Abandoned Highway 395
California

Highway 395 in California runs north to south about 100 miles west of Death Valley. The highway runs east of the Northern Sierras with views of the tallest mountain in the continental United States, Mt. Whitney. 

Photo Credit: Wikepedia

Highway 395 is dotted with natural and man-made sites to see, which includes multiple abandoned and “living” ghost towns. 

This high desert has some pretty weird history.

California City

The City of California City was incorporated in 1965 in Kern County, California. Covering over 200 square miles, California City ranks 3rd in land area on the state’s largest cities, but population checks in at barely 14,000.  California City is not a ghost town, but is not exactly what it was created to be. 

In 1958 real estate developer Nathan Mendelsohn bought 33,000 acres of Mojave Desert to build a metropolis city that would rival Los Angeles. What he ended up with was 200 square miles of dirt roads and lots, still waiting to be paved. 

I first learned of California City from a show on the Science channel, What In The World? The show uses satellite photos of weird stuff on our beautiful planet. CalCity can be seen from space as a large city still waiting to happen. 

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

Olancha

Historic graffiti marketing on a rock in a nearby abandoned truck stop area.

Olancha is an unincorporated town along highway 395 in Inyo County. It was first established in 1860 when ore was found nearby. Olancha became a full fledged town in 1870 when a post office opened. 

A cabin that is part of an abandoned motel.
The service stop
Olancha Cafe

Olancha’s claim to fame is a small cameo appearance in the Charles Manson saga. In August of 1969 Diane “Snake” Lake, the youngest member of the Manson Family, and Manson’s right hand man, Charles “Tex” Watson were ordered to go stay in the Olancha area by Charles Manson himself. It was only two days after Tex Watson assisted other members of the Manson Family in murdering a very pregnant Sharon Tate and her house guests. Snake was not an accomplice in the murders, and didn’t even know anything about them until they were in Olancha and Tex Watson admitted to her what he had done at Manson’s request. While in Olancha, Snake was arrested for indecent exposure for swimming nude in the motel pool. Shortly after, Snake and Tex left Olancha for Barker Ranch in Death Valley, where the whole of the Manson Family was arrested for theft and vandalism. While in custody multiple members were charged in the Sharon Tate and La Bianca murders. 

The rustic motel Diane “Snake” Lake got arrested for swimming nude?

Dunmovin

Dunmovin is an ghost town in Inyo County, California. Dunmovin was originally called Cowen Station, named after James Cowen, the first homesteader in the area. Cowen Station was a freight station for the nearby silver mining town of Cerro Gordo.

Very welcoming, friendly town.

James Cowen cashed out his mining claims in 1936 and moved away. The name was then changed to Dunmovin, and a post office even moved in and operated from 1938 to 1941. The town consisted of a service station, cafe, and store. Like many other communities along Highway 395, it ended up drying up and blowing away.

This car is for sure Dunmovin.
For those moments when you aren’t Dunmovin.
Please wash your hands. Covids exist.
An abandoned garage.
Mountain Man, you ain’t alone, friend.

While we visited the ghost town in November of 2020, there did seem to be one residence still occupied…but I am unsure if it was a squatter or …? 

This house did have a vehicle parked nearby that looked as though it might run, which had a tRump bumper sticker on it. Then this creepy doll on their fence. It’s a bit weird…and yet..

Fossil Falls Campground

Our temporary residence while exploring Highway 395 was the Fossil Falls Campground, 5 miles south of the Coso Junction. Fossil Falls is a primitive campground with picnic tables and fire rings. There is an old fashioned hand pump for water. Inside the campground are the actual Fossil Falls, which are not falls, but are indeed fossils. The campground is BLM land and the nightly charge is only $6.00. 

Rusty exploring Fossil Falls Campground with his sniffer.

There were many more places to visit along Highway 395, but our little travelling family had a bit of a tragedy in the area. Our very loved, and very missed yellow lab, Milo, passed away while we were in the area. He took ill very suddenly. We traveled over 100 miles to get to the nearest veterinarian clinic, and they were hopeful, but things took a turn for the worse. We spent the rest of our visit in the area in mourning…and to be truthful, we still are. Our “pets” are our family. They are our soul mates. Their love is unconditional, and they make us better humans. 

