Old Things… ashes to ashes, dust to dust

During my travels around the country, regardless of what I intend to photograph, I always keep an eye out for those “old things” that I come across that are in the last throws of existence including houses, barns, cars and trucks, old cemeteries, etc.  Often the shapes, colors and textures of these decaying relics are fascinating photographic subjects, but I can’t help but think back to a time when that house was probably the center of a family’s life, or that a once shiny new car was someone’s pride and joy. Now these “old things” sit abandoned and forgotten, struggling against the elements in their last gasp of existence, soon to return to the earth… just dust once more.  I think about how each had a history, but the mystery of not knowing the nature of its past inspires me to try and capture the essence of what little remains.  In any case, these things are just fun to photograph and wonder at.

Death Valley - Old Cars

Near Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley is a “graveyard” of old cars and trucks. The rusty remains of a variety of vehicles make for some interesting images.

Rhyolite, Nevada

The “ghost town” of Rhyolite in Nevada (just east of Death Valley) was established in 1904. At its peak of mining activity the population had grown to over 10,000. However, like most of the old western mining towns, it had gone bust and was mostly abandoned by 1916. There is very little left of any wooden structures, but portions of those made of concrete or stone still stand.

I find old cemeteries fascinating places to visit, especially in more remote areas where few if any people still live.  The Bullfrog-Rhyolite Cemetery just south of the main town, is one of my favorites. I’ve been there a couple of times. Some of the stone grave markers are in good condition, but many are simple wood markers with the names long gone.

Leadfield – Death Valley

On a one-way dirt road winding through the Grapevine Mountains on the eastern side of Death Valley is what remains of the Leadfield ghost town. Established as a mining town in 1926, 300 people came to make their fortune… it was abandoned 6 months later.

Tomales Bay Shipwreck

The grounded fishing boat called the “Point Reyes” is on the shore of Tomales Bay just off Sir Francis Drake Hwy in Inverness. The old wreck was beached there many years ago and has been a long time favorite subject for photographers. It probably would have been removed during wetlands restoration, but it was so popular among locals, tourists and photographers, that it was left to stay and decay on its own.

White Motor Company Truck

Along Hwy 121 (just south of Hwy 116) in Sonoma is an old White Motor Company truck rusting away in a field, probably from the mid-1940’s (similar to the 1946 lumber truck pictured here.

Boeger Winery Truck – Apple Hill, California

While visiting the Apple Hill area just east of Placerville off Hwy 50, we stopped at the Boeger Winery just off of Carson Road. While Barb did some wine tasting, I found this old truck to photograph.

Abandoned Farm House - Idaho

On our way back to Boise from a visit to McCall, there was an old abandoned farm house on the east side of Hwy 55 just north of the town of Donnelly.

Old Truck – Eastern Oregon

An old truck sits abandoned in a field off Hwy 82 (the Wallowa Hwy) between the towns of Lostine and Wallowa in eastern Oregon.

Chief Kashakes’ House – Saxman, Alaska

Just southeast of Ketchikan, Alaska, is the Saxman Village. There are numerous totem poles found here, but what also caught my eye was an old house that was literally falling apart. The house was built in 1895 and was the residence of Chief Kashakes and his clan. As I understand it, the tradition is that once a chief dies, his house is abandoned and left to decay with time. Chief Kashakes died in 1912.

White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad – abandoned trestle

When we visited Skagway on our on a trip to Alaska in 2014, we took a ride on the White Pass Train. Along the way I saw an old abandoned trestle disappearing into the fog, but I managed one photo from the moving train.

Horse with no name… Great Basin, Nevada

Just outside the entrance to Great Basin National Park in Eastern Nevada I found what remained of an old car. Old abandoned vehicles rusting away are often interesting photographic subjects, but what made this one a bit different is that years ago someone had placed a horse skeleton in the driver’s seat.

Old Barns – Ash Creek Wildlife Refuge, California

While on a trip in northern California, my brother took me to see some old abandoned barns in the Ash Creek Wildlife Refuge area in northern Lassen County. These old barns are barely standing, but fantastic to photograph. We also came across and old truck.

Bodie State Historical Park

One of my favorite places for photographing old decaying relics of California’s mining past is Bodie State Historical Park located east of HWY 395 and a little south of Bridgeport. Bodie became a boomtown with a population over 10,000 after gold was discovered in 1875. The last of its residents left about 50 years ago. What remains of the town is now preserved in a state of “arrested decay.”