Recently, I received a message from a fan of the website in which he wrote: “I only wish that when people visit the Ghost towns that they leave things the way they found it. So that others could also enjoy the history“. To which, I could not agree more. This message of Ghost town ethics inspired me to document a code of ethics and conduct that everyone should follow when visiting ghost towns, mine camps, Native American Sites.
Any of the items, should require no explanations and should be self evident to everyone. However, each year, there are news reports of people vandalizing National Parks, camp grounds, ghost towns and in the case of 2020, Portland Oregon. Any vandalism is demonstrably about a lack of respect. A lack of respect for history, for others, for the location and those who lived there.
Ghost towns are fragile. These towns were hastily built and constructed. Many of them consisted of nothing more than tents, or buildings without foundations. Exposed to the elements, and neglected though time ghost town are lucky to be here at all. Cerro Gordo is a wonderfully preserved town, and even in the best of circumstances, it lost several building due to fire in 2020.
The following are a list of Ghost town ethics and guideline to help us preserve our history for others.
Photos Only Please
“Take only photos, leave only foot prints” was a slogan taught to me by my Scout Master. It is a wonderful adage and in one short sentence explains a wonderful outlook on life. The key to visiting these locations is to preserve these locations for yourself and others to enjoy. They are not owned by anyone, including you. Do not take anything. It wasn’t yours where you got there, it should not be yours when you leave.
The fun of ghost towns and mine sites are the artifacts. There is a legend about the Lost Burrow Mine in Death Valley, that those who take artifact are doomed with bad luck. On a table, inside a cabin there is an abundance of return artifacts that were once stolen.
It wasn’t yours where you got there, it should not be yours when you leave.James Rathbun – Destination4x4
No one cares Steve and Lacy
In 2019 and 2020, writings appeared throughout Death Valley National Park which read “Steve and Lacy Camped here”. Apparently, some guy from British Columbia was down in the park and scrawled this graffiti all over the place to tell everyone that he and his dog camped at that spot.
Eventually, it made the news and the guy confessed, which is nice, I guess. What would have been nicer is that he had respect for others that followed him. No one cares about Steve and Lacy!
The Goldome mill in the Mojave desert has been complete overrun with vandalism and graffiti. The site is not comfortable or fun to explore. The explanation for the vandalism was that it is a protest again mining the earth. The irony was lost on the small minded individuals who did this deed, that they used materials produced from mines, the vandalize a mine to protest mining.
Take care of yourself
It is your responsibility to take care of yourself. Some of these sites may be dangerous for those who are unaware. The BLM is actively filling in mine shafts and securing locations. It would be unfortunate for anyone to have an accident which necessitate the closure of the site by the government.
Do not camp
Never camp at, in or near an ghost town or mine sight. Ghost town ethics implores you not to camp in a ghost town or mine site. Even the best of us have off days and we would hate for a bad day cause the loss of a structure. Camp fires happen and can become out of control quickly. Wood dry from 100 years of exposure to the elements does not need much help to combust.
Even the best of us might leave a small trace from our campsite, and the magic of a location would be lost of another traveler found your tent next for a 125 old building. It is always important to keep others in mind when visiting such places.
Frequently, when you visit a ghost town, you become enamored with what is there. I often try to reflect of who was there, and that very spot, when the town was alive. The men, women and children who settled the county, tamed the land, and made the United States the great country it is today. These people worked, lived, loved and settled the county. They lived uncomfortable lives in barren places trying to earn a living before Social Security, Unemployment or refrigerators for that matter.
Men such as James C. Phelan who owned the butcher shop in Rhyolite, NV. Mr. Phelan traveled all across Arizona, Nevada and California. When you read old news paper obituaries, it is common to read who difficult live was for the deceased. How nothing was ever given to them, and yet they remained optimistic and hopeful. So, be respectful of those who were there.
Pack it out
If you brought it, take it with you. Everyone knows this and it should need no further explanation.
Sum it up
The bottom line of this whole thing, is please, lets not mess it up for others. There are a fixed number of ghost towns, mine sites, petroglyphs out there. There will be no more than there are right now, ever again. We must be stewards for locations which have no owner.
We must be stewards for locations which have no owner.James Rathbun – Destination4x4
The continued expansion of our cities, mining expeditions, vandals and fires all threaten these precious pieces of history. If you do not take responsibility to protect these sites, then no one will. Ghost town ethics are about preserving our heritage for others to enjoy, and they you…