Camping with the Ghosts of Calico

Ghost Towns, the old West and Silver strikes in California were all on my mind as I thought about one of the campouts we did as Boy Scouts so long ago,,,,to a real life Ghost Town just outside of Los Angeles, Ca, USA.  Me and my family don’t have a particular perchant for Ghosts or Ghost Towns, we’ve just been to a few of them and were looking for a fun place to go camping.  You see we love adventures, road tripping and camping,,,,so we took off for a weekend trip to Calico Ghost Town, in the desert just outside of Southern California proper.  If you’re coming or going from Las Vegas to Southern California, you pass this place probably without even knowing it’s there, yet it’s one of the largest and best preserved Ghost Towns in the old west,,,,,although it’s also the most commercialized.   Yes, we’ve been to Bodie in the northeastern portion of California several times,,,and it’s a much larger Ghost Town.  Bodie is also much harder to get to and is absolutely not commercialized like Calico; but probably has far more ghosts than Calico.  Gold and Sin weaved its way throughout life in Bodie,,,,,while quickstrike riches and Silver were king in Calico.

A brief history of Calico:

Silver was discovered in Calico in or around 1881 and by 1887 the population had gone “boomtown”, climbing to over 1200 miners and families.  At it’s height there were 22 saloons, a red light district, chinatown and over 500 mine claims.  When the price of silver dropped in the late 1890’s, the population dropped steadily until there was nearly no one living in town and no viable mines.  However, in the 1960’s, Mr. Walter Knott (founder and former owner of Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California) bought Calico and donated money to restore many of the original buildings.  Much of Knott’s Berry Farms original attractions were based on Calico, you’ll see when you ride the original steam train at Knott’s.  In 1966, Mr. Knott sold (donated) Calico to San Bernardino Country for the price of $1.  Now there’s a train ride, RV and Tent Camping, mine tours, restaurants and old West Gun fights for us tourists.  Food is well priced and you can get a quart of good craft beer for $8,,,not too bad.

Our Trip:

After a day at Knott’s Berry Farm (with thousands of our best friends), I needed a camping or boat weekend.  But the boat’s up for sale and we need to keep it clean, so we decided to go camping.  Remembering my Boy Scout days, I suggested we take off to Calico.  This worked for everyone, so Saturday morning we took off for an overnight.   On the way to Calico, Michelle was able to pull lots of good info from the HotMamaTravel site, which seems to have lots of good advice if you’re traveling anywhere she covers on her site.  Calico is a San Bernardino County Regional Park, so you can book RV or tent camping sites online but do your research better than me!  I didn’t realize there might not be fire rings or basic grills over the open fire pits (like in most US National Parks), so I didn’t bring my barbecue.  Thankfully I did bring my stove, but we had to pan fry two great steaks and attempt to bake potatoes in the hot coals of the open fire.  It worked, but I’ll haul my own mini-barbecue from now on.  After getting settled, we walked to Calico Town and spent the afternoon exploring.  We rode the train and did the mine tour, eventually having a great lunch (with my quart of beer).  After lunch, we explored some more and eventually walked back to make dinner and prep for the night.

Taken with Nikon D-50

Taken with Nikon D-50-  The Train Station

Taken with Nikon D-50

Taken with Nikon D-50- Calico from the Train

The next morning, the smallest child woke up very early and my wife decided to take her for a hike before she woke the WHOLE campsite.  Here’s Calico Town in the morning:

Taken with iPhone-7

Taken with iPhone-7- Little Blue Girl in Calico

As they were exploring and I was getting water to a boil for something hot to drink, rain squalls moved in.  Here’s our site between little rain squalls:

Taken with Nikon D-50

Taken with Nikon D-50

This was a great overnight and we’ll do it again.  The atmosphere around the town is very laid back and it’s a favorite with the dirt bike/motorcycle crowd who stop here on their way to and from their favorite dirt bike camps.  Since it’s only a quick two hours from us and gives us a different desert perspective, it was a good trip and still an adventure.

Taken with Nikon D-50

Taken with Nikon D-50- Calico Sunset

Next camping/road trip (between Christmas and New Years) takes us to the Solvang/ Buellton area (California, USA) and beyond.  Solvang is a Dutch Village in the heart of California with great food, cheese, pastries and shopping,,,and one of the ancient Catholic Churches from the days of early California.  Solvang/Buellton is also right off the 101 Freeway and in close proximity to Highway 154, which cuts straight out of Santa Barbara through the famous Santa Barbara Wine Country.   After this, we’re going to do some more wine tasting in Paso De Robles and San Luis Obispo in Central California.

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4 thoughts on “Camping with the Ghosts of Calico

  1. How Time Low that I stumbled across this. We just passed Calico on our way back from Death Valley ( talk about some fantastic tent camping in Texas Springs Campground) and I was wondering if they did tent camping there. About 10 years ago we rented the bunkhouse / cabin, rounded up the kids and grandkids and we all bunked their together. It was fantastic. Included in the cost of the cabin was free admission to Calico.

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