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Nothing lasted very long in Lamoine … or Arup.

Unless you want to talk about the schoolhouse.

It’s still standing after 100 years.

Long after Arup was platted.

Long after Arup became Lamoine.

And long after Lamoine became deserted when the railroad took a pass on the little town.

lamoine schoolhouse

Lamoine was an “excellent trading point just north of Waterville” and boasted of several stores and a blacksmith shop, wrote Honor L. Wilhelm in The Coast, a monthly magazine dedicated to news in Washington State.

“It is surrounded by a magnificent country, and a fine crop of wheat has rewarded the efforts of the farmers this year. The place has a daily mail by stage, with free mail delivery along the stage line.”

Sounds like home

Arup, according to Wikipedia, was platted and filed on November 20, 1905, by an immigrant farmer named Nels P. Nelson, who born in a little town called Aarup in Denmark.

Nels settled the area, hoping the railroad would run through and his little town would experience a boon.

Alas, it was not to be.

The menfolk met in Spokane to plan the route from the River City into the Big Bend, necessitating almost 100 miles of track, the jobs to get it down and the rich economy that would flow through the area with the railway. No question, the railroad was a big deal for the local economy, but towns in the outlying areas were forced to beg for their share of the spoils.

The Waterville Press, quoted in the January 30, 1906, edition of the Spokane Chronicle, wrote that representatives from St. Andrews, Meld, Jenn and Leahy traveled to Spokane to meet with the builders.

“Now the proper thing to do is for Waterville, Douglas, Farmer, Arup, Buckingham, Dyer and all the country benefited to get together and send representatives to meet with them and see what can be done to get them in here,” the Press’s editorial team pleaded.

“As soon as they reach St. Andrews it would be plain sailing to swing around the head of the coulee, catch all the points mentioned and reach Waterville.”

The Great Northern Railway bypassed the little town, however, and built through Withrow.

Arup disappeared from historical records some time between 1906 and 1909, says Wikipedia, and the name “Lamoine” pops up.

Something smells fishy

The little town did get itself a post office, dance hall, hardware store, blacksmith shop, feed store and — crack the bat! — a baseball team.

Nothing about that is abnormal.

The name change is.

When the townfolk were discussing the town in the general store, reported W.H. Murray, the publisher of the Withrow Banner, they latched onto a new name by happenstance.

A man named Bragg reached to the shelf and took down a can of sardines labelled “Lamoine” asking: “What is the matter with that as a name for the town?

What indeed?

The suggestion was approved.

But when the railway officials decided in 1909 to bypass Arup/Lamoine, the post office closed.

One hundred years later, it’s ranchland and all that remains is the well preserved schoolhouse.

Not a cloud in the sky

A snowstorm threatened to strike all weekend long.

Bella and I spent a couple nights in Oroville with a friend and, after driving through a blistering Rocky Mountain blizzard one month earlier, we were not looking forward to another white-knuckle route home.

We woke up to nothing more than a skiff (as we call a couple of inches in Newfoundland) but I made the executive decision to bypass Disautel Pass, south of Omak.

We busted down the 97 and headed for Brewster. It struck me then to pull my Washington State atlas out of the seat pocket and make the side trip worth it.

This was my first trip to the Lamoine schoolhouse and the snow was deep and glistening in the morning sun.

There was no trudging through the deep drifts to get closer, though, so I jumped back in the truck, bound for return trips to Highland Road and Govan, which never disappoint.

Here’s a little gallery of the trip, complete with one thrilled Maremma sheepdog rolling around in the snow:


A gem in the middle of nowhere

It’s been all over my Facebook and RSS feeds.

Some people tag or DM me and say, “You’d be perfect for this.”

I smile and think, “Been there, done that.”

Associated Press picked up a recent story from The Missoulian, detailing the droves of volunteers who signed up for the opportunity to spend a month at the ghost town of Garnet, MT.

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Do you see enough?

I try to take a 360-degree approach when I’m out exploring and taking pictures.

I take some shots of what I see, then turn and turn and turn, making sure I don’t miss anything.