Milo. The cherished saint of dinnertime.
Best Buds, Milo and Rusty
The coolest kids ever.

Rest in peace, my Milo love. We love you. 

 

 

Golden, Oregon

Golden, Oregon – State Heritage Site

Golden, Oregon is an abandoned mining town in southern Oregon near Grants Pass. 

In contrast to other old west mining towns there was no saloon in Golden, but they did have competing churches. The first church in the community was built around 1840 by Reverend Samuel Ruble, who was a preacher for a group known as Campbellites.” Campbellites were a large religious movement in the 1800’s that were dedicated to restoring religion to “Primitive Christianity.” “Primitive Christianity” was basically a stick-in-the-mud sect of Christianity that wouldn’t even allow musical instruments to be used in churches during worship. 

Reverend Ruble’s House of Fun
These pews were so uncomfortable…hard, cold, and squeaky to make sure you didn’t nap during worship.
The empty church…Reverend Ruble’s worst nightmare.
Ruble’s Party Podium

However, another group led by Reverend Mark Davis moved into the area. Reverend Davis used the schoolhouse to lead his worship services – I would like to think that ol’ Rev. Davis allowed some pretty rockin’ music during his sermons, which was of course the inspiration behind School of Rock. This is absolutely not true, though, 

Rev. Davis’ School of Rock

Despite the bible thumping between the dueling reverends, more people moved to the area to work in the mines. By 1892 the population of Golden was just under 200. In 1896 a general store was built, which housed a post office as well. 

Golden General Store and Post Office
Stock boy needs to start hustling.
General Store and Schoolhouse
Plumbing updates?

By 1920, Golden went the way of most mining towns…devoid of gold and people. 

View out the church window…

 

Schoolhouse
Inside the Golden Schoolhouse.

Around 1950 some locals rebuilt the church. The general store, schoolhouse, carriage house, and an outhouse still stand. The State of Oregon took over Golden in 2002 and added the town to the National Register of Historic Places. 

In 2017 paranormal investigators from the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures conducted an investigation in the town of Golden. They, of course, claimed it to be haunted…by the Reverend Ruble himself. I don’t know for sure if Golden is haunted, but if it is, it makes sense that it would be by the grumpy reverend with no appreciation for music.

Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it all up and see all the…haunted reverends. 
Golden, Oregon

 


For more information

Oregon State Parks

Travel Channel

 

The Loneliest Highway – Belmont Mill, Nevada

The sign to Belmont Mine

In 1915 the Tonopah-Belmont Development Co. began developing the property that would become the Belmont Mine. The Belmont Mine was built about seven miles southwest of the town of Hamilton, which was already a ghost town by 1915. 

Homestead in the nearby Hamilton ghost town

Belmont Mill was set up as a company town, with mostly employees residing in the camp there. Even though a considerable amount of money was put into the Belmont Mine, the mines were mediocre in production, and the camp and mill were abandoned about ten years after opening. 

Today, much of the mine still remains. There are multiple structures, including the main mining building. The main building still has quite a bit of the original mining equipment inside, like a large pulley system to extract the ore from the mine. There are a few large bins hanging from pulley cables that served as counterweights to the ore containers. 

The main mine building with an aerial tramway extending to the left
Pulley system still intact
Large pulley
Outside of the main building
The stairs were actually in remarkable shape. 

The Belmont Mine also has a large aerial tramway that would take the ore from the Belmont Mine main building over to the original Belmont millsite. Apparently, the original millsite is further up the canyon from the still intact buildings of Belmont Mine, but none of the original millsite buildings remain. 

Other buildings still intact at the millsite include what looks was a mill office, and what was likely a boarding house for employees. 

Additional buildings seen from the main mill building
Breezy Office
I believe this was the bunkhouse for the mine employees. I assume it was taller back in the day.

Belmont Mine is such as impressive site because so many of the buildings are still intact, and the mining equipment seems to just be suspended in time. This ghost millsite looked as though a shift ended, and everyone vacated the desert instead of going back to work the next day. 

 

 

For More Information Visit

TravelNevada.com

NevadaAppeal.com