Ghost town. What comes to mind when you see those words? Perhaps a Wild West scene of tumbleweed and broken buildings? Some kind of place far from where you live, in any case.
Right? Maybe not! It’s true that the best-known ghost towns are in places like Arizona and Nevada, but ghost towns and ghost sites can be found in all 50 states of the US. Some states have just a few, but there are some surprises (Michigan has close to 90!)
Here in Washington State, there are close to 100 known ghost sites. This includes semi-ghost towns (which are still sparsely inhabited), ghost towns that are no longer accessible, and places where just a few remains are visible.
For my first ghost town experience, I started small and choose a location close to home. Red Town (also known as Newcastle-Red Town or Coal Creek) is a short 15 minute drive from Seattle, about 5 miles off an I-90 exit. The Red Town ruins are now part of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, so there is a trailhead and a maintained trail into the area.
The short trail takes you through a quiet forested area. On the day my friend Frank and I went, we saw very few other people, which was welcome. Though we were close to cilivization, and chose a very easy foray into the world of ghost town adventuring, we still wanted a sense adventure and exploration. Some Scooby-Doo moments, if you will.
We walked for awhile, enjoying the green and quiet, and then came across an old coal mine entrance. It is well fenced-off, complete with a “danger” sign to dispel any ideas of further exploration. Staring at the dark mouth, I imagined workers trudging in and out, dusty and dirty, surrounded by all the industry of a booming mining town. Could they have ever imagined this bustling place would eventually be emtombed in a silent forest?
After checking out the mining ruins, we wandered a bit more, and found a little trail forking away. Curious, we started down the path. It grew narrower and narrower. Branches closed in, and brushed our faces. Frank frowned, thinking that we were not supposed to be on this trail. Would we get lost? Fall into a sink hole (which can develop in this area due to the old mines underfoot)? Would a ghostly arm reach out and…
Oh! We suddenly stumbled into a clearing and saw… houses? A suburbian sub division, to be exact. I stared at a bright red and yellow toy slide, feeling ridiculous. Apparantly the Red Town site sits on the very borders of the park, meaning we had wandered into suburbia. Snickering at ourselves, we turned around and headed back to the car.
In a way, ghost town adventuring and related things like urban exploration are really about adults playing like kids. What will we see? What will we find?
Ghost towns are not only found in the US and Canada, but all across the world. Maybe there is one close to you? If so, a unique day trip awaits you.
ghosttowns.com – a wonderful resource detailing US and Canadian ghost towns. This is the site I used to locate sites close to Seattle. “Whether a true ghost that only a hard core off road enthusiast can get to, or a semi-ghost anyone can bring the family to, they all deserve reference on this site.”