A band of wild horses galloped through the sagebrush to my left. To my right, the dirt road crumbled off into a ravine. The sun was bright and hot, and I was out here by myself. If something happens to my car, I’m done for. Stranded in the scorching desert miles from anybody, this would be it. I had taken the unnamed and barely marked road from America’s Loneliest Highway, Highway 50, further into the remoteness of Nevada, seeking the ghost town of Hamilton.
If the park ranger at Great Basin National Park hadn’t told me about this ghost town, there would be no chance I would have found it, and I would have never attempted route on this wild terrain road. It was barely a road. It was more like a path, just worn over in the resemblance of a road with ruts and holes, and parts of the path crumbling off and falling to the wayside. It meandered through the foothills of Mount Hamilton ever so roughly. Though I explained to the ranger that I was driving just a compact car, he told me I should be fine, and he said it with such dismissing confidence that I trusted him.
I considered a few times turning around back to Highway 50, but eventually I realized I couldn’t. There wasn’t enough space anywhere to turn around, with the hill on one side and a ravine on the other. I was in this until the end.
Eventually the hills gave way to a wide valley, and I came upon the ruins of Hamilton. The ruins were largely spread out and very diverse. I parked my car over to the side of the dirt road and I first came upon the remnants of a stone house. Slates of stone had been stacked ontop each other to create a building, but now only two adjacent walls remained. One had an arched doorway still in tact that was held in place by bricks seeming to defy the laws of gravity. In the near vicinity were other ruins of stone houses left barely recognizable, in piles of rock. Further in, I came upon some wooden structures. There were two buildings completely dilapidated except for their roofs just laying on the ground pointing upward.
In a field large rested a collection of enormous iron gears with the insignia of Denver Colorado U.S.A. on them. My guess was that they were a part of mining equipment. In my later research, I learned Hamilton used to be booming silver town with a population of 12,000 at its peak in 1869. Two hundred mining companies were set up in the area. Hamilton boasted close to one hundred saloons and sixty general stores, along with Dance Halls and skating rinks. However, the silver deposits were found to be very shallow, and that along with a destructive fire in 1873 led the place to eventual abandonment.
As I walked around, I observed large mining cars, twice as big as anything I had seen by abandoned mines in Death Valley. From the size of the equipment, I knew that at least one of the mining operations here must have been very large scale.
Continuing to wander around, I came upon abandoned pickup trucks and a steel-frame warehouse structure that didn’t look terribly old at all. It was in definite rough shape, but it still had a large garage door in tact and all exterior walls standing complete. I walked through a door frame. Inside I could see bullet holes all over the walls of the interior, where insulation was peeling and falling. A two story building within the building had ominously broken glass windows. I looked up and the roof of the warehouse had holes every so often, evenly distributing light throughout the building. To me the place seemed to be an abandoned repair garage. The concrete floor was dusty and dirty and large empty tanks, tin barrels, and appliances littered the floor. I took a few steps in slowly.
This building, although filthy, would not be a bad place to squat, I thought. The last thing I wanted was to encounter some insane squatter or modern day criminal hiding out here. I stood still and quiet, and just moved my head around to observe. Then suddenly I jumped as a raven hiding up in the rafters let out a loud cry. That was enough of a bad omen for me. Something about the place did not sit well with me.
To add to the creepiness of the place, leaving the warehouse, I walked over to a small one room wooden shack, where in the doorframe hung a noose. What is going on? First an ominous warehouse, then a raven giving warning, and now a noose hung from a door frame.
I looked down and something small was shining bright gold in the sunlight. I brushed some dust and dirt away to reveal a small bullet shell. On the end, two initials were carved. I had all intention to investigate what the initials might mean, but the golden bullet shell was lost and the initials forgotten. What came to mind at first was Kissin’ Kate Barlow from Louis Sachar’s book, Holes. She was an infamous outlaw of the wild West, and in the movie she carved her name on the canister of her bullets.
Despite the Ravens startling cry, I was not at all afraid to be here. Instead I was captivated in wonder. All the ruins, told a story, and I was trying to figure it out. I knew nothing about Hamilton, so here I was trying to put the pieces together. What were all these buildings? Why are some seemingly so much newer than others? Why was this place abandoned? What are all these pieces of equipment laying around? When I observed these large gears and other equipment oddities, I imagined for a second they were the ruins of an alien spaceship crash, those same aliens depicted in the petroglyphs all through Utah and Colorado and the ones rumored to be in the sky above Nevada.
My last stop in Hamilton was at the Hamilton Cemetery. Tombstones were dated from the 1870s to 1890s. One portion of the cemetery was enclosed in a gothic style short steel fence, something that looked like it had come right out of the backyard of Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
Another portion of the cemetery had uniform white headstones. I noted two beared the last name of Paul, both of children who died in infancy in the 1890s. One really stuck out, as it looked like nobody bothered digging a grave, but rather buried the corpse in a pile of bricks and then propped the headstone up by shoving it down in the pile. It looked like at any moment a skeleton’s arm would reach up in the desperation from the piles of bricks.
The road I had traveled on to arrive, kept going further, and I wanted to see where it led, but as I drove, maybe an eighth of a mile further, my car almost got stuck in a rut. I decided I needed to turn around. My visit to Hamilton was very satisfying. It filled me with good wonder and mystery, and I took back with me a collection of great photos as a souvenir.
Read the next entry, “How I Relate to Ghost Towns,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/how-i-relate-to-ghost-towns/
Read the previous entry, “Welcome to America’s Loneliest Highway,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/welcome-to-americas-loneliest-highway/