The Frontier Towns in Hiding

Part 1

The John S. Cook and Company building in Rhyolite, Nevada, USA – a ghost town abandoned after gold mining rush ended. Photograph by Brian W. Schaller:

Like a movie set in the wild west of a bygone era, a dusty town breaks the earthen surface somewhere on the American continent. In fact, this town could be any found along the American Frontier. For those with time to spare, a meandering tour of the main strip can be finished in minutes.

Adjacent to the only intersection, there is the sole child you see in such towns; the kid’s high tops brush the pavement as gravity pulls his body downhill and then he disappears. The multistory buildings are lonely, seeming to beckon for human occupation; clearly this is no metropolis and yet, that in itself is a charm. There is blessed silence in this town: no ever-present horns scream from the invisible mouths of passing vehicles; few traffic dangers creep upon the usual group of marching cosmopolitans. However, the town is missing the expected hubbub of a commercial center with such architecture. It is not what is expected of the American frontier.

It is common these days for people to imply the physical American Frontier is gone- pushed into the land of unicorns and old fashioned, gun slinging cowboys. However the frontier town is still alive. Such old centers of commerce have only slipped unnoticed into the lesser-seen realms of the American landscape, but their health as individual towns is another matter.

…the frontier moved from the focus of the American psyche and to the background of our collective imaginations, as well as to the exotic landscapes of foreign shores…

stock photography

Representative of so many frontier towns in America, these dusty jewels are being lost to the brutal natures that disintegrate all civilizations, returning engineered structures to dust. The frontier occupied the foreground of the nation’s attention when the country was forming and storming into the wild- when the boundaries of the old union were still vague. The Appalachian Mountains stood as real boundaries separating cultures and tongues.

A Nebulous Promise

These forgotten regions once served as the nation’s decentralized, industrial heart, like the districts found in Michigan and Western New York State, now commonly referred to as the Rust Belt. It is also reflective of the coal-energy producing regions like West Virginia that have long represented a kind of nebulous promise to the pioneer of day’s past. Yet, when most of the gold and coal was excavated and industrial production began to drastically change to favor machines, unfortunate masses of workers were culled from corporate payrolls, and it was the quintessential pioneer who often took up those older occupations being eliminated. And so the frontier moved from the focus of the American psyche and to the background of our collective imaginations, as well as to the exotic landscapes of foreign shores.

These towns and what remain of them, though small as they have become, may still offer big solutions. For when cities are stressed with growing populations, these original frontier towns can serve as important safety valves that continue to reduce population pressures in urban areas and related social problems.

Part 2: Coming Soon


How to Travel Without Feeling Like a Tourist

  1. Research the regions and cities you are traveling in advance. Rely on blogs, web chats and conversations with people who have already been to the areas you plan to visit. Use reference books primarily for the general information- like history. Online maps, like those offered by Google or Bing offer current information about merchants and sites in a city or region, but consider verifying the information is current.
  2. For major attractions and locations, visit during off-peak times.

Traveling to the port or station by automobile or bike is a great way to avoid building up stress and negative interactions…

  1. Traveling to the port or station by automobile or bike is a great way to avoid building stress and negative interactions. Also, bike travel or a commute via energy efficient, private and comfortable vehicles is better for the environment and your body than the gasoline or diesel-fueled alternative – especially during traffic congestion. Inviting other passengers will greatly bring costs down. Please plan to arrive to the airport or station early!
  2. In developing nations and regions, try to avoid using taxis without odometers as well as independent cab services. There have been numerous reports in developing nations of impersonators or dishonest drivers who quote one price and then change the price during the drive, etc.
  3. Use only a carry-on during the actual transport and if you require additional luggage, consider sending it separately through mail or shipping services and in advance of your travel so that it arrives at your destination around the same time you do.

Avoid casual fashion styles meant for travel…

This model traveler is dressed casually. Stock Photography.
  1. Try to avoid casual fashion styles meant for travel which often combine specific travel pieces like fanny packs, belly bags, oddly decorated baseball caps, tube socks with shorts, etc. Instead dress up or dress very down- super casual.
  2. If you are in a busy area like a city and want to stare up into the cityscape and take pictures, please be respectful of your fellow pedestrians. Consider stepping off tot he side to see or capture that perfect image of the skyline. I recommend looking to your left (or whatever side opposite traffic) and when the path is clear, step as far as possible in that direction. Nodding or smiling to the approaching pedestrian to signal you are preparing to gaze or take a picture helps keep people from colliding into your body or equipment and creates good will.