Some places draw me back for more. Dorothy, the Atlas Mine and Rawley are my Alberta favourites. I’m keeping a mental list of Washington spots.

Sometimes I get home, look at my pictures and think, “I didn’t quite get that right.”

Or maybe, no matter how many times I turned around, I know there’s more to see.

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Time travelling to junior high

I’d already been yelled at once.

When I heard footsteps behind me, I thought, ‘oh great, here we go again.’

I wasn’t in trouble. The fellow seemed rather pleasant, so I asked, ‘oh dear, am I trespassing?’

Yep, I sure was. I apologized profusely and thought I should leave, but the fellow was in the mood for a chat.

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The other ghost town named Bodie

Bodie is a popular ghost town in California.

It’s a state historic park and it’s known as the most well-perserved ghost town in the state.

Bodie, Calif., is on my bucket list.

So when someone mentioned recently they’d been for a day drive to Bodie, I got confused. (If you’re a regular reader of our adventures, you know that happens a lot.)

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The best way is the wrong way

It was right there on the damn highway.

I only drove past it three times.

It must be Our American getting in my head. Usually, I keep my head on a swivel … looking left, right, left, right the entire time I’m out exploring.

He thinks it’s unsafe driving.

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A look back on simpler times in Douglas

It had already been a long day.

I was without my co-pilot, heading to Vancouver for a conference and playing catchup with some friends.

Driver pouting

No co-pilot

I was late leaving Vancouver on Wednesday and thought it would be a nice drive through the Cascades, dodging the logjam of Seattle commuters on their way from work.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Rapids on the Columbia River

The day was drawing out, though, and I thought it would be best if I took the most direct route from Wenatchee to Spokane. That’s where life had a different plan.

My Google Nav told me to take a right at the dead-end intersection but all the signs said “Spokane, left.”

I thought “how could the signs be wrong?”

I was 20 minutes down the road before I realized I had three hours and change of driving left, instead of the two-and-a-half that Google Nav said I would if I had just hung a right.


Oh well, it was too late to turn back now.

That’s when I realized the route I was on. I knew I’d be passing through Douglas County, the farmland just past our last trip to Govan and the abandoned schoolhouse.

Trouble was, my atlas was on the living-room floor in Spokane and I had no mobile reception. I kept my fingers crossed that I might spy something — anything — from the road.

Sure enough, I passed through the village of Douglas. The township was platted in 1886 and named after the county in which it is located. It was a popular spot for miners on the Gold Rush trail but a fire ripped through the town in 1891, destroying the downtown core.

A new general store sprung up in 1904, right where it sits today:

Douglas, Washington general store

Many of the buildings are in pristine condition, kept up by the loving touch of the 31 residents of Douglas.

It’s an outdoor museum of sorts, with an old fire truck and Ford tractor sitting in front of the old blacksmith shop.

Old fire truck

Old Ford tractor

There was no one stirring in Douglas on this night, however … no one to ask about the town or how long they’ve lived there.

I jumped back into the Escape and resumed my trip back eastward.

Then, I spied my gold.

It was sitting on the side of a hill, seeming lonely in its state of dilapidation.

Forgotten. Abandoned.

Abandoned house in Douglas, Washington

The faded sign reads ‘No hunters’ and there’s another on the house reading ‘KEEP OUT’.

I spy a boot, sitting on a counter and switch to my long lens.

Old boot in an abandoned houseA barn lies in a pile of sticks behind the house.

Owls hoot nearby.

Just up the hill from the house on Old Creek Road lies a brand new home. New residents love the small-town atmosphere, writes Luke Ellington on the Douglas PUD (public utilities department?) website.

“Douglas never boomed the way its pioneering founders wanted it to,” he says. “Yet, for this reason, it has retained the same charming and relaxed way of life the continues to draw new residents, customers, and enthusiasts.”

A simpler life, out of the big city, borne from a simpler time.

The lure of a schoolhouse in Govan

Clink, clink.

Clink, clink.

