Adventures in Kirwin Ghost Town and Double D Ranch

On our way back to Denver this week from the Canadian Rockies, we decided to visit Kirwin Ghost Town and the Double D Ranch. They are about 35 miles outside of the town of Meeteetse, WY, a long way down forest roads, in the Athabaska Forest in the Washakie Wilderness which is contained within the Shoshone National Forest. It is very far back and remote. I felt like it definitely put the “wild” in wilderness!

We found a beautiful campsite at (43.9324392, -109.1527996) along the Wood River. 

There were a few other campers around, but no one very close. We were greeted our first night by an amazing Aquarian full moon rising over the treetops. This pic doesn’t come close to doing it justice:
We enjoyed a fire in our Flame Genie:
Hans had heard about the Kirwin Ghost Town when we were in Cody earlier this summer. We love ghost towns and were excited to see this one. It is the best preserved ghost town that I have ever been to thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, the Mellon Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service and the Abandoned Mines Land Division to preserve this place out of time.
With our tetanus shots up to date, we set out for adventure exploring the old buildings from a bygone era!
It is well off the beaten path. We turned off Highway 290 and continued another 10 miles and found our campsite. When we left our campsite this morning, it was another 8 miles to the Kirwin Trailhead.
If you attempt to go back to Kirwin, you definitely need a 4 wheel drive vehicle or an ATV. This is best attempted in late summer as there are two water crossings. In fact, the road is water in one part of the approach.
William Kirwin and Harry Adams found gold while prospecting in 1885, but it wasn’t until the Shoshone Mining and Development Company of Kirwin was formed in 1904 that Kirwin became a busy place.
From 1904-1907, there were 200 miners and their families and 28 buildings in Kirwin. These included a hotel, two general stores, a post office, a sawmill, headquarters building and various buildings to house and feed the miners.
Oddly enough for a bustling old west mining town, there wasn’t a bar or a brothel. Maybe it was too inaccessible? After all, the railway never reached Kirwin. There was stage coach service 28 miles one way to Meeteetse every other day, but I can’t help but think that must have been seasonal with the treacherous river crossings and the large amount of snow that fell in the winter.
Or maybe there were some morally upstanding miners in Kirwin. Legend has it that there was briefly a palmist named Luciel in town, but word got out that she would offered more services than just palm readings and she was asked to leave town.
Or maybe there just wasn’t enough money to attract women and whiskey vendors. After all, Kirwin’s investors put in much more money than they ever got out of Kirwin. There was iron ore, and there was gold, but it was not enough gold to make it a profitable venture.
And life, quite frankly, looked like it would be very cold and hard much of the time here.
Plus, it was very isolated and treacherous as it was nestled amongst 12,000 foot mountains. When a huge avalanche engulfed Tewksbury’s Store, everyone abandoned Kirwin at that point.
In the years that followed, people tried repeatedly to reopen the mine, but nothing lasted.
This was the old headquarters building:
This was the mill and some equipment inside:I think this was perhaps a messhall:I love looking at the old nails and materials used to construct these buildings.
In 1931, Carl Dunrad purchased an old mine from the widow of a miner named Henry Schnitzel. Dunrad hit pay dirt in the form of a dude ranch. Dude ranches were very popular then. People from “back east” would pay to come stay and “play cowboy” for a few months and live the romance of the Wild West. Dunrad opened the the Double D Dude Ranch and entertained clientele such as Amelia Earhart in 1934.
Earhart was so taken with the area that she asked Dunrad to build her a cabin in this beautiful place. He stopped work on the cabin after she went missing during her attempt to circumnavigate the world solo later that year.
The buildings were solid construction of stone, cement and lumber. There was even a pool fed by water piped in from a spring nearby. And it was a very peaceful place. The U.S. Forest Service has done a great job of preserving this beautiful place.
The main house:
The cabins and a privy:
Not sure what this was, but I think it related to mining somehow because this looks like a hydraulic operation of some sort. There are also signs above although the writing on them has long ago faded:
There was a stable with wooden saddle horses:
If you dig ghost towns, definitely out this one on your list. Just bring your 4×4 vehicle and your bear spray!

One Year In

June marked a year since we set out from the ranch in Texas and truly commenced on our full-time RV living adventure.

We have learned so much about our new way-of-life and how we operate in this new realm.

