It was mid-afternoon by the time I left Bodie, after taking a crazy number of pictures. I was heading south on I-395 to CSR 120, which would take me east and connect with US Route 6. If you drive east far enough on Route 6, you’ll eventually reach Provincetown, Massachusetts, but I didn’t have the time to spare. I was heading to Tonopah, were I would spend the night (word to the wise: Avoid the Clown Motel in Tonopah – I know, that should be a given) before heading south on I-95 the following day.
If you get the chance to drive CSR 120 between Lee Vining and Benton, take it. A few miles in, I came to a flagman, who happened to be a CHP officer. The road up ahead was being controlled for about one mile due to a car company filming a commercial for some 2015 secret model or prototype. They would film for a while and then cover the car up when traffic was allowed to pass. The officer told me how in years past he and his Crown Vic had caught some major air over the dips in the road ahead, so I was looking forward to the drive. And even though my wheels didn’t leave the ground, it was quite a drive.
A few miles east of Benton, I crossed over the California/Nevada State Line and gave the truck a little more gas. I had one stop to make before continuing on to Tonopah and I wanted to have some daylight left to see what I could find in Coaldale, Nevada.
Coaldale (also known as Coaldale Junction) is located in Esmeralda County, about thirty miles west of Tonopah. As with many towns in Nevada, Coaldale’s beginnings had to do with mining. But unlike many towns in Nevada, the mining was for not for a precious metal, but rather for, yes, you guessed it, coal. The details are sketchy, but somehow involve a mining venture in the early 1880s between a William Groetzinger (aka “Jackass Billy”), and a William A. Ingalls of Candelaria. They were apparently joined by a couple other men in 1884, Clay Peters and William Wilson. But coal mining was expensive and the coal was of a very poor quality, and the venture fizzled.
Fast forwarding now I’m not sure how many years, but at some point a little roadside community sprang up at the Junction. There were several homes, a motel, store, gas station and restaurant. Even a small casino at one point. But in 1993, the EPA tested the underground tanks of the gas station and found they were leaking; the gas station was forced to close. Shortly afterwards, the motel, store and restaurant also closed. The people that had lived there moved away and the place became a ghost town.
It’s a little creepy exploring the abandoned buildings; there wasn’t much traffic on the highway and I pretty much had the place to myself (although there is a tale of a young man who was gunned down here in the 1950s, maybe his ghost is still looking for trouble). All of the buildings are badly damaged and filled with debris, and many have some interesting grafitti. Images of The Walking Dead may have flashed through my imagination as I explored and took pictures, but I won’t admit to it in public.
I spent about a half an hour walking the ghost town of Coaldale and the next time I’m in the area, I imagine I’ll do it again. You never know what you’ll find when you go out and look.