Rocky Bar, Idaho. Home to exactly four people, none of whom came out of their houses to say hello. I’m not actually sure if any of the four residents were around that day. The occupied houses in the town had multiple “no trespassing” and “private property” signs. The town welcome sign warned of old people and guns, sarcastically I hope.
At it’s height, this town had a population of 2,500. At one point, it was considered for the capital city of the Idaho Territory. A fire hit, the gold rush trickled down, and slowly everyone left. It seems that much of the present-day population of small mountain towns like this are part-time residents. People who escape to their cabin in the woods for the summer, or on weekends, and head back down for the rest of the year.
There wasn’t much to explore because there wasn’t much left, but the rusting furniture and mysterious saloon/repair shop was enough to get my creepy-town fix for a while. Meeko was especially interesting in all the animal poop on the floor of these homes and the stuffing falling from the attics. I’d read on another ghost town website that old safes were pretty common to find at these towns, but it was rare to find a safe that hasn’t been cracked open already. I found my first out in the middle of nowhere safe, but its lid was cracked completely open, the inside filled with sand.
Rocky Bar, Idaho is a good one-time trip. I wouldn’t say an entire trip would be worth it just to see that town, but it worked into our route from Atlanta, Idaho back to Boise.
I’ll be the first to admit I have a problem. I feel a strange connection to ghost towns. Abandoned mines, crumbling cabins, and the wild slowly eating a town back into the forest. I’d been to some other ghost towns, mainly in Nevada (gold rushes and similar phenomena tend to leave a trail of abandoned towns in its wake). It turns out Idaho had its own gold rush, silver rush, and gem rush.
Kevin and I headed three hours North of Boise, Idaho to check out two such towns. One Atlanta, Idaho, once home to 17,000 people as a tent city… now home to about 40 residents.
Forest fires have slowed down tourism to Atlanta, ID forcing a lot of local businesses to close. With projects like The Atlanta School and a hot springs nearby, the residents are hoping to draw more people out along the forest service roads.
But of course, “not too many people.”
I was very intrigued by Atlanta, Idaho. I loved the dirt, washboard roads maintained by the Forest Service. From the burned forests, bright wildflowers grew thick on the ground. The rivers following the roads were clear, cold, and without any trace of trash. Everyone in Atlanta was welcoming, encouraging us to explore the town on foot and leave my little car parked. With no cell phone service or internet, it was a place to truly unplug. I’m sure I will be back soon.
A mere half block from my apartment, it is a mystery why I hadn’t visited the Cable Car Museum sooner. And it’s free!
I walked over in the afternoon, catching another great foggy view of Alcatraz. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing so much water on a daily basis. It’s always throwing me off. Even when I lived in Tokyo, the ocean wasn’t something I saw too often.
I’ll admit, I haven’t ridden a cable car yet. It’s on my list to do, but the fact is that I live right by most of the lines. I walk by 3 of the 4 lines almost daily, so I guess I haven’t found a situation where I’d need to use them.
The museum was full of awesome, well-written information. I actually understand how the cable cars work now! Check out the photo gallery below for a graph, but essentially, the cable cars have a claw grip that grabs onto a constantly moving wire. If the cable car is fully clamped onto the wire, it moves at it’s maximum speed of 9.5 mph. When the car needs to slow down, the cable car loosens it’s grip on the wire. Genius!
Like many cities, San Francisco had horse-drawn cars. But with horses come other problems, like tons of manure. Interestingly, my neighborhood now has a variety of dog and human…. on the street. Some things never change.
One of the starts to the cable car was the invention of the wire system–this is the same system used today. I was reading a biography of the guy who invented it, and surprisingly he initially came to San Francisco as a gold surveyor. Through working around mines and other engineers, he learned a lot about the business, the tools, and more importantly, what could be improved. In failing to find gold and strike it rich, this guy gained the knowledge that would turn into his idea for the cable system. Coupled with his engineering skills, he created a new kind of wire that could handle a cable car.
Ever since my successful dabble with entrepreneurism (see my website here!) all my ideas about being a business man/woman have gone out the window. The stereotype in my head was more like a nightclub advertiser, stuffing handouts and business cards into unwilling hands. In my head, to be a business woman, I would have to act in ways unnatural to me. To be clear, this is what I thought I would have to do, not what I think of all other business people. In starting my website, I found a voice for myself as a writing coach, and as a counselor to students and families.
Now, I see that my two years in admissions and four years as a student at Carnegie Mellon may not have led me to a “gold mine” of a concrete, guaranteed career plan. At the same time, I have soaked up valuable information like a sponge. Information that actually has a dollar value. It’s weird to think of a brain like that, but I’m starting to see that this may be the key ingredient to entrepreneurism. More so than a pocket full of flashy business cards.
As I think about what kind of career(s) I want to have, I keep finding little stories like this everywhere I look. Man goes hunting for gold, ends up earning it through quirky cable cars which long after his death come to represent the very city he moved to in search of gold!
On top of inspiring stories and history, I found gems in articles and photographs. Of course, seeing the inner workings of the cable system was really cool as well. Whoever designed the museum did a great job of making such an mechanical warehouse appear accessible enough for the casual tourist. I definitely recommend it!