Archive for June, 2011

“Goodbye God, We Are Going to Bodie.”

Posted in Boyhood, History on June 13, 2011 by Thomas N. Schenden

One way to add depth to your travels is to mix in some history, and the ghost towns of the Old West are ideal destinations for motorists and armchair adventurers.

Bodie, one of California’s best preserved and most authentic ghost towns, sits on the edge of the Nevada border, just an hour north of Mammoth. This abandoned 1880s mining town was declared a California State Historic Park in 1962 and since then has been maintained in what is famously called a state of “arrested decay.” You won’t see any painting or renovating going on in Bodie. In this remote mining town the buildings are kept safe and standing, but that’s about it.

As you walk the dirt streets, it’s easy to imagine the town’s better days. Peer into the wavy glass windows of once well-cared for homes, and you’ll feel as though you are looking back in time. But this time machine does not have rose colored lenses. Wallpaper is stained and peeling. Furniture is covered in a deep, deep coat of dust. Household utensils and clothing are strewn about as though the family went out for an evening walk after dinner and never, ever came back. It’s creepy, because it’s the real deal.

In its heyday, Bodie boasted a population of over 7,000. The boom years of 1877-1880 brought miners from all over the West, and most of them were men. Mile-long Main Street was home to 65 saloons. There were opium dens and numerous brothels. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls and stagecoach holdups were ordinary occurrences. Local lore has it that when one little girl learned that her family was moving to the mining town, she prayed, “Goodbye God! We are going to Bodie.”

Things have quieted down since. Today, only 170 buildings remain of the 2,000 buildings that once stood. While Bodie is open to visitors year round, the access road is covered in snow through most of the winter. The park is host to over 200,000 visitors every year, so, while you may not see any ghosts, chances are good that you’ll see other visitors. And that’s a good thing, because Bodie is so remote and so lonely, you’ll really appreciate the company.