Friday, January 29, 2016

Calico, California

  A road trip wouldn't be a road trip without stopping at a few unique places now and again. While traversing the deserts of southern California we happened upon one of these unique places. Calico.
  Founded in 1881, Calico became known for the silver being extracted form the Silver King Mine but as is the case in most mining towns, Calico was abandoned after silver prices dropped and was no longer profitable. The mining of Borax in the same area helped to extend Calico's life longer than it should have but by 1907 the town was shuttered and many of the buildings were moved to nearby towns of Barstow, Daggett and Yermo.
  Walter Knott (from Knott's Berry Farm fame) purchased Calico in 1951 and restored the town's building to their original form by referencing old photographs. He held on to the town until 1966 when he donated it to San Bernardino after which the town became a County Regional Park.
  Today the town, still looking much like it did over one hundred years ago, welcomes visitors who take the time to veer the four miles from I-15 to it's dusty doorsteps. I won't lie to you. This place is a total tourist trap. There is a fee to enter and they want to sell you everything. Literally. One store charges you a dollar to photograph a hat. For another dollar you can have a photo of you wearing the hat. Please don't laugh, I'm not joking.
  In town you can purchase a bag of dirt and pick up a gold pan and pan for your own treasures. The bags are "salted" so everyone walks away a winner and it gives you an idea of how it was done back in the day. Only not here because they were silver miners but who cares, really?
  Of course there are snack places, souvenir shops, and historical mock ups to keep you interested for longer than you thought possible (I think we were there for over two hours.) There is a mine tour available but we didn't have time for that so I'll have to stop by again someday. There is one more thing that I'll have to check out the next time I visit and that is their ghost tour. Call me crazy all you want but I get a kick out of those things. Whether you're a believer or not doesn't really matter because most of the time what you're paying for is a guided, historical tour through town and that alone can be worth kicking in a few bucks.
  On this visit we also found out that this area is home to the Calico OHV Area. Through some research that I've done since getting home I've learned that there are miles of roads waiting to be explored with dry camping available. Trails can take a couple of hours or all day if you're in the mood. This looks like a place I may have to explore in the winter very soon.

  So yes, Calico is the definition of a roadside tourist trap as I said but it's these kind of places that add flavor to an otherwise bland drive down a boring road. However, it's also good old fashioned American history preserved by people that care about keeping our past in our present for the upcoming generations to experience and as long as there are people out there willing to put forth the effort then I'll continue to donate a few dollars to help the cause. So if you find yourself just outside of Barstow and you need to stretch your legs stop in and say hi to the folks of Calico Ghost Town. They'll welcome you with open arms.


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