Ghosts of California
Mention cities or towns in California and you probably think of Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego. There are of course probably hundreds of other smaller cities and towns. It might surprise you however that there are also many ghost towns – approximately 250 of varying sizes. But where once there may have been a thriving community, all that now remains are derelict buildings and some rusting vehicles and machinery.
With names like Grub Gulch, Coyote Lake and Lost Horse Mine, the majority are in such remote areas – often near mountains where people once sought gold – that they are rarely visited. There are some however which have been preserved to a certain degree to allow visitors a unique insight into life in the American West from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century and perhaps the best example of this is Bodie.
Bodie was our main stop on our way from Mammoth Lakes to Lake Tahoe. After a short break at Mono Lake we arrived to enjoy our delicious sandwiches from Schat’s Bakery with a view of Bodie’s church.
How to get to Bodie
During our 2015 ‘ honeymoon road trip’ through California we were fortunate enough to be passing close to Bodie whilst heading north to Lake Tahoe. Dating back to around 1860, Bodie is now a town frozen in time in a “state of arrested decay” and receives around 200,000 visitors each year. Bodie is located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in Central California. Take US Highway 395 to State Highway 270 just north of Lee Vining and drive 10 miles east until you reach a dirt road for the remaining 3 miles – they really want to make you work to get there. For a dirt road it wasn’t bad though, plus it all added to the feeling of going somewhere remote and off the beaten track! When you arrive you have to pay an admission charge of about $5 per person. If there is nobody to take your money, it will have to be put into an envelope and posted through the door of the hut at the entrance, along with your vehicle registration details.
History of Bodie
From small beginnings, Bodie quickly grew to having about 2,000 buildings and 10,000 inhabitants by 1880. It was a colourful and somewhat dangerous place, to say the least, with brothels and frequent shootings in its 65 saloons! As with many towns in the Wild West, people were drawn to it by the discovery of gold and silver deposits in the surrounding mountains. It’s heyday didn’t last long however, as the once profitable mines started to close. By 1910, its population had shrunk to 700 and by 1943, the population was 3! In 1962, the town became Bodie State Historical Park and today it remains a popular attraction with visitors keen to wander around its 110 remaining buildings.
The interiors were spooky but also strangely beautiful. The exteriors with their gorgeous textures made the perfect setting for some of our favourite photos of our entire collection.
Our visit on a warm afternoon began with one of our favourite activities … eating! We had left beautiful Mammoth Lakes mid-morning. But not before paying a visit to the unforgettable Dutch bakery Schat’s Bakery & Café for monster sandwiches to bring along with us. After a brief stop to appreciate the beauty of Mono Lake, we drove onto Bodie. Having parked, we headed to find somewhere with a nice view to sit and eat. From the bottom of a spectacular waterfall the day before to a historic ghost town the following day – we were really finding some unique picnic spots! The town has a small gift shop, which also contains some artefacts and photos and it is also where you can arrange to go on one of the guided tours. You can also buy a map to ‘self guide’ yourself around the town. We enjoyed just wandering around the buildings and taking photos for nearly three hours. Some structures aren’t safe to enter, but you can usually still see inside them. It’s surreal to see shoes and children’s toys lying on the floor inside some homes. One house had a kitchen still with pots on the stove and plates on the table, as though they were abandoned in a hurry and people just left so many of their belongings behind. As well as the buildings, there were also some rusting vehicles and wagons. There was even a large sledge, which would have been horse drawn and which was evidence of the long harsh winters the inhabitants would have endured.
There is apparently a curse that if you take anything from the town as a souvenir, then you will meet a terrible fate! We chose not to test this curse. But as it turned out , Nigel did leave Bodie with something….bites! Martha clearly wasn’t the only one who thought he was delicious and the local fly population feasted on him!
Our visit to Bodie was certainly a unique experience for both of us and we frequently revisit our afternoon there by looking at our photos which we hope you also enjoy.
Martha playing actress yet again. Nigel was clicking away for nearly three hours.
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