|We left Lone Pine early Friday morning and drove the 125 or so miles to Barstow. There was a Pacific Storm blowing through which had cooled off the temperatures considerably but also resulted in very high winds. So high, in fact, that we had elected to put down our internet satellite dish lest it become a very heavy, very expensive sail. Since most of the campgrounds we are staying in right now are basically dust and sand parking areas, it also means lots of dust flying around. But we got off fine and made the drive down Highway 395, turning east on highway 58 to head for Barstow.
There is basically nothing between Lone Pine and Barstow. Clearly there used to be a fair number of small towns, farms, mines and other businesses, but they’re mostly closed and derelict. For a photographer who loves dead buildings, it would be a great field trip and maybe sometime I’ll make a special trip just to photograph all the “ghost” places along the valley there, but there were no good places to pull off a rig that is 54’ total length just so Margaret could wander around satisfying her love for derelict buildings! So we just made mental notes and kept driving. Once we turned east we had a pretty good tailwind, which helped our fuel mileage considerably. Which reminds me: we’re seeing diesel fuel prices here in Central California that aren’t quite as high as we had in Alaska, but they’re nowhere near as low as we’ve been hearing from other people. They vary from $4.09 to $4.39 and I think even higher in a couple of places, but we saw nothing under $4.
We got to Barstow fairly early and, after relaxing a bit and having some lunch, headed over to the “ghost town” of Calico, just a few miles from our campground. We hadn’t expected much, but were curious. And easily satisfied after a short visit!
Wikipedia defines a “ghost town” as “a town or city that has been abandoned, usually because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as flood or war. The term is sometimes used in a depreciative sense to include areas where the current population is significantly less than it once was.” I guess by that definition, Calico qualifies, but it hardly meets most people’s idea of a ghost town. It is clearly a tourist attraction, complete with singing performers every 100 yards or so, people dressed up in costumes and gee-gaw shops in most every building. There’s a small mine train you can ride (for a fee) and a mine you can tour (for a fee); and all that’s after you pay a fee to get in.
Calico came into being in the 1880’s when silver was discovered nearby, flourished for a few years and was substantially abandoned by the turn of the century, although some people continued to live there until many decades later. In 1951 Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry Farm fame) purchased the town and began restoring it as a tourist attraction. The restoration was done with some care, using historic photographs and other information, but involved replacement of most of the original buildings with replicas. In the 1960’s Knott donated the town to San Bernardino County, who now runs it.
It’s in many ways more amusement park than ghost town, but there were a few interesting things to see. But after you’ve seen Bodie – and Kennecott in Alaska – it’s a pale imitation. We wandered around, took some pictures, had some ice cream and headed back to the trailer. It was too windy to be comfortable and, although we missed the threatened “Calico Days” festival by one day, there was entirely too much noise and hoop-la for our taste.