Prior to camping at Benton Hot Springs, the first stop Thea and I make on our little road trip is Tonopah, Nevada (US 95, halfway between Reno and Las Vegas). We have a room reserved at the historic Mizpah Hotel (built in 1907).
After we check in, the very first thing Thea and I do is wander around the hotel looking for the spots where ghost encounters have been reported.
The most popular ghost here is The Lady in Red. Apparently she was a prostitute and was murdered on the 5th floor of the hotel by a jealous boyfriend. She haunts the hotel by shaking the chandeliers and even leaving pearls on nightstands. Whatever the real story is, the hotel is both delightfully creepy and classy, and Thea and I have a ball taking pictures of ourselves in multiple mirrors hoping to catch a ghost in the reflection.
The next morning, we tour the Tonopah Historic Mining Park which is located just behind the hotel. We watch a movie in the visitors center and learn about Jim Butler, a rancher who happened to be in the area searching for his lost mule. He came across an interesting rock outcropping, which of course, turned out to be ripe with silver. This was back in 1900. And the rest is history. The park is fun, not only because we get to take a self guided tour of the original mining claims that started the town, but we can go in all of the buildings!
Next, Thea and I drive south 26 miles to Goldfield, Nevada. We drive through town and over to the International Car Forest of the Last Church. I’ve seen pictures of this place, and wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s a really cool art installation/exhibit. There are 40+ cars partially buried here.
Goldfield got its start after the discovery of gold in 1902, not long after the silver mining started in Tonopah. The town is full of beautiful old buildings, but we don’t have much time to spare, though we later regret not stopping in for a beer here:
We do stop at the cemetery as we head back north because these old mining town cemeteries are fascinating. I’m not sure how many folks are buried here, but the cemetery was relocated from the center of town to this spot when the town’s population swelled to 20,000+ people. The railroad company didn’t want a bunch of graves to be the first thing newcomers saw when they got off the train. Fair enough. (This place was happening when it was a gold rush boomtown. I mean, Wyatt and Virgil Earp hung out here.)
Goldfield was one of the biggest boomtowns in the west, and from what I’ve read, it had all modern luxuries of the time. Though the large population was short-lived. In the census of 1910, the population had dropped from 20,000 people to 4,800. The current population of Goldfield is 268 according to the 2010 census. Isn’t it crazy to imagine these towns supporting all of those people and then, they’re gone?
These towns are a lot of fun to explore, and like I always say about places I really enjoy, I’d love to come back here again.
Also, here is my newsletter for the month of July. Go ahead and take a peek, and maybe subscribe :)