Holiday means field trip!
I’m not sure I’d suggest this as a destination, but if you are driving between Reno and Winnemucca, this stop in Imlay, a tiny census-designated place, is a MUST-SEE for members of the Quirky Berkeley tribe. It is a five-acre compound on the south side of the interstate. Exit 145. GO!
Frank Van Zant was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, in 1921. In the late 1960s he came to Imlay and began to build what today is known as the Thunder Mountain Monument. He assumed the name Chief Rolling Thunder, citing his Creek heritage.
For about 20 years he built structures and walls and sculptures honoring native American Indians, a self-made world or visionary folk art environment. He came with a wife and children. They left. The world came to his door to see his genius. The world then stopped coming. His wife and children left.
He took his life at Thunder Mountain in 1989. His son Frank does his best to keep it up. He has a good website about it. But it is not kind out here. Hard to keep it up.
There are several more less separate areas to the monument. At the east end is a walled-in area that includes a playground and the remains of a hostel.
At almost the eastern edge is a playground. Or – was a playground.
Through a portal are the remains of a hostel.
This photograph of a photograph at the monument shows Chief Thunder Mountain standing in front of the hostel, a popular destination for hippies and spiritual wanderers in the 1960s and 1970s.
Today, not so much – only ruins after a fire.
Ocular proof that I was there:
And then the main event – the house. It is fenced off, but these photos don’t give that impression. There are stunning photos of the interior posted on the Thunder Mountain Monument website – no way to get in for the general public now. The exterior – concrete and words and rocks and found objects and bottles and sculptures and exoskeletal architectural flourishes.
Each of these photos is stunning. I don’t try to order them logically – so just go with the flow.
I have mentioned that it was hot and dusty and windy. Fairly desolate. And then this. Brilliant, genius, obsessive, doomed. The wind felt like a wind of change.
My friend spent a long time with the photos. He had heard of Thunder Mountain from Gabby who stopped there in 1970 driving across the country from Philadelphia to Salinas, but he had never been. My friend keeps a journal of places he wants to go. He added Thunder Mountain to the list.
What about the post?