Monday, August 26, 2013

Ed's Camp, Arizona -- Route 66 Ghost Town

Like Cool Springs, that I covered in an earlier post, Ed's Camp wouldn't really qualify as an actual town, but it was clearly a desert oasis on the original Old Trails Highway (later renamed Route 66), until it was bypassed by a new alignment of the road in 1952, that took most of the traffic, and almost all of the business elsewhere. In spite of this, Ed's Camp still did business (of some sort or another for many years).

Ed's Camp provided the same services that all the little towns on Route 66 did. Food, Gas, repairs, lodging, restrooms and cooling water for your radiator. In addition, Ed's Camp even had a trading post and trailer park. Judging by where it's located, I'm sure there were many miners being served there as well. The owner of the place, Ed Edgerton, was himself a local miner. He probably decided that he could find more gold out of the mines, than in them and when Route 66 came through the area in 1926, Ed's Camp was opened soon after.  

I've mentioned a few times that I spent a lot of time in these desert areas with my granny and her husband when I was young. This is one of the places that I clearly remember. I also remember Ed. If I'm not mistaken (and I probably am), he was a friend of my step-grandfather. All I know about their friendship is that they were both from cold climates and ended up in the southwestern deserts because of their health. Even when I was a kid and this place was open, I remember it being pretty ramshackle. 

 The owner claimed that this Saguaro cactus was the only one on Route 66. 

Well, now I guess there aren't any!

 This was the gate into Little Meadows. It was the trailer park at Ed's Camp. There is some VERY historical significance to this spot (long before Ed arrived), but I can't seem to find it on my computer right now. I'll add it on later.

The little building to the left contains a couple of the cabins you could rent. I think that the funky looking metal building on the right is the restrooms.  How would you like to be sitting in that thing when it's about 110 F outside? There are many No Trespassing signs on the property. I guess they mean it, because if you hang around too long there (even on the shoulder of the highway), there is somebody there with a shotgun to tell you to move along. I didn't have the pleasure of meeting that person, but many have (allegedly).

 Same spot from a little different angle

 The place is covered with vintage equipment

This place was across the street. The phone booth blew my mind. I'm sure it never worked.
I'm not sure if you've heard anything about these crazy thunderstorms in part of the SoCal mountains and deserts on the news, but we are in the middle of it. The closest town to us is Julian and it had flash floods from all the rain washing down from the mountains (where we are). We were surrounded by dirt roads that turned into rivers this afternoon. Our poor cat (that travels with us) would have hidden in the glove box if he could fit in it. Our RV doesn't really have a glove box, but you know what I mean, right?

We've been doing some heavy duty hiking over the last two weeks, to some very interesting places. More on that later...



Monday, August 19, 2013

Fenner, California -- Route 66 Ghost Town

Like many other Route 66 Ghost Towns across the Mojave Desert, Fenner was established (in 1883) as a watering station for steam locomotives operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Other than that fact, there doesn't seem to be anymore information relating to Fenner available.  Fenner of course is the "F" town in the alphabetical naming process conceived by the railroad for this part of the desert. (Amboy, Bristol, Chambless, Danby, Essex, Fenner, Goffs, Homer, Ibis and Java)

I've only heard one story relating to Fenner.  As legend has it, during a national railroad mechanics strike in the 1920's, two scabs (non-union people working during the strike) hired by the Santa Fe RR in Fenner, were kidnapped, taken deep into the desert, made to totally disrobe and left there. This act was to serve as a warning to other scabs, to not take these jobs. Did the two guys live or die? Not only do I not know that, I don't even know if the story is true.

There are no official population estimates of Fenner, but I'm pretty sure that the number is zero.  However, there are a few people around.  One adventurous soul has opened a gas station/cafe in the same area.  Some of you wondered how far people would travel to get their mail at the cute little post office in Essex (from my last post), well this guy does, because Fenner doesn't have a post office.

By the way...
Today's weather forecast for Fenner is... 103F, rain and thunder storms likely.

One thing that Fenner left behind, was the town dump. The good stuff has mostly been buried by the new stuff, but you know that doesn't stop my wife and I from doing some digging.  This tire was taller than I am. I'm sure the rubber content has to be worth a lot. Too bad we couldn't fit it in the jeep.

 Tammy Loves Scummy!

I was afraid to see what (or who) was wrapped up in that black plastic in the middle of the room. I hope it wasn't Tammy!

There is a lot of trash/junk/treasure buried under this dirt. 

 Very old style automotive oil dip stick

Although we didn't find a lot of antique treasures, we did find this airplane wing!  You know what else I found? I found a bunch of medical waste? I don't know if it was legally dumped or not, but it made me quit digging and use about a quart of hand sanitizer. It also had me wondering how long it had been since my last tetanus injection. 

The little building on the left, is probably the ONLY original thing still standing in Fenner.

