After fourteen and a half years together, my husband only just realized the other day that the general store where I grew up literally sold gold pans, pick axes, tools, animal feed, various sundries, and livestock (mostly chicks and ducklings and goslings) underneath. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, the nearest city, Placerville, was 45 minutes away. These are pictures I took on a drive to my house chronicling the extreme vast nothingness of Mt. Aukum Road in El Dorado County, Northern California. Trees have lives of their own and are magical here, and the extreme poverty allows structures (mostly barns) to become severely decayed like a watercolor painting. These pictures are from 2008 when I went back for one afternoon after moving away 8 years earlier. Nothing had changed. In fact, businesses had closed down since I had left, so the area, in fact, devolved. This is my California.
One of the three general stores along the 30 minute drive to my house. From this exact point, Placerville is either 15-20 minutes away still (depending on how fast you drive).
I will pass only 3 cars the entire drive to my old house.
The trees have always been my favorite part of my childhood.
These fences are all about 200 years old at this point.
Just when you think you’re out of the Western movie, it pulls you back in.
There are lots of dilapidated structures in El Dorado County, I suspect from the rampant poverty that effects the area.
D’Agostini Pond is on the left. This was my favorite stretch of road.
When I was 18, I had to defer going to Michigan Tech for a year because my mom was (mis)diagnosed with cancer and given 3 months to live. By this point, I had taken a watercolor class at the community college, so I would take my paints and sit by the pond sometimes and paint. I always got harassed, though. A girl isn’t allowed to wander by her lonesome in the West. Everyone is always expecting her to want company.
Apiaries are one of the main businesses out here. There is nothing but trees, bees, and goats out here. But don’t climb under the barbed wire fences. People still patrol their land on horseback and will pull a .22 rifle on 11 year old girls adventuring.
There it is. Mt. Aukum General Store. Even the same kid still worked there, he’s messing with the gas tanks. It was also a one-pump gas station.
This was a big deal when it was built. We thought Hall’s Market being built was going to raise property values and bring jobs. It closed within a year of opening and nothing ever went in.
Do you see this tree? It is magnificent.
Abandoned barn, Cedar Creek Road, Mt. Aukum, California.
These are the goats The Goat Man had–well, they’re not the same as the ones he had when I was growing up. 97 goats were seized from his property back in 2000 because he was an animal hoarder.
Yeah, so, I didn’t go to regular high school because it was a 2.5 hour bus ride in the morning and a 2.5 hour bus ride in the afternoon. (My day started at 5am and I’d get home around 6pm at night.) The bus also cost $483 a semester–they let it slide the first couple weeks of school, which is how I was able to try out regular high school for a couple weeks. But my mom couldn’t afford to send me to high school. So I went to a charter school for high school, and supplemented with community college classes from grades 10-12. I could’ve graduated a year early, but I decided to stay because high schoolers didn’t have to pay to take college classes. Because, ya know, $11/credit was outrageously expensive back then.
This was the house I grew up in. Not pictured: a full semi trailer parked on the property. I seriously suspect the new owner of our house is growing weed in this semi. Because that’s what most people do out here. Or why most people move out here. To not be hassled about growing weed.
Cedar Creek Road, Mt. Aukum, California.
More abandoned barns.
Seriously, these trees warrant their own novel.
Cosumnes River: this is the big swimming spot in the summer.
Northern Californians have the best named towns.