The Government Is Looking for Anyone to Stay in This Creepy Ghost Town… for Free

You'll want to read about this recent opportunity to live in a Montana ghost town for a month, with no electricity or indoor plumbing, and groceries to pay for. It seems that there was a lot of interest in this chance to live in an off-grid house or wood cabin offered by Missoula’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management office, who are still shaking their heads at the monumental response to their request for a volunteer resident at the Garnet Ghost Town. A Missoulian story about the vacancy was initially posted online, and the calls came in almost immediately. And the Garnet Ghost Town Ranger Nacoma Gainan said that the next morning he already had 130 emails and he didn’t know how many phone calls. The phone was ringing off the hook all morning after the vacancy was posted. They were getting inquiries from South Africa, China, Germany, the United Kingdom, and all over the country. There were more out-of-state people inquiring about the off-grid house than Montanans calling.

Garnet was founded in the 1860s by miners who were looking for gold and silver. At when Garnet boomed, it was home to about 1,000 people. Its last gasp at gold and silver mining occurred in the 1930s, although some small mining claims are still being worked in the area today. Over the years, preservationists helped to restore many of the town’s buildings, including the Miners Union hall, several residences and Kelly’s Saloon. The volunteers get to live in one of the restored wood cabins, which has propane heat and refrigeration, but no electricity or running water. Some callers for the position assumed that the position was like an artist’s residency and failed to notice the bits about giving tours and maintaining the ghost town’s facilities. Others heard about the mandatory background check and quickly said no to the position.

For much of the past decade, the Bureau of Land Management has had a few regular summer volunteers who have spent a month keeping watch on Garnet. But last fall, some of those regular people said they wouldn’t be available, as well as the Garnet ranger position at that same time changed hands. When spring came along, and the positions weren’t already filled, the agency put out the call for new some volunteers. They had a stable system, then all of a sudden, nothing. They were in a bind but didn't expect the response to be so overwhelming. And the avalanche of interest in the opportunity provided a lot of suitable candidates, so much that the search is now officially closed. However, anyone who is still intrigued by Garnet Ghost Town might still consider volunteering for the Garnet Preservation Association board of directors. It’s primitive, and for people who love the outdoors and want to give back to nature. There’s no Wifi, no electricity, and no running water. But there are trails to hike and explore, and artifacts to inspect. Volunteers for this position are really left to their own devices after the visitors are gone. The positions usually last a month or more at the remote mining village east of Missoula in the Garnet Mountains. In the past, one volunteer who was from Buffalo, New York, spent 11 consecutive summers at Garnet, while another couple made Garnet their summer plan for a decade. This year, however, the calendar for Garnet is open for August and September.

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