There’s one place I’ve wanted to visit for the longest time, that place is Bodie Ghost Town. Located northeast of Yosemite and just 13 miles off of California’s SR 395, Bodie is a bonafied gold mining ghost town. Waterman S. Body hit paydirt in the hills north of Mono Lake in 1875 when a mine collapsed and revealed a large quanity of gold. By 1879, Bodie had become a bustling boomtown of 8,500 people and 2,000 structures. However, the boom was short lived, by 1881 Bodie was in decline. With the mines depleted and the mining companies going belly up, residents started to look elsewhere for their fortunes. In it’s heyday, though, Bodie was quite the wild and lawless town!
After two fires destroyed all but about 10% of the town, Bodie became a ghost town in the 1940s. What was left there is now preserved in a state of what they call “arrested decay”. In the 1960s, the site became a state historic park. It totally amazes me that so much of this town, now more than 100 years old, survived at all. I had heard so much about this place, I couldn’t wait to get there and see it for myself!
I planned a day in Bodie Ghost Town during a summer road trip. I had stayed in Bridgeport, just 7 miles north of Bodie Road, the night before and was looking forward to getting to Bodie bright and early in the morning. You can imagine my disappointment when I woke up at 5am to the sound of thunder, lightning and pouring rain. I was concerned that I might not be able to make it down the last 3 miles of Bodie Road, which is a rutted dirt road through the hills. Ah! But, by 7am the storm had passed leaving big puffy clouds behind. I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out to see the town.
Walking through Bodie, I felt like I had gotten in the Delorean and gone back in time. The fact that this place sits alone in the hills lends to the illusion of being in the old west. My very favorite part of Bodie was peering in through all the windows and seeing the building interiors, which have been preserved just as they were left. I spent the majority of my time in Bodie pressing the lens of my camera up against the windows in an attempt to capture the treasures inside. One of my favorite buildings, The Boone Store, still looks as if it could reopen any day. The shelves are still stocked and, if you look closely, you’ll find brands you recognize.
I found the Wheaton and Hollis Hotel kitchen interesting. Something about it just felt lived in and abandoned at the same time. It’s like the people just disappeared, there was no packing up or doing the dishes. It’s like they took nothing with them or even locked the doors on the way out. I loved the intricate patterns on the walls that ran through several rooms of the hotel.
The school house still sits in a state of suspended animation, events still written on the black board and books on the desk. I do have to wonder tho, if the writing is original. I know they say everything is as it was. Still, how long does chalk on a black board last? Did they ever have that potluck dinner? If so, why didn’t the teacher erase the board? So many questions! Still, a very cool glimpse into daily life in Bodie.
The town church is one of the few buildings that you can actually go inside. I apparently watched too much Little House on The Prairie when I was a kid, since when I visited I could picture the Reverend Alden preaching a sermon here. This is one of the busiest spots in town today. I waited quite a long time to capture the church without people, it was so worth it. This photo of the church is one of my very favorites from my visit.
With a fresh storm on the horizon, I decide to head on down the road earlier than I would have liked. I bid farewell to Bodie, but I will definitely be back! There is so much to see here! I head back down Bodie road and just as I hit the highway, the sky opens up! Rain, thunder, lightning and even hail has arrived. I’m thankful for the time I got to spend in this awesome place, and even for the storm that produced the beautiful sky while I was there. Thanks Bodie! See you again soon!
Getting there ~ Bodie is located just north of Mono Lake off of Hwy 395. Bodie road is paved the first 10 miles, the remaining 3 miles is a well maintained dirt road and is accessible by passenger car. Get there early, the park opens at 9am and there was a long line of cars already waiting when I arrived. Admission is $5/adults, $3/Children (1-17) and kids under 1 are free. Take a jacket as it can get quite windy here. Be sure to check out the Stamp Mill Tour, available for an additional fee.
Road Trip ~ Take a long weekend and take in Yosemite and Mono Lake. Yosemite, Mono Lake and Bodie are so close together that it’s the perfect long weekend road trip. Lodging/Camping can be found in Yosemite, Lee Vining and Bridgeport.
For more images from this trip, check out my gallery.