Clanging wind chimes  were all I could hear as I stood on a road that may once have been busy with cars, horses and wagons, and maybe children playing.

I was drawn to Govan, Wash., by pictures of the abandoned schoolhouse. Shep and I made the short trek from Spokane on a cloudy, windy day … the kind of dusty wind that leaves your teeth and hair gritty.

In its heyday, writes Charles A. Stansfield in Ghosts of Washington, Govan was a neighbourhood shopping centre, sandwiched between Almira and Wilbur.

“It supplied the daily wants of the people in the surrounding area,” he says. “It had grocery, hardware, clothing, and farm supply stores. It had a post office, a school, and a church. The automobile age brought a service station, along with the seeds of doom.”

The population of Govan started to disappear as people could travel.

country road washington

“Cars and paved roads changed the rules by letting people travel much greater distances in the time they were willing to spend going shopping for basic needs. Why not go further for more variety of choice and more competitive prices? People could and did. School buses eliminated tiny one-room schools. Mechanization led to larger but fewer farms in the neighborhood and fewer customers for local stores.”

Signs of life

People still live here. Four, actually … at least according to a few sites found via Google search.  The graveyard is gone, moved to nearby Monroe in the 1970s.

An older model SUV sits in front of the home with the wind chimes but around me, there are many signs of life abandoned.

An International.

grain truck abandoned

A home, maybe once loved but long forgotten.

abandoned house washington

The schoolhouse, the piece de resistance.

abandoned schoolhouse govan washington

Others have ventured inside. I took one look at the floorboards and thought, “No, thanks.”

I imagine kids in period clothing running around the field, playing kickball or catch.

A teacher grinding chalk on a blackboard.

Memories uncovered

Russell Yates found one of the many pictures of the schoolhouse online and wrote in the comments that his grandmother had taught at the little school.

“My aunt graduated from it, and my grandfather went there in 1909,” Yates says, his comment dated Nov. 25, 2007. “About 10 years ago, he wrote a short letter to my nephew’s class telling them what school was like when he went to school in Govan.”

We could walk to school, but many of the students lived 5 or 6 miles away. They had to ride in a buggy pulled by two horses. It might take them one and a half or two hours to get to school in the morning. The big brothers or sisters drove the horses. During the day the horses stayed in a barn by the school until the kids were ready to go home again. School started at 9 a.m. and was over at 4 p.m. In the winter those who came by horse and buggy would have to go home in the dark.

The school I went to only had two rooms. In one room were Kindergarten and Grades 1, 2, 3, and 4. In the other room were Grades 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Each room had one teacher and about 25 students. Some teachers had older kids help younger ones. In front of the room was a row of desks for recitation. When it was time for the teacher to work with my grade, we would go up to the recitation row for reading or other learning from Mr. Sickles, who was my first teacher. The other kids would be at their own desks doing their work quietly. Each grade took turns.

One of the books I remember is Black Beauty. My parents didn’t read to me at home, but our teacher read to the class every morning.

These are the stories that cannot be lost.

They let us know where we came from, an integral piece of the path we forge as we move ahead.

Govan … not forgotten.

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Where’s the gold?

What do you plan on doing in Oroville?

No U.S. border guard asks this question without an eyebrow raised and a hint of surprise in his voice.

Most people who cross the 49th parallel at Osoyoos-Oroville are bound for other places … Spokane, Seattle and beyond. For me and my American, however, it’s our halfway point.

There really isn’t much to the town. It lies at the south end of Osoyoos Lake and has a population of about 1,600. Everywhere in town is closed for dinner by 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and the brewery we keep wanting to visit is never open.

The Hometown, which is halfway along the main drag and right across the street from our motel, serves a fantastic prime rib dinner. We get out of there with a beer and a glass of wine for about 45 bucks. Cheapest prime rib ever.

And there’s the chocolate they sell at the front desk.

There’s always more than meets the eye to every small town, whether it’s the history or a fantastic meal.

Oroville, the town of gold, was founded in the 1850s by prospectors looking for chunks of the miraculous metal. When the hills dried up, some stayed behind.

