July 20, 2012

When Research is Fun


I am not a camper. I don’t mind going without a shower. If the woods are deserted enough, it doesn’t bother me to do my business out in the open. But I can’t sleep worth snot away from home and when I’m camping, I may as well, not even lay down. The nights are painfully long and either miserably cold or stifling hot. If it weren’t for the nighttime, I’d really enjoy camping.


Hardman - I REALLY wanted to go inside
So you can imagine my husband’s surprise when I said, “You know what I want to do for our family vacation this year? Tour ghost towns. Go in search of the ghostliest town we can find and then just camp out in the middle of it.”


“You want to camp?” he asked. Frowning.

“Well, no, I don’t want to camp. But I can’t see how else I can soak up the ghostliness if I don’t,” I replied.

That was all the prodding he needed. He loves online research and suddenly he had a perfect project; to plan the epic Ghost Town Tour.

Old lodge (maybe) in Cornucopia
It really was fantastic. We had all four kids for the first couple of days. We found a beautiful open meadow near Cornucopia, OR to set up camp. I channeled my inner Katniss. We went on hikes. Played dominos. READ (grins) and walked around the silent, empty buildings of Cornucopia. After we dropped our daughter back at home we hopped from ghost town to ghost town, setting up camp wherever we could find a fire ring on national forest land.
Katniss ain't got nothing on me

Susanville - only ghost town we found
that is unoccupied
I was surprised to find people lived in the towns. There was actually only one (very remote) ghost town that still had standing buildings and no current population. What that meant was the old ghostly buildings were all owned by someone and had “No Trespassing” signs all over them. Major boo. However, I got some cool pictures and we were able to at least wander close enough for my mind to start whirring on all those questions, “Who lived here? What were they like? Did they work in the mill/mine? Did children play on this sloped front yard? What kind of animals did they keep in this barn?” On and on.

Mom & daughters all died the same day
We also took the time to visit some very remote graveyards. One was literally in the middle of nowhere and oh the stories it told! Mostly heartbreaking, some loving, some heroic.

I don’t know how this research will manifest itself into a story or stories in the future, but I’m sure it provided all sorts of food for thought on setting, character, and mood.

What is the furthest length you’ve gone for research?


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