I love ghost towns but not the commercialized ones that attract thousands of people and carry an entrance fee. Silver City, Idaho is a ghost town I had read about but it was so remote it was not on any map. “At an elevation of 6,179 feet it is located 25 miles southwest of Murphy via a dirt road” – those were the only directions I had. CAA had to draw it in on the map they had given me and we had to stop in a village where we thought the dirt access road might be to ask for directions.
In its heyday in the 1880’s Silver City was a gold and silver mining town with a population of about 2,500 and approximately 75 businesses. There are many buildings still standing in the ghost town today (1994), all of which are privately owned by third and fourth generation descendants of the original miners.
Once we found the “road” in it was not difficult to find the town but it was certainly an adventure getting there. It started out not too badly but quickly deteriorated to a pair of ruts in the dirt surrounded by rocks and boulders and more potholes than I have ever seen on one road. As we crept along at what seemed like 20 yards a minute I thought, “We have absolutely no idea how far this road goes or how long it will take us to get there.”
However, that was the least of our worries. Up the hills on both sides of the road, surrounded by scrub grass and dried bushes, were several deteriorating wooden shacks at varying intervals. These shacks all had porches out front and were occupied by primarily old men, many with shotguns, sitting there staring blankly down at us. With “Dueling Banjos” resonating in my mind the only thing I could think of was that these old derelicts were all crazed Vietnam vets, ready to snap at any second and open fire on their hallucinatory enemy below. It was a very nervous journey of more than an hour but fortunately we arrived, relieved and safe in Silver City.
Reminding me of St. Elmo in Colorado it was truly a ghost town and would remain that way if the road in was not improved. Silver City was comprised of an old general store, a school house and a church with an 1882 sign on it and in seemingly original condition. There were two or three houses as well and a silence broken only by a stray dog barking.
Of course, it would not have been complete without a wonderful old cemetery marked with brilliant, white stones contrasted against the stark, deep blue of a perfect sky. It was a bit of an effort to find Silver City and to get there but the history lesson received by being there was an unparalleled experience – especially for our sons Gavin and Adam.
Reminiscent of the route down Pikes Peak in Colorado, the road out of Silver City was a much more relaxing drive than our journey in. A winding dirt road yielded beautiful mountain views at every curve. As we progressed, the sandy hills and similar coloured road provided a fabulous picture against the perfect western sky.
Never fearful on the drive out, the only people we passed were a couple on a three wheeled motorcycle – Easy Rider in comfort. We naturally assumed that this, the only road out of Silver City, would lead us to civilization, which it did. Not only did it take us to civilization but to a highway that I could find on the map, a highway that would take us to our next destination.
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