I'm taking a spontaneous last-minute vacation to a ranch outside Cody, Wyoming next month and I'm looking forward to the photographic opportunities of both Eastern Yellowstone and the more open plains of Wyoming. According to Wikipedia, Cody is a town of 8,800 people with a real airport, a newspaper, and rodeos at least 90 nights a year. According to The Internet, houses cost a couple hundred thousand dollars although it's easy to spend a million dollars on a really nice new ranch house on a huge piece of property. But I'm more intrigued by a different side of "The West" - the downfall, depopulation, and wasting away of lots of little towns across the American heartland that just don't have the stamina to keep going.
I have a book called "Ghosts in the Wilderness - Abandoned America" that chronicles various small towns and homesteads in the Dakotas, Colorado, and Wyoming that are simply being abandoned due to lack of people. The photographs are large and wonderful - abandoned trucks, crumbling plaster living rooms, and wide open plains that remind me of the picture of Bunny Lebowski's Kansas homestead.
The reasoning behind the abandonment of small towns in America makes perfect sense - millions of acres of prairie don't need little towns every 10 miles anymore to take care of them. People grow up watching TV and want to move to the Big City but nobody ever grows up and wants to move out in the middle of nowhere.
The formula for finding an abandoned town seems pretty clear - look for a highway and a set of train tracks that runs a long ways between two cities that are still surviving and scattered in between are probably a few towns under a couple hundred people and falling.
Will we find anything cool to take pictures of? Will we have perfect weather for sunrise shots of the mountains? Will we find a 1930's pickup truck resting ever so perfectly by the side of the road? We'll see...