The weather and summer time fun, like swimming, fishing and quadding, started to liven things up 10 years ago, according to Wikipedia. Developers started building condos and hopes were high for Oroville.

But the recession hit and everything stopped in its tracks.

Me, I wrangle my boys into a day of driving. Shep doesn’t need as much convincing. My American gets onside when he realizes he can find new spots to cast his line.

Like Palmer Lake.

Oroville 013

Or the Simalkameen River that wound along next to the Loomis-Oroville Road.

Oroville 045

We stopped to take pictures at the foot of Chopaka Mountain:

Oroville 028

And spied some hoodoos carved into the hills.

Oroville 057

And then I found my gold: the little town of Nighthawk.

It was a booming mine town at the turn of the century, complete with hotels and a burlesque house. The Vacation Planner map I picked up at the motel, dated 2010-11, says it’s a registered ghost town and the original school house, a mining office and the old mill still stand.

Trouble is, there’s a sign that says everything sits on private property.

According to a web search, others have gotten pictures of the existing buildings. It may beg a return and maybe try to find a resident for a friendly chat.

You can bet your ass that will happen.

In the meantime, this old house is in my collection:

Oroville 037

Until next time, Nighthawk.


No destination, part 2

I fancy myself a fairly fearless person.

Walk into a room of strangers? No problem.

Move to a different city and start all over again? OK.

Life’s an adventure and there’s always a new challenge waiting with every sunrise.

But as I get older and (insert grumble here) more responsible, I find there are moments in time that stop me, obstacles I can’t push past.

Like last weekend’s muddy spring breakup.

And then there was yesterday.

Look, I learned how to ghost town in Alberta. It’s flat. Everything is designed on a grid system. The township roads run east to west and the range roads, north to south. I could set the truck on cruise control, hold onto the steering wheel in one spot and swivel my head from left to right, looking for abandoned barns and farmhouses or 1950s cars sitting in a field.

If I missed a slight curve in the road, the worst that could happen would be driving out of the wheat field and right back onto the road.

OK, it isn’t always that easy.

But it sure isn’t like British Columbia.

The roads are twisty and turny. On one side of the road is the side of a mountain. On the other side, that mountain keeps going with a drop into a canyon or valley.

I spent Friday afternoon looking for a destination. I found a gold mine of old or ghost towns northwest of Lillooet. Settled by men in search of gold, places like Brexton, Bralorne and Pioneer Mine dot the area around Gold Bridge.

They’re all recreation areas now, but some buildings remain standing.

And so, Shep and I set forth. My trusty co-pilot was satiated with an A&W Momma Burger in Cache Creek and the odd roadside stop to smell the air and take pictures.


Lillooet 028

We drove through Lillooet, and Shep nodded when I mentioned how cool it might be to spend a weekend camping in the summer time.

The left turn to Gold Bridge is at the other other end of the town of Lillooet. On a warm, sunny March Saturday, we drove past dog walkers, picknickers and hockey players, hopeful of winning the Tier 4 midget triple-A provincial championships.

The sign at the bottom of the road said “Gold Bridge 101.”

101 kilometres? Man, I can do that with my eyes closed, I thought.

The scenery, like so many other spots in this amazing country, is incomparable.

Lillooet 049

But oh wait … if you look closely enough, you can see where the road to Gold Bridge travels.

Here, let me help:

Lillooet 049 marked

Right? After about 15 clicks from that base point, the road stopped being pavement. And it kept going uphill, with the plunge on the other side of the road getting deeper and steeper.

My stomach tossed a bit and I found myself clenching the steering wheel just a little bit harder than I ever had. I knew if my old ghost-town partner, Jack, was driving, nothing would have stopped us.

But these trips aren’t supposed to be stressful and fear-inducing. They’re supposed to be about relaxation and freedom.

And so, I found the widest point I could, pulled a tight-as-hell three-point turn and headed back, my shoulders sagging just a tiny bit.

Of course, I don’t take failure and fear easily.

On a day when I can set out earlier and spend the night, dear Gold Bridge, I’ll be back.