A road trip through the California desert tends to yield some amazing (and often eccentric) things. The views can span miles when the weather is cool and clear. The colors of the shifting sands are shockingly vibrant, particularly during sunset and sunrise. And then there are the ghost towns and near ghost towns – those surprising remnants of days gone by – that draw the curious and the wanderers. Randsburg, California is one of those places.
It was Andy who discovered Randsburg years ago, and his tales always intrigued me. So, when we planned a trip out to Death Valley to go wildflower hunting, he suggested a slight detour. I have to admit, I’m now completely intrigued, and I hope that we get a chance to go back and spend the night.
Back in the late 1800s, gold was discovered in the nearby Rand Mine, and like most discoveries of the time, it spurred the immediate development of a mining camp. The town of Rand Camp (now Randsburg) was born. As the story often went, when the boom mining stopped, the town slowly shrank. According to the most recent census in 2010, Randsburg had a population of 69 (but only around 38 of them are full-time residents).
A fair number of the original structures are standing, and there are probably more tourists who pass through here in a month than residents. Still, it’s a wild experience to be able to grab ice cream at the old general store or contemplate the famous banana split from a soda fountain that is well over 100 years old. There’s a hotel, a saloon that looks like a “must” and numerous small shops and galleries. There is even a museum here should you have some time to linger. But you should probably visit on the weekends because many of the points of interest are closed during the week.
Every September sees the return of the Randsburg Old West Days. As the name implies, you can see some “Old West” gun fights, re-enactments and enjoy some great live music. There are car shows and elements like crafts, antiques, and loads of other vendors that make this street fair a much anticipated annual event. This year, the event is scheduled to be held on September 16, 2017. It’s technically free, but the event is held in support of the museum.
I’m fascinated by these living ghost towns. It’s not only the history that they represent (though those links always grab my attention), but the people who choose to continue to be part of them that intrigue. Do they stay because it has always been home? How does day-to-day life work in a town that is not only short of residents and services but set in a desert? I suppose the general store and the saloon stay fairly lively, but I’m so curious about other aspects of life here. Or am I assuming a difference in lifestyle when it’s possible that the Internet means that life in a living desert ghost town isn’t all that much different than life in any small town? These are questions I hope to answer on our next trip to Randsburg.
Do you love visiting ghost towns?