It seems that half the old pickup trucks and cars ever made are abandoned in the desert. This nice group is just sitting there in Fenner.  A couple of these, especially the car on the right are worth some money, but...

If you look just behind that pick up truck, there is a red antique gas pump, just sitting there!  I promise you that it is worth some good money. The guys from American Pickers would be all over this thing.  Also, look at the building/shack. It might be an original Fenner building attached to an Airstream trailer. I don't know what it is, but it looks like a great example of some fine desert engineering...

Not a tree in sight. Fenner is the little purple spot in the middle. Essex, from last week, is on the very bottom, towards the left. The yellowish line connecting Essex to Fenner is the original National Trails Highway. The NTH was later included in the original alignment of Route 66. Now check this out! Fenner, Goffs (above Fenner) and Homer were not only bypassed by the I-40, they were also bypassed once by Route 66 when the government moved it!  The newer Route 66 alignment goes from Essex (on the bottom) to the same path as the newer I-40.  I hope this confuses you less than it confused me! 

The arrow in the top right corner is the original Fenner dump. The arrow in the middle is point right towards the new gas station and cafe. The arrow pointing up, is point at the old route 66. The yellow lines at the bottom are the Interstate-40.  If you enlarge this photo, you can see the buildings at the old dump. Thanks to Google Maps for the image.
This week we are back in the area of the Chariot Fire. It has been almost a month since the fire and we have some updates coming for you.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Essex California - Route 66 Ghost Town

Legend says the little town of Essex was created because of a flat tire. Supposedly, a man had a flat while crossing the Mojave Desert. He was many miles from any type of service and wasn't at all happy about it. On that day he decided to open a gas station, towing service and cafe on the exact spot where his flat occurred. Even though this story is fairly popular, Essex (like many other Mojave desert towns) was created as a watering stop for the steam locomotives of the day. Just like most businesses along Rt. 66 in the Mojave, it changed hands and names a few times. Essex grew to the point where it had an elementary school, towing service, cabins, cafe and post office. 

During WW II, a large military base was built in this area (more on that in a future post), but after the war was over, it was demolished. Due to the closing of the base and later construction of the new interstate highway (I-40), Essex and many other little communities along Route 66 were doomed. Other than a railroad yard and a little post office, there are no "active" structures left around Essex. 

The original name was Bell's Cafe (or so I've read). This photo was taken at a later date. Judging by the cars, I'd say it was about 1940.

With only one vehicle, it's hard to judge when this one was taken. While I'm on the subject, I wish I knew who took this photo. I'd like to give them credit.

If I had cropped the (NDCBU) out of the photo, I could have said it was 50 years old. That's right people NDCBU! (Neighborhood Delivery Collection Box Unit). Only a true renaissance man would know obscure facts like that...

This might be the most rustic post office that I've ever seen.

Judging by the brand new looking fasteners on this, somebody is trying to keep this place alive.

This little building was the restroom. 

Good food?

Fill 'er up please!

One of the few structures left in town.

The most unique thing about Essex was free water. While it's true that most of the old places I've shown you were in fact an oasis to thirsty desert travelers, the water was not usually free. They usually charged about 10 cents for a glass of cold water and about the same for a gallon of radiator water.  The free water at Essex wasn't really a generous gesture by anyone there, the Automobile Club of Southern California installed a drinking fountain! They built if about 50 yards from the cafe.

This gas station and garage were clearly built much later, but they suffered the same fate.

The little red flag is Essex (on route 66). You can see here how the new interstate (I-40) bypassed it. Notice that there isn't ANYTHING else in the area.

In a couple of days we'll be headed back to the Wilderness side of San Diego County. Same place as a few weeks ago. We'll be checking out the Chariot Fire area a month after it happened (and my post on it). It should be interesting. Sad and interesting...


Monday, August 5, 2013

Old Trails, Arizona - Route 66 Ghost Towns

The town of Old Trails, Arizona became official in 1916.  The town's demise commenced in 1925 when the gold played out.  Although it had a short life span, at one time Old Trails had more than 500 residents, electricity, a laundry, ice cream shop, bakery, machine shops and a hospital.  VERY little of the town remains today.

Although Old Trails is only a short distance from the famous Ghost Town of Oatman, most people don't even know that it exists, or that they are driving through it.

On a side note, last year I posted an article here called, Needles California - Modern Day Ghost Town. Apparently, a resident of Needles recently discovered it. I guess they discussed what they had found with others and I've received several comments and emails as a result. A couple of them weren't very happy about me calling it a "modern day ghost town, and took me to task. If I was wrong, I could understand that, but I wasn't. In fact, I responded to their comments with information about the town that I didn't share in my the original post. Some of these folks are in denial of the worst kind.

If you are interested, you can use the above link to go there. My last very long response is not in the comments area, but at the bottom of the post. Blogger wouldn't accept it as a comment because it had too many characters.  I finished it at about 3:00 this morning and I was pretty bleary eyed. I think I'd better go back and give it another proof reading.