It was Memorial Day when I stepped out of the car. Behind me Tioga Lake glistened, tourists scrambled about the waters edge, snow and ice captured the diminishing light.
Ghost towns are marked by absence. The definition lingers within the very name we have given them, this idea that the living inhabitants are gone. Yet, it is also something tangible that draws us back to them. A presence which some how engages our imagination, whispering the silent words, and vivid impressions.
The Sierra is filled with these wooden skeletons. Gaping holes that look like eyes, old train tracks running off into infinity. It is both the charm and the haunting allure of a history we rare tell. Bennettsville is part of that forgotten past, a living graveyard of unrealized hope. One that demands a resurrection from our senses, telling us stories we must sit still to hear. Tales of mules and sweat, struggles up mythical mountainsides, and yes, a strange beckoning to dig beneath the surface.
Back on the roadway, just out of earshot, cars roar by. Each summer the Yosemite wonders entice another type of miner, those longing for the pristine waters and granite walls, a chance to truly dwell. These wandering souls drive by Bennettsville, not realizing its silent pull. There over ridge and across iridescent ponds, just a walk and scramble away, are the remnants of the primal impulse. An odd collection of shacks, barely still breathing, they point back towards the original community itself. Those that had mounted the eastern escarpment, carving the original pass, and following a compass made of gold. But when they arrived, they were met by another type of gold, one that could not be labeled with English words, No they had to borrow a word from the Iroquois. A term, which was both spiritual and geographic, one that captured more an experience, than it did a description. Tioga, it meant peaceful valley, it meant they had finally found what they were looking for. And with that, another car pulls up, young German couple dismounts and with photo op secure, they race into the unknown but radiant future. KO