You may be wondering, where the heck is Yermo? It’s about 120 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the middle of the Mojave Desert. And why would we go there at the start of our 15-week trip across the country?
In the late 1800s, the town of Calico (near present-day Yermo) was the site of a prosperous silver mining operation, lasting about 20 years. The Silver King Mine at Calico was California’s largest silver mine in the mid-1880s, but by 1907, the town of Calico was abandoned.
Fast forward to 1951, when Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry Farm fame) bought Calico and began to restore it by using old photographs from the late 1800s. Knott eventually donated the ghost town to San Bernardino County, and it continues as a County Regional Park today.
We have camped in the campground at Calico on several occasions, but this was the first time we got there early enough to really explore the ghost town (we won’t talk about the time we snuck in after hours and got chased out by security 😊).
According to Wikipedia, “the park operates mine tours, gunfight stunt shows, gold panning, several restaurants, the historic, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge Calico & Odessa Railroad, a Mystery Shack, and a number of trinket stores. It is open every day except Christmas and requires an entrance fee,” though those who are camping get into the ghost town for free.
This would be a fun field trip for a family interested in the history of the Western U.S., since you have lots of period buildings and artifacts, including a nearby cemetery.
Plus, there are several photo opportunities that are just silly (see below).
There is also a resident population of chukar partridges, non-native to the area, but striking nonetheless.
It can be blistering hot in late spring and early summer, but otherwise, this is a unique destination, either right after you leave L.A. or right before you get there.