places that used to be

You see them here and there in your wanderings. Small, once upon a time towns that have fallen by the wayside over the years. Places that used to be.

They were once living communities like any other. Perched along the main travel routes, they had their cafes and their markets and their motels and gas stations and their local residents. With the coming of the interstates and the migration of their young people to other places in search of work and future, these small settlements have largely become a relic of the past.

You find a number of such places around the Salton Sea. Small towns and independent enterprises that were likely thriving during the heyday of the sea but now mostly abandoned. Decay and decline have had their way.

About 20 miles east of my new home is a place called Desert Center. It’s still on the maps, has a post office that’s apparently still in use, and the sign says it has a population of 125. The residents must be mostly scattered outside of the town center — mostly you see long-haul truckers pulled over for a brief rest and some travelers pulled over in their rigs to stretch their legs and walk their dogs. Other than the post office the other businesses — the cafes and markets and motels — are boarded up and abandoned. It has a ghostly feel, a melancholy atmosphere. It’s like traveling back in time a few decades and finding that life as we recognize it had vanished.

But still… I love these places. I find them fascinating. They’re like dusty faded reminders of a time that once was. They’re some of my favorite places to poke around with camera in hand.



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