I’ve just been pondering what defines a ghost town. On paper, you’d probably consider Placerville Idaho in that category—it’s down to thirty or so households from its 1860s gold-rush heyday of more than three thousand… Visitors can enjoy the sight of an old general store, saloon, and other mining-era buildings that now operate as summer-hour museums.
But I find myself unable to consider it a ghost town when you can still buy Alka-seltzer and Tostitos at the local store, and when the one remaining church still holds services every Sunday. (Well, truthfully there was only one truck at the church when we passed by, five minutes before services… But I guess there’s a service even if only the pastor shows.)
Whether or not it’s a ghost town, Placerville is small and isolated in the Idaho mountains—and right now, absolutely buried in snow. We thought we’d need to chain up in order to get in, but only ended up needing four-wheel drive. Jon’s family has a cabin up there, where his folks lived for a number of years before moving into Boise, and we just put it to use for a get-away weekend.
We lost cell service an hour before we got to the cabin (that’s part of the get-away!) and started the weekend by lighting the fire his brothers had laid in the wood stove on their last visit. We pulled our food and overnight bag in from the road on our sleds, and melted snow on the stovetop to make coffee and wash dishes. We grilled steaks, read aloud together, hiked around the little town and through the snow to the old cemetery, sat on the covered porch swing and watched the incessant snow falling in the absolute silence around us, we bedded down in front of the fire…
We don’t live a terribly fast-paced or stressful life, but every life can use some get-away to silence. When it just registers as “white noise,” you don’t notice the constancy of traffic… until you’re away from it. When the sky above you in town still seems Idaho-blue, you don’t realize how polluted it is… until you’re breathing in the mountains. And when church commitments and AA meetings and family dinners and work schedules fill in your calendar, you don’t even realize you’re busy… until you’re away from it all, listening to your Marriage.