The International Car Forest of the Last Church and Palmetto Ghost Town
One of our favorite things to do when we are traveling long miles on lonely highways is to look at our atlas and see what it has listed as “points of interest” along our route. Especially in rural areas, we have often ended up at some really quirky, fun stops.
On our way to Death Valley, we stumbled upon two fascinating and strange roadside attractions. One was a ghost town, which was only inhabited for one year, and the other is a somewhat ghostly arrangement of cars buried upright in the ground.
Palmetto Ghost Town
Palmetto Ghost Town is located along Highway 266 in Nevada, very close to the border of California. It would be easy to drive right by the ghost town, because most of the ruins are built into a large hill.
The town was founded in 1866, when prospectors discovered silver deposits nearby. The prospectors named the town Palmetto, because they believed the Joshua trees that surrounded the settlement were related to the palmetto tree named the town. But the silver soon ran out and the town was abandoned within a year. In 1906 (coincidentally around the time Rhyolite, the ghost town which we visited in Death Valley, was flourishing), the town briefly experienced a resurgence with 200 tents being put up at the site. Again the town was abandoned within the year.
Ian discovered this strange stone-lined hole in ruins of the old mill, a stone building built into the side of the hill that once had a large red brick smokestack. Ian of course crawled in said hole and discovered that it went about 30 feet back into the hill! We later learned this is the remains of the mill’s “oven.”
Besides the large tiered mill structure there are the remains of the post office and the stage stop. All that remains of these buildings are a few walls and some piles of stones.
International Car Forest of the Last Church
After Palmetto, we noticed the point of interest “International Car Forest” on our map in Goldfield, Nevada. It was about 15 minutes off our route, but how could we resist something so intriguing.
When we drove into the town, there were no signs directing us to the site, which is probably the town’s main attraction. Nor are there any signs offering an interpretation or explanation of the art work. The Car Forest is free to visit and explore at your own pace. You just drive through a neighborhood and suddenly you see about 40 vehicles stacked on top of each other and standing on their noses in the desert.
The junked cars are colorfully painted and grafittied. The cars feature typical graffiti images like skulls and tags and colorful graphic shapes and designs. Others have political caricatures or portraits of people on the roofs. One has a painting of Homer Simpson on the hood. Some cars are mosaicked with pieces of computers, toys, and broken glass.
The junkyard art is the product of artists Chad Sorg and Mark Rippie. Rippie gave the forest its name because of his opposition to organized religion and his desire for the space to be like a national forest for artists. The cars continue to evolve as new artists add their own work to the cars.
The cars are pretty far apart, and we did a three mile run on the grounds of the artwork. We climbed a high ridge above the installment so that we could get a view of the “forest” from above. We left our van parked below, and we were almost a little worried it would be tagged while we were running!