I went out to Beryl (pronounced Burr-ul) and Lund, two little ghost towns out in the middle of nowhere. Only a handful of people live out there now, but you wouldn’t know it by looking. The towns were both railroad stops in their heydays, but they never really had much of a population. The train tracks are still there, and a few abandoned, hollowed-out buildings are still standing, and there’s a spooky air of former humanity. All the buildings of note (train depot, post office, hotel, etc.) have long been demolished. There are a few trailers out there but even those look haggard and stripped-out. Ghost towns, when left to decay naturally, are sort of like distinctly American ruins. And you pass through, only able to wonder what used to go on there.
I drove up Highway 18 to a place simply called Central. From there, I traveled through the Dixie National forest, winding through a road replete with natural beauty. I was sort of awe-struck by the snow on the mountains, because it’s such a rarity where I’m from. Even though the peaks were distant, they almost had a 3D movie, reach-out-and-touch-me effect. After a while, I came upon Pine Valley, which is a town so picturesque it appears to be perpetually caught in a snow globe. As you enter, there’s a white chapel (one of the oldest still in use) with a towering steeple, a few log cabin houses and evergreens, all of which is framed by the blue, snowy mountains above. Pine Valley is nearly everyone’s vision of a retiree’s final retreat, but I couldn’t help noticing that it was almost entirely empty. I saw three other people there: an old man on an ATV, and another younger man taking pictures with his wife. It dawned on me that Pine Valley is, in fact, a retreat of sorts, but it’s mostly full of summer houses or weekend getaways, not permanent living quarters. It’s a retreat for the rich during warm weather, but otherwise it sits cold and lonely and majestic at the base of the mountain.
After Las Vegas, I went east on I-15. I stopped in Moapa, Nevada and cruised around town. Moapa’s a bucolic place that has the distinction of having the second- and third-tallest structures in Nevada. They’re unspectacular: two thin guyed masts, blinking red in the night sky. Nothing to write home about.
But Moapa is one of those slow-moving, serene places you only see in calendars. It’s surrounded by mountains, there’s plenty of farmland, and most of the roads are dirt. The gas station is right off the highway and serves, as far as I can tell, as a grocery store for the residents.
I slept across the street from the LDS church, which seemed to be the only place in town with a curb and a sidewalk. It was comfortable. Very quiet. But I knew I’d have to leave before church started.