Unique Ghost Towns
What are ghost towns? You may have the image of a town that
is completely empty of people, and that certainly qualifies.
On the other hand, when I read a book on Michigan ghost towns
I remember thinking "Hey, didn't I stop in a convenience
store there once?" The authors definition was basically
any town that had lost 30% of its population.
One day, I discovered that there was actually one "true"
ghost town in Michigan. It is called Fiborn Quarry, or just Fiborn.
It was a limestone quarry and small town at one time, in the
upper peninsula of Michigan. The first time I went there I was
surprised to finally see a place that had buildings and houses,
but no people.
As you approach by way of a dirt road, the woods suddenly
open up into an open area of a couple hundred acres. It is like
a moonscape, with few trees or plants. This is the mine, and
if the water isn't too bad, you can usually drive through it
to where the buildings are on the other side. The basement of
the mine-owners home is in the woods nearby. Go on a weekday
and you are likely to have the place to yourself all day.
The first time I was there, I heard water running. I went
a short way from the largest building and found a stream running
down from the nearby cliffs and into the quarry. Then it became
a whirlpool in a pit, and disappeared into the ground. Some years
this stream doesn't seem to be there at all. This is one of the
mysteries of the place.
The ghost town of Fiborn is about thirty minutes west of the
Mackinac bridge on highway two, and then another twenty minutes
north of the highway by way of two county roads. I won't give
better directions, because finding these places is part of the
fun. I can tell you that it still shows up on some highway maps,
especially the older ones. Good luck!
(The photo is from a Colorado Ghost town: That's me holding
up an old building.)
Western Ghost Towns
There are ghost towns all over the west. What makes them different
from places like Fiborn, is that they are usually full of visitors.
This is certainly true of Bodie, California. When we visited,
there were perhaps 60 other people walking around the town.
Despite this crowd, the place feels eerily empty. There are
150 well-preserved buildings in town at the moment, without one
person living there. The town gets very hot in the summer and
is often buried in snow in the winter. It sits high in the mountains,
with no forests around. This adds to the sense of desolation.
This is a town that reminds you how temporary things can be.
There were ten thousand residents at one time. The telegraph
and electrical poles are still leading into town, but haven't
been used in many years. It is very strange to be in an empty
place that used to be so busy, and to see the things left behind,
as though the townsfolk just disappeared one day.
Some of the buildings have had rooms sealed off for viewing
only, but you can walk through a number of the old homes and
businesses. Bodie is in the eastern slopes of the Sierra, about
50 miles south of Lake Tahoe. It is near Bridgeport and Highway
395, and near the Nevada border. This is one of the more impressive
ghost towns we have seen.