Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gilmore Ghost Town, Idaho

My wife, Linda, was away for a few days on a trip with her sisters, so I decided to make a quick run to the Birch Creek kilns and to Gilmore, a ghost town in the mountains of Lemhi County, Idaho.
The first stop was five miles up a dirt road at the beautiful Birch Creek kilns, which once supplied charcoal for the smelter at nearby Nicholia.  There were once 16 of these beehive kilns, and most have disappeared, along with most of Nicholia.  A storm came in fast while I was here, and I left in a thunderstorm with plenty of rain and hail.
When I got to nearby Gilmore the temperature was in the 30's and the wind was howling.  Soon the storm caught up and I had to try to take pictures in really difficult conditions.  The Gilmore Mercantile building looked suitably ghostly through the rain and hail on my windshield.

There are probably about 25 old buildings scattered over the hillside, with a mix of modern trailers.  Some of the old houses have been converted to summer cabins, but most are abandoned and decaying.

The entire front of this house was missing, so I could photograph the peeling wallpaper and crooked door.

The next day promised better weather, so I camped at the city park in Leadore to wait out the storm.  It got very cold during the night, and I woke up to snow on the hills and frost in the park.  I'm sure people were wondering why I was crawling around in the frost with my camera.

Gilmore was a silver and lead mining camp called the Texas Mining District.  At one time 600 people lived there and it was the second richest silver mining area in Idaho, but in 1929 a power plant exploded and the area never recovered.  Until then, the Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad transported ore to Montana for smelting.  The prosperous town had a hotel, stores, banks, restaurants, and a school.

Morning brought a crisp, clear day.  I returned to Gilmore to explore the town in better light.  I don't think there is a straight line or a level building anywhere in the town.

Gilmore is located between Mud Lake and Leadore, Idaho.  It is well worth the trip for ghost town hunters and photographers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Flying Over Bear Lake Valley

Every year the LOTOJA bicycle race passes through the Bear Lake Valley.  It is the longest sanctioned one day bicycle race in the country, and it goes from LOgan, Utah TO JAckson, Wyoming - 206 miles.  I was invited by a friend, Jim Parker, to photograph the event from the air, and he asked Rodger Sorensen if he would give us a ride.  Rodger brought his 1979 Maule four seater from Soda Springs to Bear Lake County Airport.  It was great.  No TSA, check-in lines, tickets, baggage, or hassles.  The first thing they did was take off the door so I could get a better view!  I had the back seat next to the non-existent door, and Jim sat up front with a small porthole to shoot through.

The weather was heavily overcast so the light wasn't too great.  I set the camera for a high ISO, opened the aperture all the way, checked my seat belt, and started shooting.  We found the racers on the highway from Emigration Canyon to Montpelier and got a few photos.
There is so much to see from up there.  Rodger took us as far as Copenhagen Basin summit, then turned back toward the valley.  The ride was incredibly smooth and he gave us a steady platform for photographing scenes like this farm.

We flew over the valley and continued east over the Preuss Range to the Geneva, Idaho area, then turned south toward Bear River.  The fields, creeks, river, and irrigation ditches made wonderful geometric patterns.
Near Pegram, we passed a train as it went under some power lines.  I thought the towers added an interesting perspective for the view from above, and the sun came out for a moment.
We flew over this beautiful green field with its single red tractor.  I could show you a lot more, but we returned to Bear Lake Airport.

After a perfect landing, Jim and Rodger replaced the back door and posed for a photo before Rodger took off for the return trip to Soda Springs.

What a great experience.  Thank you, Rodger and Jim for a wonderful morning and a smooth flight.  I would fly with these guys anytime.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Old Idaho Penitentiary

I was with Linda and her sister Jo Ann in Boise, Idaho, where we met Lisa, a friend from my 365 project, and went to the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site.  The penitentiary was used as a prison from 1870 to 1973 and is a picturesque complex of old and newer stone buildings.
There is so much history here.  For example, this building dates back to 1872, but was destroyed by fire in a 1973 prison riot.
This guard tower overlooks a beautiful rose garden which was the site of six executions by hanging.  Inmates could watch the gallows being built from Death Row.
This is one of the older cell blocks, and it is an incredibly eerie place.  There was one small radiator to heat a huge, four story room.  It must have been extremely cold and dark in those tiny cells, and until 1928 none of the cell blocks had indoor plumbing.  Before then, a "honey bucket" in the corner of each cell was the toilet.

Several of the buildings gave chilling hints about what it must have been like to stay here.  Just imagine what it would have been like to use this community shower with other inmates who probably were not very nice people.  There were also exhibits of prison tattoos, weapons, and more.

The laundry room was one of my favorites.  There were a lot of mysterious machines in a poorly lit, dusty room.  This crank was a good subject for black and white photography.  Because of the lack of light, a tripod was a necessity inside.

If you decide to go, look for details.  They are everywhere.  This sign nearly blended with the background until I played with contrast and converted it to black and white.

The Idaho Botanical Gardens are right next door, so if you visit the penitentiary with someone who does not enjoy this eerie place, send them into the sunlight and flowers.

But, I think it is a fascinating photo op.