After hanging around June Lake for a few days we decided to head over to the ghost town of Bodie, which has been a State Park since the early 1960’s. It had been over 10 years since our last visit so it was time to seen if it had changed and if the State had done anything stupid in managing it.
A Little History & Some Facts
Gold was discovered around 1859. In the late 1870’s richer discoveries of gold were discovered and for the next 10 years or so Bodie was a gold boom town with a population that grew to about 10,000 people and over 2,000 buildings. The main street was over a mile long. Bodie had its usual share of wild west characters… the good and the bad. Shootings, drunkeness, and prostitution were common.
As the gold ran out the town declined. By 1915, the people who remained stayed because they liked Bodie. I can understand that!
Today there are around 100 buildings still standing. Most buildings were destroyed in two fires; in 1892 and 1932.
Bodie was one of the first towns to generate hydroelectric power. A plant was constructed near Bridgeport, CA and lines carrying alternating current were run the 13 miles to Bodie. This was completed in 1893.
In 1962 the State of California gained ownership of the town and turned it into a state park. The State manages the park is what they describe as a state of “arrested decay.” This means everything is left in the buildings as-is. Should foundations, roofs, or other structure problems arise, those are repaired or replace to preserve the building. A few building interiors can be visited, but most buildings are closed and visitors can usually see inside through windows.
Bodie has been jeopardized by State budget cuts and was scheduled to be closed in 2009 and 2010, but remains open due in part to funding from the Bodie Foundation, which now administers the park. This is good and bad. The good is the work the foundation does to preserve the park via fundraising; the bad is that Foundations tend to turn our public places into amusement parks. We shall see how the foundations does.
Bodie sits in a wind-blown valley with no protection from weather. There are no trees to act as wind-breaks. In winter 100 mph winds and 20 feet of snow is not uncommon. Bodie averages more sub 0 (F) days than any other town in the continental United States. Those who lived and survived in Bodie were hardy folk!
Hwy 270 (off of Hwy 395) takes you to Bodie. The junction is located between the Eastern Sierra towns of Lee Vining and Bridgeport. There first 10 miles of 270 is paved, the last 3 miles are dirt road.
Turning onto 270 I was a little concerned. The road was newly paved. Why would we spend money to pave a remote road that benefits a few ranchers along this road and eventually leads to Bodie? I was also concerned that some road-building bureaucrat had decided to run the road all the was to Bodie. Soon we hit the dirt road. Good news. The dirt road is wide enough for two vehicles with many gentle curves. Too much traffic and there is considerable dust. That’s okay, lets keep the dirt road.
Arriving in the parking area I overhead a couple complaining about the road wondering why “somebody” doesn’t do something about it. Sheez! 10,000 people lived in one of the most ever climates in the lower 48, and they can’t deal with 3 miles of well maintained dirt.
My worst fears immediately were confirmed. Bodie is becoming an amusement park. Workers were busy construction a new building next to a cement walkway.
A FEAKIN’ Walkway! Can’t people walk the short distance to what is left? What’s next — paving all the streets so fat, lazy people can quickly drive through Bodie without getting out of their climate controlled sedans? What happened to “arrested decay?” This is why I fear organizations that call themselves “foundations.”
Oh well. Here are some pictures. Among the buildings you can see homes, churches, a school, the union hall, barns, stores, artifacts, etc.
Scroll down to the bottom to read about our adventure out of Bodie.
Leaving the parking lot I decided to turn right on a dirt road, instead of left to the park exit. Soon there was a sign saying, “Nevada 6 Miles.”
Holy Moly. Adventure time! So we took the less travel road, which is more aptly described as deserted.
Soon we hit the state line. Other than a warning sign and some sort of ancient monument, there was no indication that we were entering Nevada, other than the fact the road was getting worse or better depending upon your point of view.
“Minimum Maintained Road. 4WD Only. Travel At Own Risk.”
Well, we only have a 2WD, but are not risk adverse. So we continued on.
Above is a picture of the remnants of a border monument.
The road descended into a canyon. And each mile the road got narrower and worse (rougher) or better. You decide.
Here is one of a couple of ancient wooden bridges that don’t look safe, but what the heck, we are on an adventure. Remember?
I don’t know how I do it, but I found a trail and water.
Eventually the road became too difficult and sandy for our 2WD vehicle. Took a couple more miles of travel to find a spot to turn around. But we did it. All in all an afternoon well spent after leaving Bodie.
When we got back to Bodie an afternoon thunderstorm rolled. Typical for this part of the country. Blue skies during the day, rain in the afternoon. We enjoyed it.