I first heard of the town of Centralia while reading Bill Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods. I was immediately intrigued with the story of a modern day ghost town in the highly populated northeast due to environmental damage. In 1962 firemen were burning trash in a neighborhood dump and thought they had put the fire out, but in a moment of thoughtlessness that had generational consequences had not quite put it out and instead ignited anthracite coal beneath the surface. Despite repeated attempts to put it out, nothing worked. Anthracite coal has the capacity to burn for hundreds of years. In 1981 a 12-year old boy named Todd Domboski was playing in his grandmother's yard when a burning sinkhole opened up. He was fortunately rescued but after that people were relocated. There are only a few homes left in the area.
It has become a popular "under the radar" tourist attraction There are no bathrooms, no stores, no hotels. There is actually not much to see at all – nothing is there anymore but empty streets. But I saw a lot. Though I came expecting a sense of devastation, I felt instead a sense of peace. Some vegetation was dying, other vegetation was a bright spring green. Nature was taking the land back from the humans had mishandled it. While it was no longer livable for us with toxic gases and sinkholes under the surface of a serene, if randomly charred surface. I got the feeling that just not having people there anymore was giving the landscape a chance to recover.