One thing we have learned is that we need so much less than we thought we did. Although the back of our truck may say something different. We took time out at our friends the Marshes house in Montrose, CO, to empty the back and reorganize/reevaluate our gear. We had a decent sized donation pile afterwards and left our donations at the Salvation Army.

Even so, I would say that we could easily cut our stuff down by half again and possibly move into a more mobile and versatile unit such as a truck camper or a conversion van. A 250 square foot travel trailer seems like the height of luxury these days.

I had this affirmed for me when we stored our trailer, and I set out on a month-long journey. With the help of 2 space-saver bags from Dollar Tree, I managed to get enough clothes for 9 days of work, a beach vacation, a visit to my parents’ ranch in Texas and my semi-formal Anniversary Banquet at Southwest Airlines all into my 21-inch roll aboard that I use for work. I didn’t even have it expanded out (at least until the last flight back to the home-sweet-trailer).

I didn’t feel like I was doing without or that I had forgotten anything. Having access to a washing machine in all the places I stayed, did help. I did do a couple of panty wash outs in the sink.

Another quirk in our personalities that I have begun to embrace is that, even though I used to plan our lives for months out when we lived in a stick and brick is that, in this nomadic lifestyle, we are loathe to commit to anything. We do not know what we are doing until we are doing it. And I love it! It feels good to live loose and carefree!

Something that we began to realize as we began to stay longer in some places, is how limited we were by our resources. We figured out a hack for our freshwater which was to tote collapsible 5 gallon containers of water back with us and refill our tank.

With our gray water, we use biodegradable dish and shower soaps such as Campsuds and all Seventh Generation products, so we could usually let it go wherever.

However, our black tank would fill up after about a week. Sometimes we could stretch it longer if we were out a lot and not using our RV toilet. But inevitably, we would have to break camp to dump our black tank or use our Blue Boy tank to dump it which was gross, scary (as lifting a 180 pound fully loaded tank of sewage into the back of the pick up was suspenseful in a very bad way) and not convenient.

So, to celebrate our year anniversary of the full-time RV living lifestyle, we acquired an Airhead Composting Toilet! https://airheadtoilet.com

This solves our problem with waste disposal as the composting toilet can go weeks before it must be emptied and, when it is time to empty it, you simply discard the “dirt” into a composting bag and discard it into a trash can. Then, you refill the chamber with more moistened coconut hulls to start the process over again with a new batch. The urine gets diverted into the black tank and can go a long time before being emptied. Also, it is more sanitary as urine alone is sterile. When it mixes with number 2, it becomes “sewage”.

A composting toilet is also better for the environment because it uses less water.

While I was in Texas visiting my Mother and attending the Southwest Airlines anniversary party, Hans went to Montrose, CO, to his friend of 30 years, Wayne Marsh, and enlisted Wayne’s help and his shop in order to make the modifications (it took a LOT of modifications, but so worth it) to install the toilet.

I came back to a fully functioning composting toilet with the addition of a bidet. (The first time I ever went to France when I was 17, I was fascinated by bidets and resolved to someday have one. I just never realized my wildest dreams would come true in the toilet of my camper!)The bidet!

I have to say that the composting toilet is even better than I thought it could be. It strangely doesn’t smell AT ALL… even less than our original porcelain toilet.

The price tag is high on the composting toilet, over $1000, but thanks to my mother-in-law, Patricia, we are proudly perched on our new throne. She did something nice for Hans’ sister, and she believes in being fair, so she wanted to do something for him and he chose the toilet for us!

Hans making some mods:

This brings me to another thing that we have learned about ourselves. Somehow, some way, everything that we need is provided for us when we need it. The Universe Has Our Backs. Gabby Bernstein apparently wrote a whole book about this concept, aptly titled, “The Universe Has Your Back”.

Our beloved Arctic Fox 25Y was manifested out of the blue when we happened to find a used one only an hour away and at the right price when we were ready for it. This, despite the fact that I could only find 3 used ones in the country, and they were all thousands of miles away.

From month to month, I used to wonder how things would pan out. Would we be able to “clear our boards” and not have to commute back to Denver to work? Did we manage to work enough to cover our expenses? But I have ceased to worry about these things as apparently, things manage to work for us, even when we aren’t sure at the moment how this will manifest.

I don’t understand it, but I do believe it! And I believe this probably operates for all of us, but we have to give it SPACE TO HAPPEN for it to work it’s “magic”.

When we simplified and slowed down, we created the space to let the magic happen.