My Travel Map

My Travel Map

31 January 2016

Bodie, California

For any of you that like Country Westerns... this is a post (and destination) for you: Bodie Ghost Town.   And here is a challenge for you too: if I've truly done my photography job well, then this should be a true ghost town experience (if you find any people in these pictures, please let me know!).

Welcome to the town of Bodie, Mono County, California, USA.

The town as seen from a distance; it's just like you've traveled back in time.  The site is well preserved, and there is nothing of modern civilization in the visible vicinity... even the parking lot is far off, allowing for perfect picture opportunities of a town lost to time.

Bodie was first and foremost a mining town...  and the pockmark scars all over the surrounding hills are a telltale sign of this history.  Bodie was a product of the famed California Gold Rush of the late 1800s, but it endured into the mid 20th century.  And by the end of World War II, Bodie was essentially abandoned.

Speaking of abandonment, it seems like it may have been a bit of a lonely life out there...  and the climate wasn't very helpful in that aspect.  During the warmer months of the year, Bodie is basically a high altitude desert.  During the colder months, it is a cold and snowy wasteland.  Actually, it is cold year round: Bodie competes with Barrow, Alaska for most nights below freezing out of the year.  Yea, you heard that right, a town in California competes with Alaska for total number of cold nights.  Add to that frequent likelihood of hurricane force winds, and you have yourself a pretty ugly place for humans to settle down.  Oh the things we will do for gold.

Wandering around, you really do feel as if you're in an old western.  It's almost as if you should be riding a horse and wearing a six shooter Smith and Wesson on your hip.

Bodie was a mining boom town during the late 1870s.  By 1880, Bodie was at its peak, with a population of thousands and a thriving red light district and opium dens in its very own Chinatown.  Within only a few years however, the hills had been mostly tapped of their gold, and the long and slow decline of Bodie started.

The level of preservation is quite incredible... nothing feels like a ruin really; it's more like something that was abruptly abandoned en masse.  It would be nice if more historic sites had this feel about them, but I'm sure that has a lot to do with how long Bodie has been uninhabited: less than 80 years.

The old miners union hall has been turned into a museum where a lot of the smaller, everyday life artifacts are left.  This showcase focused on the lives of miners.

The town itself has all of the basic features of a typical town...

First of all: houses and living.  The houses seem to be sprinkled here and there around town, with some of the obviously more wealthy establishments located higher up the hill and across the valley from the mine, allowing fine views over the town center and being far enough from the mine to not be bothered by some of the loud noise that surely would have emanated from it in operation.  Some of the shabbier dwellings over by the mine seemed to be a lot less spacious and definitely not as well constructed (no picture perfect front porches on those for sure).

Inside one of the nicer homes.  Like I said, there was a lot more space in these places compared to the ones below closer to the mine.  This was probably the house of a local politician, banker, or manager, while the other houses were likely those of the miners, teachers, and small business owners. Typical white-collar vs. blue-collar... nothing ever really changes.  Anyway, the cast iron furnace here would have been key to living in Bodie; with such cold temperatures, I'm sure many would have huddled around those furnaces wrapped in blankets during the colder days and nights.

I just loved the old school house.  These maps were amazing, especially the Europe one that was up front... this map was from pre-WWII, and that was incredibly clear.  For example, Libya was labeled Tripolitania, Ukraine and Belarus were lumped in with Russia, from what I can tell, there is no Croatia or Slovenia labeled, and the borders of Czechoslovakia, Serbia, Poland, and Germany are all quite different than their modern incarnations.  I really love maps.  Anyway, looking into the old school house, it is easy to imagine the youth of Bodie sitting and learning their multiplication tables and world geography and verb conjugation from their overworked and probably harshly strict and disciplined teacher.

Bodie's gas station... which was apparently operated by Shell.  Note the bullet holes in the sign too, let alone the fact that it was obviously hand painted.   And check out those pumps too... amazing.  The beautiful old truck (apparently a Dodge Graham) pulled up to it is a nice touch too.

Bodie even had its own version of the modern coffee shop in the general store.

Back in the museum at the old miner's union hall, Bodie shows why it really is any history enthusiast's dream.

There are plenty of random artifacts scattered around outside too, like this old stove.

This area had a bunch of old working tools... I wonder how this compares to older archaeological sites.  I'm guessing that archaeologists often find artifacts grouped by type like this, whether they be tools like this outside of a workshop or weapons around an old barracks.

This old truck just fit in so well out there.  Supposedly, it's a 1937 Chevy coupe.

As with pretty much any American town, there was of course a church.  This is a Methodist church.

A view inside the church... check out the little organ.  I'm not really getting the phrase above the altar... praise is waiting for God in Zion???

Also standard in any American town, the bar.  Why it has a cow bone on the bar, I don't know.  I'm sure this place witnessed some interesting characters and events.

The bar was also home to the town's post office.  I guess that shows you how important the local watering hole was to the town residents.

Bodie even had a gym, which also served beer.

This town is really incredible.

And a portrait of the artist.. I think the only person in this post.

And just a couple shots from Alabama Hills, where we stopped for the night on the drive up.

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