On my way back down to Vegas from Burning Man, after stumbling upon the fabulous ruins of that sprawling abandoned brothel near the California/Nevada state line, I got back in my truck and continued on my drive home. But I didn’t get very far, maybe 5 miles, before I had to stop again — because of even more, even BETTER abandoned ruins!
This time, it was an entire abandoned TOWN!!!
There is a cluster of maybe 20 abandoned buildings on either side of U.S. 6 as you head over Montgomery Pass. At one time, it looks like there used to be a casino, a restaurant, a motel and a lodge, plus a bunch of little cabins and houses…but everything is now shuttered and in a charming state of decay 🙂
Poking around the ruins, it looked like there was a fire or something in the restaurant/casino…and the rest of the buildings were just abandoned because of who knows what. Maybe the fire at the restaurant killed the town’s business, and everyone just moved away. I can’t imagine there was ever that much business out there anyway — it’s VERY remote (the closest “big cities” are Tonopah, NV and Bishop, CA, an hour away in either direction), and U.S. 6 isn’t very heavily traveled to begin with.
A brochure I found inside one of the buildings said “Soper’s Montgomery Pass Lodge,” but a Google search revealed very little information or history on the place. Apparently it was a popular stop for sportsmen on their way to/from the Eastern Sierra, its claim to fame being that at 7,167 feet, it was the World’s Highest Casino — 1000 feet higher than Lake Tahoe.
A fire burned down the restaurant/casino in March 2010…but going through the wreckage in some of the little cabins, I found a lot of newspapers and magazines dating from the late 1990s-very early 2000s, so some of the buildings appear to have been abandoned long before the fire. Maybe business was already dying out, and the casino owners intentionally set the fire to cash out and start over somewhere else — who knows?
In a way, it’s kind of cool that there isn’t much information available online — that way you can draw your own conclusions, just from what you find in the ruins. One of the houses had a huge vanity area in the bathroom with lights and everything, which led me to concoct a cockamamie fantasy about a beautiful showgirl who married a rich casino boss that dragged her out to the middle of nowhere to run this lonely mountain resort. As the resort’s business dwindled day by day, with fewer and fewer visitors passing through, she still sat at her vanity every day for hours primping and painting her eyes and lips, wandering around the semi-deserted facilities like a beautiful ghost, with no one to appreciate her efforts but old keno machines and tumbleweed. Hell, maybe she was the one to set the place on fire — she figured it was her only ticket out!
Maybe she lit the place on fire one night in a three-martini-fit of melancholic rage…but her plan backfired horribly when her casino-magnate husband was trapped inside the building!! Maybe he burned alive, and in her despair the aging showgirl packed up her feathers and makeup and fled to Reno…where she changed her name and now lives out her days giving perms and rinses to the bluehairs at Circus Circus.
Or…maybe the showgirl was so bored living in that podunk little town that she took to secretly hitchhiking down the highway to nearby Janie’s Ranch! While her preoccupied husband was busy tallying profits in his 2nd-story office, unbeknownst to him his beautiful wife was turning tricks at the brothel, where at least the long-haul truckers and miners appreciated her beauty!! Then one day a loose-lipped trucker inadvertently tipped off her enraged husband…who then lured her to dinner at the casino under the pretext of making amends, then locked the doors and burned it down with her in it!!
There’s a thousand stories you could make up about this spooky, fascinating place — made even more haunting by the extreme remoteness and the beautiful high desert surroundings. I’ll bet it’s really beautiful in the wintertime; they get snow up there, which makes the relatively good condition of the ruins even more impressive.
I was there for an hour or longer, and did not see one other person, other than a few cars passing on the highway. Although there was a newer-vintage satellite dish behind the motel…so maybe there is a security guard or caretaker or something who looks after the place. If so, I saw no sign of him or his personal dwelling. Still — be advised!
Also, there looks to be some sort of highway maintenance yard or offices nearby, so be mindful of that — at the time of my visit, it looked to be operational…although again, I didn’t see anyone coming or going. But the buildings, fences and trucks were definitely new(er) and in current use.
In any event, the worst thing that happened to me was stepping on a rusty nail — a classic rookie mistake, since I was wearing flip flops and was definitely not dressed for urban exploration. But fortunately I had a tetanus booster a few months prior…so I think I’ll be OK 🙂
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