Homer's Travels: Mojave Ghost Towns

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mojave Ghost Towns

As I mentioned the other day, after wandering the desert looking for Mary, we ended up visiting some ghost towns. I guess I have a different idea of what a ghost town is supposed to be. I imagine an old, unoccupied town slowly decaying with the passage of time. The key word here is unoccupied. All four of the ghost towns we visited on Saturday were definitely lived in.

The first one was Red Mountain. The Ghost Town website has the population as roughly 130. My guess is that the number is much lower. They are not even listed in the census bureau's records. The church is now an elderly center but when we passed through there were two code enforcement vehicles and a moving van in front and it didn't look occupied. The wife commented that the place was depressing and I can't say I disagree. Every rundown house was surrounded by old rusty junk.

The second town was Johannesburg. This was the larger of the three towns on or near SR395. The population according to the census bureau is around 176. It was a little more organized and had a gas station but it too looked very rundown and junky looking.

The third town was Randsburg. This town was trying it's best to capitalize on it's ghost town label. You could see that there was some effort in draw the tourists to the area. Most of the people we saw were off-roaders, ATVers, and Dirt Bikers. The White House Saloon & Floozy House was fairly busy. The main street was relatively clean and well kept. The population of the town is around 77. We actually stopped and walked around a little here. The main business seemed to be antiques (i.e. junk) stores. We almost bought an old Blue Nun Wine sign (The wife collects nun stuff) but she decided she didn't have a place to put it. I took some pictures of buildings and some of the mining equipment on display outside of the museum (unfortunately closed when we were there).

The last town we visited was Willow Springs, west of Rosamond. Many of the original stone building are still standing and appear to be still occupied. It felt like we were driving through someone's farmyard. I was too tired to get out and take pictures and there really wasn't much to take pictures of anyway. It would have felt strange taking pictures of occupied houses.

So there you have it. Along with Calico which we visited on the way back from Vegas, these are all the ghost towns that I have ever visited and, truth be told, none have lived up to my expectations. I want old buildings to explore and forgotten detritus of past lives to sift through. I guess my image of a ghost Town is too romanticized.

There was one more place I had looked into going to, Garlock, that is the location of William Henry "Burro" Schmidt's tunnel. Burro Schmidt, trying to make a shortcut, dug a tunnel single handedly through Copper Mountain. It took him 22 years. The tunnel is about a half mile long and you can walk the length of it. A monument to obsession. After reading descriptions of the road leading to the tunnel, I decided that the Honda probably wouldn't have made it.

P.S. On the way out to the car after work today I noticed something hanging from the bottom of the Honda. It looks like the off-roading took it's toll on the plastic splash guard under the front end of the car. I wired up part of it and had to cut away some of the more mangled parts. I guess a visit to the body shop is in my future.


  1. If you ever can, head up to Bodie, though it's a bit of a drive, and I think you'll find the ghost town you seek. I think I did a post on it back over the summer.

    I know how you feel about the Honda, I beat the crud out of my old Corolla before I got the truck...

  2. GH: I've seen the pictures of Bodie and yes that looks like the image of a ghost town that I have stuck in my head. I'll have to investigate.