Our first destination on the Gold Hill expedition was Delle. We visited Delle on March 13, just a day before my 21st birthday. We only stopped here briefly because our main destination that day was Wendover, but we stopped long enough to get some good photos. There really isn't much left of the told town, just an old motel and a couple of homes, but there is an active gas station at the site. I honestly think there are more dogs than people in town, though. We saw about three or four dogs in one backyard alone. They barked at us the entire time we were there. Probably because they're not used to outsiders wandering through their town.
Delle is a former railroad town that was abandoned by the railroad but adopted by the old highway. Then it was abandoned again when I-80 zipped on through. But like I said, there is a pretty active gas station at the site, so although the town of Delle may be very sleepy, the gas station is pretty busy, so Delle will probably never die. It's one of the last gas stations before you hit the salt flats on the way to Wendover. If you really need to fill up on gas, but pass this gas station, good luck getting stranded on the flats. Hopefully you fare better than the Donner Party did.
Sadly, my first night in Wendover was not filled with wild drinking and gambling fun. See, I was still a day shy of 21. Though come to think of it, I wasn't ID'd once in the casino when I was of legal age, so I probably could have gotten away with it...
The next day, we traveled to our next destination. One of Utah's most isolated little towns. An old mining town called Gold Hill. Gold Hill, as its name suggests, was an old gold mining town that existed three times, once in the 1800s, once in the first few decades of the 1900s, and once during World War II. Several ghost towns in Utah see these boom and bust cycles without actually officially dying. And obviously Gold Hill is one of those towns.
We started our journey by exploring downtown Gold Hill, which now consists only of the Goodwin Mercantile building (now defunct), a large metal storage structure being used by a local rancher, a little red building that may have been the town's post office at one point and is now being used as a residence, and a few abandoned buildings and foundations (including the old mill foundation up on a hill). So I shouldn't use the exclusive term “only”, because there actually is quite a lot to see on old Main Street.
We headed south and continued to explore Gold Hill. The farther south we got, the fewer actual ruins we found. Don't get me wrong, there was still plenty of stuff out there, but less solid buildings and more foundations and/or relics were found in this part of town. One of the town's residents watched us for a few moments before ducking back behind the blinds. I'm guessing they don't get many outsiders. It was actually kind of creepy, come to think of it.
Off the main road are the ruins of 19th century Gold Hill. Everything else we had seen up until this point had been relics of the 20th century operations, mostly from Gold Hill's second boom in the 1910s. I don't have any documentation that proves these were 19th century, but I've been around the block enough times to be able to differentiate between the crude stone construction typical of the 19th century and the more refined architecture of the early 20th century. There were only two structures from this time period, and I'm pretty sure that's all that's left of this part of town.
Also located in this area was an old outhouse. When the 19th century town was booming, the town grew so fast that new mineral “strikes” were made right in the middle of the streets. The town's second incarnation did not know what to do with these old mine holes at first, but they came up with an ingenious, albeit weird, solution. They built their outhouses over them. I mean, come on, a pre-dug hole for your crap? What else could you ask for? Must not have smelled nice in old Gold Hill, though.
After visiting the oldest part of town, we headed back up Main Street, snapping a few more photos of the mercantile and post office, before continuing up the north part of the street. Up here we found the ruins of an old barber shop. The barber pole is even still there, but the colors have long since faded away. Gold Hill is a good hour's drive from the nearest town, which happens to be Wendover. In fact, Gold Hill's residents use Wendover's zip code. And one of the old roads will lead you to the Pony Express trail, so there's that. There's another ghost town south of Gold Hill called Clifton, but we weren't able to reach this ghost town because it's on a really crummy road.
Gold Hill is one of Utah's best preserved ghost towns. And it's never been a complete ghost town. Probably about twenty people live there today, but they're very shy (or creepy, I haven't decided which yet), so use caution when approaching them. Don't look them directly in the eyes, approach slowly, let them come to you. Maybe bring a snack that they can eat out of your hand. (now who's being the creeper?)
And now I can regale you with the tale of my first time drinking and gambling. OK, fine, not my first time drinking. But my first time drinking and gambling. I brought along $200 to gamble with and I started with the penny slots. Because, you know, I could spend a lot of time there. And who knows, maybe I would win a jackpot. Which I did.
After winning 68 cents I decided to try something more profitable. I was tempted to go for the quarter slots, but my dad suggested that he and I do the nickel slots together. Dad's machine paid out quite handsomely (lucky ducky), but mine sucked $20 from me. I played again, and managed to win my money back and like an extra 75 cents. Even that was more profitable than the penny slots.
That's when I went for the quarter slots. I actually managed to win quite a bit of money here. I got a decent sized jackpot and managed to pull an $80 profit (the jackpot itself was $100). Any smart gambler would know to call it quits there, which I did. I said goodbye to the slots and went straight for the $20 blackjack tables. Yes, $20. Per game. I thought, “Hm, maybe I could win even bigger here.” I also considered poker, but there was this guy with a gigantic stack of chips sitting at the only poker table that wasn't fully occupied, so I didn't exactly like my chances with that.
I sat down at the blackjack table with my winnings and the dealer dealt my first hand. It was a winner! Twenty extra bucks to Jonboy. A couple vacationers (who seemed more than a little buzzed) sat at the table with me and we struck up a conversation. They bought me a mixed drink that I can't remember the name of and we just had a great time. Except I then managed to lose my next four hands, leaving me with just $20 left. I won my hand then, and I should have walked away, because I ended up losing five more hands. I could have walked away with $80 extra bucks that night, but instead I pulled a major loss. And here I thought I was good at blackjack.
We headed home the next day, but first we stopped at a couple other ghost towns. The next ghost town we stopped at was another ghost town along I-80 called Rowley. Much like Delle, Rowley was a highway town. Sort of like that 50s cliché town with the restaurant that has the jukebox that plays beep bop tunes and where greasers wearing leather jackets snap their fingers, flick their switchblades in and out of their sheaths, and get in fights. OK so it wasn't exactly like that, but it was a pretty active place in the 1950s. It was used as a truck stop just in case the trucks didn't want to stop in Delle. Don't know why they wouldn't want to stop there, though. It wasn't like it was dirty or anything. Sadly, there's nothing left of Rowley. The magnesium plant now operating at the former town site made sure of that. There used to be an old sign that advertised the fact that diesel fuel could be purchased there, but it's also been demolished. A pile of rubble is the only legacy that old Rowley has left behind.
The last ghost town we saw on this trip was Iosepa. Iosepa, the Hawaiian word for Joseph, was a farm town established by LDS faithfuls from Hawaii in the early 20th century. The church was instrumental in the town's establishment and maintenance. Unfortunately, the town was never self-sufficient which led to its downfall several years after it was established. The town was never fully abandoned until an LDS temple was completed in Hawaii. The remaining townsfolk migrated back to the islands and left Iosepa abandoned.
On the way to Iosepa and back, we drove past a dead cow that was stiff as a board. Rigor mortis. There are several homes from the original town still left along the old highway, and a cemetery can be reached by climbing the hill near town. We didn't see the cemetery but we did get some good photos of the homes. There's also a former service station on the left side of the road that now serves as a storage building for a nearby farm. The area continues to be an active farming region, but few people live there now and none of them are Hawaiian.
It's a neat little town for neat little explorers. If you're interested in the Pony Express, the old trail runs near town, so that's worth checking out. Apparently the ancestors of the former residents of Iosepa come here every year for some sort of gathering. It's actually a really neat concept, though I've never seen the gathering myself. Maybe I'll go someday just to have that experience.