Soulful Travel: Wingo, California

Wingo, California, Sonoma County’s Ghost Town, photographed by @chrisjkam

Traveling mindfully to Sonoma County allows us to have experiences that can be savored in a place focused on and long-committed to preservation and sustainability.

Here, we help you have that experience in Wingo, California – Sonoma County’s own ghost town.

A Ghost Story

“Seek and ye shall find,” goes the old proverb. Knock and the door will be opened. Travel to a ghost town, and you might just hear whisperings from beyond.

To stand in what feels like the middle of nowhere among buildings that once pulsed with activity but have now been vacated for a very long time is certainly eerie, and not an experience you can find just anywhere. A mysterious miasma seems to float around you as if you’ve stumbled onto a supernatural movie set. Except that it’s not a movie, it’s real.

Wingo is Sonoma County’s own veritable “ghost town.” Built during the 19th-century Gold Rush era as a stop for steamships and later a railroad stop, it “died out,” one might say, under somewhat clouded circumstances. But several edifices still stand, albeit in silence. To hear them speak, you’ll have to engage the magical workings of your imagination

Wingo, California, Sonoma County’s Ghost Town, photographed by @chrisjkam
Wingo, California, Sonoma County’s Ghost Town, photographed by @chrisjkam

Although it’s a ghost town from the distant past, Wingo, California, can be found on the technological platform of Google Maps, not to mention Wikipedia. It can also be found in real life, for Wingo is publicly accessible, though in keeping with the nature of a ghost town, getting there is somewhere between quirky and well-nigh impossible. A short drive from Sonoma’s historic town square takes you to Millerick Road and the Larson Family Winery, where it becomes a rustic, one-lane thoroughfare flanked by tall creekside hedges on one side and vineyards on the other. True to the ghost town spirit, this road alternates between gravel, dirt and rocks before reaching a “dead end” in a marshy field. From there, it’s just a one-mile walk to Wingo, though when a heavy rain season floods the marshland, the road is blocked and ghost-seekers must hike from the winery. When they reach the grassy marshes along Sonoma Creek, they may find the area flooded with Wingo looming silently beyond the waters like an ancestral mansion in a tale by Edgar Allan Poe.

But if conditions are favorable and you make it to Wingo, you won’t find a Wild West ghost town like in the movies, complete with a swivel-doored saloon. Just a few structures put the “town” in ghost town. As for the ghost part, what secrets might the former citizens of Wingo reveal from beyond the grave?

Wingo, California. Photo by @chrisjkam
Wingo, California. Photo by @chrisjkam

People throughout the world have envisioned the souls of the departed as ghosts, and Hollywood never tires of generating ghost stories because the afterlife is the great mystery no metaphysic has ever fully penetrated. Around the time Wingo was being constructed, three young ladies known as the Fox Sisters in New York helped popularize the concept of Spiritualism, or the belief that one can communicate with those departed. For the next 80 years or so – while Wingo, California, bloomed and faded – Spiritualism became a fashionably sophisticated party pastime in what became known as seances.

But if Wingo’s departed souls could speak, they would reveal something not supernatural but natural – as in the immutable and invisible laws that govern the universe. The “secret” they would reveal is the plain truth so deeply interwoven into reality that you can’t even see it, like asking a fish what water is. “Water?” it would surely reply. “What’s that?”

Seasons change. Babies are born. People pass on. Galaxies spin and merge, absorbing and morphing the same as microscopic amoebas. Everything in the cosmos obeys the same law, and that law is eternal change. Our lives are like chapters filling an adventure novel; when one chapter in it closes, another commences. You could say these chapters are like towns that once thrived, and when their part of the plot was over, they lived on in memory as ghost towns. Carried away by the moment-to-moment rhythm of life, we lose sight of the big picture, and the lesson that nothing in life is forever is admittedly a difficult one to accept.

But while nothing in life is forever, things that are beyond life are forever, such as that realm of immutable laws the ghosts of Wingo whispered about in the fertile field of your imagination.

Wingo, California. Photo by @chrisjkam
Wingo, California. Photo by @chrisjkam

When one door closes, another one opens. And when one town goes the way of ghosts, another one is clamoring with construction, and there might just be a job waiting for you. The secret to running a business through all the ups and downs, to being an artist who never runs out of fresh ideas, or to enjoying a lifelong marriage that constantly renews itself, is to identify not with the transient things in life that come and go, but with the primordial creative energy that drives them. Every town that was ever built, and everything you’ve ever done in your life, began as an idea in the imagination that became loaded with energy, until it finally burst forth into manifestation on the physical plane, there to eke out its lifespan, long or short depending on its nature and the amount of energy put into it.

The power of Wingo’s assemblage of abandoned buildings – the spirit that animates Sonoma County’s own little ghost town – is the power to inspire deep introspection, to allow ourselves to become haunted by our own primordial creative energy and the limitless possibilities of what we might do with it. Like a blithe spirit with an eagle eye, we soar above the rise and fall of Wingo with an eye not on the mundane, but the process behind it all. “Put not your faith in all that which is destined for dust,” the ghosts seem to say as we bid Wingo goodbye and hike off into the sunset, “but in the energy that blows the dust in the wind.”

Now that’s a ghost story with a happy ending.

Other Soulful Adventures 

This trip to Wingo, California is just one of a series on soulful travel. For other experiences, visit our Soulful Travel page

Remember the Leave No Trace Principles

Experiencing our destination through the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Seven Principles gives travelers an opportunity to make a difference. Together, we can protect and preserve this special corner of the world for generations to come. Find more info about sustainable travel in Sonoma County here.

For a list of local businesses helping promote the important message of Leave No Trace, click here.

Written by Christian Chensvold

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