In the shadow of the eastern Sierra Nevada, squatting in the barren hills between Lee Vining and Hawthorne, is the ghost of the town of Bodie, California. Once the home of 10,000 miners, gamblers, townspeople, and ruffians, Bodie today is a silent wood and brick monument to the American west.
The barren hills around Bodie are dotted with sagebrush and abandoned mines. Gold and silver made Bodie, and the end of the main streak of gold killed Bodie. But during its heyday in the late 1800’s Bodie was the exemplary gold strike town, with booms and busts, sudden riches and sudden death. It was the town that made men rich and made them poor, and held a gunfight nearly every day of its existence. Bodie’s best days were short – from 1879 to 1882. The boom ended, but there was still some mining to be done; the population of the town fell to around 2,000 and was around 700 to 1000 in the 1890’s. Bodie didn’t die till 1914 when all mining stopped for the duration of World War 1.
(Excerpt from the book: Desert Dancing by Len Wilcox)
The journey to photograph this quaint little ghost town, was quite an adventure. The park closes pretty early (I believe around 1pm), so the earlier we could get there, the better, and knowing it was a 5hr drive, we decided to leave at about 3am, in hope of arriving between 9-10am. We figured we’d have a good 3hrs to take our time, walking around and taking pics. Well boy were we wrong!
We were making great time, until we came upon a road block near Tuolumne just as we approached Yosemite. It was blocked off, due to an expected snow storm. Being from the Bay Area, I was not aware that in April it could still possibly be snowing up in the mountains. The road block was perfect timing for a potty break and a change of clothes (out of our pajamas lol) at the Ranger’s Station. After speaking with the ranger about an alternative route, we were told the only way to reach Bodie would be to backtrack about 2hrs and head up toward Truckee and Reno, to make our way back down 395. This detour would make the time we’d arrive at Bodie, fairly close to when it closes. We thought about it, and decided to chance it anyway, because of how far we’d already come!
We stretched, got some morning snacks and headed back out…determined to reach Bodie before it closed. As we headed up the mountain toward Truckee, the snow started to fall, and slowly started to fall a little bit heavier and heavier. We pulled over at Donner Summit Ski Resort for another potty break and then got back on the road. By this time, the snow fall had increased considerably and visibility seemed to be dropping quite rapidly. Now keep in mind, I’m from the Bay Area – born and raised and I’ve only touched snow ONCE in my whole life lol. So I was a tad bit terrified to find myself driving directly through a snow storm – in a lexus to top it off. I think I might have been a little less scared if I was in an SUV or something meant for off road terrain. Anywho…the snow really started coming down and I couldn’t see but a few feet in front of the car…it was definitely knuckle clenching weather to be driving in. Luckily we survived 🙂 as we came through the mountains and back into California, down onto 395 the bad weather subsided and we were relieved to be within an hour or so of Bodie. I think it was almost noon when we finally arived.
It was breathtaking to lay my eyes upon this little abandoned ghost town, that has been in a state of “arrested decay” since its last resident left in 1942. Truly awesome!!! Here are a few photos from my trip…