death near Carson City, a consequence of having spent the night lost in a snowstorm (a mere 50 feet from the nearest stagecoach station), he accidentally burned down a large swath of forest surrounding Lake Tahoe, a feat he bested only by forfeiting a mining claim worth millions of dollars. Not to say that he wasn’t keeping busy—he was. It was just no way to make a living.

Twain, used to doing things on a grand scale, made no exception in failure. He had failed spectacularly. Those weren’t the piddling millions of today’s currency, mind you—they were 1860s millions. And yet, at the end of his short mining career he didn’t have two cents to rub together. The dizzying flight from millionaire to pauper left him lost. A saving grace though arrived in the form of an offer to write for Virginia City’s local newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise for $25 a week. Normally he would have turned it down, work having been antithetical to his nature, but with his back firmly against a wall he accepted and, at 27, moved to Virginia City.

I do not like to work, even when another person does it.

— Mark Twain

For us, Virginia City lay still ahead. We awoke before dawn and watched a serene orange glow bleed into the dark until the sky flooded and pushed the stars out of sight. After breakfast and cups of tea to ward off the chill, we packed up and hit the trail. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the last post about our trip to Idaho in early October.

Pausing by the shores of the Payette River

By the time we left Burgdorf Hot Springs we were pretty impressed with Idaho. The place is beautiful. And as we headed into our last couple of nights, it got even better.

We were traveling south again, down from McCall and then making our way east on Highway 21 towards the town of Stanley and on to Redfish Lake Lodge in the Sawtooth Mountains. I had booked online and squeaked us in to one of their last cabins, in the last week of their season. We drove through the Boise National Forest, gaining in elevation. The scenery was standard stuff until I saw the bear. “Where!!?” piped Natalie, keen for the lookout. It was just a little guy hanging out by the side of the road. I stepped on the brakes, backed up, and it ran up the hill and hid behind a tree. Maybe that was all standard stuff too but it was pretty cute. Read the rest of this entry »

This is a continuation of posts about our Idaho trip in early October 2010.

Burgdorf Hot Springs

Most of the cabins are not falling down. Some, however, are.

After Silver City and a night in Boise, we drove up to the town of McCall near Payette National Forest. Before heading up to the hot spring Natalie suggested a little side trip to the local fish hatchery. She, already a fan, initiated me to the wonders of the fish life cycle. What we learned was pretty amazing. (Salmon swim to Idaho from the ocean! It takes them three months! A female can lay 4000 eggs! Only 200 make it back out to sea! Of those only 10 will reach adulthood! Of those 10, only two will return to spawn!)

We took the self-guided tour, saw salmon in their various stages of development, and learned that Idaho restocks fish at about 600 lakes every year by horseback, helicopter and backpack. Can you imagine hiking for hours with a backpack full of trout leaning over your shoulder asking, “Are we there yet” every five minutes? That’s dedication. Read the rest of this entry »